With Euro 2012 getting underway and the latest version of the beautiful game on PlayStation®3 mesmerising crowds at E3 2012, it was the perfect time to catch up with EA Sports “FIFA 13” producer David Rutter. Here, he explains how this year’s online offering is second to none.
David Rutter: The Precision Dribbling 2.0 – that’s the glamorous name for it – did owe something to that game, yes. We were looking at improved dribbling overall as a big holistic feature, we wanted the ability to move in 360 degrees, we wanted fidelity of distance and we also wanted face angle. That was a big thing for us, the ability to have the player’s face pointing in the right direction no matter which way they’re going.
After that was achieved it became obvious that another cool part of it would be the ability to take defenders on using skill moves. We’ve had some skill moves in FIFA before, but the key lesson we learned from the FIFA Street guys was that level of immediate control on the ball. It was really fun, something we thought would fit in nicely with what we were trying to achieve. They’re our sister team so we brought their code into our game, messed around with it a bit and we now have an equivalent feature in our game.
Is it a conscious decision to make each iteration more attacking or defensive in scope?
David Rutter: Not at all. What happens is we have a long list of things we want to do, like adding a defender to the defensive wall – that’s been on the list for a few years – but the idea that we’re consciously walking this five-year roadmap of “this year is dribbling, this year is defending” and so on, it doesn’t exist.
What ends up happening is, to give you last year’s example, we realised we need to work on, say, homing missile defenders. We felt that particular feature ended up not meaning anything. So what could we do? Well, we came up with a system that changes defending completely. And then we spoke to the fans and the community and we watched people play, and it dawned on us that the attacking play in the final third of the pitch was a bit lame. We had to enliven the action there.
How do you react to things like online players finding early exploits?
David Rutter: We get the most feedback from our demo. That has near final gameplay going into it, it goes from the development team to the testers and from many hundreds of our guys playing it, millions of people then get in on it. At that point you take a big gulp and see videos popping up of things like player impact engine bugs and then it’s a scramble to fix things. There was an issue a few years back where there you could score a goal every time from the halfway line, for instance.
So the game we release is solid, but things crop up. This year we have significantly more post-launch support than ever before. EA Sports Football Club has been releasing weekly, sometimes twice weekly scenarios for the game and that’s a big drive towards what we’re trying to achieve.
Last year in “FIFA 12” there was a flurry of people adopting the tactic of overloading the front of their team and pumping the ball down to the wings. Is there a temptation to redress the balance in favour of certain styles of play?
David Rutter: One of the worst exploits last year, which we immediately fixed because it was really annoying, was being able to switch to the goalkeeper at any time in play. I mean, why wouldn’t you want that? It’s a great idea. But when some players lost possession they’d switch to the goalkeeper and let the AI control their defence for them – the AI was better than some people. And you’re like, d’oh! A quick update later and we had to take that out, which spoilt a really nice feature.
The second part of this is that people tinker with their line-ups and formations. We could limit the number of formations to counter the tactic you mentioned. One of the reasons there are all those squad update checks and spinning wheels is because we’re making sure you haven’t hacked your squad files before playing online. All of that kind of stuff we spend an inordinate amount of time each year trying to plug. Yet the simple fact is the humans that play our game are amazing. I’m confident that this year’s game will go out, and it will be brilliant.