FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup Q&A

EA Sports producer Danny Isaac answers questions about the Xbox 360's first soccer game.

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A little more than a month after the arrival of FIFA 06 for current-generation systems, EA Sports is releasing the Xbox 360-exclusive FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup. As its title suggests, the Xbox 360 game will focus solely on international teams and, more specifically, on the World Cup qualification process. Question is, will the game be worth buying if you've already invested in a copy of FIFA 06? EA Sports producer Danny Isaac gave us his opinion on that and several other questions when we had an opportunity to quiz him recently.

GameSpot: How long has FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup been in development, and how are you finding working with the Xbox 360?

Danny Isaac: We started working on the next generation of FIFA in June of 2004 with our initial planning and design ideas. Working with the Xbox 360 has been great; Microsoft has been very helpful, and the machine itself is a great piece of equipment in my opinion.

GS: What are your goals for the Xbox 360 game in relation to the versions of FIFA 06 that were released for other platforms earlier this year?

One of the development team's goals was to really bring players like Davids to life.
One of the development team's goals was to really bring players like Davids to life.

DI: The goal of the Xbox 360 version of FIFA was to focus on the characters within the sport and really bring them to life. With the extra graphical fidelity and the extra memory that the X360 provided, we were able to focus on capturing the passion of soccer. Of course, the graphics are only part of the story, and we knew we couldn't let them get in the way of gameplay, the very top priority for FIFA. With this in mind, we've added many new animations, as well as worked hard to maintain a smooth gameplay experience while the game runs at 60fps.

GS: Has the Xbox 360 hardware let you implement any features that simply weren't possible on other consoles?

DI: Absolutely. We have a very cool feature that lets us play in a practice arena while the game is loading in the background. This is great because it lets you get used to the controls and the new shooting, passing, and crossing mechanics in a hassle-free environment, while the game loads in the background. This sort of functionality just isn't possible on the current-generation consoles.

GS: Will FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup take advantage of the Xbox 360's hard drive in any way?

DI: Currently, we use the hard drive for save games. Because the hard drive wasn't standard, we didn't want to invest in hard drive-required features. Once we see how the ratio of hard drives to boxes over the next few months is, we'll see whether we'll focus on this for future versions of FIFA.

GS: Would you say it's easier or more difficult to create player likenesses on the Xbox 360 than on current-gen consoles, given that expectations are much higher?

DI: It's definitely more difficult. The problem with the human face is the closer you try to duplicate it, the more we recognize it as not being quite right; this is especially true with computer graphics. Of course, character likeness is made even more difficult when you create a product such as FIFA, due to the vast number of heads you have to re-create. In this iteration of FIFA we have more than 350, all built by hand using reference photographs. Compare this to films, which may have a handful of characters and are able to render their scenes over a number of days, if not weeks, and can still not get it quite right--you can understand how complex the problem can be. Overall though, on FIFA, I believe the artists, engineers, and animators have done a fantastic job.

GS: Besides the visuals, what existing features of FIFA 06 can we expect to improve on with the Xbox 360? Will the commentary be more varied or accurate, for example?

DI: The commentary system has been rebuilt completely from scratch. This is no small task, because the previous system had been developed over a number of years. This new system lets us have much more control over the context of the commentary, which makes the commentators sound more intelligent and relevant. We're also working with a new commentary team: Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, both veterans of soccer broadcasting in the UK.

We've also invested in a new user interface system that gives you much more control over your formation and tactics in-game and has a great little feature that lets you request substitutions while the ball is in play, so at the next stoppage you can make changes to your team without having to go through the pause menu.

GS: Why a "Road to FIFA World Cup" game? Does that title mean that the game will feature only international teams?

Road to FIFA World Cup features only international teams.
Road to FIFA World Cup features only international teams.

DI: We knew it would be important to focus to get the very best out of the title and the machine. With our exclusive FIFA license and the impending competition in Germany, it felt like a perfect fit. We have concentrated on international teams and their qualification for the FIFA World Cup; this extra focus has let us make certain player likenesses, kits, and stadiums as strong as possible.

GS: Will the Xbox 360 game retain the FIFA Lounge mode, which was a great feature of this year's console versions of FIFA 06?

DI: We were unable to implement the FIFA Lounge this year. It was fully designed out and ready to go, but the launch date and our schedule never quite aligned and unfortunately, I had to make the hard call not to develop this one. We did make sure that we have multiplayer features in our other game modes--both the Road to FIFA World Cup mode and custom tournaments can support multiple players.

GS: Does FIFA 06: Road to the World Cup include any all-new gameplay modes, either offline or online?

DI: The big new addition is the Road to FIFA World Cup mode itself. You and up to three of your friends can take part in this mode and qualify for the World Cup competition in Germany. The mode also lets you take part in minitournaments during your campaign, as well as pick opponents for friendly matches.

GS: Do you think that FIFA 06: Road to the World Cup is worth buying for players who've already invested in a copy of FIFA 06, and why?

DI: Absolutely. This is a different game and really shows off the power of the Xbox 360. The improved animations and 60fps frame rate give smooth responsive controls, while the graphical fidelity, extra motion, and improved physics show off character differentiation and style not seen on the current-generation platforms. The new user interface system works really well and opens up options that will benefit the more strategic player, and of course, the whole game just looks really, really cool!

GS: Thanks for your time.

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