“We picked the winner of the Brazil World Cup with our simulation.” It’s a lofty claim to make, but one that Nick Channon, Senior Producer on EA Sports FIFA 15, doesn’t make lightly.
“We do a simulation every year and we actually, before the tournament, picked Germany. I’m not sure too many people agreed with us. A lot of people were looking at Argentina or Brazil as the favorites.”
When talking to Nick backstage at Gamescom this year, talk inevitably kept returning to this summer’s footballing extravaganza over in Brazil and perhaps unsurprisingly, it becomes clear that the tournament had an impact on how the final game is turning out. One area in particular — goalkeepers — came in for special attention as the tournament wound to its conclusion.
“It felt for a lot of the World Cup that the standout position was the goalkeeper,” explains Nick.
“Tim Howard from the USA had the record for the most saves in a game. That was something we didn’t see coming — just how the World Cup became a story of the goalkeeper. In many World Cup tournaments before, you’ve seen the story of a specific striker or two that are going for the golden boot. This year it felt much more like the goalkeepers were stealing the show.”
“We’ve been working on goalkeepers for two years — it’s a very complex position both in the real world and in FIFA 15. We wanted to provide something that felt very different.”
Key to overhauling the way goalkeepers react in-game was the raw horsepower on offer with PS4.
“Previously, if we wanted to add more animations around the goalkeeper then we needed more memory. What we’ve now got with PS4 is a system where the goalkeepers are evaluating significantly more often, so obviously they’re more intelligent.”
So how does that play out during a match?
“Previously a goalkeeper would make a decision and had to stick with it because we didn’t have the processing power to constantly analyse how things are changing. If a cross came in, the goalkeeper decides to catch it, he was going to try and catch, even if in that split second it was probably better to punch. At times this grated a little bit because it made you question why the goalkeeper would do certain things. Now the goalkeeper will make those decisions on the fly depending on the situation.
“We can now branch animations at any point. Previously if the ball was heading to the top left corner of the goal, but takes a deflection along the way, the keeper would dive for the top left corner. Now you’ll see the keeper try and get back the other way. These are only things that we can do with the power of the new generation of consoles.”
EA Sports FIFA 15 arrives on September 23rd for PS4.