Aug 15, 2007
Marcel Kuhn, FIFA 08 (PS2), Producer
I’ll start off by introducing myself. My name is Marcel. I was born in Austria, and raised in Germany, and for as long as I can remember I have been a football fan and a FIFA fanatic. It all started in my parents’ apartment, where my Dad called me a lunatic for shouting and swearing at my PSOne while I was playing FIFA. It continued all the way through university, where studying lost out to all-night long FIFA tournaments. It was a dream come true when I was hired by EA in 2001, and everything came full circle in 2005 when I started to work as a FIFA producer. Fast forward to 2007 – I am on my 3rd production cycle of FIFA, and for the first time responsible for gameplay.
For FIFA 08, our goal was to give more control and freedom to the user. A big part of this concept is that the game doesn’t try to anticipate what the user wants to do, but instead allows the user to be in control at all times. The two AI systems I want to talk about today (Defensive AI and passing) are game play essentials that were affected the most by this approach.
Let’s get started with passing, I play football, and passing properly is much harder then pressing a button. Since we’re making a football simulation, this had to be represented in our game. In reality, a football player has complete control about when, where and how hard he wants to pass. This applies to standard short passes, but also to more specialized passes, such as through balls or crosses. In all of the teams I’ve played on, there was always a handful of players that were specifically good in crossing or playing through balls. These two types of passes require skill in reality, and they should require skill in our game. The idea of Manual Through Balls and Manual Crossing was born.
While in FIFA 07 the AI chose the direction of a through ball for you, you now have complete control about the direction of your through balls. In FIFA 08, you can now place your passes exactly where you want them. When you play a through ball, it will be played in the direction that your left analog stick points towards. This enables you to have more control over your passes.
But controlling the direction is only half the battle, because the weight of the pass is almost as important. You don’t want the pass to be too short or too long. Based on the length of your button press, you can decide how far the pass goes. It is now a challenge to pass well. While it may seem more difficult to play a through ball at first, we feel it's brought a more realistic aspect to the game. Also, once you master it, this new system gives you freedom that you’ve never had before. Trying to play that perfect through ball almost becomes a game of its own. Being successful isn’t just about scoring a goal anymore - it’s looking for the perfect set-up as well.
I got really excited telling you about the manual through balls, but I can’t forget to mention that the same applies to manual crosses. The left analog stick angle determines the direction of your cross, while the length of the press sets the strength of it. Now, with a little practice, you can place the ball exactly where you want, right on the penalty spot, near post or far post.
On top of that, we’ve added some cheeky additions to existing passing options, such as the heel pass and the lob pass. While you won’t use these as often, they can be an excellent way to tease your opponent.