[Games] FIFA 12 Wishlist

Somewhere in Canada (Burnaby, British Columbia to be precise) a talented team of EA developers are busily beavering away over the what will doubtless be the UK’s Christmas gaming number one. For years now FIFA has dominated the festive software charts, and there’s no reason to expect this year will be any different. In fact so ruthless has EA been with its crushing of FIFA’s opposition that where there were once scores of football titles competing for the top spot, there are now but two. While FIFA has refined its formula to near perfection, Konami’s PES has faltered in recent years, and is now a pale shadow of the game it once was.

So with that in mind I decided to set out some the of the things I’d like to see in this year’s FIFA, even if EA no longer has the white hot fire of competition to keep it innovating.

Interestingly, EA Canada producer David Rutter has already hinted at some of what’s coming in FIFA 12, including more sophisticated AI, reduced in-game loading and new set-pieces. There was also one exciting feature he listed that I’ll talk about later.

Stadiums

More stadiums please. In fact by now we should reasonably expect almost every Premier League, Serie A and La Liga stadium to be included. Every recent baseball, american football, ice hockey and basketball game manages a complete roster of grounds – so why can’t FIFA? The current FIFA engine has been knocking around for the best part of five years now, if EA added ten stadiums each year the game would be full of them. Why then do I find in a typical Premier League season that I play almost every game at bloody Ivy Lane. Not good enough EA. I want more. The mod community managed a pretty good job of it in PES 6, as the video below shows.

Remember The Premier League Stars? It was a crass PlayStation-era attempt by EA to spin more money from its FIFA engine by releasing a separate, Premier League themed game. It was basically the same as FIFA but it, brilliantly, included every single Premier League ground. That alone made it, in my eyes, the best football game released that year. I realise times have moved on and it takes more man hours to model stadia for the current generation of hardware, but then I’d wager FIFA’s current development team is a tad larger than it was in the mid nineties.

Just another point. You’ve already created loads of stadia in Japan, Korea, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Switzerland for your licenced World Cup and European Championships games, can we have them too please?

Commentary

Well we all know Andy Gray can’t survive the cut this time around, so you won’t be able to reuse the same commentary samples you have for the last few years. This time, why not take a leaf out of games like MLB 2K10 and MLB The Show. Both feature fantastic, believable commentary that doesn’t sound the same every match. If I hear Martin Tyler banging on a about “one time in form, the other not” when I start a match again I swear I will find a way to get him fired for inappropriate comments about a female assistant referee too.

While we’re at it, you once managed to integrate Des Lynam and Gary Lineker into a world cup game, offering some relatively insightful pre game banter, even over the menu pages between games. Again, that’s something that MLB games manage nicely. It would be great to have a presenter set the tone of the game, possibly while everything’s loading (a la MLB 2K10) before handing over to Martin Tyler and whoever you draft in to replace Andy Gray (Alan Smith perhaps). Just make sure you don’t use Richard Keys.

Dynamic Weather

The weather effects in FIFA 11 are all very nice, and yes it is noticeable how the ball bounces a little higher and skids a little farther in wintry weather, but it’s time to up the game. F1 2010 showed us what truly dynamic weather could look like. Rain has never seemed so beautiful. But the joy of that game was not knowing what was going to happen from one minute to the next. Would the heavens open and the rain pour down, or would the sun peep through the dark clouds and offer a ray of hope? Let’s have the same joyous unpredictability in FIFA please.

Day/Night

While we’re at it with the weather, can you play with the lighting too? One of my favourite features of MLB 2K10 is the way that, as matches progress, the sun sets. A 4PM autumn kick off should start under natural light and end under floodlights. I bet you could implement this feature inside a day if you put your minds to it, EA, so get it done.

Kits

Yes, the licensed shirts look very nice. Yes you’ve finally got round to adding proper goalkeeping jerseys. And yes for once in FIFA 11 the names and numbers of the back of shirts didn’t look horribly undersized. But there are still problems. You still haven’t bothered to deal with goalkeeper kit clash. It’s insane that none of your playtesters – and let us not forget that EA Canada has the largest playtesting department on Earth – noticed that it’s possible for two teams to meet in a situation where one team’s outfield kit is near identical to the opposing team’s goalkeeper. It adds needless confusion in the box and shatters the illusion of reality. Sort that out, or at least let us assign goalie kits as well as outfield shirts pre-match.

Also, I like that Premier League sides have the correct arm patches and standardised numbering and lettering, but these should be dynamic. In a career mode, if a side gets relegated or promoted those details need to change. If Wolves go down, the next season should see us line up with Championship arm badges and numbers. Vice-versa if a team is promoted. Again, that’s something that should be fairly easy to implement. I’d also like to see clubs reverting to their kit-sponsor designed numbers for European competition, as they do in real life.

Can we also have a kit editor? It might piss off your licensees, but then you pay enough for the rights, so why not push for it. I only bring it up because ten years into a career it seems a bit daft that Wolves would still have the exact same kit. It would nice (as PES used to) to offer players the chance of a periodic redesign every couple of seasons.

Persistent Pro

The Be-A-Pro feature you added a few years ago is a revelation and genuinely took the art of football gaming on a notch. I’ve spent hours crafting my digital self in your games and taking him on a journey from raw talent to accomplished international. Should I really have to throw that work away each year? In FIFA 12 I want to be able to import my pro and have him play on in the new game. Again, not exactly a year’s work, is it?

Better DLC

The DLC for FIFA has been pretty lame in recent years. Some new commentary packs (although I prefer Clive and Andy to Martin and the sexist) and Ultimate Team Mode aren’t going to entice hundreds of millions out of your customers pockets are they? How about a return to a couple of features you’ve dabbled with in past FIFA games but now abandoned?

Firstly, can we have an indoor mode? It was often more fun than the main game, and I’d gladly spend a fiver on a 6-a-side, indoor version of the game.

Secondly, can we get some classic teams in there. You did it with World Cup 98. Remember how when you picked teams from the seventies the colour got all over-saturated and anything before that was in black and white? Remember how you got commentary god Kenneth Wolstenholme to do play-by-play duties on the classic games? Remember that? Well it was bloody great! Why did you never do it again? Imagine DLC with some old school commentary, teams from the thirties through to the nineties and a few classic stadia. Then imagine how well it will sell.

Champions League

I realise it’s an added expense, but can you please reacquire the UEFA licence from Konami? And this time, like PES, integrate the Champions and Europa Leagues into career mode in FIFA, don’t put out a lame standalone game. Thank you.

Details

Sometimes it’s the little things. In a Premier League season there’s no way Wolves wouldn’t have a game between the 20th and the 30th of December. How about some love for the crowd too? A few realistic, team specific banners in the stadia, and better animation. When I score I want my fans to go wild, not stand in unison and mildly applaud.

Referees

While I get why you implemented fictional refs last year (it won’t do to call real referees harsh or lenient) it came across as naff. And they all had stupid names. Hayden Pennyfeather? He sounds like a silent-movie star from the 1920s. Give us real refs and stop Martin Tyler blathering on about how lenient or otherwise they are. In fact, why not just make them consistent again.

While we’re on the subject of refs, you’ve almost got the balance of fouls to tackles right. The ref should blow up after a tussle that leaves one man on the deck, but in no real game would a referee play the advantage rule for so long. Often games are pulled back from one end of the pitch to the other for a foul that happened ages ago. And can we please have less of the booking-players-after-play-has-stopped stuff? It’s cute and a nice touch but it happens far, far, far too much. You have been warned.

The Soap Opera

Finally, and here’s the bit I was saving from David Rutter’s original points. The drama. Football isn’t just about a collection of matches. It’s about booing Ashley Cole when he comes back to Arsenal. It’s about hating West Brom as a Wolves fan. It’s about mocking Torres when he hasn’t scored for ten games. Let’s have some of that in FIFA.

Crowds should have favourites and objects of hate. Players who move clubs should be booed on their return if the departure was contentious (this should be baked-in from the start to reflect real world moves and grudges and also change dynamically through a career). Within a match home crowds should react to bad tackles or diving from a player, and keep at him all game. Oh hang on, you’re already doing that. Good.

Commentary should pick up on trends and form that runs through several matches. Martin Tyler should talk about Torres’ barrren spell or Hernandez’s recent speight of good form. The joy of football is seeing those stories develop from week to week. Let’s not let matches exist in isolation any more.

Final thoughts

FIFA is great. It’s by the far the greatest football game ever released. We all own a copy and will all doubtless buy more. I’ve owned a copy of every FIFA game since 2001. But there comes a point when you say “enough is enough”. I realise you have a near monopoly in the football market now, which hardly incentivises innovation, but if you want those metacritic scores to head even higher, and sales to go truly stratospheric, can we have at least some of the features above? I promise I won’t get cross if you save some of them for FIFA 13, as long as we get them in the end. Thanks.

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