NCAA '11: Play Calling http://ncaafootball.easports.com/blog.action?blogId=PlayCallling Check out the RynoAid shoutout! -- The most important screen in the game without a doubt is the play call screen. This is where you need to make quick strategic decisions. It is of the utmost importance that everything is available to you quickly and easily; especially when going up against an up tempo, no-huddle offense. With that in mind we determined that the play call screen needed to be streamlined for NCAA Football 11. A lot of the Play Call features I'll be talking about have been in previous versions of the game, our goal wasn't to blow everything up and start from scratch, however, we wanted to make it feel as if all of your playbook options were always at your fingertips. In this blog, we will go into those updates as well as talk about the crucial role the NCAA community members had in shaping the final version of the screen. During our NCAA Football 11 Community Day event we brought in a number of hardcore NCAA players to check out this year's game early in the development process and collect their feedback. Since play call is so important we spent a lot of time going over this screen to make sure that we got it just right. The feedback we received was outstanding. When it was all said and done we were very happy with the results. A big shout out to the community members who helped shape play call into its final version - this was a prime example of how getting the community involved early and often can help make the game the best it can be. I'll point out some of the specific updates that were made based on this feedback as I go into how play call will look and function in NCAA Football 11. Basic vs. Advanced Play Calling Since every player, no matter what skill level, has to be comfortable with the play call screen, it's important to be as flexible as possible so that a novice player can understand what they are doing. However, we also want the hardcore audience to have full control of their playbook. In NCAA Football 11, you will have two different play call styles: 1.)'Basic' for the novice players and 2.) 'Advanced' for all the guys Bobby Bowden referred to as "PlayStation All-Americans." The screenshot below shows the 'Basic' play call screen. Here you will be able to cycle through a series of plays pre-selected based on the situation. The only options available in this mode are selecting a play, bluffing your call, and flipping the play. You will notice that in the bottom right hand corner of each play we have added a Run/Pass tag to quickly identify what type of play you are calling. This is an extremely simple and easy way to select plays, and will give newer players the ability to quickly and easily call plays without confusion. For the hardcore fans that want total control, they are only an R-click away. By accessing the 'Advanced' version of play call you will be able to select plays by formation, by play type, and by asking the coach. 'Ask Coach' will give you the same set of plays as you would see in the basic play call version. Additionally, you will have access to your packages, game planning, and super sim, as well as hot keys to take you directly to specific sections of the playbook. The community day event participants were made up of some of the most hardcore NCAA players around and they all felt that they would be calling from the advanced play call 100% of the time. Since this is how they will always play, they pushed hard to make sure there was a setting added to set what play call style you want every game to default to. We added the option to set the default play call style in the 'Game Controls' screen, but also did them one better: thanks to auto save, if you finish a game using the advanced play call it will be saved to your profile and be your default play call style. Here are a few screenshots showing the different play calling types: Ask Coach Just like the 'Basic' play call, 'Ask Coach' gives you 18 plays from all formations to choose from. You can LB/RB between the different play calling types, and you will notice at the bar on the bottom you will be able to access gameplan and super sim right from the play level. New to 'Ask Coach' this year is the ability to refresh on defense in a head to head game. Since 'Ask Coach' plays (on defense) are based off of the offensive personnel, this feature hasn't always worked well in a head to head game because the person on offense hasn't selected his play yet. So sometimes you might end up calling a 4-3 defense against a Shotgun 5WR set. But new in NCAA Football 11, you will have the option to refresh your 'Ask Coach' plays after your opponent has picked his offensive play and locked in his personnel. Note - this is not an exploit since it doesn't look at the actual plays, it just checks the personnel. Also new to' Ask Coach' this year is a concept that we call the 'Variety Pack'. So actually, not all 18 plays are from the AI group for the current situation. In most cases, the first 6 will be based off the current situation and the last 12 make up the variety pack. This is something that came up from our less advanced players in the first playtest of the year. People really got frustrated when 'Ask Coach' would only give them certain plays to choose from. For example on 4th & 2 and they wanted to go for it, but they could only choose a FG. So, we modified 'Ask Coach' to not only include plays that the CPU would select, but also a variety of other plays as well. By Play Type When calling plays by play type, you can move through the different types of plays by pressing left/right between run, pass, option, and special teams on offense and man, zone, combo and special teams while on defense. On the bottom bar you will see hot keys that will take you directly to the clock management plays (spike ball and QB kneel), or special teams so you can quickly and easily get to your punt/FG plays. Selecting a play type will take you to the play selection level where the plays listed will be filtered by the play type, so if you want to run an option play, you will have all of the option plays in your playbook right there waiting for you. This is a great way to call plays when you have a certain type of play you want to run in a situation and don't want to hunt for it in the playbook. Also, it's great for practice mode when you want to use the random play selection to run the same type of play from different formations. By Formation When calling plays by formation you will be able to cycle through formations by pressing left/right, and subsets with up/down, selecting a subset will take you to the play selection level. At the formation view you will also be able to cycle through your packages, and as you will see in the bottom bar, you will be able to jump right to your goal line and special teams plays. Play Selection Level Once your formation is selected, it's time to select the play you want to run. In this view, you will be able to move through the plays by pressing left/right, access your gameplan, supersim, bluff play, flip the highlighted play via hot keys, and switch playcall type with LB/RB (a community day request). In addition, you will notice in the top left corner you can still change your formation by pressing up/down. So, now you never have to leave the play level to change formations. Once you get to know your playbook backwards and forwards you will be able to fly through the formations and find your play in an instant. Being able to move through formations by pressing up/down is a great addition to the bluff play calling since you have never had the ability to move through formations so easily while bluffing. Here's a couple of different screenshots of the play level with a few different school's playbooks: One of the most widely debated points during the community day event was whether or not to default to the play selection level or the formation level. On the version the community members played, we were defaulting to the play level to see if we preferred this setting or not. The formation level was only a B button press away, and you could still scroll through your formations using up/down. My fellow designers and I were debating which way we liked better, so we put it up to the community guys for the final vote. Overwhelmingly the guys wanted to see the formation level by default, so that's what you will see in the final version of the game. Another area where the community's decision played a big hand in shaping the final version of play call was the playbook you defaulted to in certain situations. We asked them, "Should the playbook always remember the last play you ran from each formation?" This was the current functionality when the community guys checked out the game, however, the majority felt that we should always take you back to the first play of the formation you last called. There intent was that you can use this as a reference point when looking for your play (and so that you don't give away the play you've called when you are playing a 2-player game on the same console). We agreed with this stance and removed the logic to remember the last play you called; only the formation and set are remembered. However, no-huddle play call is the one case we did keep this logic. When you go into no-huddle mode, the playbook will be defaulted to the last play you ran, and you can then make your adjustments after that. We will have more details on play calling in a no-huddle offense when we break down the offensive styles in future blogs. One additional note on calling by formation: not only will the game will remember the last formation/set you used and default to that when you return to the playcall screen, it will even remember your playcalling style seperately for offense and defense. If you want to Ask Coach on offense, but call By Formation on defense you won't need to switch between the two each change of posession. Bluff Mode When playing a head to head game on the same console it's important to bluff the play you are calling so that your opponent doesn't see your play selection. There are two ways to bluff your playcall. First, you can hold the A button down on the play you want to run and continue to cylce plays. Once you release the A button, the play you initially selected will be the play you are running. The other option is to hold down LT, to bring up the bluff play view. In this view you will be able to move left/right between plays but will not have the option to change formations. The Bluff Mode view also allows you to cylce through 3 plays at a time so you can quickly find the play you want. Here's a look at the bluff play screen: Gameplan Gameplanning makes its return to play call with a few new additions. The previous options remain, but we have created additional gameplan options to help get your team to play exactly how you want them to. We will talk about these additions in an upcoming blog, but for now here's a look at the offensive gameplan screen. Offensive Personnel I've held my favorite update to play call for last. In previous versions of the game you knew how many skill players your opponent had coming out of the huddle, but you never knew who they had coming out for the next play. As you will see below, you will not only see the skill personnel that will be breaking the huddle, you will also see the jersey number of those players. The best part about this is that if your opponent tries to get sneaking and sub in his lightning fast corner back to try and beat you with a streak, you will know he's on the field before you select your play. Well, that's going to do it for this blog. If you've made it this far I'm proud of you. It takes a hardcore fan to read this much about a play call screen. We've got a lot more to talk about in the coming weeks as we get closer to July. There are some big ticket items still to be discussed, but I wanted to take some time and break down the most important screen in the game and also talk about how involvement with the community can help make the game the best it can be. So thanks again to cdj, JB Huskers, gschwendt, JStein2469, Anton B, RynoAid, MPDamon, and Shopmaster for all their great feedback.