JOE meets one of the producers of FIFA 14, Kantcho Doskov
JOE caught up with Kantcho Doskov, one of the producers of FIFA to talk about the latest edition of the iconic franchise
Every year, the debate rages between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer between fans of the different franchises, but this year there seems to be a lot more hype about what FIFA are doing to their game.
From an updated physics engine to a new feature that they're calling Living Worlds, this year could be a groundbreaking year for the game we know and love.
So we decided to catch up with FIFA producer and freestyle footballer Kantcho Doskov to talk about what we can expect, and whether or not he's ever had players complain that they're not as good in the game as they are in real life.
JOE: So you're a freestyle footballer and a FIFA producer, that's an interesting CV...
Kantcho Doskov: Yeah I've been a part of the team here with EA in Montreal for seven years now as a producer and gameplay designer. I love football, it's my passion, and I've competed in freestyle competitions all over the world like the Red Bull Street Style contests all over the world, so it's really a huge part of my life.
JOE: Those are some decent qualifications to be working on FIFA! We've seen a lot about the new features we're going to see in this year's game, what are the biggest changes this time around?
DK: I think the biggest change is going to be the precision movement, that's something you'll notice right away. It's a lot more realistic this year, the way players move the way they accelerate, it's going to be much better than previous years. You have to control you player's speed and that takes a bit of getting used to, but we feel it makes the game much more realistic.
JOE: Tell us about the Ignite physics engine
DK: That's going to be on the next gen versions. It really has helped us put so many more designs and a compltely different type of physics into the game that's much more realistic. It's going to be much more accurate in terms of how players collide with each other, how they avoid each other. This was something we could only do on the next gen, so it won't be there on the current gen versions
JOE: So are there going to be further differences between this gen and next gen versions?
DK: The other biggest difference is the feature we're calling 'Living Worlds'. On the next gen consoles we had so much more memory and the ability to create real life crowds, real 3D crowds where the supporters have their own bodies, different types of fans are in the stadium, they have their own emotions. That's something that really brings the stadium to life, but it's not just that, there's also the stewards, the fourth official, the subs warming up on the sidelines, they're all going to be much more detailed and make the whole atmosphere come to life.
JOE: So on the development side of the gaming industry, you felt that the next gen were definitely needed?
DK: Yeah for sure. There were so many shooting animations, passing animations, tackling animations that, even if we wanted to, we couldn't do on the current gen consoles. That's my personal favourite because I'm an animator so by adding all these things that's what really makes the game come alive for me, so that you're not seeing the same moves over and over again.
JOE: We play FIFA quite a bit ourselves, and in the last few years we've noticed the defending gettting better and better. Has that improved again this year?
DK: Definitely. The AI was one of the biggest areas that we felt we needed to improve on from last year. Sometimes defenders wouldn't track runners properly and you got a lot of cheap goals where you could just cut the ball back to an unmarked man. We focused a lot on that this year, trying to improve how defenders mark opponents, how they stick with them and how they pass them off to their team mates. There's a lot more intelligent logic about how players mark and it has made the defending seem much smarter.
JOE: What about the refs...
DK: Improving AI is a huge challenge for any game developer. For us we watch a lot of football and try to anlayse why players and officials make the decisions they do, why do they do the things they do and how they react to different situations. Every year we try to find new areas where we could improve the AI, and we looked at that for defending, attacking and the refs.
JOE: What about this great Ultimate Team feature with all the legends in it for Xbox?
DK: We all got together (the Development team) and tried to come up with an extensive list of who we thought were the best players of all time, but the team is so diverse that it was a difficult process. For instance, I'm Bulgarian and I had to have Stoichkov in there, but everyone had their own stars that they wanted. We had to narrow it down to 40 (more difficult than it sounds!) so it includes some of the real greats, like Bergkamp and Pele. It's going to really add something to the game though, you can have legends of the past with superstars of today, it's like building your ultimate dream team!
JOE: Do you guys get insight from the footballers or feedback from them about the game?
DK: Yeah, we go on producer tours all over the world to meet players and recently we did a motion capture shoot with Gareth Bale, and players are always talking about their attributes in the game! They think they should have better shooting or they're faster in real life than we made them, so we know that a lot of them do play the game.
JOE: Ever had anyone really complain that they were way too bad
DK: We've got over 15,000 players in the game now, and we haven't heard of any one complaining too strongly! We have a really great scouting team who make our database really good so we don't have too many issues.
JOE: One of the problems with a franchise like this is constantly making the game different every year, how do you address that challenge?
DK: It's very difficult to build on a game like FIFA every year, and sometimes what it takes is going right back to the start and looking at the basics. For us, that's what we've done this year by making a whole new game engine for it. For me, this year's is the best version we've ever made because of that. Every year we listen to the feedback from the community and as a developer, it's a huge privilege to work on a game like this because I know millions of people are passionate about it and they let us know what they want to see.
The feature that stands out this year is definitely the team mate intelligence, both defending (as we've touched on) but also in attack. There's so much more movement around you when you have the ball, so many more opportunities to find that decisive pass with the AI making more intelligent runs that you won't have seen before.
This is going to be more of a thinking man's FIFA where you have to build up play through the middle of the field, you won't be able to just hoof it up front and get goals that way! It's really going to be a totally new experience.