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EA Sports Disappoints again

I didn't want this to be my yearly diatribe against EA Sports, but with their release of NCAA 2006 without Patriot League teams yet again has forced my hand. Forget Karl Rove, reporters going to jail, and partisan bickering - here's a REAL outrage for you.

It happens every year.

Around this time every year, EA Sports releases its college football game to the various gaming consoles like Playstation 2 or XBox. Last year at this time I wrote about the anticipation of the new features of the game, along with the hope that -- finally -- I'd be able to play a full Lehigh schedule in the game, complete with Lehigh/Lafayette, I-AA playoffs, and a true I-AA championship.

EA Sports has been making NCAA Football simulation games for nearly 10 years now. They have evolved from (relatively speaking) primitive playcalling and cartoony graphics games to games filled with live commentators, touchdown celebrations, dynasty modes, and a gameday experience that is chillingly similar to the same game seen on TV.

As the game expanded, so did the number of I-AA teams available to simulate through an entire season. At first, it was only a few teams, such as the Ivy League (Harvard, Yale) and the SWAC (Grambling, Southern). But slowly, many of the I-AA teams started to find their way into the game - the Atlantic 10. The Big Sky. The Southland. The Gateway. Strangely, the Patriot League continued to be shut out. The I-AA teams kept getting added with other conferences. The OVC. The MEAC. Still no Patriot League.

Last year, I actually did something about this, by writing the Patriot League office and EA Sports directly. The silence from EA Sports was deafening, but I did get the following response from the Patriot League office:

"According to EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing, the issue of carrying I-AA teams is a capacity issue in the game's set-up... I have put a request into EA Sports requesting the addition of Patriot League Football institutions for future versions of the game."

This year I went to Gamespot with much lower expectations. My best efforts nonwithstanding, I had heard rumors that NCAA 2006 would not have any new teams added to it, only Southeastern Louisiana (and that was because they are going to be playing in the Southland starting in 2005). A trip to Gamespot confirmed my suspicions. Lots of blather about old Heisman Trophy winners, "Race to the Heisman", impact players, new graphics... but not Lehigh, not the Patriot League, not an accurate I-AA playoff system. No I-AA dynasties - meaning, I could play Delaware vs. JMU in an individual game, but I couldn't take Delaware and play them for multiple years, building them into a perennial I-AA powerhouse.

This year, as in previous years, you do have the option to create your own team and to add it to an existing I-A league (by kicking out another school). If you do this, you get assigned some generic I-A players - too bad if you can't make them conform to Lehigh's roster. But that's a lot of work for 1 team, all for a generic stadium and a generic fight song. Try putting Lafayette and Colgate in there, and now you've got a week-long project!

I think, though, what really deserves excoriation is the the cop-out that EA Sports gave the Patriot League folks last year about a capacity issue - implying that there just wasn't enough room on the game CD. What a crock. There was enough room on the CD to put "Race to the Heisman" and 4 mini-games that nobody will play (Pass Skeleton, Option attack). You couldn't put in 7 more I-AA schools and a I-AA playoff?

Until EA Sports puts Lehigh and the Patriot League into the game, they won't be getting my money. Unfortunately it looks like I'll be waiting a really long time to buy another EA game - it doesn't look like EA values I-AA football in the slightest.


Tyler C. Lund (Lehigh '07) said…
As a computer science major, I can tell you the amount of data required to add a roster for a team is miniscule. Add stadium data and a fight song and it becomes larger, but certainly not so much that it is too much to fit 7 of these on a game cd. These aren't even cds. They are dvd-roms that can hold upwards of 7 gigs of data. Ever since EA bought nearly every other game publisher they have lost their touch and have failed to address what consumers want. They'd rather stamp out the same furmulaic game with a different name every so often knowing that it will sell rather than invent something new. They got in a whole bunch of trouble for having unfair working conditions and forcing interns to work far above 40 hour work weeks. It is not a matter of space. They just don't care because they want to make money while spending as little as possible development time.

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