One of the biggest changes in FIFA 17 was a new engine.
EA ditched Ignite and replaced it with Frostbite – the same powerhouse behind the likes of Battlefield 1, Star Wars: Battlefront and upcoming sci-fi epic, Mass Effect: Andromeda.
The switch paved the way for a host of improvements in gameplay, graphics and animation.
Notable visual tweaks included volumetric lighting, which allowed for more realistic floodlights – as well as light being affected by stadia detail such as roofing and glass.
Elsewhere, replays boasted improved depth of field and motion blur to tackle banding artefacts – creating more lifelike movement.
But while many were impressed by the graphics boost, others were left wanting more from an engine capable of delivering truly photo-realistic visuals.
This was especially true for player and manager models – which weren’t as lifelike as they could have been – and were still a far cry from character models in Battlefield 1.
In an exclusive chat with Dream Team Gaming, Frostbite Studio Director Jonas Skantz believes FIFA 18 will be a leap in the right direction.
Why? It comes down to time and familiarity.
“I can assure you that Frostbite continues to be a true differentiator,” he explained from the EA DICE studio in Stockholm, Sweden.
“With more and more games powered by Frostbite – whether it is FIFA, Battlefield, Mass Effect or others – our development teams can spend more time building new groundbreaking gameplay innovations.”
A part of the engine switch was down to “The Journey” – a new single-player mode that required in-game characters to convey emotion.
While it was largely praised, some felt character expressions were not as convincing as they could have been.
Skantz, though, believes the engine is more than capable of coping better next time – when The Journey inevitably continues in FIFA 18.
“The engine has a dedicated team working on it but we also enable all our fantastic developers inside of our EA studios to contribute back to the code,” he said.
“We are using this combined power to drive the tech forward and innovate.”
One of those innovations could be the introduction of dynamic weather – something Frostbite has proven very capable of, most recently in Battlefield 1 and Need For Speed (below).
Speaking to Metro last year, EA DICE’s Patrick Bach explained why weather is so much more than just a “pretty effect”.
“We often talk about these different dimensions in Battlefield, where you have the rock, paper, scissors and then you marry that with the destruction and you create unpredictability from different angles. And with the layer of weather we actually change the way you play in a very drastic way.
“So, if you have the tactics of being a sniper and it starts to rain then you probably have to change tactics. And the same with fighter planes, once the fog rolls in it’s like, ‘Okay, this is not as effective anymore, so I probably need to go back on the ground’.
“So it’s not only a pretty effect, it actually changes the way you play the game.”
Dynamic weather could add a whole new layer of tactics to gameplay in FIFA.
For example, weather taking a turn for the worse could negatively affect player ground speed, passing accuracy and injury probability.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of moving to Frostbite will come beyond FIFA 18.
At one point, EA had more than 20 engines powering their games – incurring third-party costs from the likes of Unreal to use their product.
By consolidating into one universal platform, development costs are reduced while they spiral upwards for the rest of the industry.
This could, in theory, mean better deals on EA games in the long run.
We can only hope.
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