On October 6, North Carolina's Tobacco Road triumvirate of State, Duke and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill all played home games on the same day, and all of them won. Audio from all three games wil be in NCAA Football 14, on shelves in two weeks. Some of that may come from a microphone I held.
Eight months ago, EA Sports invited me along on a sound-gathering mission, to get a look at what goes into its efforts to put gameday realism into its college football title. The game's producer, Ben Haumiller, acknowledged to me that the 20-year-old series was suffering from a sameness problem — not only was the title indistinct year to year in its graphical presentation, but great games also sounded the same, whether you were playing at Michigan, USC, the Other USC, VPI or Clempson. Authentic crowd noise is one way to brighten the atmosphere.
The first Saturday in October presented the first chance in nearly 20 years to see three major college football games on the same day without using aircraft. So Ben and I spent about 11 sunburned, blistered hours trying to differentiate your college football experience should you choose to play with Duke, State, or those no-good son of a bitch bastard Tar Heels.
Here's what made it:
"We got the 'Let's Go Devils' clap chant, and 'Let's Go Duke,' which are more upbeat offensive encouragement type chants," Ben said. These are probably mine. I was stationed beside Duke's student section the entire game; Ben was covering the Virginia fans way to the other corner of Wallace Wade Stadium. The obnoxious fan hitting on the dance team captain all game was, presumably, omitted.
"We got the 'Wolf/Pack' call and answer chant," Ben said. Again this might be my work. I was down in the corner of State's student section at Carter-Finley Stadium, in good position to get both ends of this cheerleading staple.
"We got 'Let's go Tar Heels' with accompanying drum hits, and a couple versions of the 'Tar/Heels' call and answer chant." These sound like Ben's. I was in front of the end zone student section and would have only gotten one word off the Tar/Heels chant.
"The biggest hurdle we are trying to overcome is getting any performance by the band cleared," Ben reminded. "There are so many chants that have the band playing along. Even if it's a chant over a fight song we have the rights to, there are questions if we have rights to the actual band performance of the song.
"We had to shelve an awesome version of Seven Nation Army that we captured, where a band was playing that opening bass line with their horns section," Ben wrote. "Super fast tempo, super upbeat, but we aren't able to get it cleared yet.
"The other issue that cuts into a number of good samples is that damn P.A. announcer," he added. EA Sports does not have the rights to any public address audio without a separate deal. At Kenan Stadium, the P.A. calls out a fresh set of downs by saying it's "another down for the Tar ..." and the crowd replies, "Heels." So the front end of the chant is unusable.
"We went to about 30 games last year, some for the first time, like South Alabama," Haumiller said. Indeed, South Alabama's bawdy chant of "U-S-A! South in Your Mouth!" came through loud and clear — and cleared the ESRB prudes — and will be in the game. In some games they recaptured audio from a previous visit that had yielded nothing usable. EA Sports went to Penn State the day after Joe Paterno was fired, for example.
NCAA Football 14 will be available on July 9.