FIFA is big business, a titan game that represents one of the most popular sports worldwide. Every year brings a renewed suite of modes that let you unleash your inner player/manager, and the trading card inspired Ultimate Team has fast become a fan favourite. We got a chance to chat with two guys knee deep in the development of Ultimate Team in FIFA 14, and they were gracious enough to tell us about some of the new and improved features we can expect to see. Our victims were:
Tyler Blair – Fifa Ultimate Team Designer
Adam Shaikh – Ultimate Team Creative Director
George Reith: What new additions will be made to Ultimate Team mode this time around?
Tyler Blair: Well there’s been some big changes to the community features and the way chemistry works in Ultimate Team. We looked at feedback from our players and are making it easier to search within the auction house on the community side. Players can now search based on alternate criteria now like a users name and the whole thing isn’t just a list of filters any more.
" There's also a loyalty system in place, whereby players grow as they play and become more loyal to the club and to the player managing it. "
The big change to the chemistry system is chemistry styles, a way players can alter how chemistry affects individual players on their team. Rather than just seeing overall stats increase a little bit at higher chemistry levels, players can select individual attributes to raise like heading accuracy or shot power. This gives greater choice for how players can be used in a squad, and it means that getting up to 100 Chemistry is no longer the end of it. I, for instance, always liked to have Coutinho on my team, but he was never strong enough to work in the midfield positions I was using him in. By changing his chemistry style though, I can make up for this.
Adam Shaikh: There’s also a loyalty system in place, whereby players grow as they play and become more loyal to the club and to the player managing it. As their loyalty grows, so does their chemistry within the team, which impacts on player performance. Players bought and sold on the auction house have to build up their loyalty from scratch, but players gained through booster packs will always start with a little bit of loyalty.
Tyler Blair: We’ve been working on giving players more versatility. One example of this is in the way formations work. Players no longer have preferred formations. We thought it would be this really tactical thing people would love, but we found people were just finding it restrictive in the end.
George Reith: Will there be any changes to the multiplayer aspects of FUT?
Tyler Blair: Well we listened to fans who wanted the single match online mode back from FIFA 12, and we have brought it back in FUT14. Players didn’t always want to mess up their seasons game if they just wanted to try out a new squad. They asked, and we listened. Aside from that there aren’t any totally new suggestions outside of your standard seasons play.
"There's also a revamped search option for players in the auction house so you can sort them by transfer status and other lesser known criteria and you can also see a preview of how each player will work with your team's chemistry."
Adam Shaikh: There is also a change to the way divisions are handled in Seasons mode. We’ve strecthed the boundaries between them a bit, making it much more challenging to get to Division 1. We saw a lot of people on the forums getting to Division 1 consistently, so we wanted to make sure it was a bit more competitive this time around.
George Reith: With all the improvements going on with the career mode interface, is Ultimate Team likely to see many changes to its interace as well?
Tyler Blair: In Fifa 13 we saw Ultimate Team use an interface that was totally different to the rest of the game, but with this year we’ve brought it more in line with the rest of the game. There’s also a revamped search option for players in the auction house so you can sort them by transfer status and other lesser known criteria and you can also see a preview of how each player will work with your team’s chemistry.
George Reith: Will the scouting network interface changes in career carry over to the UT interface?
Adam Shaikh: Not at this time. The way you view players in Ultimate Team will still rely mostly on point score metrics like overall stats and shot power, passing accuracy etc.
George Reith: Exclusive DLC has been announced for the Xbox One, do you have any info for us on what kind of content that will be?
Adam Shaikh: That hasn’t been officially announced, so we can’t really say anything at this time.
George Reith: Will the player loyalty bonus in booster packs affect the way people buy players?
Adam Shaikh: Certainly looking on the forums, we always see really dedicated FUT players agreeing that playing with booster packs only is much harder than using the auction house. We’re not sure if loyalty will totally change that, but it will certainly make booster packs more desirable.
George Reith: With the increase in booster purchases, will the rate at which players can earn boosters with in-game coins be altered?
Tyler Blair: Well we always try and balance it out so boosters are only charged at the rate at which they’re worth. For the time being we haven’t made any drastic changes to the way boosters are earned.
George Reith: Do you think there will come a saturation point for FUT where there aren’t any more changes to make?
Tyler Blair: We’ve got a lot of new ideas yet! Certainly I’d say we remain vigilant in improving the experience each year. We’re always having in depth discussions on the kind of things we really want to keep changing and improving upon.
Adam Shaikh: Certainly with the passionate fans we see discussing the mode on forums and ways to improve it, we’re confident there’s a lot left to do.
"We noticed there were people who were struggling with contracts in the earlier parts of the game. They'd play seven games or so, buy an expensive player and then find they don't have enough money to get new contracts when all of their players expired at once! "
George Reith: There were times in FUT 12 and 13 that I felt contracts were restricting, like I was fighting an uphill battle. Are they changing in any way?
Tyler Blair: We noticed there were people who were struggling with contracts in the earlier parts of the game. They’d play seven games or so, buy an expensive player and then find they don’t have enough money to get new contracts when all of their players expired at once! We wanted to make contracts less daunting in that respect, so we’ve made it so starter packs offer more contract cards. We’re still testing to see what exact number is needed, but we’re giving maybe double or triple the amount of contracts than in FUT13. We’ve also made it so players get more games out of certain types of contract to make it more lenient.
George Reith: Were there any especially crazy FUT forum suggestions you came across?
Tyler Blair: Certainly we take feedback from the forums seriously. We’re always keeping ourselves in the loop about what the fans have to say, and we think everyone has a creative bug in them that lets them give really great suggestions.
Adam Shaikh: There were a lot feedback where we thought “we really can’t do this right now,” but nothing off the top of my head that was outright crazy. I’m sure there was some pretty out there stuff, but nothing that I can remember right now. We’re always commited to listening to what our fans have to say and using that to improve the experience.
Thanks to Steve Frost from EA Sports for setting this interview up.