During a chance to preview FIFA 13, Canadian Online Gamers got to talk to three members of the development team at EA Canada. We were limited to about 10-15 minutes of talk time for each staff member, so the questions were brief and the answers right to the point. Here is the first interview as COG speaks with David Rutter – Executive Producer.
COG: How have you improved the flow of the FIFA soccer experience in FIFA 13?
David Rutter: We wanted to create a game engine where things and behaviours unfold based on the context of the game. Our development teams wanted to ensure the play on the pitch was not scripted. This has been our philosophy since day one. Over the years, we have been continuing to keep adding to the FIFA experience. We keep adding and when you do that certain elements become exposed. Last year with the addition of tactical defending and precision dribbling certain elements became exposed. We realized there just were not enough options on the pitch for supporting players. We never really noticed it until after the game was released. Even in previous versions of the game, you would be ‘ping ponging’ the ball around from player to player. When you had time to stop and look around you realized you were limited in terms of your options and there were no support plays in the works. It was then we realized we need to provide more in terms of support plays, which we believe we have accomplished.
COG: What challenges do you encounter marketing the game to North Americans?
David Rutter: Football (soccer) at the kid’s level in Canada for instance is amazing. Unfortunately what seems to happen is when the kids become teenagers they start to drop out. You just do not see so many grown-ups playing the sport. In North America there just seems to be less people watching football than playing it. So it is hard, but FIFA 12 is a good game that had a good metacritic rating. In the end, we hope people will play our game because it’s a very good game and by word of mouth people will tell each other how great the game is. To date, FIFA has had over a billion games online. That is a lot of people and some have become incredibly addicted. So these people will tell others and eventually more and more people come to the franchise.
COG: How do you make FIFA 13 more inviting for those new to the FIFA franchise?
David Rutter: We feel the new “Touch Control” feature gives people more options on the pitch. It is a new system we introduced that eliminates near-perfect control for every player by creating uncertainty when receiving difficult balls. What this also means is that there will be much more variety in terms of outcomes on the pitch. It will be harder to control poor passes. Players with better control and skill will stand out but there will be less “perfect touches” and more opportunity for loose balls. Overall there will be a greater balance between defending and attacking.
Another way the game will be more engaging is with the addition of “Complete Dribbling”. It feels lovely as every touch matters with complete control of the ball. You can now be more creative and you have true 360-degree mobility. You move more seamlessly and it looks great. It makes the game predictably unpredictable.
COG: How did you improve the play calling? Do the referees make better decisions now?
David Rutter: We wanted to make the FIFA 13 experience even more authentic. Referees now make better decisions when deciding if a player gets foul or carded. We put a level of personality into each of the games referees. One referee might be incredibly strict while another may let the teams play. We wanted a variety of outcomes so it is all about keeping things a little unpredictable.
COG: How do you prevent online exploits or “money plays”?
David Rutter: After several months of playing FIFA 12 online people eventually figure out a way of creating successful plays. You tend to find a way of creating an opportunity or a goal that is similar. We do everything we can to ensure there is no “recipe” of scoring a goal. We work hard to prevent this. By introducing a variety of attacking options we wanted you to have freedom but we also wanted the AI to have freedom as well. This makes the game unpredictable, fluid, and organic. We have changed the decision making process around the runs and support system. We feel it will be a far more engaging experience and one where you will have to find different ways to score goals each time you play.
David Rutter was promoted to executive producer of the FIFA franchise in December 2011 after leading development of FIFA 12, which launched to unprecedented critical and commercial success. FIFA 12 was the biggest game launch in the history of sports videogames, selling more than 3.7 million units in the first week and more 10 million games in the first four months. In addition, FIFA 12 has been honoured with over 75 industry awards, including the prestigious Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) Sports Game of the Year award.
A native of Stevenage, UK, who now calls Vancouver home, Rutter has produced 21 videogame titles during his career – of which only 2 were non soccer/football/futbol simulations (Lego Football Mania and Lego Island: Extreme Stunts). Before joining EA SPORTS, Rutter worked for Beautiful Games Studio in the UK where he was responsible for the development of Championship Manager, a football management title popular throughout Europe. Rutter, who attended Portsmouth and Leicester University, also has experience working as a post graduate Plant Genetic Engineer at Leicester University, where he left a potential PhD to join the videogame industry as a games tester, much to his mother’s disgust.