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The unpredictability and innovation of NCAA football

The differences between NCAA Football and Madden

The National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) football league is more unpredictable, innovative and takes more risks than the NFL, and this spirit is captured in EA's NCAA Football games, according to the game's developers.

Speaking to Polygon, NCAA Football 14 designer Larry Richart (who also works on the Madden NFL series) and producer Ben Haumiller say Madden may be the better-known franchise because it's based on an incredibly popular football league, but the NCAA offers a uniqueness that translates to more unpredictable gameplay.

"The NFL, for the most part, is pretty vanilla," Richart says. "They don't go to the extremes college teams do from a gameplay standpoint. There are so many different styles played in offenses, there's the crazy hurry-up and the fast-paced no-huddle — you don't see that in the NFL."

"What it boils down to is the innovation and the unpredictability," Haumiller adds. "Those are the two things that college football differs to the NFL."

"What it boils down to is the innovation and the unpredictability ... Those are the two things that college football differs to the NFL."

Both Richart and Haumiller say that the differences between the two leagues result in very different kinds of video games. Madden NFL and NCAA Football maybe both be based on American football and feature the same rules and codes of conduct, but the risks taken in the NCAA result in gameplay opportunities that players "just don't see in the NFL."

"When you're dealing with 126 teams versus [the] 32 [in the NFL], and 18-year-old kids versus grown adults, you're never sure how things are going to play out," Haumiller says. "There are going to be wild upsets, and in college football you've got a wide spectrum of really good teams and poor teams and teams that are somewhere in between, and on any day they can have a great upset."

Haumiller says the innovation is often born from a team's need to mask a deficiency, so if a smaller school is competing with the talent of a bigger school, it has to be more creative in order to stand a chance. The various play styles of the schools in the NCAA are communicated through EA's football games, and Richart says where Madden allows players to experience the fantasy of playing as specific athletes, NCAA Football allows players to play in the style of specific schools.

"So for example, it's about getting Oregon to play like Oregon plays. It doesn't matter who's on the field at the time — it's just Oregon and how they play."

Richart and Haumiller believe that with NCAA Football 14, they've captured the play styles of all 126 collegiate teams, which will allow players to experience the "craziness" and creativity of college football.

"Our goal is to make it authentic and realistic and to capture the feel of a college game," Richart says. "We want to capture how unique it is and how it feels. It's something special."

For more on NCAA Football 14 and how it differentiates itself from Madden, check out our gameplay preview.

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