2010 FIFA World Cup Interview: Simon Humber, Producer
Written Monday, March 29, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Invited to EA's UK offices in Guildford, we not only managed to get some in-depth hands-on time with 2010 FIFA World Cup - the obligatory videogame tie-in for the upcoming tournament taking place in South Africa this June – but we also found time to chat about the title with Producer Simon Humber.
Commonly frowned upon as an easy way to boost the profits of a game football fans will have already purchased once, past World Cup instalments have relied upon a tweak here, a feature there and the requisite international kits to justify putting out an entirely new product.
With FIFA 10 as a base however, 2010 FIFA World Cup is off to a good start, but EA Vancouver is still going one better, introducing new game modes and gameplay changes. But is it really still enough?
Humber sat with us to answer our pressing FIFA questions, explaining why this particular version of World Cup aims to buck the trend for quick cash-ins.
Most people's initial perception of a World Cup game is that it's going to be another cynical money-making exercise. What are the key things you've done to avoid 2010 FIFA World Cup being branded with the same label?
Having done Euro (2008) previously, people who bought it really liked it and going through the forums recently, there was a lot of posts saying Euro was their favourite football game, which was really nice to see. So, I think the one thing that happened on Euro that was interesting, was people said it didn't have enough depth, and when I investigated that by talking to a few people, it ended up that 'depth' actually meant 'teams', strangely. We had usage figures that we'd get from the game, and there were a very small number of teams that were used regularly, then the rest weren't used very often, but people still want them to be there. With Euro, you can't have more than 53 teams, but with the World Cup – I think in 2006 we had 125 teams – this time, we thought we'd push the boat out as much as we can, and since this is the World Cup, how many teams can we actually put in?
There were a few we couldn't put in, due to FIFA's stance on them – how they'd behaved in the qualifying rounds and so on. So, it ended up that 199 was the number that we were allowed to put in there and so we went to town, made sure our data collection guys got plenty of information for each of them and FIFA were really helpful in giving us the player lists that were submitted from each confederation – those national teams, to make sure we get the players right. And if you get on the forums now, it's amazing how many people are saying, “ I want to play through this as Iraq”, “I want to play though this as Indonesia” and all of these smaller footballing nations. It's either people from those countries, who live in a place where there's a console available or it's people saying, “I'm going to play as Spain first, and then I'm going to play as Columbia, then I'm going to play as Trinidad & Tobago.” They seem to have this list of favourites that they can't wait to interact with.
What would you single out as the biggest new feature for 2010 FIFA World Cup?
I think the online World Cup will be the one that really, really takes off. Just the fact that, as an individual gamer, you can win the World Cup against other gamers with whatever team you choose, it's just really tense. Just getting out of your group is the first challenge, then we ramp up the tension by the third game by having the full group table shown before the match and the scores coming in may alter the way you tactically play that match, whether you need to win or can afford to lose or draw.
Then there are four rounds of knockout football, where you know that if you slip up, it could send you right back to the start again. For anyone who gets to the final and actually wins it, they're gonna feel a tremendous amount of joy, relief... and they'll have a nice trophy presentation sequence to watch as well. Then the leaderboard will update to show they've one cup won and if they care about their nation, then they're contributing points towards 'Battle of the Nations' with each win they have in the World Cup mode. I'm expecting usage in the online World Cup mode to be quite high.
And I suppose winning the World Cup in the online mode all ties-in to the emphasis you're putting on conveying the emotion of the tournament for this one?
I still remember the first time I ever saw the outro sequence, and we'd set it up just so that England would lift the trophy. You can feel yourself welling up! It's fantastic!
I remember seeing that sequence too and getting a bit choked up.
Well, trophy presentations are something that we haven't done particularly brilliantly in the past and with the World Cup being the pinnacle of international football, we wanted to have a sequence that would tug at the heart-strings a little bit, and for all of those hours you've put into winning, we want to give you a big pay-off at the end.
I seem to remember the commentary had been specifically recorded for the England sequence. Will there be individual commentaries for all of the major team's winning sequences?
A large number of teams have them, yes. For the bigger nations – especially ones who have a manager there as well that we can put into the trophy presentation. Like in the England one, we have the commentary saying, “enjoy it, Fabio!”
What can you tell us about 2010 FIFA World Cup's achievements and trophies?
Trying to remember them is a bit of a challenge, because there's so many and they're so far-reaching. But we do have a great number of achievements and trophies built around the online World Cup and I think just participation and getting knocked out earns you one, as does progressing with lower rated teams, again driving usage of lower teams in that mode. 'Captain Your Country' has got a whole bunch of accomplishments rather than achievements, so that's an additional bunch of things you can win. Getting a man of the match award and then five man of the match awards are accomplishments in Captain Your Country for instance.
So, can we expect to see anything in terms of unlockables by completing in-game accomplishments or earning achievements and trophies? Say, classic kits for example?
We've got some unlockables that are actually unlocked through a code screen in the game, but that's the one area of the game we can't actually talk about. There's going to be a further announcement on that soon. There won't be any paid DLC either. It'll all be free stuff, like assets that didn't make the disc on time, and we'll hope to put out those assets out as free DLC to increase the authenticity of the game.
Will any of the DLC support the modes people will be playing long-term, post-World Cup like the World League Ladder?
There'll be nothing to support that mode in terms of DLC, but I think that mode helps to keep the game going at the end of the World Cup final, in that you do have a grinding mode in there that will offer short-term success or failure. It's much more bitesize and gives you targets to chase that you can think about during the day, and you won't be able to wait to get back to your console because you might have only a few more league games to play before you get promoted up to division four and so on.
Was creating the World League Ladder mode quite a big undertaking, seeing as it's the mode that should provide the most longevity after the World Cup finals?
The hardest thing with that mode was working out the parameters around promotion and relegation, because we have to model out what happens after 10 million games have been played, with a bunch of gamers who fall into different skill categories. If category 1 plays category 4, what potential games will they win and how many draws you get during the course of so many games and then work out what's the promotion/relegation target to beat. Luckily we can change them on the server if we have to and that will update in-game.
I've noticed during the hands-on session today that a lot of people have been struggling with the new penalty shooting mechanics. Do you have any tips?
Are they going into practice mode?
I think like me, they're trying to jump straight in.
Have they even watched the tutorial videos?
I don't think so, no!
Of course they haven't! We're men! We don't read the instruction manual!
My tip for penalties would be a deep breath. Take a deep breath, know what you're doing, stick to it, don't change your mind and I kind of do silent counting in my head. Like, 1,2,3 and I know where the ball is going. Most people aim, pushing the left stick to the extreme and then powering up the shot at some point. What they're doing is aiming straight away and going beyond the goal.
Finally, we ask Humber who's going to win the 2010 World Cup, and he has Spain as his top tip. A rather good shout there, Mr. Humber. We might put a tenner on them right now. He stresses that he only wants Spain to win if England can't though, which let's face it... well, they just won't win will they? Unless all the other teams fall victim to the plague. It could happen!