“Oh … oh-oh-oh-oh, oh, oh!”
The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” is the crowd chant of college football, so it’s no surprise you’ll hear the virtual fans singing along when EA Sports’ “NCAA Football 14” hits stores on July 9 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3).
“We went out to about 30 stadiums this year to record crowd chants,” says the game’s producer, Ben Haumiller. “We licensed songs like ‘Zombie Nation’ and ‘Seven Nation Army’ because there wasn’t a single game that I went to or watched, where these anthems weren’t playing and the crowd wasn’t chanting along to them.
“It’s all about the crowd chant on top of the songs, so we have recordings of these chants that we’re going to play, and these aren’t just for during a timeout, they’ll start pumping these between second and third down, and it really adds a lot to the atmosphere to make the game feel more legit.”
But enhanced crowd audio isn’t the only thing new about the “NCAA 14” presentation, as the design team made some monumental changes across the board to deliver a smoother-playing, slicker-looking game.
“The main purpose of our presentation this year is to make it quick, make it clean, and get you moving,” Haumiller said as he shows me the game.
The ESPN menus and backgrounds in the front end looked great last year, but they were such a resource hog, it made the game lag.
“We stripped that out for more of a whiteboard style font, and it really speeds everything up,” Haumiller said. “ESPN is still in the game in terms of in-game presentation, but in the front end, we wanted to go with a quicker, cleaner look and have something that’s more 2-D based.”
To go along with the new menus, dynamic load screens give more information about the game that you’re about to play. You’ll see the top players for each team, a list of injured players, and scores from around the country.
And while pregame run-outs and traditions have been a big focus for the “NCAA Football” franchise for years, “NCAA 14” takes a completely different approach, borrowing heavily from the pre-game intros of the “NBA 2K” series.
“The problem we ran into with the tradition videos is, they were getting stale, especially for schools like Clemson, where we’ve shown you the same thing for years,” Haumiller said. “Other schools like Texas, it took you two minutes to get through the intro, and all that does is condition you to button-through everything we’ve added. The goal this year is to make things a lot faster. We’re still hitting those moments and we’re still showing you what makes each school unique, but this year, you’re getting the passion without having to sit through such a long experience.
“So now the game starts out in the studio with Rece Davis, then when he kicks things down to the field, the game shows a quick music video showing highlights, fans, players, tradition, and run-outs all based on each school. Before you know it, you’re at the coin toss and you’re ready to start your game.”
During the game, ESPN integration includes a living game clock, and after every play, a new stat will pop up, whether it’s play selection or turnovers or first downs.
Over 500 new vignettes have also been added, complete with mic’d up players. “When you see these celebrations, they are going to have audio that goes along with it for the first time,” Haumiller said. “It’s not just a silent movie that you see, and the audio really adds to the immersive feel like you’re on the field with them. In the past, all of our vignettes were 6 seconds long. I don’t know what it was, but they were all the same length, so even if you saw a mascot dancing, you had to sit through six seconds of this mascot dancing, and that’s just way too long. We don’t want people to just button-through every one of our presentations, so now, you’ll see a mascot dance for a second or two and you’re back in the game. It’s all about showing you the emotion you want to see, then getting you back to playing the game again.”
Gamers will also notice the enhanced commentary of Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit. This year, the duo will start the game talking about a specific player, and then they’ll revisit this player every quarter talking about his performance and whether or not he’s living up to expectations. The quarterback might have gotten off to a great first quarter, but then slumps in the second half, and they’ll talk about these struggles. Then later, if the team starts focusing more on the running game, the commentary will actually branch away from the quarterback and focus more on the runner taking over the offense.
“The commentary team will also focus more on drive summaries this year,” adds Haumiller. “The commentary is just a lot smarter this year. They’ll actually talk about how your last five possessions have resulted in three punts, a turnover and a touchdown.”
A lot of work also went into scanning the stadiums for the three new schools featured in the game: South Alabama, Georgia State, and Old Dominion. Every neutral site game has also been added to “14,” including MetLife Stadium, Cowboy Stadium, and Soldier Field (taken from “Madden”).
For fans who really love uniform details, Haumiller says this year they’ve even included all of the unique gloves with palm designs.
“We have all the unique hand poses so players can show the design,” he says. “Oregon will do the ‘O,’ Miami will do the ‘U’ … whatever they need to do in order to show those gloves, the players on those teams will do it.”
Sounds great, now, if only I can get the chanting crowd out of my head. It’s been two weeks since I’ve played the game, and the “Seven Nation Army” chant still echoes in my mind.
“Oh … oh-oh-oh-oh, oh, oh!”