Mission – Objective – Achievement
It’s been a while since parts one and two were released in the Career Mode: The Road To Success series but now we’re back with part three, looking at how Career Mode can improve it’s engagement over what can be a quite phenomenal amount of time if you aim for the modes 15 season limit. As always hit the comments and let us know whether you agree, disagree or have your own ideas.
Time for a change?
In terms of scale and time investment, Career Mode is probably the biggest and the most daunting mode for FIFA players to get to grips with. If you were to complete a full 15 season campaign, with six minutes halves and you conservatively estimated domestic and European cup runs, you’re looking at a total time investment of around 144 hours or, 6 days. That’s only the match time as well and once you factor in transfer windows, menu navigation, emails, loading time and all other distractions, you can probably double that figure and then some. Gargantuan is probably the best term…
This creates a massive problem for EA because just how do you keep someone engaged for that length of time, when FIFA offers so much variety in other modes like H2H Seasons and Ultimate Team to name just two?
FIFA 12’s Career Mode received some promising new additions last year with Player Stories, media interaction and the Youth Academy system all being thrown in to the mix. Much of that was smoke and mirrors though because the impact they had on your game was still minimal. I also see these features as environmental rather than genuine engagement. They all contribute to building the feeling of a living, breathing, football world but they don’t really spur you on to keep playing when the grind sets in.
Even if you take a snapshot of a single Career Mode season, 38 league games and conservatively 10 cup matches weighs in at around 10 hours of match time only. The biggest problem is that much of those 10 hours is spent playing matches which in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter. Sure, winning games builds points, which allows you to challenge for titles further down the line, but does that individual match actually feel like it carries any genuine significance? Not for me.
So even if you decide to play just one Career Mode season you’re still looking at up to 8 hours of match time before you get to the business end which could actually see you win cups or league titles. The way football leagues are structured isn’t FIFA’s problem obviously but the game could still do a much better job of making that journey, more engaging and, more rewarding.
The solution for me could be broken down in to three objective layers one of which Career Mode already handles pretty well…
Long Term Objectives – 3-5 Year
When a manger takes the reins at a new club generally speaking he’ll have a vision of what he wants that team to become during his tenure. The board will also have their own long term ideas of what they want their new manger to achieve, which for a team like Arsenal or Tottenham might be “Win the European Cup within 3 seasons”.
These goals should be very high level but they must also be achievable. What long term objectives would enforce is your commitment to a club for longer than one season and also to instil the belief that the game itself is investing in you as a manager beyond 12 months. Career Mode is very one-season focussed at the moment and these long term “dreams” must become part of our managerial priorities. Long term objectives are the reason to develop youth, the reason to invest in experience at the right time and most importantly, the reason to go beyond 38 games which is something Career Mode is sorely missing.
Medium Term Objectives – Yearly
This is the category which Career Mode actually manages pretty well already because medium term objectives are all about the season you’re playing in at that time. Do the board want you to win the league, avoid relegation, win the cup or consolidate in readiness for an assault the following year?
These elements are already in Career Mode and on the whole the objectives themselves are spot on. I’d like to see the reward and communication once these goals are achieved massively enhanced but Career Mode’s medium term mission statements are actually very good.
Short Term Objectives – Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly
Now if we’re talking about engagement and keeping people not only playing Career Mode, but having a fulfilling and rewarding experience, short term objectives are an absolute must for FIFA 13. This is what Career Mode is crying out for in my opinion and there are many forms they could take.
Short terms objectives could probably be broken down in to three sections as well, driven by either the fans, the board or the media, each with their own expectations. Fan objectives could include winning derby matches or making marquee signings, whereas the board might expect a certain league position after 10 games and media pressure could come dynamically based on your results.
The key thing with short term objectives is that they should be regular, trackable and there should be repercussions depending on the outcome of the challenge. Losing a derby match may see a drop in fan confidence, whilst exceeding a half year league position could mean the board boost your January transfer kitty. The options are endless really but what’s most important is that we’re engaged and encouraged to perform on a regular basis.
In today’s industry games like Call of Duty reward gamers with a constant stream of achievement in the form of kill-streaks, challenges and new equipment. It’s forced down your throat and the screen is always awash with garish yellow text, but you know what? In that split second you feel good because no matter how insignificant it may be, you know you’ve achieved something.
Career Mode is the antithesis of that really as it leaves you completely to your own devices, allowing you to meander through the season at your leisure with little or no direction. Whilst the football world around you may be pulsating, your heart rate certainly won’t be until you hit those big matches some ten hours down the line which could define your season.
Career Mode needs a grand vision but it also needs a steady drip of regular accomplishment to keep you firmly within its grasp. It has to leave you wanting more after every session, providing challenges at every turn just like the rollercoaster that is real football management. There’s a reason 99% of us don’t complete 15 full seasons and whilst it isn’t all Career Modes fault, I want it to at least give me the motivation to try.