Where do you go from here? Upward...
People play 57 minutes a day playing FIFA versus 46 minutes a day on Facebook. Based on our statistics, gamers are playing five million online games a day. Based on this information, you could say that were bigger than Facebook, FIFA 13's executive producer David Rutter says, smiling and half-joking.
If you recall EAs pre-launch campaign for FIFA 12, the development team, from senior gameplay producer Aaron McHardy to Rutter, reiterated that the experience was designed with revolution in mind. And indeed, the team basically threw out the excellent engine that propelled the series from a likeable second-place to the bonafide winner over a four-game span. And as a result, it got a game that some disliked, but many adored wholeheartedly.
Whats in the cards for FIFA 13? We found out on a recent trip to EA Canadas headquarters outside Vancouver, where McHardy and newly promoted line producer Nick Channon ran us through a 90 minute presentation that was as exhaustive as your average college lecture.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law
Channon provided an overview for McHardys detailed talk. According to the team, you can expect The deepest feature set in the history of FIFA and A revolution of game-changing features. This years focus is on five key elements, which Channon ultimately collated under the umbrella of creating a true battle for possession. With the refinements to player first-touch, tweaks to defense, newly adjusted AI, revamped dribbling, and a new approach to free kicks, the EA Canada team looks to shake up certain elements of its foundation for FIFA 13.
AI gets a new type of intelligence
With the new attacking intelligence feature, your AI teammates will position themselves better to be in the right place for your offensive maneuvers. According to McHardy, FIFAs most passionate fans called for some real AI adjustments, and since FIFA 12 introduced tactical defending to open up space, the team wants to provide us with the opportunities to take advantage of those pockets.
We saw early test bed (green screen) footage of what happens in the new game. An AI teammate realizes that hes in a good position to go on a run, so he cuts past his defensive marker in a split second, and gets open on goal to receive a solid pass.
McHardys real-life example showed a clip of Arsenals Robin Van Persie scoring on Sunderland. RVP slowed down his run at the backline long enough to stay onside for Gervinho to pass in a beautiful goal. In past games, AI teammates would make unnatural curving movements to stay onside, but now, your teammates will stutter step, if necessary, to keep the run onside for an oncoming pass.
Attacking intelligence means thinking ahead
As a result of the new programming, your teammates think ahead, just like real players. Thanks to new programming, the team understands who is most likely to get the ball. In past games, theyd stand idly in space until activated to start participating in the game. Now, a playmaker like Pirlo is programmed to think two steps ahead. While centerbacks are passing the ball around, a full back like Dani Alves is already starting to get 10 meters forward to build up an attack, rather than holding position until called upon.
Using more test bed footage, McHardy demonstrated how a number 10 playmaker is on a run and drawing two defenders his way. A number 9 striker gets himself loose from his marker to get open for a through pass to get a shot on goal. As a result, you can expect better forward runs, visual feedback to pick out good chances, and youll have a stronger diversity of attack options.
Yes, Agero's great with goals, but his dribbling ain't bad, either
With complete dribbling, FIFA 13 will open up dribbles to a fuller range of mobility. The team took notes from FIFA Streets approach to hanging onto the ball, which may entail some rolling around and tapping touches, but no forward movement until you absolutely wanted to smoke a defender.
With contextual 1 v 1 dribbles, you can face up your opponents more accurately while attacking. Even when you move laterally or turn while dribbling, youll still face goal and set yourself up in the best position to beat your man for a shot at the keeper.
Plus, while FIFA 12 introduced a stronger sense of ball shielding, FIFA 13 tweaks it so that, not unlike a fighting game, you can chain shielding together with other features for a more fluid system of dribbles. Youll have more options, based on your touches, to get in and out of shielding more easily, then link it into another dribbling maneuver.
Gone in a flash
Under the new system, a player like Cristiano Ronaldo can chop the ball left or right, then beat his man. Messi, like in real life, can take a few gentle, slight touches, then turn on the afterburners to charge in.
Besides shielding and contextual 1 vs 1 encounters, EA Canada is adding some major updates to last years precision dribbling feature. Now, you have more control over close touches, and can make quicker directional changes as he slows the ball down. As a result of these refinements, expect greater freedom and creativity for your attacks, and a sense of ability to chain together dribbling moves more fluidly than in the past.
He is Zlatan, and his skills on the ball are uncanny
With newly refined first touch controls, theres a true stratification between player abilities to trap the ball. McHardy showed a clip of Ronaldinho effortlessly receiving a goal kick from 50 meters out. He contrasted that with a clip of a Portland Timbers player in FIFA 12 hooking the ball just as easily. No offense to Darlington Nagbe and Co., but even hed agree that Dinho or Walcotts first touch might be slightly more accurate.
We then watched clips of players popping balls off their feet. Getting a pass in real life involves a lot more bounce than what you see in videogames, and thats what EA Canada is hoping to convey with this new system. Sometimes itll cost you possession, but as we saw from a real life clip of Didier Drogba, sometimes you can exploit a bad bounce to arc the ball over a defenders head to muscle past them for possession.
With these algorithms in play, first touches will not only affect your methods of attack, but your ability to trap a bad pass on defense and win back the ball. In that sense, this new feature purports to balance out the numerous offensive innovations with something for defenders to strategize.
RVP knows when to hold it and when to fold it.
This also means that in different circumstances, the ball will act wildly different. For example, in a rainy match, a player will need at least two touches to effectively secure the ball. It will have more bounce than in normal conditions.
According to McHardy, when the team incorporated these features, they applied key learning from the kicking and trapping systems. It allowed them to implement several dynamics that can affect a players first touch and ball control. Defensive pressure, trajectory of a pass, the height of the ball, and a players skill level all factor in, though theyre not the only elements in the mix that determine how the ball will bounce.
Another random benefit of this new control is that the aforementioned Drogba moment will allow overhit passes to be incorporated into play, whether that's successful for plays, or a silly giveaway. As a result, one could argue that of the numerous new features, the physics associated with this new first touch could be the most profoundly dynamic.
Messi always makes an impact
FIFA 12 introduced tactical defending, one of the most revolutionary features in a FIFA game. That was also thanks, in part, to the Player Impact Engine, an overhauled approach to physics. It had its glitches, as we discovered via YouTube videos of entangled goalkeepers and strikers kissing, but overall, it was a solid start.
FIFA 13s refinements are less about collisions and falls and more about tightening up whats already there. As McHardy pointed out, in FIFA 12, players hips were too powerful, so as they collided, their arms wouldnt give way properly, so youd see arms bending into inhuman directions if you looked closely enough at replays. Because of the aforementioned kiss, the team has slowed down the get-up animations so that when two players collide, one either rises slower, or rolls away from the mess and stands up cleanly.
Chiellini can get his hands even dirtier on defense
The refinements will also help with defense. Now, jostling wont just happen on the ball. You can duel with an attacker as hes about to start a run so that you can mess up his first touch. With refinements that factor in size more than before, it allows big central defenders like Juventus Giorgio Chiellini or Manchester Uniteds Rio Ferdinand to use their strength to push ahead of a smaller striker to regain possession, or to put themselves between the player and the ball long enough for a teammate to snatch it up. These additions will also help balance the offensive creativity at play.
Theres a catch, though. If you keep heckling strikers, theyll fall more often and start drawing fouls or getting your defenders booked.
Let's hope this free kick doesn't decide next year's Italian champs
The final of the five big additions is that of tactical free kicks. For years, footy gaming has offered us two options in dead ball scenarios: designated player takes the free kick, or theres a fake-out and the other teammate holding the ball takes it. Not anymore.
On offense, youve got a wild number of variants to choose from. Up to three players can hover over the ball, and now, if you want, you can do a double dummy to confuse the opposition as to whos actually going to take the shot. We watched test bed footage of one player dummying over the ball, then a second, then the first dummy player took a pass from the free kick and shot on goal.
Fortunately, on defense, there are a plethora of excellent new additions. Just as offense was rather monolithic, on defense, your choice often consisted of small shifts up or down with the defensive wall, or hitting a button to jump at the right time to block the shot.
With the new free kick system, you can expect to add and subtract players from the wall, creep it forward (and hope the referee doesnt notice and penalize anyone), or even send out a bullet guy to rush at the free kickers to break up the play. Plus, if you prematurely make your wall jump before the free kick, youll be able to do it more than once to block a shot.
And that's not all, folks!
Finally, at the end of the presentation, we got a rundown of several extra core features that we can expect from FIFA 13. They include:Better referee intelligence around foul decisions and cardingsHumanizing the CPU The AI analyzes decisions and provides more realistic chances. It knows that in a tight spot on defense, you dribble out or shield until a teammate can show upMore lateral mobility in defensive containment Now you can cut off a pass laterally instead of just closer/further attempts to obstruct passing lanesNew Pass Types - Dinked ground passes (pop ball over a defenders leg for a pass) and lofted through ballsNew animations for off-balance shots, 180 degree shots, and celebrationsNew Behaviors in goal line clearances and shielding ball out of play180 degree shots Can super-cancel and shield a ball to go out of bounds, plus new goalkeeper animations