FIFA 12 interview – We Talk Balls with FIFA 12 Line Producer, David Rutter
Written Saturday, June 04, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Say what you like about the FIFA franchise, but developer EA Vancouver sure does know how to make a good football game, which is why it sells in vast quantities, year in, year out, taking up residence near the top of the charts until next year's instalment comes along.
And every year, there's new features promised for each FIFA and this year is of course no different, offering a 'trinity' of new introductions to the gameplay. Tactical defending, precision dribbling and the real-time physics player Impact Engine are complemented by Pro Player AI and other refinements, as Line Manager, David Rutter explained when we headed over to EA's UK HQ in Guildford to get a first hands-on with FIFA 12.
We talked with Rutter about all of these new features and what they'll mean for FIFA 12, as well as a few other things, such as licenses, super injunctions and more...
Can you start by telling us about the new features you've got in FIFA 12?
Sure. This year we've taken the unprecedented step of travelling around Europe in May and we don't usually do that. We usually wait until July, but we believe we've got something special on our hands this year, with a trinity of gameplay innovations that we believe revolutionise FIFA gameplay in a good way. First up was our player Impact Engine, our real-time physics engine for the game. The other component of that trinity of features is the tactical defending, which totally changes defending this year and our precision dribbling system, which is a really engaging and rewarding dribbling mechanic we've got for FIFA 12. We've announced our pro player intelligence feature, which is the next generation of CPU AI control, and also a little bit of information about the new-look menus, presentation-style, camera angles, all that kind of stuff.
How do the new features translate within the game's Be a Pro mode?
Looking at the CPU AI control system – the pro player feature – that features quite prominently in a number of different ways. We've talked about two key components of that. One is 'aerial threat' and one is 'vision', and we have a bunch more in the game as well, which we'll be talking about as part of this feature later this year. Ultimately, the way it works is that the CPU has a deeper understanding and awareness of the strengths of the players on its team and can try to play to those strengths more frequently than it would have done in previous FIFAs. How this affects something like Be a Pro or online team play, is if you have a CPU AI teammate, they'll know what your strengths are supposed to be and will try to play to them too. So hopefully, if you play as say Peter Crouch or generate a virtual pro that looks like Peter Crouch with an aerial threat trait, then the CPU AI will assume that you're going to be hanging around in the box or just outside the box looking for aerial balls. If you don't, then obviously you shouldn't be having that trait and accordingly, the CPU won't be playing balls like that to you.
What new game modes if any are you introducing for FIFA 12 and what improvements have been made to existing modes?
We've got a lot of exciting news coming later this year, around about July, most notably about our game modes this year. We're not really talking about specifics, but ultimately there are a few things I can talk about. One of them is a feature called 'True Injuries', which is a side-feature from our player Impact Engine, and the way it works is because we have a real-time physics engine in the game that realises these very accurate, very beautifully rendered and emergent behaviours with an almost limitless variety of outcomes, at some times, players might get injured based on this. We know that because we're harvesting the data about the players and that will be broadcast out into things like our Career Mode, and you'll hear about them in the commentary and in the presentation etc. I can't talk much about the Career Mode or any of our other modes at the moment, but that's the sort of thing we're trying to do this year.
What will be the key traits that will inform the personalities of FIFA 12's players and will these still be updated with their real-world form?
With previous FIFAs we had a number of dynamic updates as part of our Live Season - and they were very successful - where we would update the attributes and form of the players. This year though, one of the key things we're trying to do to realise that level of authenticity is obviously the Pro Player intelligence and how that might manifest itself in another one of our features, [like] tactical defending or precision dribbling depending on the attributes and abilities of those players. For tactical defending, if you have a great defender, they're more likely to be able to make tackles and more likely to be better in their positioning. Or say a Messi is going to be better at dribbling the ball, so precision dribbling is going to be good for him. They're two very balanced components off the ball and on the ball, and when those guys come together, you have those really realistic collisions from our player Impact Engine.
Where do you draw the line with unique player traits like you mentioned for Messi? Do they extend into the lower leagues or does it really only apply to the top-flight players?
As far as our data collection is concerned, we have a massive network of people. We have approximately ten people based in Vancouver in the studio where we make the game, who co-ordinate over a hundred editors who enter the information into our database, and then we have a network of over a thousand reviewers who look at that data and make sure that the data is as accurate as possible. For all areas of the game, as far as leagues, teams and players are concerned we have someone responsible for maintaining, editing and ultimately reviewing that data to make sure it's as accurate as possible.
As far as international teams and licenses are concerned, is there any likelihood that teams like Wales and Holland will make it into the game this year?
As far as teams, licenses, player likenesses and additional leagues in the game, we're not talking about those at this time, but if any information comes out that we want to communicate, that will happen later this year.
If you had to single out the most important new feature in FIFA 12, which would you choose?
Tactical defending is a very big deal for us this year, and certainly while the Impact Engine gives this really realistic collision system and precision dribbling is this really engaging dribbling mechanic, one of the biggest changes we've made that will be obvious to long-term fans of the series will be tactical defending, which is of course our new defending mechanic in the game. We've removed the old press and replaced it with a contained manoeuvre, so if you hit the press button now, you'll move forward to contain the player, but he won't actually execute a tackle. You have to do that manually with a button press.
It's a great solution to a cascade of problems caused by that pressure button, like players rushing out of defence and disrupting the discipline of your defensive line. Also, it wasn't very engaging. It was kind of mindless, in that you pressed the press button and the player rockets forward and that's not very rewarding, so we wanted to replace that with a deeper, more engaging, more rewarding system, which we believe we have. Also a key component of that is for new users, as its far more accessible for them because basically it was intimidating for beginners to have player rushing at them, which isn't very nice and it's not particularly realistic. You'll now have a slower pace game, so you'll be able to think about how to build play up, more opportunities with precision dribbling and more assistance in positioning and defence, with you're formations remaining intact. It has nice benefits for both old and new users, as well as working well with precision dribbling with and without the ball and then when players come together, you have these brilliant collisions.
Are you able to reveal who the commentary team will be this year?
We're not talking at all about commentary, licenses or anything else like that at the moment, but later in the year there will be.
And finally, will super injunctions or bribery be a part of FIFA 12?
With FIFA, we're firm believers in maintaining a consistent fair play mechanic throughout all of our game modes and actually in-game. We're very much interested in focusing on the action on the pitch and action in the manager's office rather than things outside that.
FIFA 12 will be leaving the tunnel and hitting the pitch in autumn 2011.