Another year, another FIFA, but, given the spectacularly brilliant virtual football fest that was FIFA 09, it’s hard to see how EA can nail that magical 90 per cent review score average EA Sports boss Peter Moore has demanded. The man given that thankless task is David Rutter, line producer for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. Here, in an extensive interview, he tells VideoGamer.com just how he’s improving upon what many consider to be the greatest football game ever made. And what Peter Moore’s like as a boss.
VideoGamer.com: Why are chip shots cheating?
David Rutter: Because we’ve not balanced them yet. In that build out there it’s too easy. We’ve done a lot of work on the goalkeepers coming out. At the moment we’ve not done all the work on the goalkeepers going back. I had to shout it out because yesterday we did a presentation and did this in France. Some French guy went, “Some dude’s just scored four chip shots against me! What’s wrong with your game?!” I said, “It’s not finished yet”. I forgot to tell them, so every time now I’ve got to remember chip shots are cheating.
VideoGamer.com: How will it work in the final game?
DR: We’ve done a lot of work, to get around the lofted through balls and 360 degree dribbling, balancing. We’ve done a lot of work on the goalkeeper aggression coming out. We’ve not finished the goalkeeper backtracking. I showed you the second save stuff we’ve got in at the moment. We’ve not finished the running back and scooping off the line, although we did have some pretty good videos of that.
VideoGamer.com: What was the number one complaint with FIFA 09?
DR: Initially it was crab walking in FIFA 09, which we fixed with an update shortly after launch. We didn’t realise it was quite as bad as it was, so we fixed that pretty quickly. Lastly after that the number one complaint was probably lofted through balls, which we’ve pretty much fixed this year. We managed to fix about three or four things to that. One was introducing the appropriate amount of error on lofted through balls for players under pressure. You shouldn’t be able to play those ridiculously long lofted through balls over the top unless you’re in a position and with a player that should be able to do it. Secondly, we needed to make sure that, like if John Terry went up for a corner, Michael Essien would hang back and cover his position, and they wouldn’t just switch, which they currently did in FIFA 09. They’d just run at each other so as the ball came over the top you had no-one in defence. So that’s our defensive position priority work. Lastly we needed the keeper to be more aggressive coming out, which we’ve done as well.
For online, the number one complaint was the use of custom squads in matches. We’ve fixed that in our single-player mode. I’ve just discovered that there’s an exploit in clubs at the moment where you can still do it. I doubt we’ll manage to fix that before we launch 10. But this year, Orlando (Lewis, of FIFAINFORMER.COM) and Suffwan (Eltom from FIFASOCCERBLOG.COM) and all of those guys who run our community stuff, they’ve all got my phone number and email, so if there’s anything that crops up we’re on it straight away now.
VideoGamer.com: I found ten versus ten online was great, but sometimes ended up like chaos, where people just did their own thing. Is there anything you can do about that?
DR: Not a huge amount. The way we described it as we were working it out, and it has worked out this way, is the cream will float to the top and the other stuff will drop to the bottom. So if you are in a club, depending on how good a club manager you are, you can recruit people in who are good at it. There are some phenomenal clubs. If you have a look around on YouTube and at some of the videos people have taken of their clubs playing, I never believed there would be such skilled people all playing together in organised clubs. A couple of the FIFA Interactive World Cup winners, or nearly winners, are in a bunch of clubs, and they’re frightening.
VideoGamer.com: So basically keep yourself away from certain people?
DR: That are idiots. And we’re doing a lot of work this year with our online game modes to allow it to be more selective, allow you to find appropriate people. As someone who lives on the west coast of North America, one of the complaints I have is the fact that when me and all of the guys from work turned up in clubs it was difficult to find a game. There are not a lot of online team play players in North America. We were scratching around sometimes, but we’re figuring that out.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned in the presentation that this is the fourth year you’ve used this game engine…
DR: As in the gameplay engine, rather than the graphics engine.
VideoGamer.com: Which culminated in FIFA 09, a game we said in our review was the best football game ever made. How long has this engine got before you have to reboot?
DR: We’ve been very careful about how we’ve made this game. We’ve got some phenomenally talented individuals working on the gameplay. We were really happy with the reviews last year, we did really well, and we knew it was a good game, but we’re not complacent, for want of a better word. I was playing 09 on Sunday night in Paris, because they had a pod in the hotel. We were playing that and I was like, “God, did we really let this out?” You play it so much that eventually you get to the point where you can rip it to shreds. I’m pretty certain that by this time next year I’ll be saying pretty much the same thing about 10. We are hyper critical of ourselves. It does make it slightly depressing because we don’t get to savour the success of the game so much. We will keep going at it. I’m guessing, for future consoles, when they start turning up we’ll start working on the newer versions and take it from there. The bigger work, it’s now the devil’s in the detail. Getting right down to the nitty gritty of it – there’ll always be stuff we want to fix. I’ve been doing this for 13 years. I think it’s 13…
VideoGamer.com: Does it grind you down?
DR: No it’s good! I love it. I’ve got the best job in the world. I have!
VideoGamer.com: Since it looks like the life cycle of the consoles is going to be a lot longer this time, you’ve got longer with this particular gameplay engine to refine.
DR: Yeah. If there was something that we couldn’t get to because of what we’ve currently got, we’d rip it out. Last year we totally rewrote all of our trapping stuff and a lot of our positional stuff. This year we rewrote nearly all of our dribbling. It’s a case of, okay we are limited by what we can do so we rewrite it. But the vast majority of our 360 and PS3 game is based on stuff that was started nearly four years ago now. It’s a case of we are now benefiting from the work we did then, rather than having to do it all now. We’re lucky like that.