Get excited for Gen 4 FIFA14
by Arthur Kotsopoulos
©2013 Arthur Kotsopoulos
With FIFA14 already released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 and being limited with the hardware, FIFA14 on PS4 and the Xbox One needed something different. Something drastic to help it break away from the problems that has plagued the game for so long, sloppy AI, legacy problems and many others.
We had the chance to chat with Peter Trenouth Producer at EA Vancouver, at a FIFA14 event that EA Australia held a few weeks back where I believe I spent roughly 5 hours standing competing against Junglist for supremacy.
If you’re interested to see how the game has been improved with a new engine and where it looks to continue to bring more realistic attributes to it, then read on.
I’d like to personally thank EA Australia again for not only their hospitality but for setting up this interview.
They know how to treat the media and community and it was definitely a great night, where everyone had a lot of fun.
FIFA 14 – IGNITE
Arthur: It’s been a good run, let’s continue it.
It wouldn’t be a sports game if we weren’t into it, and we got a good thing going.
Arthur: I guess we’ll start with next gen consoles.
They’re just over a month away and FIFA14 has already come out on Gen 3 consoles. Massive improvement in terms of previous installments.
Peter: Thank you.
I played FIFA14 god knows how many hours since it’s come out and in terms of FIFA14 with the IGNITE engine there’s a massive difference even though it’s the same game. I want to talk about how the IGNITE engine has helped the team over at Canada improve an already almost perfect game with how it feels and how it plays.
Player physicality obviously when they’re fighting for the ball and they get in between the defender and the ball to hold them off.
How has the hardware helped you improve an already perfect game?
Peter: First of all, we had a great foundation to start from which is Gen 3. Gen 3 was a fantastic game and it allowed us to go from a really good spot, we improved some areas we knew we could improve on.
One thing is, it gives us more calculations per second and that talks about the pro player instincts in particular. So what pro player instincts is, it allows players not to see in to the future but to anticipate what’s coming.
If you played FIFA14 also Gen 3 on a slide tackle you either miss it or your attacking player, the player who has the ball gets knocked down. In FIFA14 on Gen 4 you’re going to see a player, and I’m not saying he’s going to be able to get around every single slide tackle, because that would be breaking the what’s authentic button but they’ll be able to anticipate.
Messi is a great example of this, in real life when you watch Messi and he’s got the ball at his feet and he’s darting around, playing and he’s jumping over the tackles, so the more calculations per second gives us pro instincts which allows players to anticipate or react to what they see coming or what’s happening on the pitch at the time.
The second thing that gives us, is more animation variety.
So we’re allowed to have more animations which gives us more variety to how the games play. I talked about in air play on corners I like to cross it in from the wing, that’s kind of my style and I know I’m calling myself out but that’s what I like to do.
In Gen 3 what you see, is one attacking player and one defending player going up for the cross. In Gen 4 you’re going to have multiple guys going up for the corner, added to that much different animations, no goals are going to feel the same, so there’s a lot more variety and depth added to the gameplay.
I showed a few examples on the video as well where I showed some chest play, different kind of crosses and lob passes. Having that additional hardware allows us to change gaming for the better.
We’re always wanting to keep things authentic, that is one key point that FIFA is known for and it never strays away from.
So what ever we do has to be authentic, we don’t want to be adding things just because we can. When we looked at the hardware, we decided what can this do that’s going to make the game feel more realistic, look more realistic and play more the way it plays on the weekend when you’re watching it on TV.
You want it to look and feel that way as well.
I know with past FIFA games there’s always been a lot of criticism with the AI. Obviously when you’ve got the ball and you have to pass it, sometimes the computer is going to choose the wrong player to do the through ball to or long ball and obviously frustrate the player.
I don’t know if you guys have been reading or heard there’s a lot of criticism with keeper AI as well. Is the more calculations per second and the hardware going to allow you to improve team AI and computer AI, that way the keeper doesn’t make those same sort of mistakes?
Where if a balls going to get crossed in and let’s say it’s a metre in front of him, he could just as easily come out and punch it.
Instead he stands there and it goes behind him, the attacker heads it and no defender goes for it, everyone just stands there and goes “Ohh” So is the hardware going to improve AI to eliminate these legacy problems?
Peter: It’s a good question.
Arthur: I’ve been playing since FIFA 98 on the PC with my brothers who are massive fanatics, and I’ve just noticed the legacy problems is the keeper AI. He’ll always let a ball go past him even if it’s right in front of him.
Peter: Yeah so, the hardware is going to allow us to make everyone the pitch much smarter.
I talk about the IGNITE engine and the engine is the combination of a bunch of different things. Locomotion, real time physics, animation, online, AI, players are going to act smarter both on your team, so if players are going for runs and not being offside to defenders, making more intelligent plays cutting of the ball.
You will see, I’m not going to say we’ve solved everything but we’ve been able to make the game smarter and the IGNITE engine allows us to do that.
Arthur: I think that’s the main reason I’m looking forward to the next gen version because, I think FIFA on Gen 3 plateaued at 12 and from there it was basically fine tuning it seeing where it could be improved.
In fine tuning though other problems have arisen. In FIFA14 the hero run from the kick off has been eliminated because of real ball physics, players being able to contest for the ball and better AI but in saying that it’s brought in new problems.
Players attacking from the wing overpowered lob shots and it feels like a good game but the current hardware is limiting the game. Like you were saying there’s live breathing worlds now, the stadium is much more interactive crowds it’s going to feel like you’re actually there in the stadium, you’ve got the outside of the Etihad stadium.
It’s awesome because new hardware is going to make the world bigger and better and give it more life, it’ll excel the game because currently the hardware is limiting.
Peter: We had a list as long as my arm of things we wanted to do with the new hardware and whilst we didn’t get to everything we definitely prioritized things that we definitely felt were important. We listened to the community we have great people who like to keep their fingers on the pulse so we know what they’re saying at all time, so it’s going to have to be a leap.
People aren’t going to want to buy FIFA14 on Xbox One and PS4 if it feels the same way as it does on the PS3 and Xbox 360. If we’re going to make it more authentic in terms of presentation and make it that the games acting more intelligently, there’s no invisible wall between pitch and crowd, they’ve fixed that,
On gameplay, that’s the bread and butter gameplay is king. Gameplay is the most important thing in any game in a sports game making sure the game is fun.
And for us fun and authentic.
Arthur: In terms of fun and authentic obviously you guys are in big competition with Konami’s PES. They’ve stepped up the bar and they’ve had roughly 4 years where they were at the bottom of the gutter but now they’ve started to get their traction back.
Do you guys look at them and see where they improve their aspects and go back to the development team and say “Alright guys, this is what they do better in some areas then we do better.” “How can we bring in those Konami players into the the FIFA franchise?”
I know a lot of people that actually keep swapping.
Hardcore FIFA fans go to PES one year then come back the next. You guys listen to the crowd and the community and change things people said they didn’t like or they want. How do you combat competition and say “Hey, let’s make the best football game we can. Let’s look at these guys have done better and improve in our aspects as well.”
Peter: We play PES.
PES has stepped up their titles and whether it’s game development or the sports scene, competition is the best thing to motivate us to make the best game we possibly can.
We’re watching what PES is doing but we’re still focused on us. Having PES and having choice for consumers is good for everybody, for us, it’s good for Konamia at the end of the day.
It looks good.
Arthur: It brings out the best in both developers, much like the way there is the El Classico, Barcelona vs Real Madrid.
I want to talk more, broadening the horizon of FIFA, in terms of it’s not just online play and career mode we’ve got Ultimate Team, Seasons, Match Day, I don’t even know how many features there are from 13 to 14. There’s just so much here to play.
For older and new players how have you broadened the horizons?
Peter: We have millions of users, and they like to play the game in many different ways but we need to appeal to the both the hardcore as well as the new users. We have our online mode, cups and divisions when we introduced the seasons.
People love that competition aspect, getting promoted, relegated, holding your division, and I speak for myself, one of the things I always buy from the EA sports club is always that extra point of extra draw.
Arthur: That one game extra that gets you over.
Peter: What we tried to do, was have almost something for everybody.
What does Ultimate Team offer? Well it’s competitive, it’s got that really addictive team building aspect to it, open impact, it allows you to compete with your friends. I’ll show you my phone, we’ve got the EA Sports companion app which allows people to play Ultimate Team.
We want to have something for everybody, I was talking to someone earlier we have data that tells you how and when people are playing. So for example with Kick Off mode, if Kick Off mode was a bar graph it does this and on weekend it bumps up and bumps up.
What does that tell us?
So myself I think that’s the buddies playing in their dorm rooms, don’t play so much during the week but they invite mates over for some beers, losers has to pass over the controller and winner stays on and keeps playing until he gets dethroned.
We enhance that by having live fixtures and match day.
Add a little bit of spice, so for teams that perform well in real life are going to be performing a little bit better in FIFA also. We wanted to have that “Art imitates life” to some extent. We control everything we have, we added global transfer network this year, which allows people to send scouts out and really kind of build the squad they want to build.
For that control freak that wants to do everything.
We have a tonne of modes and it requires a tonne of effort just to keep them as good as they are. That’s what our community expects, that’s what they want to have and by giving them these things that’s always the expectation now.
These are always going to be there and we’re going to subtly improve or add new things. Global Transfer Network for career mode, chemistry styles for fun.
We always pushing the bar on these things, to try and make them better and more accessible. There are some poor points in the modes and we’re looking at improving them as well.
The email system in career mode is something that we were like you know in FIFA13 it kept on coming up every single time it was like “Email, email, email”, so we’re going to put that in the background, if you want to access it you can but if you want to sim a few matches you won’t be constantly interrupted.
So how do we do this?
We’ll we’ve got a bunch of different guys who are really smart, producers designers developers who own their features and they’re always thinking about how to improve the stuff they’re working on.
We listen to the community all the time we have great PR and marketing people saying hey the community is talking about this and that. Somebody’s like “Hey, that’s something we’re going to look at for the next FIFA.”
Arthur: I think my favorite new feature over the last couple of years was the introduction of the commentary. Before you’d hear the same thing over and over again, the player is sluggish, bad form or the team is performing bad.
Where as now over the last two years we’ve got the live world commentary that slowly trickles its way into the game. If you watch a match two weeks ago and Barcelona performed poorly against Real Madrid, you’ll play an El Classico in the game and hear certain little parts of that commentary in the game.
How have you improved that aspect of the game of bringing real life aspects into FIFA? Squad updates, commentary, transfer windows etc…
Peter: Art imitates life, like I talked about earlier. Authenticity, we want our game to be totally authentic, we want to be a place where people can go to get this real world news. That’s one of the pillars that we rest our game upon that making sure it’s totally authentic. We have a great team, great sound artists and sound engineers.
Audio is a tough thing to own because if you do it right not many people notice, if you do it wrong, you say the wrong thing, say the same thing over and over again, everybody notices and it starts to “bleep” them off a little bit.
For us, we want to make sure it’s got a lot of variety. It’s not like you’re playing these two teams and hearing the same thing over again. We want it to be always changing but always having a lot of times when you’re playing and it’s not like I’ve been here before.
That goes not only for gameplay with ball physics and pure shoot, but it’s kind of marrying that experience together and this is what Gen 4 does really well. I showed some goal replays back there and instant replays.
If you’re playing your 100th match and you score a goal and hear the same thing you’re going to press the button and skip it.
You still can do that if you want to we’re not going to take that way from the consumers, we want the game to feel that it’s intelligence, it’s showing a new replay you haven’t seen before or new commentary, so that you’re going to be fully engaged and enjoying the experience as a whole.
Arthur: I think authenticity is the main contributing factor as to why a lot of people keep coming back to FIFA. It’s like Fantasy league, ultimate team people want to create their own ultimate team they can have Messi with Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema with Van Persie.
The authenticity is what keeps a lot of players and then brings new players into it. You look at other titles and sports titles and they don’t have the same level of authenticity.
Consumers don’t want to play a game that doesn’t really represent real world, they want to play a game where the players are the same, character models are the same, Messis’ characteristics when he runs and carves through defenders is the same and so forth.
That with the audio and next gen hardware is what’s going to bring in a lot of new players mainly because some who are still on the fence between both franchises don’t know what to chose and why, and if you’re introducing new features every year much like FIFA from 12 to 13 which was what, 140 or so improvements.
You sit there and you think well I love FIFA12 how do you improve on a game that was already awesome and 6 months later hey we’ve got 1 40 new improvements. I don’t know what the hell you could improve on and then obviously that fixes old problems but creates new ones.
There’s competition between both companies and they’re both always on their toes which means they’re always going to want to make a better game. Every 12 months there’s a new FIFA out and you want to have a reason to buy it.
You’ve got Legends on Xbox One, a much more improved Ultimate Team and a redesigned UI, THANK YOU! Because the old UI was a chore to go through it.
Peter: It’s funny you mention that because we put a lot of effort into the menus, the panels and tiles and nesting content on the right stick.
We had a debate internally because it’s hard to sell UI but we knew it was time we need to replace the ribbon at the bottom where we were showing 5 modes and we have 5 modes over here off the screen and 5 modes on the left and you were getting lost.
Arthur: Going back and forth going left right and I just want to go to seasons, nope that’s settings.
We thought about what we wanted to do, for example the home menu, that left hand tile on the top left is always the last mode you played. For a lot of consumers that play one or two modes, it’s going to be there.
To your point about the team we have a group of perfectionists that we work with. We have an army of people, we have an army of guys doing player ratings and team with their stats and attributes and these guys are on the ground in those territories watching the team plays and giving us the authentic attributes, 33 leagues, 600 teams and thousands of players.
It’s really important for fans who aren’t a fan of these big clubs, and if they’re a fan of their local city club, they still want to see those teams looks and being authentic as realistic as possible.
We not only need to give them that our consumers have incredibly high expectations year over year.
The goal we set for the team every year is to listen and exceed those expectations and I think we’ve done an excellent over the last couple of years. Expectations are really high for FIFA14, again it’s always thinking what’s best for the gamers as a whole.
It’s something I tell my team for example is “We own FIFA, how awesome is that? We actually own this franchise”, and every decision we make and every day we come into the office, it’s always got to be about what’s best for the franchise as a whole.
Arthur: I don’t think a lot of people know how much work goes into the back end stuff, I was watching awhile ago on a flight back from Melb, I don’t remember what the show was called but it’s the one where they show how big warships and constructions are built and there was one on FIFA.
Peter: I think it was FIFA13, it wasn’t too long ago with mo-cap.
Arthur: No, I think it was 11 or 12 because it wasn’t graphically impressive. They were showing the mo-cap and how teams would go out to the training grounds and set up the photo booth to capture player faces.
Just a whole bunch of work that goes into everything, then you’ve got commentary from players such as Benzema saying his shot is more powerful than that and how they’ve captured his speed but he feels he is more faster than that.
I feel not a lot of people know how much work you guys put in to recreate player faces, ball physics characteristics and so forth. The fact you guys have a whole soccer pitch just to capture mo-cap where you capture how players do tricks like the rainbow and over the top, it’s absolutely crazy.
Peter: And doing it year over year is a big challenge, it’s the only way to say it. Like it or not, our team is able to step up and they did. I’m very fortunate, here I am the guy here talking to you about it, but I have a little army of guys behind me who are really the reason why FIFA14 is the reason what it is.
Arthur: Well thank you, it’s good to see that the IGNITE engine has made FIFA14 leap into new territories where it needs to go. Current hardware limitations has made the series plateau.
Peter: It’s going to change the way FIFA plays for 14 and for the future. As we unlock the hardware, you’re going to see it really take off in the next couple of years.