NCAA Football’s dynasty mode is one of sports gaming’s most heralded career modes. Not only has the mode been the most popular mode in NCAA Football for nearly a decade, it also took it’s act online to great success beginning last year.
Unfortunately, after just over a decade of incremental improvements, the mode has began to suffer from a lack of innovation and ultimately, it just feels stale.
Outside of the presentation, dynasty mode is one of the biggest reasons why NCAA Football 10 ultimately falls short of being praised as a great title. The mode itself is still technically good, but long-time players of the series are quick to remark how little the mode has seemed to change over the past few years.
Recruiting has taken some big steps forward since the series arrived on the 360 and PS3 consoles. However, the rest of the mode has largely been unchanged and untouched over the years.
A lot of fans of the series have clamored for an AD Mode to spice things up, but I have never been one of them. I am still waiting on NCAA Football to properly emulate the dynamics of being a head coach of College Football. If NCAA would do that, I think the call for an AD mode would diminish for quite awhile given the plethora of new options which would be available.
Making it tougher to play with the big boys by playing with a smaller budget would make things more interesting.
In my opinion, the biggest mistake dynasty mode has made the past few years is making the entire experience less personal while complicating the interface to a level where you have to wade through layers upon layers of menus.
Starting with NCAA Football 11, EA Tiburon needs to redo how Dynasty mode is approached. This will require a rework of the interface as well as the addition of a few much needed features. In the end, many of the core tenants will be the same, but a fresh approach would do wonders. Here are my ideas:
- Make being the coach the central aspect of the mode - Let’s just solidify this right now. You should be the coach of the team you control. Being the head coach of a college football program should be the focus of the mode from the get go. What we have right now is something in between, where you aren’t quite the coach, but you aren’t quite anything else. Along with this, when you create your coach, you should give yourself attributes to determine what kind of a coach you will be. It's a bit RPG-ish I know, but I think there is nothing wrong with mixing the two if done right. This is point number one, and it’s kind of the establishing point for the rest of the points below.
- Create a real coaching market - This is long overdue. Even if the coaches are generic, this has to be done. Different schools should value different things in their coaches, and they should have loyalty ratings and the like. This would make coaching for a school like Ohio State, where the stakes are high, much different than coaching for Nevada. This has been done somewhat, but the generic prestige ratings are rather bland and repetitive nowadays.
- Make Coordinators part of the coaching market - Coordinators are a very important part of College Football. At the very least, these coaches should have a direct impact on player development and awareness from week to week as well as the style of offense and defense you play in NCAA Football. Of course, all of this should be viewable and could be automated if you want so you don't have to do it if you don't want to. Also, hiring coordinators should be done with a budget given to you by the Athletic Director.
- Interaction with the AD, Fans, Boosters, Press, etc. - FIFA has done this somewhat in the past. You should be given random events or something of the like where you can shape what kind of a coach you are going to be. You can blow off Boosters, media, etc. which can effect your public perception, teams readiness, etc. Imagine being given a choice between schmoozing with top boosters or a film session with your quarterback when your job approval has hit an all-time low. That would be epic.
- Make attendance more dynamic - The easy way to gauge in game how you are doing as a coach is by seeing how many butts are in the seats. Dynamic attendance needs to be much more dynamic. You should also get a report on the attendance figures and, as the coach, the attendance should effect your budget. You shouldn't set ticket prices, coaches don't do that. But you should feel the direct results of a poor fan following.
- Scheduling Contracts/Future Schedules - You should have to deal with this aspect of college football properly. Playing a big opponent is usually done years in advance. I’m willing to compromise and forgive EA if only one year in advance is available. But please let us deal with scheduling contracts if we want.
Imagine if this game was going to seal your fate or make you a legend.
- Budgets - I miss the budgets you used to get in NCAA. These should be back to make it tougher to play with smaller schools. Most smaller schools should have small budgets for coordinators, scheduling, and recruiting. Imagine this choice: Florida wants to play your Sun Belt school and will pay you $300,000 to come play. It’s a for sure loss, but you could certainly use the money to recruit a little farther away from home. Little things like that would do wonders for the mode.
- New and Dynamic Prestige/School Ratings - Central to this whole idea is a new ratings system for schools. Your boosters, fan base loyalty, administration loyalty, national perception, facilities etc. should all be rated. All of them should be able to change over time based upon your successes on the field. So, for instance, if you had 10 straight years as a 10-11 win team as North Texas, you should build up a bigger fan base with more boosters over time which should result in an increased budget and possibly facilities upgrades to attract recruits to your school.
- Differentiate TV Games - I know having more than one announce team is impractical, and it's understandable. However, why can't the broadcasts for regional, national, and game of the week type of games all be handled differently? One little touch is different intro music for each type of game. Another thing you could possibly do is have some sort of a different ESPN branding for each type of game. There are a lot of little things you could do to make big games seem bigger and lesser games seem more normal.
- More situation specific commentary - I would really like to see a lot more situational specific commentary added for dynasty mode. Especially commentary that has to do with your team's current situation either in conference standings or in bowl standing, or any number of other specific situations. Little touches like this make you feel as if what's on the screen is really happening. It'd also solve the problem of a stale commentary team, at least for another year.
- Simplify the Interface - For some reason, there are a lot of buttons on the PS3 and 360 controllers which are not used when navigating the menus in dynasty. In my opinion that is a huge mistake. Why NCAA doesn’t utilize the different buttons to quickly navigate through important menus (or any EA Sports game for that matter?).With the new additions you'd be making, the interface would have to be redone, all of this two clicks to a meaningful screen business needs to die this year. I’d really like to see the navigation through different menus simplified and streamlined, for all of our sake.
- Give users the option - Despite everything that I just said, some people just want to play games and recruit much like how dynasty mode is set up now. With that said, there should be a 'simple dynasty mode' or something similar to where you can turn off all that I said above (minus the interface) so you can enjoy the game how you want. Let’s not relive the camera debacle from this year.
So those are my dirty dozen ideas, all of which I think are very capable of being done in a year's development cycle. I think making those changes and including them for online dynasties would spice things up a lot. What do you think? Are your priorities different from mine? What changes would you like to see?