To say we’re excited about this interview is probably the understatement of the century. Thanks to some super human work behind the scenes FIFASoccerBlog have been able to obtain an exclusive interview with FIFA 12 Gameplay Producer, Santiago Jaramillo. Myself and Tom thought long and hard about the questions for this and based on Santiago’s in depth answers that work has paid off. There are some wonderful insights in to FIFA 12 and its new gameplay features and exclusive Self Injury and Precision Dribble reveals as well, but from now on Santi is doing all the talking, enjoy.
FSB: High pressure, high aggression and auto-tackle have been community pet hates for a few years now, how conscious of this were you when implementing Tactical Defending?
Tactical Defending fundamentally changes the way you defend, bringing in an element of timing and positioning that we didn’t have before. These go against being overly aggressive and the auto-tackle that we had before. So, implementing Tactical Defending isn’t just about changing the mechanic of defending, but also to create depth and ask gamers to think about how they should defend every situation.
FSB: How has swapping the old pressing system for the new Contain mechanic changed the way you defend in FIFA 12?
The old system would do everything for you, and because it had only one thing in mind (go to the ball and tackle it), you couldn’t really defend differently in different scenarios. This also meant that you never had a lot of time on the ball, because there would always be a defender going full speed at you and launching a tackle as soon as he could. The new contain mechanic assists you to be in a good position to mark the ball possessor, which will make it easier to then manually commit to the tackle. In FIFA 12, once you lose possession, instead of just looking at the ball and going straight for it, you will need to see the big picture of the play developing, position yourself to contain first, and then go in for a tackle at the right time.
FSB: What are the main differences between Skill Dribble (FIFA 10/11) and the new Precision Dribble in FIFA 12?
Skilled Dribble allowed you to face the defender and then use change of pace at a 90-degree angle to try and beat him. Precision Dribble is 360 degrees, covers more contexts, and it is not so much a tool to beat a defender (although it is powerful at this too), as it is one to keep possession of the ball when there is a lot of traffic around you by having very close and responsive ball control. In addition, Precision Dribble gives you the ability to dribble while you are shielding the ball, which is something we didn’t have before. Also, while you would have to manually trigger Skilled Dribble most of the time, Precision Dribble is much more accessible and will trigger contextually in a great variety of situations.
FSB: How does Precision Dribble affect the pacing of FIFA 12’s gameplay?
It has a massive influence in the pace of FIFA 12 gameplay. For the first time, you will be able to slow the play down as the dribbler even if you have one or several defenders closing you down. This is only possible because of the new precision dribble touches – how close they keep the ball, and how responsive the turns are. You will now get into areas such as the top of the box, a crowded midfield, down the wing, etc., where you would have had to get rid of the ball right away (by shooting, crossing, or passing). I can’t tell you how much fun it is when you can get creative and buy yourself some time in these situations!
FSB: This new level of precision in player dribbling will undoubtedly make players like Messi more powerful than ever. How do you plan to balance this?
Players like Messi will be better at Precision Dribble than others, that’s true, but it is in no way an exploit or an easy way to score goals. Moreover, in the past we and the community have felt that players like Messi are not as powerful in our game as they are in real life, so this is a change in the right direction. Besides, Messi’s got 52 goals this season, I think real world managers and defenders are still trying to figure out how to neutralize him
FSB: You’ve described the Impact Engine as the biggest change to FIFA since rebuilding it for the next-gen consoles. How long has the Impact Engine been in development?
Around 2 years.
FSB: How does the new Impact Engine affect the physicality of FIFA 12’s gameplay?
It will make every player interaction follow real world physics; will prevent clipping (players’ legs and arms going through each other); will give you unprecedented variety and accuracy in all the falls and stumbles in the game; and it will enhance other features such as shielding, push and pull, etc.
FSB: Can you explain a little more about the new Self Injury mechanic and how muscle tears and strains will be calculated?
We can now determine how much a player is stretching on a shot, a pass, a clearance, etc., and we also know how tired they are. As in real life, exhaustion increases the risk for these types of muscle injuries. So, depending on a player’s fatigue, how prone he is to injuries, whether he is coming back from injury and not fully recovered, and the actions that he is doing on the field, we can determine if an injury is likely in a particular situation.
FSB: With the new physicality of the Player Impact Engine and self injuries, should we be worried about lots of players going off injured all the time? How have you made sure this is balanced and realistic?
The frequency of self injuries will be balanced so that it only happens at the appropriate times and reflects the frequency of these injuries in the real world. You will also be able to customize the injury frequency and severity in Game Settings, in case you feel it should be different. With respect to the Player Impact Engine and injuries caused by collisions, the aim is not to create more or less injuries, nor to flood the game with dramatic falls, but rather to give you an accurate result based on what happened on the field.
Players won’t be getting injured all the time, and they won’t be subjected to types of impacts that don’t happen in the real world. You could play against a very aggressive team, but that doesn’t mean that half of your players will get injured. In short, just like in real football, you could go several games without a single injury, then every once in a while someone picks up a knock, and one match you may get two severe injuries and now it’s time to look at the depth of your squad, etc. – all based on authentic factors (impact or stress on a body part or joint, player’s propensity to injury, fatigue, and more.)
FSB: Developing Player Vision as an attribute must have been difficult, how do you determine whether a player has “good vision” or not?
We have experts all over the world that watch teams and players week in and week out, and we use their feedback to determine our players’ attributes. For vision, we will be looking at those players who, beyond their great execution of passes, are able to pick out options that other players (or you as a spectator) would not normally see. Xavi, Fabregas, Ozil, Modric, are some examples of these types of players.
FSB: Your team mates understanding each other’s strengths and weakness is a great addition but how black and white will this system be? Will players always cross early if Peter Crouch is in the box?
No, we are not ‘hard-coding’ that every time Crouch is in the box his team-mates should put a cross in. Rather, we are infusing players with an extra level of intelligence that modifies their decision-making. So, while it is more likely that a player will cross the ball in if Crouch is in the box, he is still analyzing the whole situation, and if there is a better option (still accounting for the fact that it is Crouch in the box), he will choose to do something else.
FSB: The Pro Player Intelligence vision maps “allow different players to capitalise on different opportunities” how hard was this to implement and balance?
It’s been a lot of work tuning the size, growth speed, and other factors related to the vision maps. Thankfully, we have a development tool that allows us to run a particular scenario several times, and only changing the players involved, to see what outcome we get. This way we could test several situations where someone like Xavi or Fabregas would do something different from J.S. Park, Malouda, or other types of players.
FSB: We’ve heard “threat” and “opportunity analysis” mentioned in relation to the player vision maps, could you expand on this a little further?
Basically, each player on the ball, at any given time, is faced with several opportunities – he could dribble, or he could pass the ball to his team-mates – and threats – all the defenders that are also in the way of these passes or dribbling options. A player like Xavi is able to very quickly process all these opportunities and threats, see the big picture, and make a decision based on all that information. Most players in the world, however, get distracted longer with all of these threats and options, and they tend to choose more obvious choices because you don’t have that much time on the ball in a real game. These differences in behaviours and decision-making are what we are replicating with the vision map.
A huge thank you to Santiago Jaramillo (who you can follow on Twitter @SantiagoJ83) from everyone at FIFASoccerBlog and also to Romily Broad who was instrumental in arranging this interview. This is without doubt the best interview we’ve ever done and we hope to bring you more exclusive FIFA 12 content throughout the year.