The Sports Desk – Controlling A New College Football Dynasty & MLB The Show 17

by Matthew Kato on Dec 05, 2016 at 09:00 AM

College football bowl season and the BCS playoff for a national champion are around the corner. As excited as you may be for college football, there aren't a lot of video game options if you're looking to get your fix. However, Wolverine Studios' Draft Day Sports: College Football 2017 simulator might have something you're looking for. The PC title recently came out (get it at the official website for $34.99), and while it didn't strike me as a slam dunk in my limited time with it, CF 2017 gives you lots to consider when building your dynasty.

You can pick whichever team you like from a decent-sized list encompassing a number of fictional teams of varying caliber and program prestige. The teams and players may be fictional, but you'll have no trouble guessing who the Alabama Red Wave are, and you can customize teams, players, playbooks, and other options (the game supports roster mods and custom files).  Your Association, as it's called, can be online or off, and there are various stats, recruiting classes, training regimes, and gameplanning options at your disposal as you build and maintain your dynasty from year to year.


Plays run in a top-down, 2D view in real-time (see picture at the top of the page), and there's no play clock – so feel free to ruminate on which play to select as long as you like. The playcalling itself isn't hard per se, and I like how you can switch between different playbooks (vertical passing, west coast, etc.) to change up the flow as you see fit. Particularly helpful on defense are playbooks for stopping just the run or pass. While the game nominally suggests plays, I wouldn't just blindly click what comes up since there were times when it would not default to a punt return on a 4th and long, for example.

Picking plays is simple enough, but one of the criticisms I have of the game is that – as familiar I am with various types of football plays – there's no play art or descriptions of them during the game. While I recognized many of the plays in the playbooks, on defense in particular there are certainly plays I don't know what all the assignments are.

Other amenities are missing, such as being able to change personnel packages during games (you can do so when you're not directly in a game, however), the ability to sim only portions of a game (like to the end of a drive or quarter), and seeing what formation the opponent is running for the coming play.

The thing I'm always curious about when watching plays unfold in real-time for sims like CF 2017 is how literal I'm supposed to take what I see happening during a play and what I'm supposed to infer about the results. For instance, If I see my linebacker take a bad angle toward a ball carrier onscreen, is the game trying to convey that my linebacker isn't good, or is it that the ball carrier is simply fast? If I see my QB throwing into double coverage, should I make a change, or is the A.I. brain behind the game simply convey that the play is an incompletion to the tight end?

Watching the plays in the game, there were times I bemoaned my QB (who was rated decently) not throwing to wide open receivers, consistent throwing into double and even triple coverage, and in general not making a lot of multiple reads or waiting for routes to develop. Judging by the onscreen action, my defense was missing tackles. While all these things happen in real life, my players were all rated in the 80s and above (out of 100), so I'm not sure exactly what I can do to remedy the situation.

There are exhaustive tweaks you can perform to give specific plays weight and shape how you want the CPU to call your plays, but as far as I know this only influences your team if you sim games.


Recruiting and scouting are a huge part of any college football program, occupying a lot of your attention during the week. The filter tools and interface is easy to understand, allowing you to comb through and find a wide variety of starred recruits. You can toggle the auto-recruit function on and off from week to week, and recruiting and scouting are all done simultaneously by drawing from a regenerating pool of recruiting and scouting points.

The closer a recruit is to your school, the easier it will be to get their attention, but programs with more prestige have an easier time recruiting at further distances. Recruits place varying degrees of value on factors like winning, playing time, loyalty, and other factors, but apart from applying recruiting and scouting points, scheduling an interview, and offering a scholarship, you don't interact with them. Therefore, it's hard to translate their desires into what you can do for them to make them interested since you can't make them promises regarding playing time, for example. Academics don't factor in either.

I'm not sure what to make of the recruiting process. While it's engaging to tweak the recruiting points from week to week and nervously watch the players' interest (a number out of a 100) go up and down, I've had players sit at 99 interest for multiple weeks only to suddenly sign with another school. I've also had the reverse. I was delighted one season to sign a 5-star recruit out of the blue after plugging away at him all season even though his interest never got higher than 11.

Maybe you won't like these kinds of surprises, but it's a rollercoaster ride for sure. My advice is to not pussyfoot around with players. If you want a recruit, then put in the points. I've had players I thought were hot to trot cool off from one week to the next simply because I dropped the recruiting points I was applying to them that week by two.

There is variance in scouting, too. You'll get a full scouting report for some players after a few weeks, while others may take more time and points points to see all of what they have to offer.

Draft Day Sports: College Football 17 isn't the complete package, leaving features by the wayside and not always executing on the ones it has. But I will say this: Whether it was recruiting attractive recruits or getting excited watching my 2D player race toward the endzone, I was definitely engaged. I'm very curious to learn more about the playcalling, and to frankly see if there are ways I can coach better. I wasn't very good at it, but I hope that it's my fault and not that of the sim-engine. I'd also like to see future iterations offer play art, a coaching carousel (with coordinators), and more interaction with recruits.

For more on Draft Day Sports: College Football 17 (a demo is available), head on over to the official website.

Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.



This week fellow editor and baseball aficionado Brian Shea has some thoughts on the first trailer for MLB The Show 17 – including the new Retro Mode.

As perhaps the most avid MLB The Show player in the office, I always look forward to checking out the next entry each year. Before The Show even existed, I spent many of my childhood years pouring hours upon hours into games like Triple Play Gold on Genesis or Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball on SNES. It's for that reason that I've always wanted a more modern take on the retro style of those games. While the recently revamped R.B.I. Baseball has continued to disappoint into its third year, MLB The Show 17 really grabbed my attention with what it showed at this year's PlayStation Experience press conference.

When Sony San Diego announced that Ken Griffey Jr. was on the cover of next year's game, I'm sure I wasn't alone in immediately thinking back to all the games he fulfilled cover-athlete duties across the SNES and Nintendo 64. Until this past weekend, however, I didn't think the nostalgia would present itself outside of whenever Junior popped on screen. However, Retro Mode looks to be exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. From the top-down perspective from the games of old to the pixelated overlay text that calls back to those games I grew up playing, Retro Mode looks like it could be as close as I'll get to a competent modern take on the old-school style of play I loved.

While the MLB The Show 17 trailer at PSX didn't initially seem to show off a whole lot more than that, I'm incredibly intrigued by the first few seconds of the video. The trailer shows a scene in a locker room where the manager approaches a player (presumably your character in Road to the Show) to ask him if he's willing to make the leap from shortstop to third base. From there, you have the choice to tell him no, ask him if it's permanent, or tell him you're willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the team. I've been a huge fan of recent years' Road to the Show to the point that it's where I spend probably 95 percent of my time with each entry, but small story moments like this have been sorely missed whenever I look over at the story modes built into the NBA 2K series.

I'm hopeful that these only happen in moments that make sense contextually (for example, the scenario in the trailer happening after the team's third baseman goes down with an injury and the team has a decent back-up shortstop) rather than random occurrences. It would also be nice if decisions have weight. I'd love to see the manager's trust of my player go down if I prove myself unwilling to sacrifice for the team.

The bulk of the trailer, however, consisted of players jumping around and celebrating on the field. While celebrations are nothing new to the franchise, having more personality implemented in more natural ways would only benefit the franchise. Ken Griffey Jr. was known not only for his undeniable talent, but for his swagger. It would be great to see even more personality injected into the on-field product, and in less scripted manners. Sometimes, the players in The Show can feel a little soulless until a cutscene shows them celebrating a double play or a home run. Baseball has always been full of awesome personalities, and it would be cool if MLB The Show 17 could more accurately reflect that. 



Forza Horizon 3 Blizzard Mountain Expansion (Xbox One, PC) December 13
Don Bradman Cricket 17 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC) December 16. For more on the game, check out this previous preview.


A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.

New Trailer for GT Sport Looks Impressive
The game supports 4K HDR and PSVR.

Rocket League Gets Free Starbase Arena

Pro Basketball Manager 2017 Hits PC in January