FIFA 2011: An exclusive interview with the team at EA

Posted By | On 06th, Aug. 2010

We had an exclusive opportunity to talk with the talented team behind FIFA 11. David Rutter and Sid Misra, the Producer behind the Wii version shed light on how the game will be different from the previous versions. We also talk about the new gameplay modes and the new 360 Degree Fight for Possession feature. Check the entire interview below:

GB: Everybody’s talking about FIFA 11, and how it’ll change the face of the entire series. One of the things that is exciting people is the new feature FIFA 11 will be incorporating, Personality +. We have the general idea about it, but can you delve a bit deeper and give us some more details?

David Rutter: Personality+ is a massive feature that integrates itself into every facet of gameplay—Visuals, Animations, Attributes and feedback systems.  For visuals we’ve three times as many body types this year, and we can manipulate them almost infinitely. In addition we’ve addressed the largest number of star heads in any 360/PS3 version of FIFA. Animation wise we’ve added tonnes of new animations for players based on their style of play, and have also implemented a comprehensive facial animation system – including blinking. On top of that the players now have trademark celebrations where appropriate. Naturally the attributes form the core component of the Personality+ feature. The gameplay is now fully driven by player attributes and traits— both on and off the ball. Even goalkeepers. Feedback from the commentary—and indicators in the menus—also help those less knowledgeable fans understand who’s good at what on the pitch. All in all Personality+ delivers distinctive and distinguishable players in every position on the pitch.

GB: As a series, FIFA faces very little competition. I suppose the closest would be Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer. What is it then that gives you guys the drive to keep it fresh, and to move things forward?

David Rutter: Our dev team is made up of talented software engineers, animators, artists, producers, etc who come from all over the world. We are all passionate about two things—football and making great games. We are fortunate to be able to do both working on the EA SPORTS FIFA Franchise. We were all very proud of FIFA 10 and this year we challenged ourselves to make it better and different. We are continue to listen to our fans to make the changes they suggest as well as make the changes we want to see as football fans and developers. That’s what motivates us to raise the bar each year. As we move into the final phase of development we are very excited with how FIFA 11 has come together and how authentic the gameplay feels. The team has done a tremendous job again this year to raise the bar on football video games.

GB: We have had great new modes like the Manager Mode and the Be A Pro Mode in the past few FIFA games. Will we get any new mode this time around?

David Rutter: This year we have a fully featured new game mode – Career Mode – which replaces Manager Mode and Be A Pro Seasons. Selecting a role as a Player, Player manager, or Manager, our fans can now embark on an authentic 15 season campaign within FIFA. A totally new engine powers the mode, ensuring a significantly improved level of authenticity over previous versions, better transfers and presentation and new media system. When combined with the ability to have multiple leagues going at the same time it’s clearly a bit step up. Customization has been something fans have been requesting for some time so we have initiated our first foray into Player and Team generation. A new feature called Creation Centre on the web allows fans to create their idols, imaginary players or historical figures and place them in teams. They can then be published on the web and downloaded into the console version. We’ve included another very cool customization feature – the ability to assign the music on your hard drive to the soundtrack, or events in matches – say for when your team come onto the pitch. And similarly you can do this for chants too.

GB: FIFA 10 was widely hailed as one of the most perfect sports games of all time, and it is certainly held to be the best soccer sim around. Going into the development of FIFA 11, what was on the development team’s mind? Were you guys just looking at playing it safe, and just tweaking the perfected FIFA 10 formula, or were you looking at something more drastic?

David Rutter: Overwhelmingly the team‘s effort this year has again been driven by our desire to deliver outstanding on the pitch gameplay. We begin each new version of FIFA with the goal of making the best football simulation game that our fans want. We have yet to make the perfect football game—that is the Holy Grail. So we spend a lot of time on the forums and boards listening to our fans to take their suggestion and ideas and incorporate it into the game. As football fans and gamers we also have our own ideas and things we want to see in the game so there is never a shortage of ideas. It is a matter of prioritizing what we are going to get into the game. We then challenge ourselves to see what we are capable of doing .

GB: A few days ago, you announced a ton of exciting new features and said that you’ve only just revealed 20% of the new features FIFA 11 will have. Care to tell us a little more about the remaining 80%?

David Rutter: Something we’ve only just revealed is our new 360 Degree Fight for Possession feature. For the first time players can interact physically in any direction – shielding space, jostling with opponents off the ball, and even giving players a shove in the back when running in from behind. Simply put it’s the most authentic model of human to human interation on a football pitch and leads to some amazing moments.  I have just returned from a two week tour of Europe where I demoed the game to hundreds of journalists and I can honestly say the journos were really impressed with this feature. It has a similar impact on gameplay as 360 Degree Dribbling did in FIFA 10. In addition we’ve also added a very cool REAL AI system – where the CPU can Record, Evaluate, and Learn. We now ‘teach’ the AI skill moves in Vancouver where we all work, and we can assign them to specific players – so when you see the CPU pull off an amazing move, it was actually one of the dev team in Vancouver that taught the game to do it.

GB: How’s the new Pro Passing any different from normal passing? Do you require any specific timing?

David Rutter: The deep, context driven Pro Passing system mimics the realities of passing a ball as a human, and also injects more user skill. The user skill element essentially effects the weight of the pass— too much button and you’ll over hit. Too little button and the pass will fall short. Similarly the context effects the ball realistically. Difficult passes in the real world –-a 180 for example –- are very hard and likely to go somewhat astray. Thankfully the skill of the player you are using can influence the success of these passes. The result – a rich and rewarding passing system, that is still user friendly and leads to some fantastic matches.

GB: Apart from the new passing styles and the realistic dribbling, how’s FIFA 11 going to offer a more realistic approach to the gamer?

David Rutter: FIFA 11 approaches the game in a much more holistic way. Every facet of player performance, on and off the ball, has been re-examined and engineered to support attributes and traits more fully. We’ve also worked hard on the look, movement and feedback about players, so you really get a much better, rounded complete personality system. And with Pro Passing the context of your play will effect the outcome of your passes. Try something physically challenging like a 180 degree pass and it’s more likely to go wrong. We have also noted that many people like to see improvements in presentation aspects so we have many new non interactive cut scenes in the game, where they don’t interupt the play. We hope you like them.

GB: Graphically, the FIFA games have always aimed to be as authentic as possible, given the constraints of technology at a given time. However, the controls of the games seem to be rooted in an era when the games were more arcade- y. With you making a push to make the entire FIFA 11 experience more authentic and real, can we expect some sort of changed control scheme as well?

David Rutter: Pro Passing is a new passing mechanic this year that creates a more responsive & sophisticated system. We have a more advanced error system for over/under hitting passes, spin context, consecutive bounces, etc. So user ability on the control is an important variable to determining the outcome. There are also new types of passes like swerve passes and driven lobs and we’ve added backspin on lofted through balls.

GB: For quite a few years now, the Wii has been getting more arcade-y versions of your EA Sports titles- the ‘All Play’ label. There are quite a few Wii owners who don’t like the idea of getting stripped down versions of games they’re paying full price for. Now again this year, the Wii seems to be getting an inferior version, since the newer features aren’t included in the Wii version. How would you explain this to your Wii fan base?

Sid Misra, Producer FIFA 11 Wii: The goal of the EA SPORTS FIFA development teams is to create the right experience for the platform and consumer.  FIFA11 Wii was designed with that in mind and we are very proud and excited to be able to deliver not only the traditional 11v11 club football experience, but also a street gameplay experience that lets you play with your favourite teams and players in different environments and customized game rules.  Also included is indoor gameplay which football fans and gamers have not seen since FIFA98.  Hit the Streets with players decked out in street wear and use the walls to jump past defenders or bank passes to teammates.  Choose to play arcade style and you can build up and then activate your power meter to blast shots, ignite a speed burst or send shockwaves over your opponents.  Or, hit the pitch with traditional 11v11 gameplay to play a more simulation style football match.

FIFA11 Wii also features a re-write of our fundamental gameplay layer and 100’s of new animations which provides more variety and longevity within the gameplay.  Shooting, tricks and set pieces have all been modified with improved animation and control responsiveness which means that control over the outcomes in the game are purely in the gamers’ hands.  FIFA11 Wii’s game modes (still to be announced later in the summer) means that there is an experience for you whether you choose play head-to-head, with friends or on your own.

Wii consumers generally have different buying habits and gaming expectations and we build our FIFA Wii experience keeping that in mind.  We know through our research that the Wii consumer is not predisposed to iterative purchases, so we set out to deliver a FIFA Wii experience that distinguishes itself from previous FIFA Wii titles thus providing reasons for new & old FIFA Wii gamers to jump into the series.  We also know that there are a large number of consumers with a Wii and a 360 or PS3 in their homes, so we also set out to deliver unique football gaming experiences so football fans can experience the sport in multiple ways.  Again, it’s about knowing who the consumer is and what the platform can deliver, and then building the right experience.  FIFA11 Wii is a product of learning about our market/consumer and listening to feedback from all football gamers.  We look forward to our fans getting their hands on the game October 5.

GB: Is FIFA 11 going to support the Playstation Move or the Kinect? I suppose you could have the cameras scanning custom team crests into the game, or have the player’s faces scanned, so that they could be used in game…

David Rutter: Kinect and Move are personally very interesting. But our team has a philosophy of not adding things just because they are there. It’s not that they are difficult – it’s just our priorities lie elsewhere.

GB: There were quite a few people who were surprised at the fact that the game will be releasing on the Playstation 2. Support for the system seems to have all but died, and the console seems to have finally outlived its time. Why, then, are you releasing FIFA 11 on it? Do you think there is still a market there?

David Rutter: We will continue to make FIFA on the PlayStation 2 as long as there is demand for the game on that console. It is still popular in various parts of Europe. FIFA was the only franchise to create a game for 10 consecutive years on the original Playstation so there may be a few more years left.

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