Most of my time the last week or so has been consumed by the release of the latest installment of my all-time favorite video game series, NCAA Football 12. As great as the game is, there remain some longtime nagging issues.
1. Special Teams Involvement
I have played about 12 games or so of NCAA Football 12 and I have seen one kickoff return for a touchdown. During that time, I have not see a punt returned for a touchdown or a blocked kick of any kind. If you go back and watch any team’s entire season from last year, I am guessing you almost certainly would have seen at least one of each by the team or their opponent1. I estimate that I have played over 400 games of NCAA Football in my life, and I have seen maybe two blocked kicks ever. Seems like a kind of trivial thing to implement. I have seen a decent amount of kick and punt returns, but not nearly enough.
Speaking of not nearly enough, penalties have long been a problem. The game features 11 different types of penalties: offsides, false start, holding, face mask, offensive/defensive PI, PR interference, clipping, intentional grounding and roughing the passer/kicker. After many years, offsides, false starts and holding now show up with a decent amount of frequency. Clipping shows up entirely too much, although it shows up about as much as blocking in the back would, so that’s not the end of the world. Face masks show up occasionally, but not as often as real life. I have seen the occasional roughing the passer, but never roughing the kicker or intentional grounding by an AI controlled player. And pass interference I haven’t seen called more than twice in 8 years.
Again, it seems so trivial to implement in some way, especially pass interference. I suspect that the ones that do show up, show up because they are often triggered by other things, offsides are almost always triggered by faking the snap count, false start as well. The problem with pass interference is that the collision detection isn’t good enough to realize that you are impeding someone unless you actually tackle them, which isn’t actually how it works.
3. Real Physics Engine
Speaking of collision detection, the lack of a real physics engine sucks in this game. They have done a good job of removing all the suction blocking/tackling that used to happen, but it could still be better. The ball gets batted around a lot, especially on deep throws where it gets tipped and seems to bounce around off players like a volleyball. I have legitimately seen balls hit someone and not hit the ground for several seconds because they are bouncing off of people. Kicks, especially punts and field goals, have the exact same trajectory and bounce on every single kick. In fact, I haven’t seen a punt not bounce straight ahead from where it lands so far in 12 games.
Player physics is an issue as well. Although I have never done any real testing, I am fairly certain that player weight doesn’t matter at all. I think the game is entirely attribute-based, and therefore a offensive tackle that weights 120 pounds but has killer stats could probably hold off a 300 pound lineman.
4. Roster Size
Most college football teams have at least 80 players. Some have over 100. In NCAA Football 12 you are limited to 70, and most teams start with 68 or 69 on the default roster. I know the limit was increased when they made the move to XBOX 360 and PS3, but I think it could be more. I am guessing part of this has to do with the relative use of recruiting and to limit teams from stockpiling too much talent, but there are ways to compensate for that. When you are a smaller school with 69 players and 20+ seniors, it can get tough to keep the roster full and not suck. Even five more players would make a significant difference.
5. Two Minute Offense
Another longtime NCAA Football flaw has been the ease of scoring quickly. Because so many plays eat up big chunks of yards, it seems like 75% of the routes are pass plays are for 10 yard or more, scoring drives lasted under 1 minute are not all that rare. In fact, by using the no-huddle system implemented in NCAA Football 11 I would hazard a guess that you could regularly score in under 90 seconds of game time. The ability to adjust quarter length eases the pain of this flaw a bit, but the time when it’s more important is when the flaw is most exposed. No one score lead is safe if there are at least 45 seconds left on the clock. I have seen games where three scores happen in the final two minutes, without the aid of a defensive or special teams touchdown. I feel like they have helped this flaw recently with a more realistic clock, but the big issue remains that it’s just too easy to pick up big chunks of yards.
- I randomly picked two teams, the Colorado Buffaloes and the Fresno State Bulldogs to test this theory. Colorado did not have returns for TDs but combined with their opponents for 5 blocked kicks. I wasn’t able to easily see if they gave up any returns for TDs. For Fresno St., I was able to find 4 returns for TDs and at least 4 blocked kicks [↩]