Earlier this month we posted the first FIFA 11 details. For those who missed it, '11 is set to feature "seismic improvements," reckons EA, including improved graphics, "massively" improved player AI and 'footballer personality'. It even allows players to record and upload their own fan chants.
To find out more about this year's release Rob Taylor travelled to EA Vancouver to chat to the development team and play the game. In the second of a series of FIFA 11 interviews, our man speaks to exec producer, Kaz Makita...
You've been on the FIFA dev team ever since the days of chasing PES down. How does it feel to finally be in the lead?
I don't like to call us leaders, but I believe we now have a product that is competitive, and I think a lot of consumers and critics understand our vision. It's a good starting point, but there's a lot still to do!
When you return to Japan, do you ever speak with Seabass of PES fame?
Er, not really! I've been to Konami's office once, talking to a few people to say 'hey'. We met, but didn't want to discuss or reveal any features though!
Do you still worry about a PES comeback?
Knowing how Japanese companies work, I think so. They put any effort to try to build a strong product. If I was on their board, I would try to make this football game, to never give up. We spend a lot of time playing PES as well, learning from what Konami do. Anything we can take, we do.
FIFA used to be a bit rubbish in comparison to PES... were those dark days?
It was sad, because I knew from Japanese history there were a lot of Konami/PES fans in Japan but it wasn't big in Europe yet. Ever since I'd started in the industry people always said: 'Pro Evo is gonna come' - Konami didn't have any licence but their gameplay was very strong. Back then, a lot of FIFA code was written in NHL terms - so it didn't really represent football. I think maybe some people at EA underestimated Konami; didn't believe they had a strong product.
Back in those days I was only a little guy in terms of my dev status, and I had to keep campaigning, campaigning, campaigning! But EA wasn't moving in the direction I was hoping, so that was tough. Then, when Konami got stronger, people here started to realise, to change how they worked. We had staff changes, mentality changes. Luckily it was my mission as Line Producer to modify the FIFA engine to appeal to Japanese consumer; our game was called Total Football - I don't know if you guys remember or even know it? We shipped two games but only in Japan; we received good feedback but by then EA had decided they wanted to put more effort into FIFA itself.
That's when the next-gen gameplay development started, so my role shifted somewhat. Now we're very happy with the fundamentals, our core technical architecture.
How do you feel about the whole Metacritic issue - does it help or hinder the FIFA dev team?
It's good pressure, because Metacritic's scores come from you guys (the press), which means we need to listen, to be open with our players, to communicate. Peter (Moore, who famously challenged the FIFA 10 team to achieve a 90% score on Metacritic) sent a good message - so we have to overachieve to keep our promise to him.
Are you excited about the possibilities that Natal/Move motion control might bring, or do you worry you might have to re-develop FIFA from the ground up?