As with all the games in EA Sports Big's Street series, FIFA Street 2 is equal parts style and substance. The original game in the series brought to life the colorful and exciting world of underground street soccer, complete with four-man teams and bicycle kicks galore. With FIFA Street 2, the development team has focused on honing the trick mechanics to an even finer edge, while still retaining that same approachable style that has defined the Street series over the years. For more details on the process of developing FIFA Street 2's gameplay, we went straight to the source--producer Simon Andrews.
GameSpot: How long has FIFA Street 2 been in development, and is it being developed by the same team responsible for FIFA Street?
Simon Andrews: FIFA Street 2 has been in development for a year. The team is in essence the original FIFA Street team but with some major changes. We added a number of people from the NBA Street team to work on key areas of the game, such as gameplay, artificial intelligence, and our single-player rule-the-street mode. We have actually doubled the size of our core AI team for FIFA Street 2 and have had the capacity to completely rewrite our career mode.
GS: Given that the original FIFA Street wasn't particularly well received, what are your main goals for the sequel?
SA: There were a lot of people that really liked the concept of FIFA Street 1, but we realized that we had to make some key improvements for the sequel before adding any new features. In light of this, our main goal has been to address the frustrations and limitations users experienced with the original FIFA Street. Basically, building a really solid foundation for core gameplay was a priority and something we could build on. Specifically, we wanted to improve the AI for both the on-pitch players and the goalkeeper, as well as improve the overall feel of the player with the ball. We wanted to add more depth to the AI, and the game experience overall, and make it more challenging. Another goal was to make defense as much fun as attacking with the ball, so we've made some key improvements there. Other goals included innovative gameplay improvements, such as the ability to real-time juggle the ball, a new "gamebreaker" feature, and a combo-trick system that takes the game further into the arcade realm.
GS: Which of FIFA Street 2's new features should we be getting most excited about?
SA: Juggling is the thing I am most excited about. We wanted to do something new and exciting that hadn't been done before with gameplay this year, so when we extended the trick-stick system, we came up with the idea to give the user the ability to juggle the ball in real time, something not seen before in a soccer game. You can basically move the ball from foot to knee and up to your shoulders and head as you please (even while moving around). You can combine juggle moves with beat moves to juggle the ball over, under, or around your opponent. You also have an arsenal of juggle tricks at your fingertips. Execute a juggle trick by doing "shapes" on the trick stick to pull off some of the coolest moves seen in a soccer game! These moves also have higher trick-point values, so when you start combining juggle moves and tricks in with your regular beat moves, you rack up your combo-point totals and get to a gamebreaker faster. If you have the skill, the sky is the limit!
Building on the juggle system, we have also built a minigame around this feature. Up to eight players can compete for bragging rights by juggling the ball for trick-point totals. By offering a combination of freestyle juggling and prompt-based combos, the game lets you compete against your friends to get your name in the high-scores table. And everything you can do in this game mode can also be done in our core game, so the minigame becomes a great place to perfect your juggling skills.
GS: Can you tell us how the new trick-stick feature is going to work?
SA: Basically, you've got a whole arsenal of tricks and beats at your fingertips. When attacking, you have three to four times the number of tricks you had on FIFA Street 1, using the trick stick and the shoulder buttons. Trick high (over), low (through), left, or right using eight directions, then combine the trick with the left and right triggers for more variety. And now use the trick stick for juggle tricks or juggle beats! You can even catch and pass the ball while you are juggling. On defense, we've mirrored countermoves on the trick stick, so users can defend high, low, left or right. Get it right and steal the ball. Get it almost right and free the ball. You can also use the trick stick, when defending, to slide-tackle your opponent or shoulder-barge him off of the ball.
GS: How many different locations will you be able to play at in FIFA Street 2, and will they be more varied than those in FIFA Street?
SA: We've got 10 new venues in the game this year. They are all vastly visually superior to the venues we had in the game last year. We really wanted to focus on authenticity, so you'll find many of them are real-world venues where people actually play the game. You'll notice they are different sizes, which reflects the real-life venues but also adds a different dynamic to gameplay. Play in a narrow back street and you'll face more one-on-one battles; play on a larger playing surface and the game takes on a more strategic approach that involves more passing between you and your teammates.
We have venues ranging from Barra Beach in Brazil to Lower East Side New York to Westway Sports Centre in London.
GS: We've heard that FIFA Street 2 will also let you create your own pitches. How much freedom will the editor afford you?
SA: This feature is called Pitch Creator. The goal with Pitch Creator was to provide the ability to create your own place to play. We focused the look of the venues on the suburbs of major European cities in terms of artistic theme. You can customize pretty much everything from surrounding buildings to the types of fences you have around the pitch. You can select goal types and even the surface you want to play on, and both of these things affect gameplay. Of course, all of these things allow you to change the textures and colors, giving even more variety. We have over 6,000 unique combinations of "physical" assets, giving over 30,000 combinations with color and texture variants.
GS: How many real teams and players will be in FIFA Street 2, and how do you decide which ones to include?
SA: We have 20 national teams this year, so 320 professional players. We have also added two "Street" teams, comprising the best, real street talent we have worked with, and, last but not least, we have a legends team comprising 16 retired players. You'll be able to play with players like Cantona, Beckenbauer, Gascoigne, and Zico, as well as other legendary stars.
In choosing which players to use in FIFA Street 2, we decided to stick with national teams. The feeling is that national teams evoke passion in people everywhere, so we felt users would always be able to find a team they could associate with. We made a decision not to spread ourselves too thin by trying to put thousands of players in the game, and this allowed us to focus on key improvements and feature additions--basically, things that all users will benefit from. With regard to players, our selection criteria was relatively straightforward. We basically looked at national team players who have a flair for skills with the ball or, ideally, some association with street soccer. We started by looking at the national team rosters but didn't limit ourselves to that.
GS: The goalkeepers in FIFA Street rarely failed to disappoint. How do you plan to improve them for FIFA Street 2?
SA: This is one area we have invested heavily in for FIFA Street 2. First and foremost, we have made the goalkeeper much more intelligent. He behaves like a human, and you'll notice he is a lot more consistent. Taking this a step further, we also wanted to give the user much more control of the goalie. So in FIFA Street 2, you can take control of the keeper and bring him out of the goal to actively engage your opponent defensively! When he has the ball, if you walk him out of his area, he will put the ball down and actually start running with it. You can use the keeper in the same way you can use every other member of your team. You can even take him down the pitch and score with him, if you choose, for the ultimate humiliation of your opponent!
GS: What kind of single-player and multiplayer options will be available? Is there any chance of an enhanced career mode or online play?
SA: First and foremost, FIFA Street is a multiplayer game. It is about competing for bragging rights with your friends. In FIFA Street 2, you will be able to play up to four players in standard gameplay and up to eight players in our juggle minigame, which is turn-based. We haven't forgotten the single-player experience, though. Our single-player rule-the-street (career) mode has been completely rewritten for FIFA Street 2. There is a lot more variety and a lot more depth this year. You'll get to build your character by playing through different skill-based series of events, unlocking cool rewards from players to tricks to venues to clothing. Become good enough and build your own venue and team. You'll have to deal with player rivalries as a team captain and keep your guys happy en route to international glory. We've also added a cool feature whereby you can have a friend help you out on your rule-the-street journey.
GS: Finally, if you could offer one piece of advice to someone about to play FIFA Street 2 for the first time, what would it be?
SA: Stock the fridge, get the beers in, and invite your friends over!