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Career Mode: The Road To Success Part III

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.

Conclusion

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.

Join the discussion
  • http://mikeastuto@twitter.com Mike Astuto

    Really do want to see more board involvement. I think that relational interaction between the board and a clubs manager is huge. Because both parties should have goals and certain ways of achieving those goals and they don’t always see eye to eye. But I think player stories and media interaction was a great first step. Also… I love this blog.

  • Richie

    Great post, I agree with many of the points you have made. Individual matches really feel insignificant in FIFA, but in real life, every match your team participates in has a buzz and hype about it.

    I would love that feeling of excitement before every league match in FIFA.

  • http://fifamonster.com Danny

    Completely agree, objectives to be achieved in 3 or 4 years would engage gamers much more, the objectives at present are just not enough…

  • http://mikeastuto@twitter.com Mike Astuto

    Also I think the lack of atmosphere takes away from the excitement of league matches. There is just no football environment. There are crowds which normally aren’t noticeable and 22 players on the pitch. Other than that there is very little that resembles the atmosphere of a league football match. And almost nothing that captures you.

  • Hammo8

    Nice write up Dave. For me, first and foremost, the AI has a massive impact on CM in its current form. While Simon Humber & co have made nice additions that can be added to in terms of varied stories, loans to buy and deadline day deals etc the fundamental thing that is holding CM and all game modes in a way is the AI. The problem for me is that only the very top teams show some signs of tactical and varied play but too much time is spent playing the same boring 1-2, 2-1, 1-1 results against the average teams in the league you’re playing in. Unlike Football Manager & co the mode is built from actually playing games versus the AI and not merely picking a team and then simulating a result. Without a varied and engaging game of football against the AI to start with the mode will always struggle and the majority will turn to local play v friends or the online modes, merely for the spontaneity that playing the game against another human brings and ultimately which the AI does not get close too.

  • EFC1878

    I have tryed to play this mode, but just cant get into it. The storys just keep repeating. I do admire the players that go the full tilt for 15 seasons on this mode. But after 2seasons, i have had enough.
    Maybe after the update on the 23rd, i will have another bash with Evertons real squad. But i know i will get fed up and g back to online play for variety.
    For me, the only way forward for this mode is to have some form of online play.

  • walks

    Hammo8 has hit the nail on the head.
    I loved playing CM unfortunately i no longer play it anymore & considering it was the main mode i use to play in fifa it is a shame.
    The same constant game after game is what got boring for me. All the points made in the article are spot on and would make CM more fun but only for a limited time. The games are the main focus and time consuming part of CM. Time cnsuming is not fun.
    Manger mode has to go online and i never though i would be saying this as things should not always be about online. However it is the only way you are going to get a decent oponent and each game play different.

    Now the hard part is getting it to work online.
    Personaly i have got into UT lately as it the nearest thing i would like to see manger mode become. It is very unlikely to see UT changed as it brings in far to much money for EA.
    So my suggestion is to build on UT and add abit of H2H seasons to it. By enetring leagues and cups. Also add european style cup to it like the world cup system.
    Leagues could be seperated by team ratings and player skill like league levels in H2H. Coin rewards for getting promotion, staying in the league and relegation. Of course the amount of coins would be higher or lower amounts depending on if you get promotion or relegation.

  • David Bryant

    Lots of really good points in here guys and I agree with all of them tbh. I covered AI in my previous two CM articles and it has to be the number 1 priority for FIFA 13 without doubt. To quote myself…

    “EA can continue to cram Career Modes features full of depth and intrigue until the engine is fit to burst, but without a varied and intelligent CPU opponent to compliment that back-drop, Career Mode won’t ever fulfil its vast potential”

    I think that sums it up tbh but even if EA had a magic wand to cure the AI problem I still think CM would be lacking on the engagement front. It goes further than my article as well because even in the news feed when you see “Player X hands in shock transfer request” you can’t click on that to instigate making an offer. Nothing is linked and because of that the experience can feel quite fractured.

    Anyway keep the discussion coming (we read everything) and I know EA eyes will be in here as well. Plenty of ideas for Part IV anyway :)

  • jon

    I don’t know why ea just look at FIFA 2005′s career mode, and go from there. That was the best CM I’ve played. But for me, It’s a pain to play any offline game mode now, ever since next gen FIFA started, the cpu has been horrible.

  • iainpettitt

    Wow, great idea, I think a three part objectives thing would be awesome, and certainly get you more involved in Career Mode. The only reason my Career Mode has gone on so long is because I’m playing the team I support.

  • Ghost 5285

    I know i speak for a lot of people when i say: I’d like to see more of an authentic trophy ceremony. After a long, gruelling season in Career Mode surely the least we deserve is a proper celebration of what we, as a club, have achieved! Ive always felt the current style and representation of the “Trophy Lifting” ceremony has been nothing short of an anti-climax! Where’s the podium in the middle of the pitch, where’s the league representatives hanging those illustrious winners medals around the players necks and the cheers of the crowd as those players names are read out as they receive them and of course the roar as the CAPTAIN LIFTS THE CUP. Or in Wembley’s (or any other major stadium that has them) the walk up the stairs to receive their awards! Let us players that put in all those hours of match play, menu navigating, email reading, transfer dealing, youth development bask in the glory of our successes appropriately and one befitting a champion! I feel in todays level of games development that this is far from a huge request. The gameplay is near perfect, so please concentrate on the aesthetics for FIFA13…..here’s hoping its lucky 13!

  • mfmaxpower

    Hmm, have to say I disagree with you Dave quite a bit. Not that I think CM is either good enough or does a satisfactory job at keeping us interested over many hours. And of course I agree that significantly upgrading the AI is fundamental to improving the experience and adding variety.

    No, I disagree with your solution – that a focus needs to be placed on a constant stream of objectives or, as you put it, “achievement.” The thing is that Call of Duty is a terrible comparison – Ultimate Team or H2H are the FIFA modes most analogous to CoD, whereas CM is better compared with an RPG or at least a game with a more robust single-player campaign.

    Short term achievements along the lines of CoD – e.g. instead of kill streaks, win streaks – could be a nice addition but it would be a very minor improvement. No, like RPGs, achievements should be directly linked to character progression – in FIFA’s case, your club, players, and manager profile – and must come with a reward.

    So, as a basic example, in an RPG you earn enough XP points (achievement) and you then can upgrade your character (reward). In FIFA, the achievements should be focused on a) player progression, b) club progression, and c) manager progression.

    When certain milestones are reached, what is critical is that we are provided an INTERACTIVE reward. This means, for example, when a player meets the prerequisites for an OVR increase, we are part of the process of upgrading his stats, rather than what is done now by it all being done for us (passive reward). This isn’t to say a return to full manual player development is needed, but we must be included in the process some how.

    Another example is say when your club reaches a certain achievement, like promotion to a higher league, then we are given options on say upgrading our stadium. Again, the key is not to focus on a steady stream of short term achievements, but rather to focus on providing more interactive experiences through achievements and rewards.

    This is basic video game design philosophy: it’s not enough to provide gamers with rewards (e.g. new weapons, new powers, new outfits, etc) but you have to provide gamers with a choice of rewards, so that they feel as if they’re playing a unique experience customized by their own decisions.

    Another example which so far has been underdeveloped in CM is the manager experience. We’ve had stuff like managers being provided a salary to earning reputation, but none of this has mattered at all. So far it’s been utterly-pointless window-dressing. Options could be bonuses provided for certain accomplishments, i.e. the better/more experienced your manager is, the more bonuses you get for say team chemistry or in the transfer market (team chemistry being an example of an interactive feature that ought to be (re)added).

    Ultimately, “a steady drip of regular accomplishment” will do very little “to keep you firmly within its grasp” when major interactive features are completely missing. That might work for CoD (which may I remind you is a multiplayer game first and has a very basic and unsatisfactory single-player mode) but it isn’t enough for a single-player campaign/story mode.

    You’re absolutely right that CM does not do enough to keep players engaged with the experience over the long haul. The answer is not in adding more objectives but in adding more major features and making the mode more interactive overall.

  • Guy

    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”.

    I like this whole article just for you recognising the mighty Spurs. Well played.

  • Hugh

    Shame the Career Mode is, once again, so average at best.

  • EFC1878

    A good way to make a form of MM mode online for me would be to mix interatctive leagues(that was in 08/09) and mix it with my live season. It would bring a good form of online Premierleague to me.
    If anybody remebers interactive leagues they would now exactly what i am talking about.
    You choose your team, and then play your weekly(orwhatever) game against another opponent who has chosen that team as there league team. Or if there is no fans of the team you are about to play, there could be an any option for some one to represent that team(If you have already played your teams game). Like what was in interactive leagues.
    In my eyes and just my opinion, that would make a great form of online MM sort of mode to play around with.

  • David Bryant

    @mfmaxpower I think the key thing with these objectives is that they musn’t seem like an achievement list at all. They should be fully ingrained in the games core mechanics.

    So before a derby game you’d get a news article saying, “the fans expect a win here” and you then play the game and the consequences on winning/losing are felt. There’s no “Fans want you to beat Liverpool” list anywhere, it’s just part of the games natural cycle.

    Acheivements from the board can be a bit more pen to paper because that’s the nature of those goals, but the media pressure or build-up should just be a part of CM. If it’s done well, you don’t even know it’s there.

    But I stand by the point that we need “something” to make games throughout the season feel significant because once that transfer window shuts, the game goes very flat and there isn’t much difference between CM and running a Custom Tournament at that point.

    I think the long term objectives are equally important though because CM for me feels like one season – stop – another season – stop rather than a flowing progression. Something needs to knit these seasons together and having targets beyond your current season would help, but not fully resolve.

  • xPJRx

    @ Ghost – re: trophy celebrations… absolutely spot on!!!
    What do we invest hours upon hours of ouir precious time, playhing game after game for? to win things…. achievements.
    To do all that and get @you have won the cup’ is abysmal.
    Proper trophy parades, laps of honour, interaction with the crowd etc should all be an absolute necessity.

  • mfmaxpower

    I’m not against adding objectives like you suggest, it’s just I can’t see them being anything more than window-dressing additions, whereas what CM needs is more interactive features, more customization, more things to DO.

    For example, take your example of “the fans expect a win” before a big derby match. What does this actually add to the experience? Say you lose the match. What then? Say you win. What then?

    That sounds like just more repetitive filler content that I eventually begin to ignore because it actually means very little to the overall experience, becomes very uninteresting quite quickly, and does not actually affect the outcome of anything.

    I’m all for adding to the experience in general, of making particular matches seem to be of more importance than others through environmental additions, but what could be done that would be anything more than a minor addition?

    The reason why CM goes “flat” after the close of the transfer window and why CM seems so similar to running a Custom Tournament is because the mode’s major features are too few and too shallow.

    We don’t need more stories, we need more things to DO. Adding objectives or more news stories would not be a bad addition necessarily, but they won’t add the depth the mode is lacking either.

    Regarding long-term objectives, I’m not sure what there is that can be added that is realistic. Is not the only real long-term objective of any club to either gain promotion if in a lower league or become an elite club that challenges every year for domestic and European titles? (I guess you could say the other realistic long-term objective is simply to avoid relegation and/or maintain the status-quo, but that doesn’t sound particularly fun.)

    Are these objectives not inherently built within the game already? I’m not quite sure I see what could be added?

    I guess my point is that I’d like your suggestions a lot more if CM was already a more robust manager mode with more features, more customization, more interactivity, and more things to DO.

  • David

    I completely agree with your ideas. They should def add those into FIFA 13. Great ideas.

  • David

    I think there needs to be more at stakes in derby matches. More things that you will lose or that will change for the negative if you lose that match. For example, if you lose a derby match at least a full star should be deducted off your manager prestige, then more pressure should be put on you to win the following game by threatening to sack you from the club. To recover the lost star you would have to go on a 2 or 3 match winning streak. Then, fans and press would keep count of how many times you win or lose derbies. So if you lost last time two in a row derbie losses could get you sacked. Also you will hear the fans voices in a fan blog(in-game) where they say youre not the right manager and pundits also critisizing you (or praising) etc etc. There should be things you unlock or win every year if you become league champions ie set of 3rd kits, stadiums, accessories, classic players, etc etc. each year if you win you get to unlock something. Dunno if it would be too harsh but maybe these things should also be put on the line or at stakes for derby matches and other objectives.
    I also think that to make career mode good enough to last 15 seasons perhaps you should not be able to all of the sudden start as a manager for Barcelona or Man United but instead if you choose one of these teams you would start as a coach for a school team in that city and work your way up to the team you aspire to manage. When you finally reach that goal that team ie Barcelona will have Messi and co. as their current squad so in other words your career as managers starts back in time. The whole career as manager should unfold like a story with all sorts of adventures along the way. Now, once you are managing a big name club like Man United, the job should be very demanding because everyone expects them to win every game. I think communication would be an extremely important ingredient in all of career mode because that would create a community within the game which would create an atmosphere and sense of importance in everything you do. You should be able to communicate with as many people as possible including fans and build up towards the next match should come in the form of different messages being received daily related to the next match and the fitness of your players and scouting opponent reports coming in the following day. Also, of course, the media and fans voices should be heard and felt. For example, if you lose a big match less team apparel would be sold meaning less profit for the team. I thinl these things would improve the longevity of career mode.