Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Michigan NCAA ‘11 Dynasty

Okay, so Bill is pretty much on top of every facet of the game at this point, so this post mostly serves as another perspective – the non-die-hard’s perspective. It’s actually been so long (somewhere in the three year range) since I’ve played either Madden or NCAA that I’ve practically forgotten how to play the game. This was obvious when we got some hands-on time at E3 this year, but it was drilled home even more when I played a couple of exhibition games last week and I couldn’t pass or run the option (something I’ve never done) to save my life.

If you listen to the podcast you know this already, but upon starting up my dynasty I actually took the humiliating step of knocking the on-field difficulty down to Varsity. For a guy who started playing this series when it was still available on the PC (circa ‘98?), that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Two shutouts later, against UConn and Notre Dame, and I’m feeling like I’m getting back to my usual mediocre self. Last night I dialed it back up to All American, but since Michigan’s third game this year is against Massachusetts (NCAA used some made up D2 school, FCS East) that ended up not being much of a test case (70-0; ouch). I’ve got games coming up against Bowling Green and Michigan State, the latter of the two should be a more interesting gauge of where I’m at since MSU pretty well whooped me in a pair of AA exhibition games.

Anyway, as Bill has noted, on the field, this game is so much better; especially relative to the last time I played it. I love running the option, although I seem to be having a hard time gaining yards on Read Option plays where I keep the ball with the QB. I’ve mostly been going with Tate Forcier at QB, but I’ve subbed in Denard Robinson a lot and the difference between the two when running with the ball is astounding. (I tweaked Denard’s accuracy just a little bit so that he doesn’t embarrass himself throwing the ball; I’m an eternal optimist that way.)

I really love the feeling of weight and speed between different types of players. Last night I ran an option play to my FB (Mark Moundros; 70 speed) where he shrugged off a couple of hits and rumbled down the field for a score. It looked way, way different (as it should) compared to when I took 91 speed Vincent Smith for a 50-yard score later in the game.

As the passing game “slows down” for me and I find myself able to get into a comfort zone with it, I’m really starting to appreciate how well it plays. The fact that quarterbacks can and will miss on throws and the fair balance of interceptions to defender drops (it’s drop heavy, but it stops interception totals from being insane) is gravy. I like the way the secondary reacts to a ball in the air, which is to say, the presence of robo-secondary guys who know exactly where to go the second the QB throws the ball is very much muted. I like the fact that I can control a D-lineman without feeling suctioned to an O-lineman and that I can actually threaten or get to the QB. (I had ridiculous sack totals on Varsity; am hoping those go down on AA.) I love that I feel like I can run the ball effectively both between the tackles and to the outside.

On the field, right now, I adore this game.

Off the field, I find myself wishing more and more that the browser-based Online Dynasty functions were more robust (depth charts, etc.) and more stable. There are times it work flawlessly, and times, like this morning, when I can’t even log in. Worse are the times when I’m doing recruiting calls and the page crashes and I lose both the minutes and effect of having made the call. That *cannot* happen. I know it’s beta and you expect some instability, but in that event you should just have to re-do the call. Losing from your allotted phone time, which has happened to me four times over four recruiting weeks, just isn’t acceptable.

It’s really a shame that the long term prospects of the Dynasty mode are so shoddy this year, because I could see myself sticking with it for the first time in a long, long time. At this point I’m enjoying myself enough to live with it for a season. I could even live with the issue of incompetent kickers. But if there’s not a patch to address the team regression issues Bill has brought up by the time I start season two, I may shelve it. There just isn’t much point for those of us who like to take a school through multiple seasons.

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