FIFA 12: career mode details and impressions
At a recent press event, David Rutter, producer of FIFA, took a pack of journalists through some of the improvements and changes his team at EA Sports are making for FIFA 12’s career mode. This is what we discovered.
For the second year running, EA Sports has made improving career mode one of its main priorities. The work the studio began last year with FIFA 11 – authentic news and transfer engines, better competition structures – is being built on and refined to create a much higher level of immersion and a greater sense of realism.
For starters, the media coverage is now much more comprehensive. Your news feed will produce updates throughout the season on all sorts of news topics, including player availability, player happiness, club expectations, etc. These updates help to produce a deeper simulation for managers, but more importantly, they tie in with the overall managerial gameplay.
For example, media reporting is heightened when a star player is injured. Rutter used Mark Van Bommel to demonstrate this in action. In his presentation, Van Bommell picked up an injury during a simulation of the first friendly of the season. The physio comes to you to tell you that he needs rest, forcing him to miss the next game, which Milan go on to lose. The media pick up on this and their report is then pushed to your news feed the following day.
When Van Bommel shakes off the worst part of the injury, the press speculate as to whether he will play in the next game. You have the choice to leave him out or to play him – he’s sitting in the reserves, so all you have to do is add him to your team. In this scenario, Van Bommel is picked and Milan win the next match, so the media give you recognition for taking that risk. It worked this time but you wouldn’t be so praise-worthy had Van Bommel picked up another injury and Milan lost. So, this is an example of the media being used to add a risk/reward set-up to career mode.
Players will now come to you with more issues. We’ve seen examples of Jens Lehmann coming to tell you that he’s considering retiring at the end of the season, partly because he’s not getting a game. Another example would be a player complaining about being left out of the team for the previous game. This tells you that you have an unhappy player on your books; their low morale will also adversely affect their performances; and finally, it will alert other clubs to his availability if the news reaches the press.
Players are now aggressive in negotiations. They will come to you with demands, forcing you to either succumb to their wishes or start thinking about life without them. This should be fine as long as you’re winning and your chairman is happy; after all, he has the power to fire you if you don’t meet expectations. Speaking of expectations, before the season begins, you get an in-depth look at your club’s expectations and where your chairman sees the club. You will also read interviews from players, learning what their thoughts are for the coming year.
All this carries on to the field; so, when the season begins the commentary team will discuss their thoughts on your club’s chances. It adds more layers to the experience – going beyond the single layer present in FIFA 11.
There have been big changes to the transfer system. “You gets hints and tips to help you avoid paying over the odds”, says Rutter. Basically, you now have much more information to help you make the right decisions. You will be alerted to a player’s valuation and wages – for example, Luca Modric is worth 27m and is on 100k per year – and your chairman will give advice on the best approach.
You can go in low-ball and work your way up slowly until you reach a deal, but this approach is risky because the other AI are being alerted to your interest and they may try to steal the player from under your nose. That’s not fun but it’s part of being a manager. With regards to transfers, you can also see what other clubs are doing, who’s sad and happy, and who’s listed.
“Transfer deadline day has been blown wide open this year”, says Rutter: “What we’ve done is increased the fidelity of transfer activity in that last 24 hours of the transfer window.” You now have a countdown timer for the day, and you have multiple opportunities to get your business done. You’ll get to see what’s happening at your club and at other clubs, and you even have a counter which adds up how much you’ve spent. It looks very Sky Sports News on a deadline day, and as the counter winds down you see all the news coming in.
FIFA 12 will also boast a decent scouting system. You can send scouts away to look for youth players around the world and they’ll come back with suggestions. It’s not completely accurate though – some player attributes will be hidden by a fog-of-war so you will only have a vague idea of his ability. You can send more scouts to watch him, and this will give you a clearer picture but it will also give other clubs an opportunity to get in there to steal him. That’s the risk/reward system at play again.
The idea for FIFA 12 this year is simply to make it much more engaging and rewarding. Rutter says it’s “more about squad management rather than just mindless advancing and looking to buy and sell players.” Essetially, EA Sports are welcoming some of the features that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in other managerial sims such as Football Manager.
FIFA 12 isn’t going to match the level of depth that Football Manager has, but from our short time on it, it’s certainly more immersive than FIFA 11. It no longer feels like we’re mindlessly pressing through to the next game, and tt’s now much closer to that full-on Sky Sports News style coverage that EA Sports clearly crave. It’s had that on the pitch for a while, but now it’s getting closer to having it off the pitch as well.
Nevertheless, as is always the case with career modes, we really need to play a season before we can judge. Will the same news pop up all the time? How much depth does it really have? Will it really affect my gameplay that much? These are just a few of the things we’ve yet to discover.