FIFA 14 marks the return of Electronic Artsí beautiful game (on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 at the very least - although the publisher is being coy about other platforms) and features a series of new physics features and gameplay tweaks. As youíd expect.
You can read all about the new features - as well as see a delightful little trailer - by clicking here
. To learn more about the processes of football game development and the pressures on the FIFA
team to deliver every year, I spoke with producer Sebastian Enrique. Hereís what he had to say.
SPOnG: I wanted to get into minds of the studio and ask how you guys plan a new FIFA every year. You must have a roadmap of sorts, but whatís your process in general?
We do have a list of things, like as you mention a roadmap or a vision. There are a lot of features that we want to do or fancy exploring, but if we think we canít get it into the game in time, we put it on the list. We also listen to what the community says about the latest FIFA
. Things players would like to see improved or changed, for example.
We also watch a lot of football ourselves too, that helps inspire us and think of features based on what we see on the pitch. So we take all of these elements, sit down together and try to come up with the main themes, or pillars, that we want to focus on for the next yearís game.
Because we have a limited amount of resources and time, we start off big and then scope everything down to a main theme and then work on the package for the new year.
SPOnG: What specific feedback did you get from players and fans with FIFA 13? Outside of the new features such as Protect the Ball?
One of the common things we found were that people were saying that the game was too fast. Now, we needed to interpret exactly what that feedback means, as well as listen to it. Because in this case, the reality is that the game speed hadnít changed in the last two or three years. So we had to think of what was causing players to experience this.
By and large, what causes these changes are the different mechanics that we implement into the game. With each new feature, it changes the dynamic. And the dynamic that resulted in FIFA 13
... kind of encouraged players to sprint all the time. That wasnít something that we did consciously, of course, but we found that many players were just darting from box to box for the whole match.
Another thing weíre doing in response to feedback is changing the UI in Career Mode to make it more convenient and less frustrating in some ways. The community was saying that the mode needed some refreshing and pointed out that the interface has not changed in two years. From that, we use our telemetry data and see where people are getting tripped up on the most, and we see the frustrations.
One of the changes there is, for example, seeing the energy of the players. Thatís what you most frequently use to change your teamís lineup, and thatís information that we now put up front so you donít have to go down several layers to find it. So... while we canít implement all of the feedback that we hear - they might not be a good fit or they might break gameplay in other areas - a lot of it is very useful to us.
SPOnG: EA is looking for FIFA 14 testers right now. What do you guys hope to accomplish with that initiative?
We have testers all around the globe helping us make the game as good as it can be - testers down in Argentina, in Romania - but we do set up specific focus test groups in the UK. Why? Because itís the place where we can get the most passionate experts on FIFA
, or the most amount of them in any one place. And we do this sort of thing often - a lot of focus tests around what weíre developing so we can adapt and iterate all year long.
We have one year to make a game, and that is... we try to make the right decisions, but in order to do that you need people playing your game that are experts at FIFA
. Not just internal groups, but a sample of our consumers, to tell us whatís good, whatís wrong and what could be better.
SPOnG: Some might read the features of FIFA 14 and think that itís a bit odd that itís being considered a new feature for the franchise when itís been going for so long. What were the barriers for working on some of these features for previous iterations?
Well, itís largely about time and the technology we have to hand. As an example, the Impact Engine took us two years to build. Some features, like that one, take longer than a year to create and so we donít usually introduce it in one year so we can do so for the next one.
And a lot of the time, itís a matter of priorities. As I mentioned earlier, there are things that we work on for the majority of the year - we work on them as best as we can - but sometimes they just end up not being ready for what we want to accomplish with them.
A lot of it is balancing [between important features]. So, could we have done Variable Dribble Touches in the past? Yeah, maybe we could have. But we felt that the First-Touch Control was perhaps more important than doing that. Seeing how good First-Touch Control worked out in the end, we felt free to expand that concept and take it to Variable Dribble Touches.
Thereís a lot to be said about making sure all the new features work well together, in harmony, as well. Any minor change you do to the gameplay, requires a rebalance - and that is what takes the most amount of time. We have a large production phase where we focus on all the new features, but we also spend around three or four months just balancing out the game.
SPOnG: Konami is introducing a new engine for Pro Evolution Soccer - the FOX Engine - this year. And the company seems to be going in with a lot of teeth and fighting spirit this time around. Do you see them as a credible threat this year?
To me, Konami are very good colleagues. I respect them a lot, and [we both understand that] making a game is not easy. They create a good game. But when I think about improving FIFA, I only look at myself.
I donít look at how the competition can affect me, because our goal is to make the best football game possible [on our own terms]. To do that we just need to focus on what weíre doing. If Konami can pull off another great game this year, thatís fantastic too. Iíll potentially enjoy it as well.
SPOnG: Youíve mentioned in the past that you donít just want FIFA to be compared to other football games. You want it to be compared to video games in general, with Call of Duty as you main competition. How do you plan to topple Call of Duty?
I think I was taken a little bit out of context. What I tried to say was that we get inspired by all kinds of games. Iím a game developer, but Iím also a player - overall, Iím a gamer. As part of my game designer/creator side, I do look at what other games are doing, particularly big franchises. Why? Because you donít just get ideas from what the competition in the football scene is doing.
But you can get good ideas - as well as notes on what to avoid - from games in all genres. Be it Call of Duty
, Grand Theft Auto
... whatever the game is. But sure, as a game developer, obviously what I want to do is not make just the best football game, but also the best video game period.
SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time.