Hello everyone, I've been wanting to write this post for a while now and I’m finally getting around to it. This is going to be a long post so I hope you’re sitting comfortably.
I’ve been reading this subreddit for a good long time now and recently I’ve seen a rise in the amount of misinformation on the subreddit and people complaining about the lack of quality content, so I’m hoping I can help kill two birds with one stone.
Who are you, and what do you want with my time?
Honestly, I’m no one special. I’m a developer by day and a bang average FIFA player by night. I studied Computer Game development whilst at university and whilst I don’t work in the computer games industry there are things about FIFA that can be explained easier by someone who has been exposed to programming experience. I’m hoping to be that guy, along with a little help from other people in the community who maybe haven’t spoken up before.
So you’re going to tell us all the secrets about FIFA?
Let me make one thing clear from the get-go: in terms of FIFA and how it works, I know nothing more than the next person. Everything I write or post is going to be completely subjective. If you strongly disagree with what I say then that’s fine. I don’t have any secret knowledge or insider information. This is all conjecture but hopefully, it’s generated from a solid base.
So why are you doing this?
I’m hoping that as a community, if we understand more about the game and why these issues occur then we can use that information to make better-informed choices for ourselves, be that game-play or otherwise. I’m also hoping to stimulate interesting discussions not just in this post but also hopefully by making this information available to everyone then helping people to make better posts themselves. I can only hope.
I’m not going to cover everything in this one post. Instead, I’m going to focus on what I think is the biggest problem in FIFA and more importantly why it’s such a problem:
Something you’re definitely aware of but have likely never really thought about is how the game has two distinct control methods: attacking and defending. It’s inbuilt for anyone who has played this game for any length of time to press a button that usually does one thing (e.g. shooting), but yet have it do something else (e.g. tackle). The difference between whether it does the attacking actions or the defending actions in most cases comes down to whether you have possession of the ball. This is something you all know and we aren’t breaking new ground here.
If we dig a bit deeper, however, I think we can all relate to times where we’ve wanted the defending set of control options but have instead gotten the attacking set of controls and vice versa. For example, say you’ve run to tackle someone running towards you and after pressing tackle, instead of getting a perfectly timed tackle you’ve instead booted it into row Z and given your opponent back possession. Sound familiar? These set of contrasting controls are most likely controlled by a boolean (fancy way of saying true or false) value in the code somewhere. If the player has possession then set to true and use attacking controls, if the player doesn’t have possession then set to false and use defending controls.
Still with me? Great.
None of this is exactly rocket science but the issue and frustration comes from this little sentence right here: *There are times where you would reasonably expect the possession of the ball to be with you but the computer has decided you no longer have possession of the ball*. This then causes you to press a button and get an unintended result. For instance, clearing the ball in your box by pressing the tackle/clear button, only to have the computer say possession wasn’t yours and you’ve instead made an attempt at a tackle and given away penalty because you’ve not made contact with the ball despite it being right at your feet. It’s a frustrating scenario because the computer determines who does and doesn’t have possession, but there isn’t a good visual indicator of whether or not you still have possession. Because of this, we use our eyes and our brain which have watched thousands of hours of football together to decide when we do or don’t have the ball. The problem is the computer doesn’t think as we do.
Let’s switch gears here for a second and talk about Rocket League (RL).
Stay with me here, I promise it’s relevant.
Anyone who has played RL, a thoroughly enjoyable game, has probably noticed that you can never ‘have possession’ like you can in FIFA. That’s because that game is truly physics based and that is why the skill gap can be so harsh. Anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing can easily be beaten by a skilled player because there is no, or at least very little, computer assistance. It’s just your car and a ball and you must hit that ball into the net by any means. FIFA is not the same. FIFA is a bastardised combination of the two, part physics, part computer aided possession. Try and think of it like a weak magnet (the football), if you throw it hard enough it’ll bounce around like you’re expecting it to (e.g. shooting/passing/bad first touches) but eventually it’ll meet a surface (player) and stick to it. This combination of the two has led to a phrase you’ve probably used yourself but never really thought about: ‘locked on’. This phenomenon occurs when you want to switch player but the computer has decided that the best course of action would be to keep you on the current player because most likely the computer has determined that the current player has possession even if you can see that won’t be the case for much longer (think about when your player has taken a huge first touch which has led to the ball rolling five to ten meters away between either your player(B) or an opponents player. The easiest and most logical course of action is that your player(B) would get the ball but since the game says that you still have possession they don't react to the inevitable danger nor make an effort to get the ball. It's only once the opposition has touched the ball and that boolean value has switched that the game plays out as you expect. I mention the boolean value here because if you are said to have possession it's likely the game doesn't anticipate danger. The actions of your teammates, be it running back to defensive positions or getting into an attacking space, likely also depends on this possession value.)
“That all sounds complicated”
No doubt. Most likely incredibly so. And that’s why so many issues stem from it. Have you ever felt like you should have defended a corner perfectly by placing your guy in the correct place, but yet watched helplessly as a header was powered into your empty net? Think about it logically for a second cause this is important. Once the ball leaves the foot of the corner taker the outcome of the interaction has most likely already been decided (interaction does not read goal, simply just who has won the header). As long as one, or both of you have pressed a button (and sometimes not even then!) the outcome has been predetermined. The power of a corner determines what area of the pitch the ball will end up in, combined with the stats of your player. It’s likely assisted towards the general direction of your player and that player has to begin to attempt to reach the ball *before the ball has even reached them*. Several people jump for a corner on both teams, but yet you only control one player at a time. In order to make a corner look realistic, the game has to have players begin their animations as soon as, or near enough, the ball leaves someone’s feet. This is why sometimes you’ll score a header without actually pressing anything after kicking the corner in. Or why players on the line sometimes clear it of their own accord. Because you don't have enough time to react but your players have enough "sense" to do what they know they should. What a normal football player would do.
Corners and Free kicks are a unique situation however because they are the only time (that I can think of) where so many people are all viable targets for putting the ball into the back of the net. Because of that, it requires a little bit of extra help for a game that only allows you to control one person at a time (two if you count the second man press button).
Animations are another reason why possession is so difficult to ascertain for us. I won’t go into it massively now as I think it deserves its own topic but suffice to say that before an animation has completed the possession has already switched according to the computer. So if an attacker is through on goal and the defender has caught up with them and pressed the tackle button, before the animation has completed showing the defender muscling the attacker off the ball, the game has already switched the control scheme. Which is super irritating for both players because the defender might not think he’s won the ball and so pressed tackle again causing them to clear it when it’s at his feet. And the attacker may see that the defender is going to get the ball and want to shoot however they just end up making bad tackle and giving away a foul.
And breathe. That’s most of it. Possession is a difficult thing to calculate for anyone. I don’t think possession is in a bad state, let me finish, considering how complicated it is, however that doesn’t excuse that these issues haven’t sorted after being prevalent for years now. I have a solution that might work but again it’s just conjecture like the rest of this post. I’ll talk about it at a later date as it’s most likely a different day now then it was when you started reading.
Before I go just a few more things:
If you completely disagree with me, that’s fine. I touched on this earlier, go read that section again.
If you have suggestions on anything else you’d like me to look at please let me know! I enjoyed writing this and I hope you guys enjoyed reading it. I’d love to do more. Let me know if it’s something you’d enjoy reading.
I believe everything people attribute to S/M/H can be explained by bad/lazy coding. Appreciate if you believe the game is programmed to make you lose at certain points but hopefully through these posts I can show you it's just EA's incompetence which should make you feel much better 🙂
Also please let me know you’re on viewpoints, developer or not. Constructive discussion is always welcome!
If you made it to this point, you’re a fu*king trooper.
TL;DR: Possession is difficult to calculate.
© Post "FIFA from a developers perspective" for game FIFA 19.
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