The Beat

heisman-blog-header2.jpg POSTED BY Alex Howell ON May 29, 2012

NCAA Football 13 Playbook #4 - Heisman Challenge Dev Blog

What's going on NCAA fans? Hard to believe the football season is not far away! I know most of you are starting to get the college football “itch”, well we have been feeling that way ever since ‘Bama took the title again! This year we’re trying to scratch that itch with a brand new mode in NCAA Football 13 and it’s called the Heisman Challenge.

Now, to be honest, before I started working on Heisman Challenge I never realized how absolutely amazing some of these guys’ Heisman winning seasons were. Take for instance, Ohio State's Eddie George.  This incredible running machine averaged 150 yards rushing a game. Archie Griffin? He only rushed for 5,589 yards on 924 carries in his career.  Oh yeah...did I mention he took home the Heisman hardware two times?

So for starters, let's cover the basics. What is this Heisman thing and why should you care about it?

Heisman Challenge allows you to play as any one of 16 Heisman Trophy winners. During the season you will be trying to match and beat the milestones and stats that the Heisman players put up their award-winning year. That’s the Challenge part.

So right off the bat let me introduce the 16 Heisman Players that you will be leading back to glory:

Marcus Allen – 1981 USC

Herschel Walker- 1982 Georgia

Doug Flutie – 1984 Boston College

Barry Sanders – 1988 Oklahoma State

Andre Ware – 1989 Houston

Desmond Howard- 1991 Michigan

Charlie Ward – 1993 Florida State
Eddie George – 1995 Ohio State

Carson Palmer- 2002 USC
Robert Griffin III – 2011 Baylor

*Jim Plunkett- 1970 Stanford

*Archie Griffin – 1974 and 1975 Ohio State

*Tim Brown – 1987 Notre Dame

**Tim Tebow – 2007 Florida

**Matt Leinart- 2004 USC

**Mark Ingram – 2009 Alabama

*Available through Demo download

**Available through pre-order from GameStop

Taking a look at that list, and you will notice that those are some of the all-time greatest to play college football. This is a monumental day for the NCAA Football franchise, because for the first time ever, you will get to play as real athletes in our game! Not only that, but you also get to play as the cover athlete, Robert Griffin III.

And yes, they look exactly as they did during their Heisman year. We spent a lot of time re-creating the exact look and style of each Heisman Player, including the awesome hairstyle of 70s great Archie Griffin, the elbow pads of the legendary Barry Sanders, and the swelling muscles of Herschel Walker.

My personal favorite part of the mode is the fact that you get to put your Heisman player on any team in the NCAA. So for my first couple of playthroughs, Barry was dominating the Pac-12 on Stanford. And playing with RG III on any SEC school is an absolute blast.

Along with re-creating the exact look and style of each player, we also ramped up the attributes of these players up to absurd amounts. Barry has the speed, Eddie has the power and Desmond has the hands. So when you play with these guys, you will feel like you really are much better than everybody else on the field, and that’s because you are.

So, what else makes Heisman Challenge new and interesting? Gameplay, that’s what. We added in a brand new feature called Reaction Time and we also added the ability to return both kicks and punts. Having certain Heisman players such as Desmond, Barry and Tim Brown meant that special teams were a must.

We also added the new Reaction Time feature, which is found in Heisman Challenge as well as Road to Glory. When we interviewed the Heisman Players about their glory days, they all said the same thing about big moments in big games. Things slow down. How do you think Barry Sanders was such a beast when he was juking and jiving all over the field?

So how does Reaction Time work? By holding the Left Trigger during gameplay, you'll be able to slow the speed of the game. It sounds pretty simple, but there is actually a lot of depth behind it. Let me explain a little more.

Reaction Time is counted in seconds, which is depleted as you use it. So any time during the play when you hold LT, you're instantly thrown into Reaction Time. Then, when you release the trigger, you're back at full speed. It's a beautiful transition that you, as the player, will definitely enjoy - because it does not take away from the overall game experience.

Furthermore, both running backs and quarterbacks have their own unique Reaction Time cameras. Reaction Time came from the idea that when a player has a ton of adrenaline pumping through his body during those high-intensity plays, he experiences the action on the field as if it were moving in slow motion. These unique cameras zoom in on the action, allowing the player to more easily concentrate on the important things.

Reaction Time is stored in its own meter on the playcall screen, which tells you how much Reaction Time you have remaining. The maximum amount you can ever have as a Heisman Athlete is 15 seconds, and you can replenish spent Reaction Time by doing positive things in game. So scoring TDs, gaining first downs, completing passes and more will all put more Reaction Time back into your meter. Also as a failsafe, you are always given a small amount of Reaction Time at the end of each play. So a larger boost for doing well in plays, and a smaller boost to fill it up if you want to conserve it. 

Not only did we add in special teams and Reaction Time, we also tuned the heck out of the playcall system. No longer will you only get 5 carries as a RB, or 8 passes as a QB. You will get over 30 carries a game, and many more opportunities to pass as a QB. Not only that, but if you don’t like the play you are given, you have 20 chances a game to change that play into a pass or a run.

NCAA Football 13 also includes over 60 incredible interviews with our Heisman Winners. Our rookie designer Christian McLeod did a heck of a job preparing all sorts of personal questions to ask these guys. He went above and beyond the call to make the interview material well worth watching.

As you pass key weeks in the season, video interviews will be unlocked that show the Heisman winners reflecting on certain parts of their Heisman season. If you play through the season on your Heisman Winner's original college team, you'll be treated to videos that align perfectly with that year's key moments. I really could talk for days about how amazing these videos are, but you guys just need to play NCAA Football 13 and find out for yourselves. My personal favorite is the last Herschel Walker interview when he talks about winning the Heisman. Have tissues ready, because it's both emotional and inspirational.

When brainstorming ideas for this mode, I wanted to make sure we hit certain key game design features, because of the legacy of players we are representing. So that's when our designer minds kicked in and we came up with the "Challenge" part.

When you first boot up Heisman Challenge you're given 4 goals to complete with each player. We call these "Chasing History”. These goals are unique stats and accomplishments for each player during his Heisman year...and are they fun to try to beat. At first glance, these stats really don't jump out as being all that difficult in video game world. But take a step back for a second, and think about video games versus real life. Throwing for 20 TDs in a season is one heck of a year for a QB in real life; throwing for over 60 TDs in one season is one heck of a year for a QB in any video game. Let's face it; we gamers are really good at winning. So now you'll face a pretty difficult challenge in a football game. Instead of beating FCS East 77-0 in Dynasty Mode, try and put up Tebow's crazy numbers on Vandy, while playing in the SEC.

These goals are FUN. They really are. With the combination of Reaction Time, and all players having outrageous attributes, you can finally get something out of beating your Homecoming opponent by 60 points. What makes it even more fun is the scenarios you can create are endless. Barry Sanders at Stanford, Herschel Walker in the Big 12 or Doug Flutie in the SEC! And for a real challenge take any Heisman Winner and play with a smaller school for a season.

Continuing down the Challenge road, we also added in a revamped leaderboard with all new goals and accomplishments you can achieve to enhance your bragging rights.

I believe you'll agree that these new goals and accomplishments add more depth to the overall challenge. So instead of just trying to beat your Heisman winner's own personal goals, you can now try to break NCAA records and school records to earn even more points for the leaderboards!

So that's the Heisman Challenge in a nutshell. It's a fun, challenging and exciting mode that really showcases some of the guys who made our college football experiences so amazing. Speaking personally, it was an absolute honor and joy to immortalize these players in video game history.

Enjoy and War Eagle!

-Alex

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