Just Push Start recently had the honour of talking to Aaron McHardy, the Senior Gameplay Producer on FIFA 12. McHardy, who originally played football at an international level for Jamaica, took up the producer role on FIFA 08 and is currently the lead gameplay producer on FIFA 12. While McHardy is unfortunately an Arsenal supporter, he still managed to answer a whole host of questions about the next game in the colossal football franchise, FIFA 13.
Q: Out of the new features to FIFA 13 which are the biggest game changes and how long have they been under development for?
A: For me, of the big 5 features that we have talked about so far, I think 1st Touch Control is the feature that when you go back and play FIFA 12 you are going to feel like the game has changed forever and you can’t go back. I think it’s as game-changing an innovation as Tactical Defending was in FIFA 12. Players no longer take unrealistic near-perfect touches all over the pitch. Now we understand the context of every situation much like we have done for the past 5 years in our kicking system, and as a result this year there is an appropriate touch played for the difficulty of the pass. This change makes you think the game differently, and as a result it really changes the way the game plays for the better.
While I think 1st Touch Control is the biggest game changer, I have to say my favorite new feature is Attacking Intelligence because of what it does for the excitement of the game. I think from the get go people will notice how players now better analyze space and work harder and smarter for you to create new attacking opportunities that just weren’t available in FIFA 12. Immediately you’ll see guys curving their runs to keep the play alive, create a passing channel, or stay onside, and those are just the obvious visual changes. The actual runs themselves this year are far more purposeful, and with the ability for our player to now think two plays ahead I feel they are much more thoughtful runs as well. All of these changes serve to improve the flow of the game.
As far as how long features have been in development… it’s tough to say on some of these features. Take Complete Dribbling, for example, in terms of the size of change I think it is a much more significant feature than precision dribbling was for FIFA 12, illustrated by the fact that precision dribbling 2.0 has been incorporated into the complete dribbling. However, precision dribbling is probably only about a fifth of the work for the changes that we did to bring Complete Dribbling to life. The ability to move in any direction while facing up the defender or shielding the defender is something that we’ve wanted to do for some time. We’ve taken some steps toward this through technology that we’ve built for other systems in the game. So while we built the component mechanics for Complete Dribbling in just this one year, it has relied on tech created over the years, as well as learning from things like the “Street Ball Control” in FIFA Street.
This year’s version of the Player Impact Engine is another good example of where the lines on how long we’ve been working on it are blurred. Last year we laid down the technology platform, which took over 2 years to build. This year it was all about fixing up the few problems that we found with the system from last year, and building new behaviors like the ability for defenders to use their bodies to seal off attackers, push/pull battles, and dribble touches, etc. So again, while the features that we’ve been talking about this year were all built within 1 cycle, the groundwork on these features has been worked on for years.
Q: Will the arena be back and will it be different in anyway? Be it a wider variety of locations or ways to practice free kicks etc.
A: We are currently looking at making some exciting changes to the arena but nothing has been finalized yet. We should have some news on this in the weeks ahead.
Q: With the relative success of FIFA Street will there be more skills and ways to embarrass other players on FIFA 13?
A: While this question is around new skill moves, I’ll get to that in a bit… First I want to touch on some of the sharing that goes on at our studios.
At EA we are lucky to be able to share technology and design between development teams, and the FIFA Street guys definitely inspired us with Street Ball Control. As I alluded to above, we took some learnings from FIFA Street’s Street Ball Control and brought the concepts over as part of our new Complete Dribbling system in FIFA 13. Playing their system, we really liked how it felt to have 1 to 1 control of the ball with the left stick. What I mean by that is that as you move the left stick the ball moves at the same time, it’s as if you are actually moving the ball around with the left stick and not just directing the player to move the ball around which is how we generally do things in FIFA. It’s ultra responsive and makes controlling the ball in close quarters feel pretty good. We adopted that concept, not the whole feature, but the concept, and put it to use in Precision Dribbling 2.0 which is a component of Complete Dribbling. By holding LB from a stand in FIFA 13 your player will be able to keep the ball close and move it around ultra responsively with the left stick to wrong-foot defenders. It feels really good, and as I said the concept for it came from FIFA Street.
OK, back to skills. While Street is a very flamboyant game in terms of skills, for FIFA we try to keep a bit more grounded, in terms of what you would see on the television if you are watching competitive football. However, we do have skill moves, and we try to always add a couple of new ones each year. I will say this year is no different.
Q:Sometimes in FIFA 12 players really seemed to want to get the ball and yet at other times they let balls roll passed them to the other team do any of the new features target this?
A: Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately when we talk about the stuff we do for FIFA every year, we only usually have a limited amount of time to speak about the biggest features. There is a lot more that’s going into FIFA 13 gameplay than just the big 5 features we’ve been talking about. This year we’ve made improvements to our interceptions code so that first and foremost players will always make a valiant effort at balls that pass by close to them, but secondly we’ve added more ability for them to do that. This year we’ve added sliding interceptions to give agile players a bit more coverage to be able to intercept balls that pass by. Since I’ve got your ear, and it’s kind of similar I’ll also tell you about another feature that we did in fundamentals. We’ve also added clearance reaction headers to help players who are on the goal line find an animation that can clear the ball off the line if it’s close. So to answer your question… Yes, we have addressed interceptions this year, and we’ve done a ton more changes just like that, but unfortunately we just don’t have time to talk about all of them.
Q: Often younger players, that perhaps aren’t rated very highly, break through into a first team and show their real quality. Will their stats be updated on FIFA 13 more regularly in both offline and online modes to allow players to play with the current squad and not feel as if players are underperforming?
A: In the past we have refreshed and updated player form and attributes at mid-season but we are taking a closer look at this and are considering some other options. That’s all I am allowed to say right now J
Q: When goals are scored in real life sometimes there are single players celebrating but occasionally a couple of a few do a special group celebration (dancing round the corner flag as an example) will there be any group celebrations or a wider variety of celebrations in FIFA 13?
A: Yes, much like with skill moves we try to add new celebrations to the game every year, this year is no different. As part of the EA SPORTS Football Club rewards program this year, you will be able to earn rewards to earn Football Club Credits to unlock items such as special celebrations, virtual club kits, Virtual Pro Attribute Boosts, Career Mode Super Scout Credits, FIFA Ultimate Team Coin Boosts, extra matches in Head to Head Seasons mode and more from the new EA SPORTS Football Club Catalogue.
Q: How many clubs will be included in this year’s title?
A: We have 500 licensed clubs and more than 15,000 players in game, but we don’t usually announce our final club/league numbers until later in the project
Q:With the Euros being this year a lot of people will be interested in the international stage of FIFA how many international countries will be in the game and will there be a Euros or World Cup like competition?
A: We have licenses for a lot of the most popular national teams, such as England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, France, Argentina, and many others. While we do not have the license to feature “official” tournaments like World Cup or Euro, we will have more to share on this topic in the future.
Q: Will there be a beta (or a pre-released demo) or is that all being done internally?
A: Yes, we will have a demo available prior to the launch of the game.
Q: When will the next big announcement be about FIFA 13 and will it be about the online services?
A: We will have several announcements during the summer, but you will want to keep your eyes on gamescom because we will have some exciting news to reveal there.
Q: Can you tell us what’s new in FIFA Ultimate Team mode?
A: We have some new features for Ultimate Team that we haven’t revealed yet. You will have to check back with me in a few months when I can talk about them.
So there you have it a lot of intriguing information about FIFA 13; personally this only fuels my anticipation for the game. What makes you look forward to the new installment of the series most? I think it’s the new ball control feature when players receive the ball but let us know what you think in the comment section below.