Interview With FIFA 12 Lead Producer, David Rutter

by on July 18, 2011

At a recent community event, we got the chance to interview the man behind FIFA 12, David Rutter. In the short time we got with the man in the know, we asked him a wide range of questions, ranging from the career mode, to the improved PC version of FIFA 12.

Mr Rutter gave us his views on whether we need the next generation of console, and his response to comments from Konami’s John Murphy in the press, saying PES will “smash them [the competition] this year.”

The EA Football Club Feature sounds fantastic, is it an evolution of ideas we saw in FIFA World Cup 2010 or is it an entirely new idea?

There are similarities with the kind of scenarios, the ability to take inspiration from the real world and push it into the game, but it’s also bigger and more encompassing. We talk about it being the heartbeat of FIFA, basically because whenever you put the disc in and play the game, you’ll unlock experience points, you’ll be able to level up, you’ll be able to compare yourself against your friends, and everyone in the world about how good and dedicated you are at the game. The support your club thing is reminiscent of Battle of the Nations, since it was about who you supported not who you were playing in the game, but in a much more embedded way, so everything you are doing in the game that is getting you XP is also helping your club. Your club moves up and down the league table over the week, they are promoted and relegated, so think of it as a competition against your friends as well as a collaboration with fans of the same club, with live service elements such as scenarios and challenges being put in as well.

Would you compare it to Need for Speed’s Autolog?

In a sense, but ours is very different. With Autolog, what you have is “someone’s just beat your time, why don’t you go and play this.” Our game is very different, it is not just to get from point A to B as quickly as you can. So having different experiences, different levels of interaction in Career Mode, in head to head ranked and sitting there playing with friends on the couch. Autolog didn’t really do that, what it did was “someone went from A to B faster than you.” That’s not to criticise it, I think it was a very interesting and innovative idea and I think they did a great job of it. For us, it is about your entire FIFA experience rather than small parts of it.

Is there ever the temptation to allow more FIFA Manager title features to slip into the career mode with FIFA 12, or is there a problem with one title infringing on the other?

We don’t have any problems infringing on each other, I think FIFA Manager is one type of experience. I think ours is somewhat related, but within the confines of FIFA itself on console. So we are very much about trying to make a deep, authentic simulation of playing as a player, manager and player-manager, and we want to make sure that when people buy FIFA, they have as many different ways of interacting with the game as you can, be it head to head, Career Mode, through to all the other different ways you can play FIFA. The vast majority of people that buy FIFA play Career Mode, and we just want to make that really, really good.

With regard to Move and Kinect, are you looking at that for a future FIFA?

For the future, we are on record as supporting Kinect at the moment, Peter Moore announced that at E3. So it is not in FIFA 12, it will be in FIFA in the future.

Do you think you can do much with it at all?

Lots of different things we can do, I’m not going to tell you what we are doing, but it has taken us quite a long time to come up with some ideas that will work well within FIFA, and I’m sure everyone will be very happy with what we have done.

Speaking about PES, John Murphy from Konami PES Team recently said in the press, “if you want pure gameplay, I think we will smash them this year.” How would you counteract that?

I think we won around 20 awards at E3, including best sports game, I don’t know what they won, and we are fully focused on making the very best FIFA that we possibly can, and we have come up with a whole heap of features that we have announced, and a bunch that aren’t yet, and I think our game is brilliant.

Hypothetically speaking, would there be one thing you would change about PES if you were to join Konami?

Not that I can think of, I’m too busy thinking of what we can make better in FIFA.

So you don’t have a whole team of guys playing PES, then?

Definitely not a whole team of people playing PES, we keep our eyes on ALL the competition, even games within EA, but it is not something I worry too much about.

PC fans are going to be happy about the new PC version being on par with consoles, but why now?

It takes a long time to get to a point where we have a team, and they have been making an amazing game on 360 and PlayStation 3, and we had a different team that were making a very good PC game. We had to write a lot of technology to get PC up and working with our current gen game, and it took us a long time, it is hard.

Do you think that it the resurgence of PC gaming is a contributing factor to the improved PC release?

I think there is a resurgence in PC gaming, but we just wanted to make a brilliant PC game and it has taken us a little while to actually do it. It’s not a case of us trying to capitalise on something that is going on in the world, we just want the very best FIFA experience we can on all platforms, and now that PC’s have reached a kind of average spec that is able to support what we are doing with the next-gen titles, we can have technology that mimics it and is the same, and it works well.

Do you think that with that, the consoles are dragging their feet a little bit now, and it has come to the time where we need the next generation to come into play?

Not really, I follow the press a fair but, and there has been a lot of speculation from other people that there is this transition required. I look at our game, and our game is based around really good looking graphics, great physics, great AI, and brilliant online functionality, and we are not at a point where we can’t do what we want to do. You know, who would have thought a couple of years ago that we would have the player impact engine, as an example. What we tend to do on our team, is if there is something where we can’t get to where we want to be, we will invest in the time and effort to get it done, sometimes it’s a quick thing, sometimes it takes a while, so the Player Impact Engine took over two years, but it works brilliantly in the current crop of consoles and if we need to find space or processing power to do more stuff, we just kind of try and do that.

Would you say FIFA looks better on the PC?

I think if you have a good PC, you can make it look nicer. We support higher resolutions and better anti-aliasing, if you have the graphics card and everything else that is capable of doing that. On consoles, we are kind of lucky, it is a closed system. Every PS3 is the same as every other PS3 and every 360 is the same as every 360, so ultimately you haven’t got to worry so much about trying to support different things, you just go “lets make it for that”. PC is slightly different, but yeah, we do support higher resolutions and anti-aliasing beyond what you can get on console.

I found there was a big difference between PS3 and Xbox 360 in terms of the online experience, the match making is a lot faster on the 360. Is this an EA problem or a PlayStation problem, or is there just more people playing on the Xbox 360?

There’s generally more people playing on the PlayStation 3, believe it or not. Depending on what mode you are in and what time of the day, is probably going to make a little bit of a difference, but I’m not aware of any difference with matchmaking technology, though we are doing work on that this year, but I can’t tell you exactly what.

I always suffer when trying to play friends on the PS3 online, with some friends I’m straight into a match, but with others there is no chance.

We did start trying to figure out what was going on. I know we posted some stuff on the forums last year or the year before to help people,. It could be to do with wireless, it could be to do with whether they are on ADSL or cable. It could be do to with tons of stuff. Some people not match making with other people. it could be down to any one of those things, and without looking into individual cases, it’s almost impossible to tell.

So its not an in-house problem, where the 360 is easier to get online?

No, we use our own match making code for both consoles, they are identical except one is for 360, one is for PS3, but without knowing exactly what it is, it’s hard to tell. I would always encourage people to use a wired connections if they can, they are undoubtedly more reliable. It’s always impossible to say exactly what it is.

Is there going to be a way to stop quitters, or punish people for quitting matches?

It’s a major problem in all online games, it’s not something that’s unique to FIFA, I think the problem with FIFA is that when you are playing head-to-head, it is unique to the you, whereas a game like Call of Duty, where you are playing a team against another big team, and all of a sudden you get shot and up pops the HUD and you are the only person on your team because everyone else quit because you were in a bit of trouble, it’s frustrating. I think what ends up happening is because of the nature of the head-to-head experience, it feels more prevalent, it’s human nature. We already give you the win, you get more points, the other person gets s DNF increment. You can match make for people with bad DNF. If you really want, you can go and find people that are always quitting, or you can set your options to only find people that rarely quit, and that’s been in for the last year or so. I would strongly encourage you to use it.

With regard to the new defensive mechanics, lots of people in the playing room are saying it’s a lot more difficult to play. Is that intentional?

No, because I think if you go and talk to someone who hasn’t played FIFA before, they find it a lot easier. It’s muscle memory, so if you are used to driving a car with the gearstick with your right hand, as I am in north america now, and you come back to England and try to drive on the other side of the road, it feels different. It’s not harder to defend, it’s different and if you try to defend in the way that you are used to, it’s not going to work. So there is a calibration time, it will require you to unlearn what you’ve learnt for however many years it is that you have been playing FIFA but for more casual fans, people that haven’t played the game as much, they actually find it easier.

That’s quite surprising, actually.

It was very, very, very relieving for me when we did all the testing.

I was thinking if a new guy comes into this game, how is it going to feel for them? Because I was having trouble myself and I’ve played every FIFA for the last ten years.

There you go, that’s your problem. It’s not a problem in the sense that what you actually have now is to think about defending and to defend like defenders do, rather than just launching those homing missiles at the ball and holding the button down and not necessarily having to think. If you graduated out of doing that in FIFA’s past where you weren’t really using the press button, then you will totally get the defending. There’s a great deal of timing involved in tackling, and bearing in mind if you watch a lot of football, a lot of play breaks down not from tackles, but from mistakes, and in the same as our game you should be defending to force mistakes and then tackle if you have to. That’s kind of the philosophy, read the play, read the play, read the play, react. Rather than react, which is all we had before.

One quick question before we let you go. What is going to happen to Leicester City next year?

So they are on a bit of a spending spree at the moment, I’ve been following it on my travels and Mr Ericsson has gone crazy in the market. It would be nice if Owen Hargreaves joins us, I’ve read a bit about that. I hope we get promoted this season.

As always, thank you to Mr Rutter for his time, and stay tuned to GodisaGeek.com for more FIFA 12 news in the future!