EA Sports' Dave Rutter on FIFA 10
We went along to EA's Guildford offices to get some hands-on time with FIFA 10 recently and got the chance to have a chat with FIFA Line Producer David Rutter about the forthcoming game.
We talked about the franchise's past and future, the challenges of updating FIFA each year and keeping an eye on the competition.
How difficult is it to keep on coming up with new ideas and innovations for FIFA every year?
It's not so difficult. We have a big, long list of stuff we want to do, so we can cherry pick off of that. I think the harder part for us is trying to make sure that we're refining the game as much as possible and we've generally got a good idea of what we want to improve upon from the previous year. The (even) harder part, I think is definitely responding to feedback, so when we're starting work on the game it hasn't actually been out that long, so come after Christmas time we start to gather all the information from the community guide, reality checking to make sure what we are doing makes sense and nine-times-out-of-ten, it does. Then throughout the year we spend time with some of the guys who are our community gurus - for lack of a better word - who actually give us a lot of feedback on exploits, stuff that's going on, complaints and again, that's useful for reality checking.
For innovations every year, we try to make sure we're changing the game in a way that's compelling for players rather than something that just looks good on the back of the box. And then we try to do stuff that's actually inspired by the real world of football in some way, so our new dribbling system this year came about from us wanting to make the game more fluid, more responsive and wanting to make the game look more natural and to give players the ability to express themselves more engagingly on the ball.
You mentioned the stuff on the back of the box. It wasn't that long ago that FIFA was all about the back of the box bullet point features. What's brought about the shift in moving away from this kind of thing?
I've only been at EA for the last two years, so I can only speculate on what's happened. Andrew Wilson, the guy who was running FIFA at the time and a guy called Kaz Makita, wanted to basically reinvigorate FIFA on 360 and PlayStation 3 by focusing on gameplay, which I think is a very sensible thing to have done. It's one of the reasons I felt more comfortable moving to EA to work on the game and certainly that's overwhelmingly where the focus still remains. Making a game that plays really well is definitely the mantra now across EA. We spent nearly every day with someone telling us that we've got to make a really good quality game with some really cool, useful innovations in it as well. That's what we're about now.
Can you tell us more about the big innovations you've implemented for FIFA 10?
360-degree dribbling, we believe is the first time ever you've had true freedom on the ball. You can dribble in any direction now rather than it being limited to 45-degree angles as it was last year. It's really refreshing to be able to spot a place on the pitch - perhaps a gap between two defenders - and actually run through that gap rather than having to zigzag your way to get there. One of the nicer side effects of that system is the fact that you can switch the ball from one foot to the other, which is really cool. It looks a lot more fluid, it feels a lot more fluid and the players look more natural on the ball rather than switching direction in a really unnatural way.
Other stuff includes skill dribbling, so the ability to - with your top right bumper - go into a very high fidelity dribbling system, so you can take very small, very rapid touches of the ball to jink about. It's a good way of getting around defenders when you're coming down to the final third by the corner. You can throw a defender in one direction and get round the other. There's a new physical play system, which is a lot more engaging, has a lot more outcomes. It's less predictable. We had quite a predictable system last year, so we wanted to get away from that.
The newest stuff we're talking about specifically is creating set pieces. Previously in FIFA, set pieces were a bit stale. There wasn't a great deal of variety, so we wanted to inject some variety into it. We made a tool that allows us to record the player movement off the ball, edit it and play it back and it was so cool that we thought we had to give it out to the fans as a way to generate gameplay. So, one of the things we're letting users do is record player movement from different quadrants on the pitch and then play it back in the real game. You can then assign it to your D-pad so in each quadrant you can have up to four different set pieces recorded, giving you a total of 32 set pieces, which is obviously a great way to have unpredictable set pieces in the game and that's what we want. We don't want it to always feel the same.