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EA Sports' College Football 15 could've included enormous customization overhaul

A Minecraft-like customizer suite was a potential central aspect of the developer's plans for the latest version, before EA shut the series down.

EA Sports

College Football 15, the next edition of EA Sports' NCAA Football series, is dead. Dead as dead can be. What it could have been, though, is a radically different, expansive addition to the collection, one that offered levels of customization far beyond what game players have had in years past. It even drew a comparison to Dungeons & Dragons and Minecraft. Yeah, D&D.

In this profile by Kotaku, which is focused largely on the effect EA's decision not to publish a college football game has had on its developers (many of whom are now out of jobs), this tidbit about the upcoming features was fascinating:

What was going on with NCAA/College Football 15? Howell says he and Luhr had, for a time, been working for a few years on a customization suite for the series that he believes would have gotten the greenlight in the coming title, which was to be developed for both the current console generation and the next generation. Howell, who speaks admiringly of Minecraft, Terraria and other games with a heavy modification culture, said the idea was to turn the game over to fans, on the faith they know best what they most enjoy.

Not only would that have entailed an overhaul of the existing customizer-TeamBuilder, which deals with single teams-the vision extended to things like stadium construction, layer editing for uniforms, and even "D&D" like settings within the game's dynasty mode. For example, creating stories and occurrences elsewhere in the season, like a backup coming out of nowhere when a star performer goes down to injury, or a prestige team suffering a losing streak that upends the rankings at the end of the year.

It's unclear how much of this was actually being prepared for next year's game. Howell cautioned that the customization was at a big picture stage, though he and Luhr had design documents dozens of pages thick laying out these features. If College Football 15 could have shipped, with them, the depth of customization-and the ability to share uniforms, complex logos and user-built stadia-could have soothed the sting of conferences like the Pac-12 and Big Ten pulling their trademarks from the series, and a big program-believed to be Ohio State-exiting it altogether.

It's worth noting that this pivot in priority was both A) not yet in place for the game and B) based on a micropayment system that college football game fans may or may not have embraced. Anything a college football game does that gets away from the college football is inherently risky territory. And yet EA Sports thrived in that aspect of game-making, with its Dynasty Mode in the NCAA series and Owner Mode in the Madden series.

Those modes only took up so much gameplay time, though, nothing on the level of going full-on Minecraft on a stadium whose aesthetics garner only the most fleeting of attention during an actual game being played. It's not as if the field of play itself is getting warped into different shapes, after all.

We're not likely to find out how well-received that feature would have been, though, with the NCAA franchise shelved indefinitely (and in today's video game programming world, abandoning a game for any amount of time is essentially a kiss of death). That's a proximate result of the O'Bannon lawsuit, and it's understandable if fans of the video game resent that conclusion.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that even though EA Sports is settling for millions, it is not abandoning the college football game forever out of financial concerns, as Kotaku reports. With the essential admission by EA Sports and the CLC that the characters in their college football games were modeled off the likenesses of actual college players, the only thing keeping that practice (and thus, the video game franchise) from continuing is the fact that players can't be paid for appearing in the game, due to the NCAA's licensing restrictions. You know, "amateurism."

Just so you know who to blame.

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