Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.
: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, and I’ve got David Rutter, who is “Mr. FIFA”.
Last year we spoke to this gentleman, and he sung a song for a particular person. We don’t have time for a song, but if you could just shout out a happy birthday to...
: Happy birthday Snez-nana!
: Snez-nana [laughs]; she’s our lovely EA PR person.
But anyway, let’s get into it...
: I’m not singing happy birthday again.
: Ok [laughs]. What I actually wanted to talk about this time, is the density of this product; but the barrier of entry because of said density, because I’m not a huge FIFA player, and with each iteration, it gets scarier and scarier for me to look at the product.
But I did just go in, and I got to play around with the new skill modes and stuff like that, so obviously that’s a step in that direction, but for other players like me, in terms of just getting into the game, what else have you guys done?
: I think you’ve touched on an important point really. So, the skill games for us were very much a focus on both approachability -- I guess that’s the word -- for new people, who are coming into FIFA; had heard it was a great game, and wanted to try it out, but perhaps didn’t know the buttons, and didn’t know the controls.
So, we’ve got eight different categories covered: dribbling, passing, shooting, advanced-shooting, penalties, free kicks, crosses and lob-passes. Where there’s differing degrees of difficulty: bronze-easiest, silver, gold-hardest, and then a kind of a skill challenge, which is an amalgamation of all the different parts. So 32 little skill games in total, for our fans to try out.
For new guys and girls, it’s basically an introduction of controls to help you get the hang of the game. For expert gamers, it’s very much about perfecting the game at the harder difficulties, and also competing too, because they’re connected to a leaderboard, so you can see how well your friends are doing.
That’s been our major focus. I think the quality of the game itself almost makes it approachable once you’ve gotten through that hurdle of actually starting. Because of the way we’ve made the game, which is simulation-based, rather than arcade-based. The outcomes from what you’re doing make a lot of sense, so we believe that the context-based systems that we’ve put in there, rather than scripting, really help.
I guess if you’re a super-casual person, maybe you’ve got a [PlayStation] Move; there’s Move controls in the PlayStation 3 version, which are incredibly accessible.
: From an eSports perspective -- because obviously this is a pretty big eSports product -- are you guys finding that, with each iteration, because you go more simulation-based -- more about physics, more about the balls not locking at your feet now when you pass; things like that -- is the community embracing that? Or do they get a little bit shirty, because they’ve probably learnt those systems so well?
: I think that... well, we believe, and certainly the feedback that we get from those guys and the forums, is all overwhelmingly positive. I think what we do is create a very deep -- as you mentioned -- balanced game, and that in and of itself creates this brilliant kind of competition within the game. So I think they’re fine with it.
Overwhelmingly, the requests we get from them are around a spectator mode: the ability to have people watch the game, and also commentate on it, as it’s happening, and that’s not a priority for us right now. It’s something that we’ve spoken about a number of times in the past few years, but ultimately when we still think there’s football stuff to do within the game, we tend to focus on that more.
But we’ve done a lot of work in online this year. We’ve introduced a tonne of stuff for more mainstream online players, rather than the most hardcore of the hardcore. Overwhelmingly though, the feedback has been amazingly positive.
: The game world is connected like... the Need for Speed guys have been talking about that non-stop for the whole of GamesCom, and you guys seem to be totally tied into that; tapped into that. But there’s a really interesting thing: I was sitting down playing with Jodie [EA PR rep] just before, and the skill games, it’s just single-player. That seems like a huge missed opportunity to me.
: So the single-player connection comes through the Leaderboards. I think the skill games themselves are very much about introducing the concepts of the game to players. I think once you start adding in multiple players to that, it becomes something slightly different. I know we’ve spoken many times now, around introducing multiple players into the pre-match arena, and for online games maybe having that as a lobby -- that’s definitely something we’ll probably get to in future years -- but really, the crux of it for us is, those skill games are there to help people learn to play the game better, at every level.
As far as connection’s concerned though, I mean absolutely. We’ve obviously continued the work that we started last year with the EA Sports Football Club. Loads of work gone into that this year: persistence of your profile from last year, coming across into this year; the ability for you to now unlock not just experience points, but what we call Football Club credit, which is kind of a virtual currency that you can use to redeem items in this massive catalogue -- we’ve got hundreds of items in there, based around single-player game modes, and career modes, and online too; so tonnes of stuff that we can do in that, that you can redeem and use in your game.
And obviously, the news that we’ve been talking about now with the iOS versions as well. When you’re playing those, they’re also connected to the EA Sports Football Club. You’ll earn experience points when you’re playing on that platform, and it will come across to your consoles too. So aggregating that is a very big part of it.
: Do you guys ever get frustrated that we’re still at a kind of an age where the consoles -- the platforms -- are locked out of one another, because it would make so much sense for something like this to be cross-platform...
: Yeah, well for the EA Sports Football club, it kind of is [cross platform], and we’ve been lucky to have brilliant partners in both Sony and Microsoft when dealing with that, and obviously Apple with their iOS devices has been great too. So I think as far as actually being able to play head-to-head, or anything like that, I can’t ever envisage a time when that would happen, but certainly for profiles and things like that, and sharing of certain stuff, is absolutely doable, and we’re really, really pleased that they’re letting us do it.
: Have you guys looked at Microsoft’s SmartGlass stuff that they revealed earlier this year? Because that also seems like something that would be perfect for FIFA.
: Sure. It’s something that we’ve been talking about in the studio, and indeed when you... I don’t know if you’ve had an opportunity to see the Wii U version that we announced a little while ago, that’s got some amazing features in it that would be equally at home on SmartGlass.
It’s not something that we’ve gotten to for FIFA 13 -- it kind of happened too late for us -- but it’s definitely something that we’re talking about at the studio.
: Now obviously, it’s an iterative kind of series: each year you’re one-upping yourselves. How far ahead of the curve do you have to be? I mean, at what point do you guys release the game, then listen to player feedback; come in, sit down and do your own kind of “oh, we really should have done this ourselves, blah, blah, blah”? What’s that timeline process for you guys?
: So for us, it’s a pretty complex problem to solve: one year to make a game. But we have a pretty good process in place. Some things take longer than a year, so for instance: the player-impact engine took over two years to develop before we could release it; the be a goalkeeper controls were similar: they were done off-cycle by a few people.
So if there’s something that we really want to get to, that we can’t accomplish in a year, we put some resourcing aside to get that done. But for the vast majority of the team, that’s every year, they’re working on a year’s worth of work.
The way it works is: between launch and Christmas time, it’s support of the game -- making sure everything’s working as well as it possibly should be -- gathering feedback from fans, ourselves playing the game even more than we’ve already done, to make sure that we’re picking up on any of the sentiments within the game that we would notice ourselves.
And then post-Christmas, it’s sitting down and figuring out... in the run-up to Christmas, we’ve got a good list; post-Christmas, it’s cutting that list down. And usually, by Christmas time, we’ve got about three FIFAs worth of FIFA to make, which we can’t do, and January is whittling that down to what matters most.
: Alright, well obviously people still need to get their hands on 13, but I’m sure you’re going to do an amazing job with 14 as well. We’ll wrap it up there, because the show is pretty much closing up, but I’m going to go and actually try and have another bash at it, and see if I can hone my skills.
: Practice those skill games, they’re well worth it.
: Ok. Thanks very much for that. Cheers.