With FIFA 09 looking to take the series to new heights, the game’s producer Clive Gorman takes some time out to talk to IndianVideoGamer regarding the game’s new features, criticism over the PC version, what improvements EA have in mind for FIFA 2010, and more. He even takes a potshot at the competition, saying Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer games have failed to take advantage of the PS3 and Xbox 360 hardware. Read on for the full interview:
Can you start by telling me about the changes that you’ve made since FIFA 08 and UEFA Euro 2008?
The way it breaks down is there are five key areas. Most important to us was gameplay. We’ve made over 250 changes to the gameplay that affect two things. The first is the responsiveness, which means that not only are the passes quick, but players trap the ball properly, they realistically anticipate where the ball will come. There’s also the physical aspect of it; how players behave in one-on-one situations. Now you can actually jostle with your opponent and you’re able to start the jostle and pull out of it when you want as you would in real life. Also, the stronger player with higher attributes will be able to outmuscle the smaller player. So when two players come together, the stronger player has a better chance of winning the tackle, whereas the small, faster players will be able to get around slower opponents more easily. It’s all very realistic.
There are also adjustments to the way you take freekicks. You will be able to adjust the amount of spin on the ball. Goalkeepers themselves have seen an overhaul; this was one of the biggest demands. You won’t see the stupid moments where they just stood there and waited for the ball. Similarly, you won’t see ‘keepers stopping a perfectly placed shot, which would’ve been impossible to stop in real life.
Of course 10 vs 10 is a huge new feature for us. We want to make it a virtual sport. We want people to learn how to play in a particular position. That’s important because with the introduction of Clubs, there is a grading system and if you can learn to play together as a team, you’re going to be more successful. There are 15 divisions, so the guys who don’t learn how to play as a team and work together, they’re going to be at the bottom. Those who take the time to play together and work as a team will move up the ladder and earn the bragging rights.
We’ve also introduced customisable controls, which is important especially in Asia. We have a competitor, who has a large market share and they use different controls. So now we’re giving the player the option to play FIFA the way they want. Then of course, there are the custom team tactics, which allow you to get under the hood of the gameplay and make the changes that go a step beyond what was possible before. Another new addition is Adidas Live Season, which will allow in-game statistics to change on a weekly basis based on how players perform in the real world.
There are plenty of new animations and the player models have been vastly improved. The player models didn’t seem quite right in FIFA 08. Is that something that you have consciously been working to improve?
We’ve had a lot of feedback that previously, players were very chunky and they didn’t look particularly authentic. So now, we actually have three different body types. You have the short and stalky players like Tevez. Then there’s medium body type; players like Ribery or Ronaldinho. Then we have the other extreme; players who are tall and slim like Peter Crouch. So this has really helped us make the players look a lot more reaslitic.
In the Be A Pro mode offline, there are four seasons. Why the limitation to just four seasons? Why not more?
The idea behind that is that there is a natural timeline for international tournaments. The whole aim of Be A Pro is to prove yourself as the best player in your position, get selected to your international team, with the punchline being you’re going to take part in an international tournament. As you know, all international tournaments come around every four years.
So have you implemented the World Cup license in the Be A Pro mode as well?
That’s one thing we didn’t do. We were exploring that, but with the available time, it’s not something we could include.
So once the four seasons get over, can you play beyond that with the same player?
You have to start again. We did think about going for more seasons, but even with four seasons, it’s a lot of playing time plus you have a full tournament at the end. From the feedback we’ve received, we found that if you make the game too long, people will tend to lose interest.
In online Be A Pro, its 10 vs 10. There’s no goalkeeper involved. Did you think about including that and how would it work?
That’s definitely one of our targets for the future. The reason we didn’t get to it this year is the goalkeeper is a whole new dimension. We need to work with real goalkeepers to get their thoughts on what goes behind it. It would require us to, in a sense, change the way the game is played. It’s not only about pressing buttons, but also about positioning.
But would that really work considering the goalkeeper is at one end of a fairly large field? Wouldn’t the involvement of a player controlling the goalkeeper be limited?
I don’t think so. Other EA Sports games like NHL have done it. But they’ve had the time to sit down and work out how it works.
With 20 players online on the field at a time, will lag be an issue?
We did 5 vs 5 last year and we were very pleased to note that in Asia, we didn’t have any lag. We did have some lag, but that wasn’t necessarily attributed to the game itself.
The demos for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions varied vastly from the PC version. The PC version wasn’t as well received. What is the reason for this difference?
From the feedback I’ve been reading globally, people have been saying ‘Why haven’t you got the Xbox 360 engine on the PC version?’ Our objective is to get as many PC gamers as possible to be able to play FIFA 09. If you take the example of Steam servers right now, only about 5 per cent of PCs have the raw power to be able to play a FIFA game based on the Xbox 360 engine. So that would mean that 95 per cent of PC gamers wouldn’t be able to play the game. This year, we really wanted to address what peoples’ main concerns were. This year’s game is an improvement over last year. We also have new keyboard and mouse controls.
Can you tell us a bit about Live Season? Is it a paid service?
Live Season is a paid service, but this year we’re giving every consumer on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC a free trial.
That works for one team, right?
It works for one league. For instance, if you’re an English Premier League fan, for the entire season you will get dynamic updates for the Premier League. After that, if you’re interested, you can pay a small amount for the service, and it really is a small amount, for a year’s worth of data.
Do you have the pricing for the service yet?
The pricing should be announced in the days leading up to the game’s release.
Will it be a fixed amount for each league, or will there be a package that includes all leagues?
You can choose. There is a certain amount for individual leagues, or you can buy all the leagues for a slightly discounted price. It’s up to the gamer. If you like the updates, great! But if you don’t, that’s okay. The reason we have to charge for this service is we need to have people constantly working to keep the leagues updated. The key thing is something like this hasn’t been done before. NBA have done something similar, but it’s not the same.
What do you think of the competition – Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer franchise?
Well, they’re very, very strong competitors and they have a very good game. But what consumers are telling us is we’ve taken strides to take the game forward in each department, whereas Konami have stood still. They’ve been making small changes to the gameplay and it still plays very well, but it just doesn’t feel like they’re addressing the power of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. We believe that this is something we are doing.
With FIFA 09 being quite a substantial improvement over last year’s game, are there still any improvements that you still think are needed in future titles?
Oh, man! Okay, there’s a list that we have. There are about 250 improvements this year. There are at least another couple of thousand more improvements for the future. What I will say is every year the game is going to get more exciting. We’re going to be able to tick off everything that we want to achieve. Every year, we know what we want to achieve, and there will be substantial improvements every year.