FIFA Soccer 08 Producer Q&A
We talk to EA producer Tim Tschirner about the Wii version of FIFA Soccer 08. First screens inside.
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In our initial look at FIFA Soccer 08 for the Nintendo Wii, we introduced some of the new features and controls that will be part of the game. However, one of things we didn't know is that the game will be the first EA Sports game to introduce Nintendo Mii characters into gameplay, particularly the party games included with the game. To celebrate this fact, the producers behind the game have included one of the most recognizable soccer stars in the world--FC Barcelona's own Ronaldinho--as a Mii in the game. You'll be going up against Ronaldinho Mii in the various minigames in footii party mode. To get more details on this mode, the Ronaldinho Mii, and how the game is coming along, we spoke with FIFA 08 Wii producer Tim Tschirner.
GameSpot: Before we talk "football," let's talk American football. EA Sports debuted on the Nintendo Wii last year with Madden NFL 07. Did you have much interaction with the team behind that game, and if so, what kind of lessons learned have been brought to the development of FIFA Soccer 08 for Wii?
Tim Tschirner: Before we started development, we spent quite a bit of time with the members of the Madden NFL 07 Wii team. They had a lot of great information to share with us, both on the design side and the technical side. On the design side, we were able to take away a lot of invaluable information around gestures; for example, what worked well, what didn't work so well, things they tried that weren't feasible, etc. On the technical side, we were able to share quite a bit of their low-level code and libraries.
GS: When we saw the game in May, the control scheme wasn't finalized yet. Have there been any important changes to the controls in the game since then that we should know about?
TT: We have a really cool feature that we have added to the game since I first showed you FIFA Soccer 08 on the Wii in May. At this point, I am not able to go into more details other than to say we have created an innovative new way to play the game, and it's especially great if you're new to FIFA or want to play with or against someone who doesn't know the game or the sport as well. It will allow players of all skill levels to play together and share the experience.
Some other additions to the controls that I can go into details on are directional passes and directional player switching. Regular passes are executed by pressing the A button; if you hold down the A button, you can do a gesture in one of the four main directions (up, down, left, or right) and the player will pass in that direction. To switch players on defense, you also use the A button; if you hold down the A button and do a gesture, it will switch to the player that is positioned in that direction. In addition to using the A button and a gesture, you can use the D pad. The directional passing also works for through-passes by holding down the B button and then doing a gesture. We also integrated functionality to curve the ball by twisting the Wii Remote to the left or right when you flick upward to take a shot.
GS: Did the team ever come up with any strange or unusual control ideas that didn't make their way into the game?
TT: At the beginning of development, we discussed the idea of attaching the Wii Remote to your foot to execute passes and shots that way. We constructed a prototype by taking a sock and sewing a pocket to the side that housed the Wii Remote. While it worked technically (it detected passes and shots accurately), it felt really awkward to stand up and take kicks into the air. In addition, your knees and ankles would start hurting after a while, so in the end, we abandoned the idea.
GS: Miis will make their EA Sports debut in FIFA Soccer 08. Why choose this game, and what will you be able to do with Miis in the game?
TT: Miis will be integrated in a couple of different places in FIFA Soccer 08. In the regular game, we show you which gestures and actions you performed (for example, a through-pass, a slide tackle, etc.) during gameplay, and the head of the Mii that you selected will be shown beside the text. We also show you at halftime and at the end of the game how well you performed (how many shots you took, how many of your passes were successful, etc.), and in those places, the Mii heads appear again. We also created a unique new game mode called "footii party with Ronaldinho" in which you can use Miis as playable characters.
GS: How will Miis work into the party game modes? What kind of games can you play in this mode?
TT: Footii Party offers three party games: Table Soccer, Boot It, and a party game right now we are tentatively calling Keep Up. Table Soccer allows you to play a game of foosball, Boot It is a fast-paced game where you take turns shooting the ball at the goalie, and Keep Up is a game where you juggle the ball and try to keep it in the air. Each game supports up to four players and can only be played with the Wii Remote. Every player can select his or her own Mii, and in Keep Up and Boot It, the Miis are fully 3D playable characters. We keep high scores and an all-time "party rating" for each Mii that participated in the mode. We also track some more unique stats, such as how many calories you burned while playing.
GS: The party game modes in Madden 07 were useful for teaching you how to play the game. Can we expect the same thing in FIFA 08, and can you give us an example or two?
TT: We designed the party games in FIFA Soccer 08 to be a very unique experience, and they are not related to the main gameplay. While the three games are all soccer-themed, we wanted them to be very accessible pick-up-and-play experiences that anyone can enjoy. We do, however, have a very extensive tutorial mode called "soccer academy," which has over 30 interactive tutorials that teach you all the basic and advanced controls. We also show you how to perform gestures and actions during gameplay. For example, if you get to your first throw-in, you'll see onscreen help for how to perform the throw-in gesture, and you can even jump to the soccer academy from there, practice the gesture, and then jump back to gameplay.
GS: You're announcing the in-game Ronaldinho Mii today. How did that come about, and did Ronaldinho have any input into how his Mii looked?
TT: Ronaldinho was the logical choice when we designed the footii party mode, and we wanted a fun and entertaining way to capture the spirit of the mode. He definitely had input into how he looked, and he's quite satisfied with the final look. An interesting fact is that technically he's not a Mii--he's such a unique character that we couldn't create him using the Mii channel. So we came up with our own model that looks close to what regular Miis look like.
GS: Does the Ronaldinho Mii have any special abilities that regular players won't have?
TT: We haven't quite finalized the details around this yet, but he'll definitely have some tricks up his sleeve.
GS: Will there be other soccer star Miis in the game?
TT: Ronaldinho is the only one in this year's game.
GS: Right now, Miis seem to be exclusive to the party mode games in FIFA 08. Is this just the beginning for the series, or do you think the Miis will only be tied to this mode in the future?
TT: While the Miis as playable characters are exclusive to the footii party game mode, you'll be able to select Miis to represent you in the main game as well. At this point, it's too early to speculate where we'll be able to go with this in future.
GS: Finally, how many Miis have you created on your personal Wii? Anyone famous or interesting?
TT: I've created about 30 Miis on my personal Wii. Most of them are friends and family (many of them actually created themselves), and I'm a big U2 fan, so I created the four band members. I also have a lot of Miis sitting in the Mii Parade that came over from friends' Wiis.