New Year, new FIFA.
EA Sports arguably played their strongest hand last year – unveiling the return of the Champions League.
But with The Journey now at an end, calls from fans to improve the much-loved Career Mode and a host of gameplay issues, the Vancouver-based dev team have their work cut out to deliver.
Here we go through four things EA can do to raise the bar in FIFA 20. Let’s kick off.
We say this year in, year out – but hopefully FIFA 20 will finally see dynamic weather arrive to the game.
It’s something the Frostbite Engine specialises in – and has been put to good use in other EA titles such Battlefield V.
Speaking to Metro , 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,” he said.
“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’.
“It’s not only a pretty effect, it actually changes the way you play the game.”
Dynamic weather has featured in Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer games for the last couple of years and drastically changes the way the game is played.
During matches, rain will sometimes fall – making it easier for players to slip and make mistakes.
If executed like this in FIFA, it would add a whole new layer of tactics to gameplay – especially in Ultimate Team.
A few years ago, the suggestion of a ‘virtual reality’ stadium in FIFA would be laughed at.
Now though, it’s a very real possibility.
It’s such a compelling prospect that Oculus Rift co-founder Nate Mitchell described FIFA and VR as the ‘perfect fit’.
He once told Eurogamer: “You can imagine sitting in the stands and confetti is raining down… and the four of us are sitting right next to each other and we’re controlling the players on the field — that would be an awesome VR experience.”
But just how likely is it to happen in FIFA 19?
Well, VR has well and truly taken off – with 21 million dedicated VR headsets expected to be sold by 2020.
Sony’s PlayStation VR headset has proven particularly popular – which is great news for gamers.
While the company already has a host of VR-focused games, they’re arguably still to land that true triple-A title.
FIFA 19 could be the perfect platform to propel the hardware firmly into the mainstream – especially as the company look to further capitalise on the beefed up PS4 Pro.
But for those hoping that VR will replace the controller, that’s still some way off.
EA’s Sebastian Enrique told Trusted Reviews they “haven’t found something that beats the experience when you have a controller in your hands”.
Where VR could be implemented, though, is through a camera angle – perhaps exclusive to PS4 / PC versions.
This could essentially place the player amongst fans in the stands – putting them next to a few well-rendered fans, and giving them ability to look around their seat.
They would play the game as per usual, only players would be further away – with the entire pitch visible.
Sounds great, right? But there’s a kicker.
FIFA often comes under fire for input lag – which is the time taken for a button press to result in an on-screen action.
By implementing VR, it’ll likely add to this delay – not by much (a few microseconds or so), but it could make all the difference to gameplay.
As Enrique explains: “It’s tricky. The problem is that you still have lag.
“When you play a game like FIFA it really depends on reaction time and on reading the game.”
Still, as the technology continues to advance, issues such as lag should, in theory, become a thing of the past.
Whether VR makes an appearance this year is still uncertain but one thing’s for sure… it’s going to happen – sooner, rather than later.
Improvements to Career Mode
FIFA 18 saw a huge overhaul of Career Mode’s presentation, but under the glossy shell very little had been changed.
This year’s game offers the perfect opportunity to focus on this – especially now The Journey has come to an end. Here’s what we would like to see.
Players asking you to review wages
In older FIFA games (FIFA 12 and FIFA 13) players used to send you – the manager – a message asking for a review of their current salary.
This would happen if the player had been performing very well consistently.
It added a new dimension to the game – a more human element – and let you reward players with the financial boost they deserved.
Adjust ticket prices
This was a really cool addition – allowing you to make ticket prices super low or very expensive.
Obviously this would have a huge impact on attendance – but it was also related to performance.
Should your team be performing well, they’d be a surplus of fans who would pay top dollar to watch them play.
If you’re struggling on the other hand, it would be harder to attract crowds and so reducing the price of tickets would act as an incentive for attendance.
It also affects your total budget – allowing you to spend more money on top players.
Player / Manager career
Yep, in FIFA 13 you could play as both a player and a manager in the same season.
You can buy or sell players, just like a manager, but when it came to match day, you could put yourself in the team – which was a fantastic touch.
Add a Club Creator mode
This would be amazing – imagine being able to create your own club.
You’d have complete control over everything – kit design, ticket sales and staff and player wellbeing.
One fan, Futmentor, has even drafted up how the menu would look.
Come on, EA, make it happen.
Is there anything else I should know about FIFA 20?
FIFA 19 could well be the last physical version of the game – as EA has hinted at a move towards a subscription model.
Sales for EA’s football behemoth have fallen 25 per cent year-on-year at retail on launch week. Simply put, more people are buying the game online.
In an interview with Bloomberg last year, EA CEO Andrew Wilson hinted the publisher could move away from an annual release cycle and towards an update and subscriptions model.
“The greatest disruptor to the consumption of entertainment media in the last five years has been the combination of streaming plus subscription,” he said.
“It’s changed the way we watch television. It’s changed the way we listen to music. It’s changed the way I read books.
“There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around — where we may not have to do an annual release. We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.”
Earlier this year, EA’s executive vice president of strategic growth Matt Bilbey elaborated on this statement – saying: “It (streaming) will happen. It’s just a question of when.”
Microsoft recently announced Project xCloud, a new game-streaming service that brings console-quality gaming to devices such as smartphones.
And with Game Pass – a service that allows gamers to play a wide variety of old and new games for a monthly fee – game ‘ownership’ appears to be changing.
Interestingly, EA looks to have already dipped its toes in the water.
Although EA’s Madden NFL Mobile game is now three years old, it’s been continually updated at the start of every season – essentially creating a new game.
The Frostbite engine was tweaked for FIFA 19, but arguably there were only very minor adjustments in animation and visual presentation.
EA Vancouver would have to re-write the entire code altogether to see a dramatic difference – something we can’t see happening for a good few years yet.
This, coupled with a greater number of gamers favouring digital game downloads over physical copies, could well sway EA into ditching boxed copies and releasing a ‘FIFA 20’ patch instead.
This would work by updating rosters, faces and form – much like the patches we’re seeing in FIFA 18’s cycle, only bigger.
GeForce Now – a subscription-based service on the Nvidia Shield – offers a ‘Netflix for Games’, where the unit taps into cloud processing to ‘play’ hundreds of titles.
EA Access, which also uses a subscription model, offers members a chance to trial some of the latest games – as well as play a number of older titles in EA’s portfolio.
It could only be a matter of time before we see a FIFA game using a subscription-based model, rather than a traditional release. The real turning point will be when internet connections and speeds improve.
Some countries are still hampered with poor speeds, meaning a move to online-only risks thousands not being able to play the game.
For now, we’re certain things won’t change, but watch this space.