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Thursday, March 24, 2005

The EA Sports All-American Setting

There was a video game I played in college called “Quake”. In this game, there were four difficulty settings: Easy, Average, Hard, and Nightmare. EA needs to change its sports game settings names to something similar.

I had already attempted to play EA’s NCAA Football 2004 at the All-American level, and was routed by Columbia. That’s right, the Ivy League Columbia. In fact, the same Columbia I beat 52-17 on the All-Conference level shut me out and scored 28 points on All-American. It was something like that, I don't remember the details. I should have learned my lesson.

You see, I like a video game to be a challenging. Unlike my ten-year-old, I don’t want to win because I have the BFG 9000 or whatever superior thing gives me the edge. I want to win with less than the opponent has, thus demonstrating my superior skillz. I typically start a game on the normal setting, then get harder every time I start over. With EA’s NCAA March Madness 2003, I had won the championship with Appalachian State, the worst team in the game, on the All-Conference level. It was time for All-American.

I chose Vanderbilt, a team in the bottom of a BCS conference, because I was hoping it would help my recruiting. That’s the lifeblood of NCAA sports – the talent level of your recruited players. The only way to attract the better recruits is to win. I thought that Vanderbilt would be taxed in the conference play, but figured I could schedule a non-conference slate that would help with some easy wins and tough opponents to help the RPI. Then, I found out what All-American means:

No blocks. No offensive rebounds.

Just like in real life, defense wins championships. In basketball, that means reducing the opponent’s shooting percentage, causing turnovers, and rebounding. With the UTTER REMOVAL of offensive rebounding and shot block attempts, it is bloody impossible to beat a team with more talent than yours. Tough defense can make up for less shooting skill, but six seasons at Vanderbilt gave me no significant improvement in record each year. I have given up on the All-American setting.

On a side note, I tried my kid’s Need for Speed Underground and found it wholly unsatisfying. The game is entirely linear, with the money you make exceeding what you need to make every mod or upgrade available at the time, leading to zero true decision making that will affect your vehicle’s performance. It’s obviously not designed for thinking middle-aged men.

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