New penalty kicks mode
Joe Nickolls: Penalty Kicks play such a big part of World Cup that we wanted to make this feature as authentic as possible. Historically penalty kicks have always played an important roll in the outcome of World Cup games and when you get to the penalty shoot-out situation the pressure goes up. What we have tried to do is transfer that pressure to the user in the videogame. In the real world you see the crowd and your teammates reacting to each situation and there’s pressure on each player to make the shot. We have tried to take that feeling and make it visual.
Gamers can now employ new moves to improve their chances of scoring or saving the shot. New distracting techniques for the keeper, including waving arms and moving along the goal line, make this really authentic. Even the shooting player can attempt to chip his shot to fool the goalkeeper.
The penalty mode incorporates a new ‘nerve bar’. Pressing the shot button to hit the sweet spot is the key to the perfect shot. However, the sweet spot now moves at varying speeds depending on the ability and experience of the player, making it hard or easier to hit the target.
New advanced shooting mechanics
JN: In our other FIFA games when you are shooting you have to hold down the button to determine how hard you shoot the ball. What we found is that as you come in on goal users get excited and hold down the button far too long, blasting the ball over the bar, and sending it way off target. That was frustrating for users. In 2006 FIFA World Cup when you hold the shoot button down now it will control the angle of the shot. So if you hold the button down longer it will increase the angle of the shot and if you just tap the button the shot will be low. We take care of the power and kind of shot for you.
The shooting model has been much improved with context sensitive AI. Shooting now takes into account distance and angle from goal. Also pressure from defending players will have a direct effect on the success of the shot.
I guarantee that people who play World Cup will see shots they have never seen before because we’re giving assistance to make the shot more realistic. On top of that we’ve tuned the physics of the ball. The ball can now deflect off the keeper, hit the cross-bar then fall back in front of the goal giving the striker another chance to be knocked in and enabling more variety in the types of shots. You don’t want the user to become bored. You want diversity in the kinds of shots you take like sliding kicks, diving headers etc.
JN: World Cup is like the greatest hits of football. Everyone comes out to see their heroes – the stars. In 2006 FIFA World Cup the star players will act and respond like they are suppose to act, the way they play in real life. Almost a hundred players in our game have what we call enhanced attributes. Players become world renown for their individual skills. Some players are known for their hard shots, some players are known to be playmakers, some players have blazing speed, and what we’ve done is enhanced the attributes of the players that are known for these things.
Wayne Rooney, for example, is a powerful player who can out muscle most players but he’s also fast and has an absolute laser of a shot. So in 2006 FIFA World Cup a player like Rooney can take a shot from far out and be very much on target because he is excellent striker. A player like Michael Owen has a fantastic turn of speed so if he, or a star player with similar attributes, traps the ball in a dangerous position, you will have a hard time catching him. Owen also has a great shot, and you’ll see that in the game. For Ronaldinho or Zidane, they are skilled players who will have amazing technique. Even if you’re not directly controlling those kinds of flair players, the CPU exploits their talents to devastating effect. In previous games against the CPU you can learn their tricks and learn what they’re doing and you can beat them every time because they have a pattern. In World Cup, not only can the user pull off the star player moves but the CPU can do that move as well.
Just like in real life, a handful of the stars in the game have signature moves that instantly differentiate them from other players. Beckham and Roberto Carlos both have remarkable freekick animations. Ronaldinho is famous for this ‘flip flop’ feint that he uses to beat defenders.
Star players are also readily identifiable because they have a star over their head. Nearly every nation has one or more remarkable players in their ranks. For instance, Totti from Italy, Landon Donovan from the US and Pavel Nedved from Czech Republic, among many more are great players and are noted for their outstanding contribution to their teams.
Calibrating star players’ individual skills
JN: What we did to calibrate these enhanced attributes for our stars was to increase their individual skill rating in the areas where they were head-and-shoulders better than other players. The players who are selected to play for their national teams are obviously good players in themselves. However, to really differentiate the star players and make them stand out we made sure their attributes reflected their exceptional ability.
Once we assigned numerical values to each player’s attributes, we tested and re-tested these players to obtain the right balance to the point where players aren’t invincible and can be counteracted.
Superstars and their appearance
JN: When dealing with North American leagues, NHL, NFL, NBA, and the NCAA you sign a license and with it come a yearbook with digital photos of all the players. This is not the case with international sports like football. For each of the players in our game it’s all down to the hard-work of our artists to re-create their individual appearance. We hunt down publicity photos, new photos of the guys, any kind of reference material we can possibly get, and then we begin to build the player’s head. The cool thing about EA is that we don’t just take a photo of someone’s face and map it on a model. It’s more like the amazing artists at EA sculpt the model and sculpt the head for the players starting from a blank canvas.
Other tricks we use to help users identify players in the game are to make player characteristics slightly more enhanced than they actually are. So a player like Pavel Nedved, who is known for his long blonde hair, will have slightly longer more pronounced hair to make him more easily identifiable from a distance. It’s almost larger than life.
For these stars you need to be able to see these details. You have to be able to see Edgar Davids’ ponytail bouncing around when he’s running down the pitch. It’s one thing to look really good close up, it’s another thing when you’re playing at a gameplay angle from far out that you can see who these players really are.
New advanced passing mechanic
JN: The passing mechanic is more predictive than it used to be. The through-pass has been made more accurate so that if your player is good at the through-pass, he will be better at executing this in gameplay. If you see a player running up the wing and you anticipate where the opening will be, you can hit the through-pass ahead of this player and he’ll run onto the ball and control it. You’ll find passing more accurate in this game because the AI works intelligently so that your players behave realistically and avoid novice mistakes, choosing the right angles and the strength of the pass.
JN: Global Challenge is a way to further the gameplay experience and make 2006 FIFA World Cup a longer-lasting game. We looked back at 2002 FIFA World Cup and what everyone on our team agreed on was that it wasn’t long enough. It needed to be a longer more fulfilling game to play.
In addition to qualifying for the World Cup or competing for the World Cup, we created a new gameplay mode called Global Challenge. We began to look at past World Cups and decided there were some magical moments that people all over the world have never forgotten. These are the real classic moments. We took some those historical scenarios and re-created them in game, enabling users to play in the scenarios using modern teams to relive and perhaps change history.
We have this cool new 3-dimentional globe that’s always on the screen and as you overcome your challenges it will be updated with your team color. As you progress through the scenarios you’ll be given points which can be taken to the store to buy all sorts of cool stuff, whether it’s a classic player, a kit, a new ball or a feature that will enable you to alter gameplay. Some of the gameplay rewards we offer through this challenge include playing the game at super-speed, without referees, or even having invisible walls around the pitch so you can execute bank passes.
JN: 2006 FIFA World Cup is about five times the size of the previous version. It has five times the number of teams, five times the amount of players, seven times the number of stadiums to play in and it’s a much, grander game. The one thing that I want people to feel when they pick up this game is that this is not just a ‘coat of paint’ game. This game has an engine that feels and plays different. Some people may think that this is just an event product, with a World Cup logo on it and that it’s the same old thing. It absolutely is not. This is game is a fun experience that really captures the excitement and authenticity of the real World Cup.
With the Xbox 360 we have figured out how to use this machine and we’ve found a way to make our players look better, the game load faster, and we’ve made it more responsive. As you spend time with something you become more familiar with it, and as we spend more time with the next-gen consoles we become more familiar with what we can get out of it.
As far as gameplay goes, when people pick up this game they’ll notice that we’ve really been listening to the feedback we have received on our FIFA titles. We go to all kinds of websites and forums and we read what people are asking. When they say things like “I sure wish they’d do this…” it takes everything in me not to email them back and say “Hey, guess what? We are!” People are asking about teams…we have 127. They are the real teams, with the real guys, with no placeholders. They wanted the stadiums to be awesome, and they are. We have all 12 of the official German stadiums, as well as two more stadiums from each zone, so that’s another 12 stadiums. We have songs from all over the world, as well as crowd sound effects specific to their location. We have streamers, confetti, fireworks… it’s basically a sonic wall of sensory stimulation.
Festival atmosphere in the stadiums.
JN: The stadiums that will be used in Germany have a lot of history. Some of them have been around for a hundred years, and they hold a lot of passionate football fans. It’s just incredible and these stadiums need to be treated with the respect and attention to detail that they deserve. So we sent people out to take photos of these buildings, and we worked with FIFA to get it right. We haven’t made a World Cup game for four years and we’ve put a lot into this game.
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