Just hours away from its annual release, I got the chance to interview FIFA 12′s producer David Rutter for GamerXChange. Quite frankly, FIFA soccer has played a pivotal role in my love for video games. Even though I didn’t play FIFA all those years, I find myself eager to know more about the development process and upcoming features of FIFA 12.
While soccer isn’t the top sport in America, it’s the most popular sport worldwide, and having said that I still wonder when we’ll see some classic/vintage features being implanted to the game. While I might write an article about my vision in the upcoming future, I do think that with the wave of nostalgia that we’re getting from NBA 2K and EA’s own NHL series, that FIFA should implant some classic teams.
Yeah I know that the game features a classic team, but it doesn’t feature Maradona or Pele and just imagine a virtual confrontation between those two and the likes of Messi and Ronaldo.
Oren: The hottest thing in sports games right now (both Basketball and Hockey), is the implantation of classic teams/players, even though FIFA features a cast of classic players, we don’t get to see classic teams (Napoli with Maradona, Real with Zidane, and 92’s Barcelona), given the potential of such a feature, when will we see it in FIFA?
Rutter: We’ve built our reputation on quality, authenticity and connecting to the real world of the sport. We’ve made a huge investment in our game quality and that’s enabled us to grow our market share and become the #1 sports video game on the planet. We have done this by listening to the fans to create the features and modes that matter most to them. So if it is the will of the community than it is something we would have to consider, although there may be licensing challenges involved.
Aside from the historic value, I do wish FIFA implant more cut-scenes in order to improve its already beautiful presentation. I know that most fans only care for the gameplay itself (and so they should), but every sports, especially soccer, drives from emotion and scenes of relegation in one case or a celebration (a bus tour for example), would do wonders in my opinion.
Oren: While the in-game presentation has always shown improvements, are there any plans to incorporate special cut-scenes such as fans reactions from the stands, introduction of a new player, and most importantly a victory parade?
Rutter: We re-designed the front end to create an authentic match day broadcast look and feel, with broadcast style overlays with bigger, brighter graphics, and motion graphics, and we try to highlight the story lines of the match much like you see on TV. For example, EPL games broadcast on Sky feel important with hero shots, story lines, etc. We are incorporating these production values into the FIFA 12 presentation. You will also notice grandeur match day atmosphere with more authentic crowds, team colors in stands and noticeable sections for away fans.
After digging the visual aspect of the FIFA series, it’s time to check out the new features for FIFA 12, and there’s no better way to start than with the new Impact Engine. The brand new engine that’s been in development for more than 2 years is scheduled to be the main attraction in the upcoming game. Not only that the contact will be more realistic (both in animations and gameplay situations), the new engine is scheduled to make the game feel more like it real life counterpart. Nevertheless, I was a little bit worried about the effects of the new engine on the referee, will we see more booking, and will we see a change in the pace of the game?
Oren: One of the key features in FIFA 12, is the new Impact Engine, can you tell us what was done in order to insure that the new impact/contact engine doesn’t affect the referee decisions (more booking for example) and doesn’t affect the pace of the game?
Rutter: We continue to work on the referee decisions and improve the intelligence of foul calls, carding logic, etc. With the introduction of the Player Impact Engine, we had to re-write a lot of our referee code to adapt to the new technology. So, while there are no new features for the Ref this year, we have done a lot of work on it. We have different degrees of severity in terms of foul calls and carding. There are dozens of referees in the game, each with his own name and degree of severity. They have also been assigned to different leagues so that we match the authenticity of referee severity across different territories. For example, most referees in England tend to be more lenient to tackles than those in Spain.
Coming from the highly successful and very popular FIFA World Cup 2010, I was really disappointed to see that FIFA 11 didn’t feature the same online modes as the FIFA World Cup. Luckily for us, FIFA 12 is scheduled to bring the same online intensity that we saw last year. A side from the virtual leagues, FIFA 12 is brining a special challenges mode (recreating real games in the virtual world), under its most intriguing feature “EA Football Club”.
Oren: Given the advantage of the online modes in FIFA (and with the new additions to FIFA 12), what are your expectations from the new Football Club mode?
Rutter: We are excited to see how our fans enjoy EA SPORTS Football Club. This new live service connects players to the real-world game with fresh, new content all the time, enabling them to support their favourite club and connect and compete with their friends, rivals and millions of other players around the world. There’s a massive online community of FIFA players and it will be amazing to see how Football Club looks when everyone starts playing for the favourite club, taking on our Challenges, and building their status on our leaderboards.
Apart from the online modes, I did enjoy FIFA 11 Career Mode. Having gone through multiple seasons as the manager of A.C Milan, I loved the new interface and goals. Even as I was unable to win a title during my tenure, I think that it was all worth the while. With FIFA 12, the Career mode is going to be better and bigger, with brand new youth scouting engine, and a brand new moral system which are all scheduled to have an effect on the day-by-day operations.
Oren: Among the improvements in the Career mode, we get to see a new moral system which will enable players to show their feelings/frustration, will players like Carlos Tevez be more agitated than players like Lionel Messi?
Rutter: Career Mode is now driven by the same drama, storylines and emotion of the real world. If it happens in real life, it can happen in our game. Managing team chemistry is vital to your success, and players react like they do in real life to playing time, form, injuries, league position. Player morale impacts the game on the pitch and storylines are created through Career Mode and then dynamically fed into the game.
Oren: Another promising aspect of the Career Mode in FIFA 12 is the brand new youth scouting system, how will the system work and will we see a bidding war between top clubs, kinda like in the case of Neymar?
Rutter: Youth players are always eligible to be signed so you can sign 14-year-olds, for example, if your scouts think that the player will develop. Other teams also have scouts so it is a race against other teams to sign them. If you do not choose to sign a youth player then another team might sign the player. You can sign a youth player and you retain his rights for as long as you wish, until he makes the first team squad or you choose to release him.
In conclusion, I went on and asked David about the need of releasing a new title each and every year. Come to think of it, if EA new Season Ticket service is any indication, then change in distribution might be around the corner.
Oren: Although it’s a sort of cliché, many hardcore gamers among the video games community debate whether sports titles should get a new release every year instead of an annual update, what’s your take on the subject?
Rutter: I think if you build a great sports game than fans will want to play it year after year. We have millions of fans who play our game each year, and there is always great anticipation for the game. This year we are delivering the best football game we have ever made and there is every indication that this will be the biggest selling sports game ever. I can’t imagine the community reaction if FIFA did not ship every year. Also far as ideas go, we’re always harvesting ideas and new thoughts throughout the year so that we are always planning what’s next. There is never a shortage of ideas from the guys on our development team and the community who play our game. We have a longer-term roadmap and vision where we want FIFA to be down the road.
Make sure to look out for FIFA 12 out for all systems starting Tuesday September 27th in North America!