With Nintendo finally announcing that the Wii U will ship in the U.S. on Nov. 18 ($299 basic, $349 deluxe), it’s time to get down and dirty on the details for one of the most anticipated sports games for the new system, “FIFA 13.”
“There’s definitely a learning curve when playing our game on the Wii U because of the controller,” says “FIFA” producer Matt Prior as he sits down to demo the game, showing off all the ways EA Sports incorporated Nintendo’s innovative touch screen. “Everyone who plays the game ends up staring at the screen on their controller, forgetting to look up at the TV. Eventually, the novelty wears off, and you want to use the touch screen as a point of reference while playing from the TV.”
Prior is right, as I spent the first half of my first game forgetting to even look at the big-screen television in front of my face because I was so distracted watching the game play out on the 6-inch touch screen in my hands.
“It’s designed so you can glance back and forth,” says Prior. "But any time something new comes out like this, you want to use the new technology. Our goal is for you to use the new tech to enhance the experience, not become the experience.”
ESPN Playbook: Why should “FIFA” fans who already play the game on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 make the switch and play on Wii U?
Matt Prior: It remains to be seen if they will make the switch, but the system on its own is going to open up the world of “FIFA” to a lot more casual gamers, potentially. We know that there are a lot of people out there who love soccer but are a bit hesitant to get into “FIFA” because they’re not gamers, and they’re intimidated by the controls and all the buttons. But what the Wii U does, it enables us to embrace those fans because the touch screen is such a universal device now, people aren’t scared by touch screens. So that allows people a way into “FIFA,” because now dad, who might not be a twitch gamer, can sit back and control the game with the touch screen. So I’m hoping the Wii U brings a lot of new people to “FIFA” who might have been scared off before.
What’s the best feature in “FIFA” for the Wii U that you can’t get on the other systems?
I really like everything we put in, to be honest, but one of the biggest "wow" moments for people when they first see the hardware is to use the controller for the set pieces. You can actually use your controller to turn and look around the stadium and everything around you. It’s a window into the world that you can’t find anywhere else. Using the controller, you’re also able to shake and shoot. Using the touch screen, where you tap is where you shoot, and people find that a lot more rewarding than simply pressing a button. If you tap the upper-right corner and then score, you feel more like you did it.
How do you use the touch screen to handle managerial decisions in the game?
Again, this is embracing the casual gamers and people who love soccer but who aren’t twitch gamers. Now if you’re sitting on the couch with your friend and he’s playing the game, you can help manage the game, calling for substitutions and using the touch screen to send players on a run. The level of interaction is up to you. Even if you’re just playing a single-player game, you can go in and use the touch screen to man mark and call in a second defender. It’s like you’re using the controller to yell at your players, but you’re using your fingers to send them where you want to go.
How many people can play at one time?
Four players and one manager, so five people can play at one time. We’ve had a lot of fun testing it, because with that many people, there is a lot of back and forth interaction. Online, we’re also aiming for 5 vs. 5, with four players and one manager, but I can’t confirm that right now. It’s something we’re testing. Hopefully frame rates hold out. Technically we can do it, but obviously we want to make sure we maintain the fluid 60 frames per second.
What is it about the Wii U that you think puts it over the top in terms of “FIFA” gaming?
It gives you an opportunity to play “FIFA” like never before. A game on the Wii U is a much more flowing, immersive game because you never need to pause the game anymore. There is all this functionality on the Wii U that is also in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, but you probably don’t even use it because you have to pause the game and go through menus to change everything, and it really breaks the flow of the game. Now you have all this manager control in the palm of your hands, and it’s a much more fluid experience. Add in the controllability of passing and shooting on the touch screen, and there are a lot of things you can do in the Wii U version that you can’t get anywhere else, and that makes playing it a very different experience as a result.