NCAA Football 08 Dynasty Mode Spotlight

Forget what you know about recruiting. We lift the curtain on NCAA 08's newly remodeled dynasty mode.

EA Sports' NCAA Football series has been on a roll for the past few years, churning out a series of high-quality football games that, for fans of the college game, were just as important as Madden NFL is to the rest of the sports gaming world. Last year's game, NCAA Football 07, the debut of the series on the Xbox 360, was one of the best-received versions of the game. However, in our review of the game, we had this to say:

While the mode is just as compelling as always, we're hoping that future installments in the next-gen versions of the game feature an overhauled dynasty mode at some point...

Apparently, EA Sports was listening. Today we had a chance to see the dynasty mode in NCAA 08, and it's safe to say that there's a whole lot that's new and much of it is improved from previous versions of the game. Up until now, EA's been mum on dynasty mode, and it's easy to see why; in some respects, this will be a much different way of playing the game than what you've come to be used to.

According to game producers, the choice to start anew with dynasty mode with NCAA 07 for next-gen consoles was a conscious one. As producers put it to us, had they simply ported over the system used in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, they might have been stuck with that same system for the entire life span of the consoles. Thus, change was in order and, though last year's dynasty mode wasn't a huge departure, you could see the mode heading in some new directions. The big jump, then, comes now.

A good pitch plays your school's strength against a player's desires in a program.

When you boil it down to its essence, dynasty mode is all about persuasion, as in a college coach (played by you) persuading top high school talent to play for his school. In previous versions of NCAA, that persuasion came through in a limited system that let you call or visit players you were interested and hit them up with a limited number of pitches. Coupled with incomplete, and sometimes confusing, feedback from players and an esoteric points setup that had you doling out points each time you made a recruiting move, and you had a system that was in need of a makeover. While the central aspects of NCAA 08's dynasty mode remain the same--it's still up to you to do the convincing--you'll have much more control over your powers of persuasion.

When you first start a new dynasty, you're given the opportunity to create a prospect from scratch--perfect if you're looking to add in a player that the NCAA roster might have missed, or create a future superstar of your very own making. You can create multiple prospects, and once you're done, you move on to the next stage of recruiting, researching players for your team. As in years past, you'll have a team-needs chart that will show you exactly what positions you're strong at and where you are lacking depth. The database of available players is absolutely huge, with thousands of players to choose from. To help you sift through all these players, a handy search tool is available. Here you can search for players by a number of parameters including position, state, caliber (based on the five-star rating system), ideal height, ideal weight, ideal 40-yard-dash time, and commitment status. Commitment status will be more important the further you progress through your season; as a player gets down to the final handful of schools he's interested in, this parameter will give you a better idea of whether it's even worth pursuing him.

As an example, we chose Auburn as our dynasty school and had two immediate needs to fill--a fullback and an offensive lineman. In the parameter section, we chose to look for a four-star blocking fullback from any of our pipeline states, weighing at least 230 pounds and running a 4.5 40. Once you hit the search button, you can go to your results and see who meets some or all of your criteria. Depending on the granularity of your search, you might not meet all of your criteria but you can get pretty close. In our case, our search resulted in 14 prospects that met more than 50 percent of the attributes we were looking for. The list of players that meet your criteria will show you how closely (in percentage) each player comes to your "ideal"; in our case we had one player that matched 75 percent of what we were looking for. We immediately tossed him and two others on our prospect list. It should be noted that you are not required to use the search tool to find your prospects--you can flip through the huge database yourself, or consult the familiar US map in order to search by state (though only during the season for the latter option).

Pipeline states will still play a crucial role to your program's success.

Once you've got a list of players on your recruiting board, you can change their order of priority by moving them up and down the list. This is important because where a player falls on your recruiting board will change the options available to you when it comes to recruiting him. For example, you can't visit a player at his home, invite him to campus, or make play-time promises to him unless he's prioritized in your top five on the recruiting board.

With your recruiting board populated and your list prioritized, it's time to get down to the brass tacks of convincing players to wear your school colors. To do so, you're going to need to work what you know about your program's strengths with what you know about each player's needs. The first part of the equation is easy: By checking out the "my school" menu item in dynasty mode, you can see how your school rates along 12 distinct categories: academic prestige, campus lifestyle, coach experience, coach prestige, conference prestige, championship contender, athletic facilities, fan base, pro factory, program stability, program tradition, and television exposure. Ratings can go from "sub-par" on the low end to "elite" at the top. For example, Auburn ranks "elite" in conference prestige, "very good" in academic prestige, and "excellent" in everything else. When it comes to recruiting players, then, Auburn and other powerhouse schools like it will have a distinct advantage against smaller schools that may only excel in a handful of areas.

But, as we mentioned, a school's program is only half of the equation. There are still the desires of the specific player to consider. And here's where things get interesting (and just a little complicated). Unlike in the past, where you spent recruiting points to make contact with players, in NCAA 08, you'll be making phone calls each week, making contact with your prospects and pitching them on the various aspects of your program that you think they might be interested in. Each week you have ten allotted "hours" to talk to your various prospects and each phone call you make eats into that time. When you call a player, it's all about the pitch you use. The problem is, you don't really know the player yet, so you're still trying to feel out his needs. As you make pitches, you'll learn what aspects of game are important to him, and which he couldn't care less about.

A handy search tool will help you navigate the thousands of potential prospects.

Remember Auburn's "elite" conference prestige? We decided to use that as our opening pitch for our promising fullback prospect. Player interest is represented by a cartoon football in the upper right hand side of the screen, whose expression will change depending on the success (or lack thereof) of your pitch. Choosing that from a list of potential pitches we were given the option to "find pitch" and "hard sell pitch." Finding a pitch is simply trying to learn what works and how the player will respond; you only want to use the hard sell as either a desperation tactic or when you are reasonably sure it will work. Experimenting, we tried a conference prestige "find pitch" on our pick and he immediately brightened to the idea. Reflecting his interest, the cartoon football got a huge grin on its face, and the pitch important column indicated this was that player's "most important" aspect when considering a program. Jackpot!

As you whittle away at the different pitches on players, your goal is to present the pitches that do work and stay away from the ones that don't. As you go throughout the season and you learn more about these players, the various pitches available to you will be "locked", which means they accurately represent a player's feelings about that pitch. If a player's conference prestige importance is locked as "most", then, you know exactly where he stands; just as if he notes a fan base pitch as "low" importance, it's best to stay away from that one. Don't spend too much time on the hard sell however, as it will result in the player getting increasingly disgruntled with you, sometimes to the point of hanging up. Instead, you should keep the pitches coming until you find that sweet spot. If a player isn't convinced, you will sometimes have a third pitch option, "sway", which means you're attempting to convince a player of the importance of a particular aspect of your program he might not have previously considered. It's risky--sometimes players don't want to be convinced--but it can also work to your favor and turn around a previously unavailable player.

All of these different pitch types might sound confusing at first but, with a little time with the game, you realize the depth and variety they bring to the recruiting process. As the season progresses, you'll get a better idea of a player's pitch desires, as other teams will have recruited him as well. Once you've got a player really interested in your program you can invite them to visit the campus or visit their home; in both cases you'll have to pick three pitches to use on him during the visit, again based on your school's strengths and what you know about him. To aid you, your prospect will give you a letter grade indicating your pitch performance after a visit. In addition, you'll also have access to information on a player's interest in other schools, so you'll know when it's best to pursue or cut and run.

The final weapon in a coach's recruiting armory is the promise. If you're really after a hot player, you can make a promise to him. These promises can range from being a first string starter right out of the gate, to making the Freshman All American team, to winning a national championship. Obviously these types of promises can go a long way into turning the tide on a player's interest. The only problem is, once you've made a promise, you'll be expected to keep it. Should you keep a promise, and your player does make the All American team for example, you're coach integrity rating will go up, giving you access to more powerful (and more risky) promises the next time around. Fail to keep your promises and your integrity rating will go down. Keep zero promises and you'll transform into Dennis Erickson. Okay, just kidding on that one.

The new ESPN News page will keep you abreast of weekly news in the NCAA.

One new feature in NCAA Football 08 that looks to work pretty well with both dynasty mode and the new-look campus legend mode, is the so-called super sim feature. When in game, you can sim past specific plays, or to your next offensive possession, or even skip entire quarters or games. For dynasty mode, it's a quick way to zip through games while still keeping abreast of the action; for campus legend mode, it should be a handy method for keeping the action focused squarely on your player.

There's more to learn about NCAA Football 08, and we'll be bringing you more in-depth looks at campus legend mode and the rest of the game in the coming weeks. For now, we're very excited with the upgrades made to the dynasty mode, which look to add depth and complexity to a feature that was desperately in need of an extreme makeover. We look forward to bringing you more news about the game in the near future as we lead up to its mid-July release.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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38 comments
brannonshan
brannonshan

I really hope this game lives up to the hype. Last years to me was a bomb. The completely redesigned dynasty mode looks great and 60 fps is a dream. Also heard that they incorperated gang tackling this year. Cant wait.......................but that is what I said last year

arod7473
arod7473

I hope this game is better then last year and actually has something to do then just play a seanson pretty much. LT cant make the cover of madden, he has a contract on another cover of a football game awhile back which means he cant do a madden cover and never will

juliusIII
juliusIII

Just lookin at the first five games for Tennessee makes me cringe. I hope VY can keep it together, not get injured, and not miss the playoffs(as has happened since Madden featured players on its cover six years ago). To that respect, I and my fellow Charger fans are releived that LT didnt make the cover, it means we still have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl!!!!!!!

MVfalcons83
MVfalcons83

i dont know about the cover i was thinking LT.

mars07
mars07

I also think it would be nice to upgrade a school's facilities.

mars07
mars07

I gotta admit, my anticipation for this game has just went up. Everything about this game looks improved. Can't wait for it to be released.

Groth33
Groth33

this looks like it could be amazing. i already loved the dynasty mode and i can't wait for the new game. i just wonder now what the off-season recruiting will be like.

haesuse
haesuse

crazylegzmark, this is just an update on teh dynasty. the actual preview of the game and the general improvements has been up for some time and its loaded with new features.

crazylegzmark
crazylegzmark

I sure hope that this not the only change that will be in this issue of NCAA Football. The game needs to be a lot more deeper in play calling also.

Tog
Tog

Well,I hope the game play is improved.It doesn't matter how deep the dynasty mode is if the game play is terrible.Last years version played like crap compared to the ps2/xbox versions

joeyfine
joeyfine

if your not excited about this game then there is no reason you should be a sports fan.

ditcohomies
ditcohomies

That's good, but is the 360 version going to have campus legend mode and create-a-team?

JAY342
JAY342

auburn.........is a joke

hastati4
hastati4

looks awesome i wasnt originally interested in this game but i think my mind may have changed...

mrbass208
mrbass208

Looks very solid and refined. I'm very much looking forward to this.

myles04_2004
myles04_2004

this sounds cool, hopefully madden will do this with free agency in franchise mode

Adamant_Faith
Adamant_Faith

This game looks amazing, and hopefully with the new dynasty features, as well as other stuff seen in the previous games, it will live up to and maybe exceed the hype. So far it looks like a seller.

PeerlessThought
PeerlessThought

I would like to know if you can edit all of the players equipment like on last gen and every gen before that. The Game looks solid and way better than last years. If they have put this option back in, I will be there release day like every year. Oh yea I hope you can upgrade your schools things like facilities.

saiyanman5215
saiyanman5215

Now, if you could only export those dynasty teams like you can on Madden....that would be the cherry on top :D

juicenpancakes
juicenpancakes

about a month away...about a month away.... almost here....

ObsidianArbiter
ObsidianArbiter

campus legend was by far my favorite mode last year but maybe this will change that around, i still hope they make some steps forward in campus legend though, if they make them both really good i think ill buy it instead of just renting it for a while like i usually do :P

joeyfine
joeyfine

looks good.. love the football.

tj432321
tj432321

As long as it has two player co-op I will buy this game for sure.

ToxicMold
ToxicMold

Surprisingly all very good ideas.

helios515
helios515

this sounds interesting i hope they bring back the home field advantage

ocdog45
ocdog45

good stuff but i want it for the ps3

geaux321
geaux321

Well if you look at the screens you can see something similar to the SI Magazine. They have it under ESPN News.

BxBombr91
BxBombr91

This all sounds great. But I really liked the SI Magazine in the xbox and ps2 versions of the dynasty mode. Does anyone know if they're bringing that into the dynasty mode this year?

nygiants0017
nygiants0017

Sounds great. Can't wait for this game to come out. Now all I need to know is what Madden is doing to its Dynasty and owner modes.

Espurs117
Espurs117

About time we get some dynasty and recruiting info. It sounds great, hopefully they deliver.

al-masri
al-masri

Nice I especially like the promises option

geaux321
geaux321

This is what I was waiting to hear, awesome stuff. It's also good to hear that Auburn has some good ratings too. This makes me want the game even more now.

packernation31
packernation31

I was kinda good at the old recruiting method, but this sounds promising

psykomunky
psykomunky

I prefer NCAA to Madden anyday - Dynasty mode is the business. Does anyone know if this is NTSC only - would really like to know if we are able to import this and play on Australian X360's...