FIFA 14 is set to be a launch title for both PS4 and XBox One, according to FIFA 14 next-gen Producer, Santiago Jaramillo. At the recent E3 2013 conference in Los Angeles, Gaming Illustrated witness a presentation on many of the new features and enhancements FIFA 14 has to offer, thanks to the upgraded power behind the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft. In an exclusive interview with our site, Jaramillo discusses what the Ignite Engine will allow players to do in FIFA 14 that they simply cannot do on previous editions, some of the great new features recently announced as well as some of the thought process that has gone into a two year development cycle for FIFA 14.
FIFA 14 was one of the choice few that took home a “Best of E3 2014″ award. The FIFA 14 release date will be on September 24 for current generation consoles.
Sean: This is Sean Gibson, gamingillustrated.com, at E3 2013 checking out FIFA 14. I’m also here with Ryan Bloom, Ryan, say hi.
Sean: If you could introduce yourself and your role with the FIFA 14 team.
Santiago: I am Santiago Jaramillo and I’m a producer for FIFA 14 on the Next-Gen consoles, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Sean: I think you win most popular section here at the EA Sports quadrant. Certainly that is the case with the international press but the American press are just in love with the work we are seeing. The Ignite Engine is the big thing with FIFA 14. Talk a little bit about the highlights that fans should be aware of with Ignite.
Santiago: Ignite is what’s allowing us to really harness the power of the new consoles. Much more processing power, much more memory so we have tons and tons of animations that we don’t have in the Gen 3 title, which means that when you’re playing the game you see these really cool animations that get played back at a much more realistic speed. They look more real and there’s a lot more variety of them. Headers, volleys, the way players run, the way they fight for the ball, everything just looks amazing. It looks Next-Gen.
On top of that, we know that one of the areas where we’ve been a little bit lacking in previous years is the visual quality of everything outside of the pitch. The players look great, the pitch looks great but the crowd… they didn’t look very good. The stadium elements weren’t very good. We are investing a lot of our time and our visual power that we have with the new consoles on a new 3D crowd. Something that you will see it in FIFA 14 is that it just looks something like you’ve never seen in FIFA before. Now they are really part of the action, the way they react to the plays, the way they jump, the way they look is just looks like the stadium is finally filled with human beings and not with just cardboard cut ups.
On top of that our gamers are hardcore and are very particular. They pay a lot of attention to detail. They like things like having ball boys to give you the ball back. We’re adding that to FIFA 14 in Next-Gen. [Our fans] are always asking for substitutes to be warming up and you see them warming up now. All those things are little pieces of detail that we are adding to create an atmosphere in the stadium that feels like what you see when you go to a real life match.
On top of that then we are building stadium exterior, I think it was about six seven stadiums for the first year, like Manchester City, we have Old Trafford for Man United, I think we have Emirates. We are going to have a few stadiums so that when you go into the game it doesn’t just start looking down at the grass, it starts with going into the game and you see where the stadium is with effect to the city and you see some life there. It’s what we call living worlds.
On top of that, we have a lot of game play features that we are announcing this year. One thing that we are talking about here at E3 is what’s called human intelligence. One of the things the new consoles allow us to do and Ignite allows us to do is to have players, because they have a lot more processing power they have much more human-like reaction time and anticipation. Those concepts are very difficult to just do with regular AI, and the new consoles allow us to really code them in a way that makes the players feel a lot more human and act in a lot more human fashion.
Not in just the way they think and the way they act but also the way they move. We also have what’s called a true player movement. What that is, is that in previous years we would tell a player where to go depending on what you’re doing with a stick or where the position system is sending them. Then the animation system would just kind of trail behind it and try to match what the system’s already telling it to do. This year the animation itself is driving the player from one place to another. You’ll see players feel very grounded and keep momentum in every direction where they go and plant their feet, explode into space. That really sells it to the user and it doesn’t feel like a video game. It feels like you’re watching real players move around the pitch.
Sean: Ryan and I are huge FIFA fans; we always do the reviews together. Coming into Next-Gen we were just expecting, “Okay, we are talking about the new visuals, it’s prettier.” Going through the presentation I was shocked at how much intelligence has altered this game… I played football (aka soccer); I’m going to brag a little bit, all right. I played striker and one problem that I always had with the game is that it didn’t feel authentic as a striker because you would always let the ball through in real life and you’d never stop that momentum. In FIFA, you always had to trap it. The headers also never felt right on a crossing in previous FIFAs and I had it explained that these limitations were a horsepower problem. You didn’t have the processor really to take advantage of that.
Santiago: Yes, I think when you’re creating a game, especially for a new generation of consoles, there’s nothing more exciting in a football game than scoring, shooting, heading the ball, and getting scoring chances. We wanted to really focus on that so we have things like Pure Shot so that players really have to plant their feet properly before they shoot. We want the ball physics as well to give you more swerve when it’s appropriate, when the ball trajectory is and it gives you a little variety when it comes to shots.
Something that we invested a lot of time on are the headers and you were just mentioning that. We had a very limited set of animations because the old generation of consoles didn’t have as much memory to just pack it with animations. Now we have the players just be able to choose from all these different types of headers. Now you can get contact on a ball in places where you couldn’t before and it looks really, really nice.
Also you were mentioning the ability to let the player to have the intelligence to let the ball run by him when it’s necessary instead of having to stop it because when you a conflict between what you envision as a user and a football fan and what the game gives you, that’s always this friction that we want to remove. Now you have these really cool skillful turns where you can just take it in stride and do like a little grapple on the ball to keep going in 180 degrees or you can just jump as a player will jump over the ball if it’s coming behind him and he can let it go through.
All those things just keep the fluidity of the game but it took the reworking of the trapping system because the trapping system’s a very costly system in terms of processing. Now we could just give it more and more logic to it to run more … to analyze the situation a little bit better and give you these results that are a big improvement on the fluidity of the game.
Sean: Yes, and just seeing more than two people contest for a header on a cross. It looks more authentic, feels like I’m watching it on the telly.
Santiago: Yes, it’s funny because that’s the kind of thing when you say, “Okay, we were only able to have two players shoving for the ball before,” I think people are almost shocked at, “Really, that’s all you could do last year?” The thing is the trapping system is very costly and when you have to run those algorithms to where the player can go for the ball and run it for a variety of players, the game just drops to like 15 frames a second if you don’t have the processing power.
Now finally for the first time when you have a cross when you have a corner kick you really get that element of, there’s a bunch of guys going out for the ball. You don’t really know who’s going to get it and that’s how I see it when I watch TV is there’s this bunch of people going up and you don’t know what’s going to happen. That creates a lot of excitement and a cool uncertainty about it. Two guys would go up, it’s a very clean scenario and you kind of know who’s going to win it. It became a little bit predictable. With this new way, it’s a lot more real and it creates a lot of just variety and a lot of excitement in the box.
Ryan: Obviously you’ve been preparing for the Next-Gen with the Ignite Engine and all that stuff. How long has that been in development?
Santiago: I guess we’ve been working on it for about two years. It’s a tricky thing to develop something for a new console, especially when you want to be a launch title because there’s a challenge of developing the game in parallel with the first parties developing their consoles as well. There’s a lot of technical difficulties and it’s a little bit of a slow process.
When we were building FIFA 13, we already had a team that was basically setting us up for a smooth transition to the new consoles. I think that is why you are seeing FIFA here at E3 is the only game outside of first party games that are showing the games on the new consoles and you can actually play a full game on those consoles. That is because we did a really good job preparing ourselves for this because it’s definitely been a smooth ride. We did a little bit of prep work to make sure we were in the right position.
Sean: Obviously you’ve got millions of fans worldwide. They cannot wait to play this on the Next-Gen system. What one message would you like to give to your fans?
Santiago: Well, I hope that they enjoy the game … playing the game as much I enjoy making it. I think it is hands down the best FIFA we’ve ever made and it feels really different. I think even when I’m presenting the new features I always hope that everyone gets at least two minutes on the console because just selling the features doesn’t give it justice to how different it feels when you actually get your hands on it. At E3 we have an early build so anyone who’s playing it here I hope they realize that all those bugs are things that we are aware of. We are about alpha right now so there’s still a way to go. I think our fans will, if they want the best FIFA that has ever been made is the FIFA 14 in PS4 or Xbox One.
Sean: Yes, it’s certainly shaping up to be like that. That was our impression too. Santiago, thank you so much.
Santiago: No problem, my pleasure.
Gaming Illustrated would like to thank Santiago and the entire EA Sports PR team at E3 for their warm hospitality and access to next-gen titles.