Producer Matt Prior also talks about Online Seasons, friend messaging, non-twitch game modes, and how people instantly "get" the Wii U GamePad's touch screen.
"Someone asked me 'Are the graphics on par?'"
At the recent EA Summer Showcase event, FIFA 13 Wii U Line Producer Matt Prior explained recent statements that the Wii U version of EA's soccer franchise will be the "best looking" compared to other consoles. "And they are on par," he continued, "and there are a couple of features that we have been able to graphically enhance."
"It's not going to be miles ahead," Prior then cautioned, wary of setting expectations too high for a game that, as we spoke, was still being feverishly developed with the intention of hitting the market in step with Nintendo's upcoming console. "But two things we have improved just in terms of the fidelity and quality are the pitch," he detailed. "If you have a look at the pitch texture there's a lot more detail in it and we're working on that as we speak to hopefully improve it even further."
Prior also explained another graphical improvement they had pursued based on user feedback: the crowd. "One of the common complaints is the crowd, and if you look at the crowd on the Wii U it's double the resolution." These were apparently conscious choices by the development team, because, as Prior put it, "we had limited resources in which to improve, so we wanted to make sure we got the biggest bang for the buck, if you will. Obviously the pitch is something you're staring at like 90 percent of the time when you're playing, so crowd and pitch were two areas we focused on."
Touching again on the theme of directing limited resources to a wide set of possible uses, Prior detailed how developing the Wii U version of the game required covering more ground than on the other consoles.
"With new hardware, one of the challenges is—unlike PS3 and 360, where you've got a game, it's finished, it's done, and you build on top of it next year—we don't have a game. So we have to build that foundation, and just like building anything, you need a solid foundation that's stable on which to build."
This is the reason some new features in FIFA 13 found on the Xbox 360 and PS3 won't make it to the Wii U version, despite the new console's better graphical fidelity.
"We have to take a point in time when [the game's] stable and then bring it over and then all the work we're building on top of it, so in terms of where this is at, it's not [FIFA] 12, 'cause there's a lot of enhancements from 12, it's not 13—it's kind of somewhere in between at a core level," Prior explained, going into why nuances like first touch controls and curved runs will be missing despite the Wii U version running on the same engine. However, he pointed out that "obviously, on top of that we've got all the new Wii U functionality, so there's a lot in our game that's not in 360 and PS3."
The need to get the game up and running and released on new hardware may also have limited the online modes the team was able to implement, but once again Prior laid out how they focused on adding online to the Wii U version.
"We wanted to make sure we got the most popular feature in [versions for] 360 and PS3. Either online or offline, the most popular feature in it is an online mode called Online Seasons, so that's in the Wii U [version]. Some of the more advanced [modes] that took many years to kind of come onto 360 and PS3, things like Ultimate Team, they aren't on it at launch, but the biggest one in terms of popularity is."
One online feature Prior was eager to point out, though, was the friends tab on the Wii U GamePad's touchscreen. "A friends tab that's always there in the front end on the [Wii U GamePad] so you can tap it, you've got a list of friends," he explained, later adding that it pulls from "the friends list from the Wii U console."
Even though online gameplay wasn't available for hands-on impressions at the EA event, Prior continued to explain the importance of the Wii U's GamePad in conjunction with this friend system. "You can tap an invite to them, or you can tap a message to them. Obviously, touch screen messaging is much better than the 360 Live virtual keyboard where you're moving it up and down." This is apparently an important feature for the Wii U launch title, since he emphasized that "we really want to connect friends and allow people to game with friends as easily as possible."
Allowing people to "game" in FIFA is another benefit of the Wii U's hardware. The GamePad's touch screen specifically allows users a different way to control the game. "We got people from within the studio who perhaps aren't hardcore twitch gamers and put it in front of them and got their feedback," Prior divulged, "and it was interesting because instantly, you give them a controller and they're like 'what's a button do?' You give them [the GamePad] and tell them it's 'touch screen' and instantly they kinda get it because mobile phones, airline entertainment systems, it's all touch screen. So that touch screen ability is a real way into the world of people for us because people just instantly get it, which is great."
In fact, the game's manager mode appears to benefit greatly from the touch screen that will come with Nintendo's new console. Manager mode allows gamers to act as a team's coach instead of as any single athlete, and the touch screen lets players review stats, set team-wide goals, make substitutions, and trace a line on the controller for the on-television players to run, directly and strategically repositioning them on the go.
Prior envisions that this mode and its use of the Wii U GamePad's touch screen will make the game accessible to many types of gamers beyond those possessing lightning reflexes. "Because you can manage, you don't really need that high-intensity twitch gaming where you've got to be concentrating all the time," he explained. "It's kind of ‘kick back, maybe put it down, and do a few management changes'. You don't need to be panicking all the time."
He points out that this not only lets players choose how they want to experience the game, but that it can even bring two players of different skill levels together. "That's one of the good things, right? It's made FIFA almost multi-layered in the sense that how you want to participate with it, you can play as you would 360 and PS3, you can manage, or you can kind of combine the two with a friend and he can do the hard work."
FIFA 13 is planned to launch alongside Nintendo's new Wii U game console later this year. Click here to read further hands-on impressions of the soccer game from Nintendo World Report.