We recently had a chance to interview Jeff Luhr, the producer of NCAA 2004.
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1. Looking back, how would you assess last year's game? And what did you think were the strengths and the weaknesses?
Weaknesses? Let's put special teams play right at the top of that list. They've always been overlooked up until this year. Crowd reaction and involvement into the game was also a weak spot - they didn't add much to the atmosphere like they do in real life.
2. From all the hands-on impressions I have read, they said only minor tweaks have been made graphically. Why didn't the game receive a much bigger jump in the area? Specifically, what are a few things we can look forward to as gamers for graphics enhancements?
3. What top two or three animations have you added?
Open-field blocks are my personal favorite because they look so realistic and completely change the dynamics of open-field running. New sideline tackles are quite nice. And the new passing and catching animations make the passing game much more fluid.
4. One of the problems in last year's game for many fans, was the lack of a passionate crowd. The crowd cheered and jeered, and the band played boldly, but the passion of fans did not seem to translate into the game. There weren't enough chants I think is what I'm getting at. How did you improve in this area? It is reported there are over 300…how many were there last year?
5. How many different team entrances are this year? What schools, if any, have unique ones?
6. How has the conference jumping been worked into the dynasty system? How many years do you have to be really good or really bad before you get the oust? And, how often should gamers expect it to happen?
A more realistic example would be a team like Marshall. If you were to take Marshall and start winning National Championships, it's a safe bet that the Big Ten or Big East would come knocking after a couple seasons.
I wouldn't expect it to happen too often though - we don't want to have a complete conference re-alignment in Dynasty Mode, even if it is 60 years into the future.
7. How has the commentary been improved? Will there be more of a bowl-game atmosphere than last year?
8. Trick plays are a big part of the college game, whether it be a funky formation, bubble screen, or reverse. In previous NCAA games those plays have been relatively ineffective because of the speed at which they happen in relation to the speed the defense reacts to the play. Has this been improved upon for 2004? Will reverses be effective if called at the right time and will the HB screen and WR screens not be stricken with receivers not getting wide enough and running into the blockers?
9. Has the pancake block stat been fixed? Most every award in NCAA is winnable, EXCEPT for the offensive lineman award because of the lack of pancakes.
10. Another issue on the line: will there be a clear distinction between a 90s rated player from a 60s rated player? In real life, dominant lineman can dominate a game. In NCAA last year, it seemed like the effectiveness was about the same for that mediocre and great player. This might be due to suction blocking, but is this a problem you are aware of and something you have tweaked?
11. Comment on where you think online play will take NCAA Football? Will the online play fair game rules used in Madden also be applied here? And can you clarify…is there or is there not a charge?
12. Another thing about recruiting. It seems like for the past couple of years, there has been the yet-unfulfilled promise of having recruits be interested in your program on how you play: stat-based recruiting. Again, this year, this is promised. Can we truly expect for this to be fixed? I saw in one screen shot that the recruit said, “Our playing style does not affect them positively or negatively.”
13. Will there be recruits tagged as “athletes” this year? And if not…what are the hurdles that are preventing something like that. Also, if you could also touch on the growing trend of two-way players in real life and what gamers can do to incorporate that into a game. Last year, players could play multiple positions, but they would take drastic losses in awareness and overall ratings. Could there be a way to have a DB that is also a great WR like Chris Gamble or Charles Woodson?
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14. Could you describe the programming hurdles that incorporating transfer players presents?
15. Was this just a coincidence, or why did it always seem big games always had rainy conditions?
16. What have you done to improve the playbooks?
We would like to thank Jeff Luhr for his time.
Please leave any comments about this interview on our forum.