Interview

David Rutter on FIFA 11

EA Sports' new Jabulani

David Rutter, FIFA 11's senior producer, clearly lives and breathes his series, and football for that matter. Dressed in his t-shirt and khaki shorts, he looks like he's just come from a training session on a pitch nearby to EA's studio in Guildford. We manage to sit him down and get him to talk about FIFA 11's new features like Pro Passing and Personality Plus, as well as one of the game's new features that he's not 100% on board with.

After playing the game today, the really palpable differences are the tussling for possession and the Pro Passing. The latter's obviously brought an extra level of skill to the game. Do you not worry that casual players may feel a bit intimidated by FIFA 11?

It was something that we were conscious of. We had an extreme version of Pro Passing to start off with which we tuned back. I think if you don't like the use of skill, the under hitting and the over hitting [of a pass], then you can switch it off. I think the basic premise of Pro Passing is solid, for anyone who plays the game it becomes blatantly obvious very quickly what it successful and what isn't, and why. For example, a very hard 180 degree pass generally ends up with the player on his bum. At that point you go, "Oh yeah, people can't do that. David Rutter on FIFA 11

In real life they fall over!" and that's what we're trying to discourage: unbelievable arcade play. We've done it everywhere else in the game [previously] except for passing, and the game's been enormously successful. I think everyone will love it. It gives you a truer sense of football. When you're watching, it looks like a football match - which is great news for me. The second part of it is that we have another set options within passing. We have had fully manual passing where the directional push is 100% mimicked and the amount of time you put on the button is the weight of the pass. We've had that for a number of years and it's enormously popular. You'd be stunned by how many people play like that. But yeah, I love the passing... as you can tell by how I've gone on for... (looks down at the recorder) two minutes about it.

One of the differences you mentioned today was the new transfer system which will involve negotiating with both club and player. I don't know what you think, but I always had troubles with FIFA 10 transfers because the user interface was...

It was clunky and horrible. We've had several challenges with the user interface. We did a fairly major redesign to some of it last year. It still wasn't brilliant. We've done another one this year, and it's good. The future of our entire game's user interface is currently being looked at and there's a lot I want to do with it. I do find the menus frustrating.

You also talked about the new Career Mode, which involves moving from player to manager. Could you go into a bit more detail about that? What age will a player start at, for example? David Rutter on FIFA 11

If you start as a player, it depends. You can create or choose a player. If you chose Steven Gerrard, you'd start at 30. If you created a player who was 20 - you'd start at 20! It's up to you. But the career mode is 15 years from start to beginning.

What prompted the decision to revolutionise with the Career Mode?

A few things. We did Be a Pro, we did Be a Pro Seasons but it never really got any further than that. It's a popular game mode, and we wanted to do more with it, but it was based on a different technology to our Tournament Mode, which was based on a different technology to our Manager Mode, which meant that we basically had to pick where we wanted to put the effort. We've homogenized our technologies by rewriting them and putting them all together. So now if we improve something in Tournament Mode, it's also improved in Be a Pro and in Manager Mode - so they're the same thing, which is nice for people. They can have the same extended, enjoyable, deep FIFA experience, but in different ways.

How far does Personality Plus go? Say I play a match with Spain vs. Holland and Iniesta vs. van Bommel, would there be sparks? David Rutter on FIFA 11

I don't know if there would be sparks - it would depend who's controlling what. This is one of the - what's the right word? Not 'misconceptions' of our game, but if you're in control of playing Spain, if you don't play like Spain they won't play like Spain. The players are set up to expect you to play like Spain, with our custom tactics, but if you set them up to play like Germany they'll play like Germany. Personality is more about whether or not players are good at things rather than how they play. How they play is their custom tactics, the formation they take, and then you'll have tendencies, traits, almost their special abilities as well which are a separate thing again. Michael Essien, for example, has a box-to-box trait which means he'll run like a nutter all match long from box to box - like he does. Wayne Rooney has high defence and high attack work rate, which means he will always try and attack, and he will always try and defend, whereas Berbatov might not. What you end up with is these situations where you have conflicting interests, and those conflicting interests are what make drama in football. So, Spain are brilliant, but they're boring because they're disciplined. Correct?

(After a begrudging pause) Yeah, fair enough.

Pass, pass, pass, pass, moment of genius, fail. Germany were disciplined but they were also exciting because they counter-attacked very, very quickly. So I think those personalities are what also go into making Personality Plus. Hopefully that makes sense!

If you were talking to someone to who'd played FIFA 10 and wasn't sure about purchasing FIFA 11, what would you say is the one hook that would convince them to buy the game? David Rutter on FIFA 11

I would probably ask them what kind of person they are. So if you are a day-in-day-out FIFA hardcore online single-player type nut, I would say Pro Passing because they're going to love that, it has a lot of depth and nuance to it. If they were a big football fan, I think Personality Plus becomes the important selling point to them; the visuals, the animations, the attribute-driven personalities of the players. And then I think if you are less inclined to go online and to play with your mates, more inclined to play the game on your own, then Career Mode is probably the most important thing for you. We do consciously make an effort to satisfy different types of people which is why we have these different things.

One of the commonly cited problems with FIFA 10 was loading times...

Yeah. The worst one was substitutions.

Yeah. Is that something you've noted from feedback and worked on? David Rutter on FIFA 11

We have a massive list of feedback, positive and negative, from the public and from reviews. Loading times are challenging, and there's ways in which we can make them better, but at the moment we don't want to because it will affect quality elsewhere.

You mentioned that big list of feedback, the thousands of comments. I read somewhere about the option to customize the goal nets. What's the weirdest piece of feedback you've received and then maybe thought OK, that could go in the game?

Er... hmm (long pause) I'm not usually speechless! What one... I don't know, actually! We do have some weird ones, but I think for me the one we've put in this year that I really didn't agree with was handball. For a long time I've said we're not going to put handball in, and a lot of people on the team still feel the same way, but there was this ground swell of people almost demanding it. We went, "OK then. Fine! We'll put it in," and we've done it. It's not on by default, you have to switch it on yourself, and for me the reason why not is in many respects the same reason as refereeing mistakes. If I'm not in control of it, then I don't think it's right if I am punished for someone else's mistake. You think there's enough rage quitting online? Wow, you've seen nothing yet if we did refereeing mistakes, people would be furious over that! I don't want to be responsible for so many broken controllers and televisions.

No doubt. Thanks for your time, David. David Rutter on FIFA 11

Cheers, man.

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