RPS Chat: Curve Balls And Cheat Claims In Football Games

A jolly sportsman

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

Pip: Hehehe.

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.


  1. latedave says:

    I recall one of the FIFA games being completely broken on aftertouch where the slightest hint would send the opposition goalkeeper into comedy dives, maybe 05 or 06

  2. Zankman says:

    “As always, a YouTube video that needs muting, ”

    Totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but, man, what an annoying thing to say.

    • Noc says:

      In the context of conversation, though, it’s pretty clearly “cool videos with unnecessary, grating music slathered over them” rather than some kinda gross “YouTubers are dumb and should never talk” sentiment, though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:


      It was the third video in a row with music we were going to recommend muting.

  3. Lacero says:

    The dead staring eyes of the jolly sportsman

  4. melnificent says:

    “Every type of shot is a discrete function rather than a result of body and racquet position.”

    Wii Sports Tennis was a result of racquet position and player movement in the real world. There was another one, whose name escapes me, that used the nun-chuk to move your player making your shots, volleys and returns based on body, racquet and technique.

    These are outliers though as the movement mechanic was obviously primary consideration.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      The basic Wii sports tennis took almost no account of the position of the player. All you had to do was flick the wiimote and it would take a shot. They could have replaced it with a button and had the same effect.
      Of course, you could flail your arms around, and it still worked, but it’s easier to sit down and just move the wiimote just enough to trigger the action.

  5. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    What is it with football compilations and terrible, terrible music? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with even tolerable music.

  6. Valkyr says:

    I love how John suddenly appears to say nothing interesting on the subject.

  7. Moth Bones says:

    Friend of mine used to participate in an online PES league that had house rules on what were regarded as the most egregiously ‘broken’ bits of the game. For instance, they had a ‘no cutbacks’ rule because on that version cutbacks were a ridiculously easy way to take defenders out of the game and leave your attacker with a tap-in. They also had an upper skill limit on teams/players that could be selected, so no Messi, Ronaldo etc. Putting extravagant curve on a ball was never an issue though.

  8. Andy_Panthro says:

    I’ve been playing PES2015 recently, and even though I can’t manage to get any curve on the ball most of the time, I do enjoy it. It helps that the game feels basically the same as it did back in the Playstation 1 era, just with extra bells and whistles on top.

    The MyClub bit is bollocks though.

  9. draglikepull says:

    EA’s NHL games really changed things in this regard when they started letting you use the right analog stick to actually control the player’s hockey stick. So on offence if you push the stick left, the player will pull the puck left. If you pull back and then slam the stick forward, the player will take a slap shot (and the speed with which you push forward affects how hard the shot is). That really did a lot to make it feel like you were actually in control of the motions rather than just pressing a button and letting the game do the rest.

  10. blind_boy_grunt says:

    i tend to think sport games are about simulating players not simulating physics, i doubt any of them think for a moment about how to position their body, their racket etc., this is something that comes from training and repetititon. They think about where to go, what is the best shot to play in the given circumstances etc.

  11. Smeghead says:

    Heh – I can’t count the number of hours of fun and swearing I had with my mates and Sensi Soccer. Without aftertouch, it would have been a bland, speccy-era footy game.

    Scoring directly from a corner was a fun, instantaneous way to turn the air blue. :)