How Is Fifa 12 Like An RPG?

By Adam Smith on October 13th, 2011 at 5:22 pm.

Cech is wearing his Helmet of +4 Toughness

In an interview over at The Guardian, EA Sports’ Andrew Wilson has been talking about foot-to-ball game Fifa 12, which according to sales figures all of you own several hundred copies of. There’s an interesting curveball of a comment from the interviewer though when he compares Fifa to an RPG leading vice-president Wilson to respond thusly:

“I think it’s pretty perceptive to look at it as an RPG, and while we don’t use that terminology for the game externally, we certainly look at it that way internally. An RPG is made up of a number of things: you have to have a unique ID – or unique character – you need persistence and progression for that character, ever-changing content which keeps the world rich and it’s a good idea to wrap it up in a rich economy.”

To the Deciphertron!

It appears Mr Wilson has taken RPG to mean MMO and is talking mostly about EA Sports Football Club, which offers daily challenges based on real-world ball-hoofing. So the unique ID is, I think, more of profile than a character and, as for the rich economy that it’s all wrapped in? I didn’t think there were any rich economies anymore, except for EA themselves. And Popcap. So it’s not the kind of RPG crossover I thought was implied at first, but with sports games increasingly including modes like Be a Pro, allowing control and development of a single character, could an actual sports RPG revolution be around the cornerflag?

When I saw that EA Sports were talking about RPGs, I hoped it meant they’d be talking about the attention they had lavished on the Be a Pro mode in Fifa 12. To me, it’s the only part of the game that has real potential to grow, although it would mean a stronger emphasis on the variety and intelligence of computer-controlled footmen. Straight away, I began thinking of fully customisable character progression, classes as positions on the field and the possibility of multi-class wingbacks, the possibility of working up from an Eastern European youth academy or a remote African village to a Champions League winning club, and the pursuit of international success, fame and glory.

New Star Soccer 5 does not have frills, but it does have lots of stats

It seems like a natural progression and it’s something that indie game New Star Soccer 5 has focused on while EA have been remodelling hairstyles and adding new celebration animations. Lots of kids grow up wanting to be footballers, but very few grow up wanting to be an entire football team, yet that’s still the game mode most titles concentrate on. The single character mode often seems like an afterthought, with the gameworld massively simplified. For such a mode to work properly it can’t just provide the thrill of playing alongside great players, it would have to provide the disappointment of a loan period in exile and the substitute’s bench, the agony of injury and a terminated contract, and the lower league twilight of a once brilliant career.

MLB 2K11 has the best ‘pro’ mode I’ve ever seen, allowing a user-made player to progress through a believable career trajectory. Does anyone know of any better ones, regardless of the sport? And does anyone else dream of a stat-heavy RPG, something with the depth and scope of Football Manager, that allows the player to be, well, a player? Maybe that’s just me.

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69 Comments »

  1. Wizardry says:

    I’ve always thought the idea of a first or third person football game where you play a single player would be really awesome. However, it could only ever work with a statistics heavy system to distinguish players from each other. There’s no point in a winger having the same maximum speed and acceleration of a slow centre back.

    • Linfosoma says:

      @Wizardry :

      There was a game like on the olde Playstation called “Libero Grande”. It was pretty good!

    • Vexing Vision says:

      It’s the only way I got to enjoy PES, which offers exactly that mode. Extremely stat heavy. You can’t switch teams though.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      You can actually do that in both FIFA and Pro Evo now, and have been able to for a while, in their “Be a Pro” modes. There’s also New Star Soccer.

    • sinister agent says:

      Yeah, I have a FIFA game solely for this mode. It’s rather good, although not without some rather stupid flaws (eg: it constantly marks your performance down for being ‘out of position’, when it’s very clear that you’re actually in a much better position than the one it’s suggesting. It also regularly demands that I, as a centre back, score two goals, and then penalises me if I try).

      Also I would prefer it to use a more direct view of my player, but instead it shows you the whole pitch, which kind of takes you out of the character a bit.

      Fun though.

    • Syrion says:

      It probably looks rather silly in a video, but as regards 1st/3rd-Person Soccer games, there is International Online Soccer, and it’s fun!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Better watch it, else Fifa 13 will be the next series for a “logical change to the FPS genre”

    • Jubaal says:

      I seem to remember that you could do it as far back as Kick-off

    • pepper says:

      Hoaxfish, I would buy that if they would add faith from ME as a playable character. Nut kicking my way to the goal!

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      That’s pretty much exactly what the ‘New Star Soccer’ series is: Loads of player statistics and off-pitch issues like PR to deal with as well as the games themselves.

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    Boots of +1 Ball-Kicking.

  3. Leonard Hatred says:

    Barton slides in with a 2 footed tackle for 300 damage
    Critical hit!
    Rooney has died.
    You have found football boots +2

  4. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Well even as a manager, or in other words, playing fifa traditionally, controlling the whole team in and out of matches, it has some pretty strong RPG elements. There’s the scouting system which has elements of randomisation to it, there’s the player progression that can differ depending on a few factors like how often you play somebody, injuries etc… player’s even request transfers now which I found pretty surprising.

    Combine that randomness with the progression, and you have a pretty strong set of RPG elements at work governing your journey through the game. The team and the world around the team grows and morphs as the game progresses. Conceivably if you play for long enough the football world of the game would be completely populated by randomly generated players. That’s presuming that they no longer re-introduce old players after they retire like they used to, which they may well do, and that the scouting system is actually throwing up randomly generated players, which is may not be, but I presume it is.

    Anyway that’s my penny in the bag, I’m enjoying the game at the moment, although it’s doing murder to my productivity so I think I’m going to put it on hold for a while in the interest of not flunking my final year at Uni.

  5. Vexing Vision says:

    I have to admit, despite my reluctance of accepting the barbarism of kicking a helpless pigskin around, I continue to have a certain fondness for the recent Pro Evolution Soccer titles… which I treat as RPGs.

    Can’t say the same thing about Fifa though. Haven’t played around with a Fifa title since ’09, so maybe that changed!

  6. Dasos says:

    I remember a fairly early fight night PS2 game, possibly ‘fight night round 2′ having a fairly in depth character build up

  7. sinelnic says:

    What fails is the dynamic storytelling. You make up your own epic but nobody in the game world seems to care much, just giving you copy-paste “He played very good”.

    I remember playing many many seasons in PES and getting to the point where Thierry Henry was about to retire, having contributed to my teams innumerous victories and trophies. He wasn’t playing often because he was very old and I had enough money to purchase all fantastic players in football history, but I kept him for sentimental reasons.
    So this match comes, where I play mostly substitutes, and he’s in the bench, and it’s in all honesty the last competitive game he’s going to have the chance to play. So it’s a 1-1 draw and I send him on for the last 15 and, of course, in an epic, old-skeleton shattering run behind the defense, he gets one-on-one, c.h.i.p.s it over the keeper, and gets his last moment of glory in professional football. So, I decide to substitute him to have the stadium go crazy, applause and all.
    Imagine my disheartening when, as he was being replaced along with opposition’s three players, PES decided to NOT GIVE HIM A CUTSCENE. Just like that, a brief blank screen, and he was gone, forever, never getting his deserved epic farewell.

    So playing in a lower league for the last two years of your career is pointless if nobody is going to care when you score an epic equaliser after sending the keeper the wrong way spitting your dentures as a form of feint. We need better narration.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Exactly right. To make characters matter, they have to fit a narrative that lasts longer than 90 minutes. Imagine being called up to play in a testimonial for a former team-mate! Fun.

    • sinelnic says:

      Maybe the game can dialogue with you through a cleverly devised press-conference and coach-meeting system? It has to be subtle, but the game can get both what is important for you in the game world and narrate it accordingly; and some authority over the team without giving you the manager’s job directly.

    • Magrippinho says:

      Yeah, you really have to make the story for yourself in these games. Football can provide real drama, with the late goals, the damning misses, the penalties, the red cards, the gut-wrenching injuries and it can have real stars, with the prima donas, the pragmatic money-grabbers, the hard workers, the light-hearted and the true leaders but, so far, they just leave it to the player’s imagination and it’s such a missed opportunity.

      They are trying to do something about it though. In the latest FIFA, Giggs decided to hang up his boots and he kindly approached me before the last game of the season and asked me if he could play one last time. This got me a bit teary eyed but, in the match itself, Giggs didn’t get any special attention from the commentators, or indeed the crowd, even though he managed to turn back the years to run Arsenal ragged on the day.

      Still, this fills me with hope that they (football game publishers in general and especially EA with their imposing resources) might get it right someday. What fills me with doubt, is what they did with Fight Night Champion.

      In Champion, they did decide to throw a lot of money into the single player campaign, which is great, but they made it unapologetically linear, which is precisely what we don’t want. We want to be the stars, we want to make the choices that make or break our careers, not just be the invisible force that takes over the protagonist for an hour every week.

  8. Nemon says:

    One of the Kick Off-offsprings had a player manager mode. That was kinda fun.

  9. Tautologist says:

    I always thought “be a player” modes in sports games were kind of terrible, on account of not having anything to do with the action most of the time.

    • chackosan says:

      In football games, depends on what position you pick. Try a Central Midfielder and you ought to see plenty of the ball, provided your teammates trust you enough to pass it to you. If you’re up front as a Center Forward without any playmakers/crossers worth a damn in your team, then yeah, it can get pretty aimless. But still, that’s really the only way you can get to do off-the-ball movement (outside of multiplayer co-op games), so it’s kind of fun.

  10. Sharkticon says:

    The ‘combat’ is real time though, so it will have to be an Action RPG.

  11. Khann says:

    I’ve been dreaming of a high quality, in-depth motorsport manager for a while now. The discipline isn’t even a huge deal tk me (though F1 would be ideal)

    While I’m on the subject… can anyone remind me of that old F1 manager? Can’t for the life of me think of the name.

  12. Sergius64 says:

    Is Rooney’s head really that tiny?

  13. Deano2099 says:

    You all act like you’ve never heard of Inazuma Eleven…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X69QTgk7YAs

  14. Inglourious Badger says:

    Foot-to-ball game manager modes to me have always felt like playing X-COM with foot-to-ball teams rather than future soldiers, and a real-time ‘tactical combat stage’ rather than turn-based. Always found it funny when some gamers sneer at footie games when they essentially contain the essence of all that is loved in PC games: tactics mixed with real-time action, fun gameplay, open-ended story that holds up to repetitive play, and player effecting emergent stories. Not to mention the iconic 1v1 multiplayer side of things. Some recent titles have managed to suck a lot of the story and gameplay out of that formula, I’d agree, but when it’s done well foot-to-ball is as good as gaming gets.

    There I said it

  15. Sharkticon says:

    Why is it that mainstream sports games can be continually packed with stats, party management etc. but mainstream RPGs are all losing or hiding stats and attributes.

    This is what happens when RPGs cater to the story/plot people instead of the gameplay people. This is why we can’t have nice things etc.

    Have EA Sports ever advertised that when you press a button to pass the ball, something AWESOME happens?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yeah, I don’t get it. I always tout Football Manager as a shining example of how a number-heavy, text-heavy, literally spreadsheet-y game with mediocre graphics can not only be highly successful, but appeal to a wide audience who aren’t even normally gamers. In fact, it does much better than the simpler, shinier FIFA Manager series.

      Lots of people like games. Fun systems of mechanics to learn and explore and play around with, tools to forge your own stories. The latter bit is the big draw of FM, but it’s the complexity that keeps you playing. Same thing with Minecraft, really.

      I just find it difficult to understand how today’s AAA “hardcore” games have almost entirely rejected these concepts, but some incredibly popular, non-hardcore-gamer titles really get what makes a great game.

  16. kikito says:

    I reley dont wan to say this but I have to now.

    How is this an RPG anyway? What apout quests? It’s not even an RPG at all.

    I mean look at it! In what way is this supposed to be an RPG if you cant do quests and stuff?

    Explain to me. Explain to me!

    The athore comments al totol lies!

    Pepole think this review is worthles.

    Go ahead! I dont care. Im just trying to make a point here.

    BLAM THIS PIECE OF CRAP!

    PS: The only reson im giving this a 1, is beacuase the voices were pretty good. But thats it!
    PS2: If you didn’t understand anything, you need to click here.

  17. Pidesco says:

    A couple of seasons ago PES’ career mode was much better than FIFA’s. Is that still true?

    Does anyone know what’s new in FIFA 12′s Be a Pro? Google hasn’t been very helpful.

    • chackosan says:

      Word is they haven’t changed much, if anything at all. Shame. At least hope they got rid of those ‘Missions’ for each match – ridiculous stuff. And fixed the player development so that he doesn’t go from the reserve side to captaining the national side in one season. And let a player’s career last longer than 4 seasons.

    • Tancosin says:

      There’s a 12 after FIFA instead of an 11.

    • Megadyptes says:

      The PC version of 12 is a huge step up compared to previous versions. Since 2008 or 2009 the PC version has been based on old or PS2 engine FIFA games and lacked a lot of features, with 12 it’s finally on par with the 360 and PS3, so that’s something for the PC market.

  18. Novotny says:

    And I thought when Gillen wrote a piece for them it would be the start of something beautiful. The Guardian’s gaming coverage is, unfortunately, woeful.

  19. BobsLawnService says:

    I’m having very fond memories of Footballer Of The Year on the ZX Spectrum right now.

  20. hypercrisis says:

    The Winning Eleven (Pro Evo) games used to have a very Japanese RPG mode. Almost like one of those Japanese girlfriend simulators.

  21. Orija says:

    *Wild Streaker appeared!*
    *Wild Streaker used Flash Attack!”
    *You use Harden!*

  22. sidhellfire says:

    I find default PES/FIFA game mode just dull. But, when it comes to Online Virtual Pro, with clubs, where you are playing some serious team-play, the game is just brilliant. It’s surprising, that game focuses on things like “Ultimate Team” where you’re just playing regular matches with bunch of random football AI players in your team, who surprisingly are sometimes even bought for real money; and in the same time you have this potential excellent MMO game, with thousands of real gamers forming teams, creating match tactics, and working together in applying these, to create a goal scoring opportunity to achieve a victory.

    Actually, they’ve already built a huge community on consoles (both xbox360 and ps3), but somehow, PC community, which I though should excel in this area is almost non-existent.
    Anyway, if you are looking for Virtual Pro Club, or you’re managing one, maybe it’s worth registering on http://www.fvpa.co.uk and posting on forums

  23. Mr Bismarck says:

    The best “Be a Leg End” RPGalike thingy I’ve played out of PES, FIFA, Madden, MLB et al is in 2k Sports’ NBA2k11.

    I will point out here that I would rather go to the docks and watch boats rust than be forced to point my eyes toward the sport of basketball itself, but the game is fantastic.

    It plays differently depending on which of the positions you pick and which of the player styles and while the sport seems to feature five individuals accidentally wearing the same shirt, the game values team play highly and you will get more points for standing in the right place than you will for throwing the round thing into the peach basket.

    I am also excellent at “filling the lane correctly”, (“that’s what she said” goes here), even though I’ve no idea what that means.

    • Rodafowa says:

      Hello, Bismarck, fancy seeing you here.

      I was just about to say pretty much what he said about NBA2K11, so, well, you know. What he said. The game’s so good (and my attachment to my Sideshow-Bob-hairdo’d create-a-player DIRK JUSTICE!!! was so strong) it got me blogging again after eight months lazy shambling.

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      Mention of sportsy RPGs is like the Bat Signal for us.

      Except instead of Batman, it summons two portly geezers from the Home Counties.

    • Rodafowa says:

      I’m imagining a big searchlight with a 12 foot wildcat on it.

      Or a searchlight with an incomprensible in-joke, one of the two.

  24. mompkin says:

    It’s not exactly realistic or related to the foot-balling, but I loved Mario Tennis for the GBA. You had to level up your various stats by earning experience, and you unlocked special moves as you went along. There were even minigame training sessions you could grind. You had to work your way up from tennis nobody to defeating MARIO IN THE SKY! I found it to be a really delightful sports-RPG combo and wasted many an hour in the car on it.

    • WoundedBum says:

      I completely agree, I absolutely loved this game! Ah such good times were spent, even if I remembering finding it incredibly hard…

  25. pakoito says:

    The “Every videogame is an RPG” theory at its best.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      I laughed to myself yesterday when I walked past GAME and saw ‘Preorder Call Of Duty: [The Next One] and earn double XP!’.

      Is there any genre that doesn’t harbour rogue RPG elements anymore? Point and Clicks I guess…?

  26. digitalsoap says:

    I’ve been playing both Fifa12 and NBA 2K12, franchises that I have played in the past and enjoyed mildly. Both have much improved solo career campaigns and I have been having a ball with them.

    Pardon the pun. I swear it was unintentional.

  27. cuchufluru says:

    Well i dont think anyone who posted here heard about this game, but its pretty much like a football RPG. Its called football superstars.. Its not really good though hahah

    http://footballsuperstars.com/

    Its actually kinda like an MMORPG, ive always thought the idea was interesting.. but well..

  28. Apocalypse 31 says:

    So….wot weapons are in this game?

  29. Inigo says:

    I seem to remember International Superstar Soccer 2000 for the N64 having an RPG mode as well.

  30. rustybroomhandle says:

    When I first heard the term “fantasy football” I somehow imagined it featuring orcs, elves, etc. Oh well, we’ll always have Blood Bowl.

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