Pip: Adam and Graham, do the football simulators include curve ball physics? I was trying to get to sleep last night and I started wondering if curve ball physics were seen as weird or unfair or OP if they transitioned to games on account of being less predictable than straight shots.
Graham: You can add after touch to shots to curl them in PES or FIFA, but it requires careful aiming on the part of players and is usually limited by the skill of the real life footballer you’re controlling at that moment. The camera angle, because it’s side-on like a television camera, also stops it from being an easy bend-away-from-goalkeeper cheat.
Adam: Going way back, it was the best way to score in Sensible Soccer.
Pip: But people don’t kick off if you use it? What I mean is if curling a ball happens in real life you have to suck it up – okay you might complain but it’s something that physically just happened and you can’t argue that it’s a broken system – but in a game I was wondering if that held or whether it was treated differently.
Graham: I’ve never seen people complain about ball curling in a game. I played against Rich [McCormick – former associate editor at PC Gamer] every lunch time for years and we complained about everything but not that.
Adam: Look at the swerve on these – passes and all – but DEFINITELY mute
Adam: If somebody scored the first goal here against me, I would claim they had hacked the game (again MUTE).
Pip: That’s the sort of thing I mean. Basically it’s about whether, when real physics is translated to the games, do people kick back against “unlikely” things?
Graham: I guess [Rich and I would] maybe complain about what we considered ‘cheat players’? Not that we had done the move, but that Messi in FIFA 13 was capable of it. But then, Messi in real life is also capable of it, so we sorta accepted it and built a structure around that sort of thing. For example, having to select teams randomly so we couldn’t just pick Barcelona every time. Curved shots were less galling to us than people who could score from distance. Ibrahimovic and Eto’o were totes OP.
Adam: There’s a problem in how those things are achieved – in real life, they’re possible but very difficult to pull off. And I don’t think any football game has ever even attempted to simulate the way that a ball is struck in enough detail to make that kind of shot part of the actual player’s skill rather than the in-game footballer’s skill, if that makes sense?
Pip: So how does it actually work?
Adam: There’s an attempt to simulate that kind of stuff at dead ball situations a lot of the time, but during regular play, it’s usually done either by applying a modifier before kicking or through aftertouch, that sort of gives a vague remote control of the ball after it leaves the foot. Like in the SWOS example. So at a freekick you can let the player position a target on the ball to make it curve, much as you’d apply spin to the cueball in a snooker game.
But during play, you’d have to slow the game down – some kind of weird bullet time type of deal – if you wanted to simulate that kind of control. So it tends to be done as a modifier to the shot rather than as an actual physical simulation of where the foot strikes the ball.
Pip: But it’s only available if the game has marked the player as being able to do that IRL?
Graham: Yeah, it’s only available if the player can do it in real life. There’s a lot of lower league minnows in games like FIFA who are full of players that can’t do that sort of thing at all. The ball goes straight no matter how hard the player pushes the sticks.
Adam: One of the biggest problems sports games have is that they’re translating very specific trained motion of various body parts into single actions. So they’re always breaking things down into easily achievable inputs that necessarily ignore what is actually happening.
Graham: What I find interesting about this stuff is that skills players have in real life, when translated into FIFA, often imbalance the game because of other necessary abstractions. So depending on how defending works in a particular iteration, maybe quick strikers, even if they’re just as quick as they are in real life, suddenly become OP within the game.
Representing one thing accurately technically depends on everything else also being accurate, which obviously can’t be the case when, as Adam says, they’re breaking things down into achievable inputs and necessarily simplifying certain things in the process.
Adam: Tennis games are terrible for that. Every type of shot is a discrete function rather than a result of body and racquet position. I’m not saying that makes them bad games! But they’re more like tricked up Pong than attempts to simulate a sport.
Graham: Hence Magic Man Ibra, the pillock.
Pip: Would tennis benefit from an Arkham-style movement flow, I wonder?
Adam: On football, quickly, I always think of this –
Arsene Wenger talking about Messi – in the press conference afterwards he said “Messi is like a playstation”. Which is French for “like a player on FIFA”.
On tennis, I remember Topspin trying to do something more realistic – the Virtual Tennis way is to let the player concentrate on choosing a shot type and starting position, and basically allowing the computer to do the rest. Topspin was really difficult because you had to position yourself and get the timing just right. Sadly, it was very dull.
Pip: Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge…
Graham: I like this excerpt from Andrea Pirlo’s biography, in which he says that he’d always go Barcelona when playing football games. Rather than any of the excellent, successful clubs he ever played for.
“I’d go Barcelona and so would Sandro. Barça v Barça. The first player I’d pick was the quickest one, Samuel Eto’o, but I’d still end up losing a lot of the time. I’d get pissed off and hurl away my controller before asking Sandro for a rematch. And then I’d lose again.”
Fucking Eto’o cheat player.
Adam: What’s interesting about Virtua Tennis (not VIRTUAL sorry) is that it seems to have been constructed from the ground-up with the acceptance that it’s impossible to make the player do everything an actual tennis player does. We can’t think as fast, we can’t react as fast, we can’t read the movement of the ball as well. So they very deliberately just leave a couple of things for the player to do while making sure everything else happens automatically.
John: What’s interesting about Virtua Tennis are those mini-games where you have to hit the big blocks.
Adam: That’s partly because it’s an arcade game but there’s a major design choice right there – which parts of the game are actually fun to do, and which parts can we convince people they’re actually doing. And the big blocks, yes.
Graham: Most sports games are desperately trying to give you the fantasy of playing these sports rather than dealing with the underlying mechanics a lot of the time, but I’d love a Toribash-style turn-based tennis game where you had to position your racket at an angle just so before resuming time and watching the ball respond.
Adam: Any attempt to simulate the underlying mechanics of a sport becomes a comedy physics game.
Graham: As always, a YouTube video that needs muting, but I’d like breakdancing turn-based tennis:
Adam: NBA 2K15 strikes a pretty good balance – there are a lot of controls for body positioning and stuff like that. It’s really hard to understand at first though.
Graham: The person whose head hits the floor first loses, so there’s a clip at the end of that video where one player tears their own head off, throws it high into the air, but then kicks the other person’s head to the ground before theirs falls back down. Oh god, and then they pick up the other player’s removed arm and balanced it on their own empty neck.
Adam: Basketball has really changed.
Graham: So this would make the best tennis game, yeah.