Going Deep On What Did (And Didn’t) Make Dynasty Mode In ‘EA Sports College Football 25’ With The Lead Game Designer

When EA Sports announced they were reviving their college football video game franchise, now simply named EA Sports College Football, fans rejoiced. However, after the initial wave of excitement, fans began wondering if EA would recognize what made the old NCAA Football franchise one of the most beloved sports games of all-time.

With the advent of Ultimate Team and other online play modes built around microtransactions, there was a fear that Dynasty mode would go the way of other franchise modes and get put on the backburner. That, of course, would’ve been a tremendous misstep, because Dynasty mode has always been the gold standard of coach/GM modes in video games. The old NCAA franchise was so fun because you could build a small program into a powerhouse and then turn around and go do it again somewhere else.

Thankfully, EA Sports didn’t turn their backs on what made their college football offering a fan favorite. As principal game designer Ben Haumiller, who worked on the NCAA Football franchise from 05-14, explained in a presentation in Orlando, “Dynasty is what we’re about.” That seemed to be more than just talk, as our first look at Dynasty mode revealed an awful lot of detail and depth about everyone’s favorite game mode.

As we sat through the presentation, I did have some questions, namely how they decided what would and wouldn’t make it into the initial relaunch of the franchise. Luckily, I got a chance to sit down with Haumiller for an additional peek behind the curtain of how the game came together, what their focus was for the initial launch of ’25, balancing giving the game depth and making the game a challenge while still being approachable, and much more.

When you find out the game’s coming back, how do you create the list of must haves versus want to haves in the future? Because obviously, you’ve had 10 years of ideas kicking around.

Oh yeah.

And like, how do you decide what has to be in this first iteration?

Great question. Man, so I think really what you look at is time is the ultimate arbiter. You only have so much time before a game has a release date. And we did get the luxury of some additional time, and that gave us the chance to really go deep and create everything that you’re seeing today. So I think you look at every facet of the game as well. Like, the biggest things for us have always been gameplay, sights, and sounds. That’s what sets college apart from everything else. So when you think about college gameplay what does that mean? Well, you know, everything from the wider splits or the option game and the flexbone and bringing those things back in, or the Go-Go offense or the walking mesh at Wake, things like that, that aren’t in Madden, because those aren’t run in the professional world. So we’ve got to make sure we have those in.

I think about NCAA 14, we were just starting to do RPOs back then, but we didn’t have RPOs. So you had to kind of fake it where you had two different plays that were essentially RPO and you could set them up as audibles and call it at the line that way. But now we have a full RPO system and all those sorts of things, which Madden developed and we were able to inherit from them and tweak in our own way. So, the gameplay side of things is all those pieces that make it different. The presentation side of the house — artists love that this game is back because they get to make dogs and trees and all these other things that are the funny, kind of goofy side of the sport. I think that’s one thing that I love about college football is it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a lot of just fun goofiness that we get to play with in this game. So yeah, that’s on the presentation side.

In my role on the Dynasty side and the mode side of things, you have your core, you know, roster management and conference standings, and things like that. But the sports are so different in the recruiting aspect and recruiting is kind of like free agency, sure, so there’s some things we can work with together with Madden on and how those are going to work. But they’re so different and drastically different in terms of how those sort of things work — and the transfer portal and the College Football Playoff coming. And since we started, it’s gone from a 4-team Playoff to a 12-team Playoff, and we get to debut that before it ever happens in the real world.

So I think there were so many things that we had — this is must do, this is must do, this is must do, this is must do. And you know, you have your development partners, who are like, ‘Cool, that’s like seven years worth of things. You don’t have seven years. So what are you going to drill down.’ So that’s another piece too, is we had to rethink how we made the game. We couldn’t do it the old way, because the old way wouldn’t get us 134 stadiums for the first year. The old way wouldn’t be able to create all these likenesses of players for having players for the first time ever, such a monumental thing. And so we don’t have the ability to go and scan all those players to get them in. So finding another way of doing all those sort of things. And those are the pieces that we were able to do what we were able to do, because of the work that this team put in to finding ways to make it happen. It’s a labor of love.

You know this, but the first thing people want is Dynasty mode. Like that is the core of the base who played the game.


And obviously you have a younger generation, there’s a gap to bridge there that’s played Ultimate Team and all that, but the people that are core is Dynasty Mode. So when we start ideating on what that looks like — particularly the recruiting because I think like you said, that was the thing that stands out to Dynasty compared to any other franchise/GM mode. As you’re building recruiting, what were the conversations that were had about how to do it and make it immersive, but not necessarily make it so in the weeds that it is not approachable?

I think I’ve got a unique perspective on that from my lifetime of the previous game, right? I worked on the game for a decade. And so when I started, we were still in the PS2 land, so we had that style of recruiting. Around NCAA 08, we decided we wanted to change something and to go in a different route. We have felt that had gotten a little stale. We went to a much deeper version, the old football, remember that? The angry football and all that good stuff, and pitch grades, all that sort of stuff came in. We got very deep at that point, and people told us, you know what, like, a little much. A little much. And so we had to dial back. Then we got all the way to 14 where we did that points=based recruiting, and I think we went too far in dialing back, where people are like, ‘Okay, cool, it’s fast, but I don’t feel association, I don’t feel connection with these guys like I want to.’

And so, I think when we were looking at this year and revisiting everything we were looking at, okay, so much has changed between how you handle high school recruiting, between the transfer portal, all of those sorts of elements. But the mechanics themselves have to be fun and have to engage you because you want to do this. This is taking time away from from playing the game. I know that. Like, that’s one of the things you always try to think about in the Dynasty mode or any of these franchise modes. People want to play the game. They love the the front end version of it, the spreadsheets and all that sort of stuff, but it’s all servicing for the actual gameplay. So how can we keep you engaged, but do it quickly so that you can get back in and you’re not spending four hours between games just going in and micromanaging every aspect of recruiting. So you’ll see stuff that you might recognize from the PS2 days. You’ll see stuff that you might recognize from those other later versions, but also too, brand new elements that we brought in to really try and round out what that recruiting experience is like.

There’s so many people that want so many things, you hear all of this stuff, and there’s so many ways you can go, because the sport has expanded to this point where there’s so many different things. You mentioned that you’re not going to really dive into NIL in this iteration. How do you make the decisions on what necessarily to save for a later date to explore?

Those decisions don’t come easy. I can go back to the conversations we had when we were making NCAA 14, knowing that we were a year away from the College Football Playoff. And there were no details about how it would actually work. And we work best when we are replicating things that have been done. We made the decision at the time, and this is gonna be funny, we’re not ready to do College Football Playoff yet, because it’s not for this upcoming year because we were replicating the 2013 season. The old phrase: We’ll get back to the next year. And a decade comes and, you know… [laughs].

So when you think about something like NIL, it’s very tricky for us to think about how it’s changing all the time. You don’t have a set of rules that are the same across from state-to-state. Everybody is different of how things operate. And also too, when you are in Dynasty, you’re the program. You’re not supposed to be the ones doing these deals directly. So with everything that we had, we know how big that story is, but with everything that we had to do, we couldn’t justify spending the time to go down that rabbit hole of what NIL kind of currently is, knowing full well we’re gonna rip that out in a year and go with whatever the new version is and then a year from that, rip that out. So it’s about finding the right time to do a feature like that, to build that in. So that we are doing it in a smart way, doing it in a way that is authentic as we can be, also knowing that we cannot do things that are going to anger our partners, being the schools. We’re an E for Everyone game, so those salacious things are not going to happen. So it’s kind of finding the right time to do some of that.

So we recognize that that is a big piece of college football these days. Roster management is so different now between high school kids or roster retention of your current guys or going after the portal. Those are three unique elements that make up how you build a roster now. And so we’ve got those there in a core, and now it’s a matter of building up. And it’s going to be, with that specific piece, when is the time right to dive in and really make that its true piece that needs to be. I think we’re kind of waiting for the world to settle a little bit, so we know what we’re getting ourselves into, for sure.

From from what we walked through. I think one of the main questions I had about the day to day or week to week is, how much player management is involved in Dynasty? With regards to guys looking at entering the transfer portal, how you track kind of like, where you need to meet goals with certain guys and that sort of thing?

You see that during the year through the recruiting side of things in that My School screen that we were showing with all the different pitch grades. You know, this is an area that’s still ripe for a lot more. But right now, it’s about those deal breakers, and not every player has a deal breaker, but the ones that do will be their determining factor of it. From the high school side, are they even looking at you, but also too, once they’re on campus, they still have their deal breakers that if they want playing time and they’re not getting it, they’re gonna look to go to the portal. And so then you can try to convince them to stay if you want to, and if they don’t agree to that, then they jump into the portal. So, yeah, it’s just a matter of kind of looking at all those different pieces and just how do we go about recreating those elements?

So the player management from a week-to-week basis, you are looking on that screen to see players at risk for each of those grades. You’re seeing which players are there and you can, just as real coaches are doing, make that decision. Is it worth it? And also on the recruiting trail, is it worth going after this high school kid? Or do I save that spot for a portal player because I need to win right now? I don’t have time for this kid to develop. I need to win right now. I need to plug some holes. Or I lost a kid I wasn’t planning on losing. Well, now, I don’t have a starting quarterback. I’ve got a couple guys in the wings, but nobody’s ready. Can I get a one year rental guy to come in? Which you see is more and more becoming how people are handling that.

So what we wanted to do was create that sandbox world where there’s not one way to do anything. There’s not one way to recruit. Everybody has their own style of what they want to do. There’s not one way to win a national championship. Everyone has their own ways. You know, with a 12-team Playoff now, you don’t have to be one of the big dogs to get into the four. You can get in as a smaller school and make your way through that way. So there’s just so many different things that you can do that we’re trying to replicate in this game.

You talked about making it something that you really feel like you build, and that story element. It used to be you could kind of game the recruiting as a small school and you could make that pop in two years or whatever. How did y’all try to strike a balance in terms of like, you don’t wanna make it impossible, because that’s part of what people love to do, but also you want to make it more realistic. Like if I’m going to take Georgia State to a title, it’s gonna take some time. How did you kind of decide on what the timeframe is that you want that journey?

Great question too, because the other thing you’re competing against is people don’t want to spend, you know, 20 years to get to their dream school. They want to get there relatively quickly, but also they don’t want it to just be handed to them. So I think that’s something you think of both … I’ll use a Road to Glory example, real quick. You don’t become the starter immediately in Road to Glory. You’ve got to earn your playing time and work yourself up on the depth chart.

So on the Dynasty side, it’s the same sort of thing where like, those four- and five-star kids are not going to be interested in a smaller school from the start. You have to build your grades up in that My School piece to be more attractive to those kids and they have to like what you have to offer. So you might build up Georgia State to be a perennial powerhouse, number one team in the country every single year. But if a kid cares about proximity to home and he’s in California, ‘Sorry about that, you know, I’m staying close over here.’ So those are the things I think that make this game and this sport so much fun is, that association you build these players because they ultimately are choosing you. And so you can’t just manipulate draft logic and things like that just to win a Super Bowl and have the number one pick in the same year. You can be Alabama, you can be Georgia, and still not get the number one player in the country because he wants something that you don’t offer.