Averaging more than 3 million online games played daily, "FIFA 10" is the most competitive virtual sport in the world. So it's no surprise that EA Sports is ready to capitalize on the game's popularity (and potential profits) by releasing "FIFA 10 Ultimate Team" a new downloadable mode exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
For those who didn't play the surprisingly popular "Ultimate Team" last year (the mode sold in the hundreds of thousands, according to EA), "FIFA's" line producer, Paul Hossack, describes it as "an extension to 'FIFA 10' that gives you a whole new way to play." To be more precise, gamers are putting together teams by collecting players, then trying to find the right combination of skill and chemistry to build the best lineup.
Says Hossack: "You begin building through a starter pack of players, and then as you play, you can buy more packs and acquire new players. The more you play, the more you'll start to acquire better guys, then you can go into the auction system and trade with the ultimate goal to build the 'Ultimate Team.'
"But the whole goal isn't just about finding the best guys," Hossack explains. "You get a good boost if you have players with chemistry. If they're playing the right positions, in the right formations, or beside other players who they're used to playing with. So with 'Ultimate Team,' there's this real neat idea that you're not just going into 'FIFA' and trying to collect the highest rated players. This is my own personal take on what the best team is."
The new mode will be available to download on February 25 for 400 Microsoft points or $4.99. Until then, here's the full scoop on what you can expect.
Jon Robinson: What advancements in the mode have been made for "FIFA 10 Ultimate Team?"
Paul Hossack: Thanks to all of the feedback we got from those who played last year, we decided to focus on making sure the game was not only authentic, but we wanted to provide a longer experience. So this year, there's more to play. We've really increased the number of players and leagues available -- now we have 29 leagues and over 7,500 players. This really helps people build the team they want. Sometimes last year, people couldn't build the teams they were looking for because, for example, we didn't have the players from the Portuguese leagues or the Dutch league, so by including all of these leagues and players, it really provides a lot more flexibility.
We've also added a lot to the chemistry system this year. We know that chemistry was something that really made the experience fun last year, so now we went and improved on the system, really focusing now on the chemistry between the players. Now, based on every single formation, there's different links that can happen between the different players based on who is close to you. So you can end up having a real strong right side to your formation because your right back, your right mid, and your right striker are all from the same country or play in the same league or even the same club. That makes things a lot more flexible than last year when it comes to building a team.
We've also done a lot of work on managing your team. Last year, you could only have one Ultimate Team, one squad, but this year you can build up to 15 squads. This makes it really fun because you can make your gold squad, then make another one that is a slight variation to that where you try out some different formations. Then you might have another squad that is just all bronze players that you take into some other tournaments where you see who can create the best bronze team. And that gets down to the competing side of the game where we put a lot of emphasis on the tournaments this year. Now we have a different coin payout depending on which round of the tournament you're in, and that changes by tournament, so some tournaments will be more exciting than others. We also have a team of the tournament bonus for the best team in the finals, and that will have a nice payout -- could be over 1,000 coins in some of these tournaments. We will also have entrance criteria for some tournaments. Earlier I mentioned the bronze team, and you might wonder, why would you do that, but we will have tournaments where you can only use bronze players or you can only use silver players or you have to play with at least five guys from the same country. This is all based on playing last year and listening to feedback. People loved putting different teams together, so we wanted to give them more reasons to build more teams.
Robinson: Are there also going to be leaderboards attached to the game that rank the best teams?
Hossack: We actually don't have leaderboards in the game this year, and while it might seem counterintuitive, the feedback we got last year is that leaderboards are neat for the top hundred players, it actually had a negative effect because a lot of players were quitting matches just to protect their ranking. Nothing frustrates someone more than being up by a couple of goals and your opponent just quits. We've also done something else to make sure people quit less often. This year, there's a reliability multiplier in the game so if you start quitting matches, you will make less coins in your next match and your matches going forward. So there's a big bonus for you if you complete your matches because if you start quitting them, you're going to feel a penalty for that game and for multiple games going forward.
Robinson: As someone who helped design the experience, what's the best strategy for people to use when trying to build their teams?
Hossack: This is such a good question because so many people just try to rush in and collect the stars they know of, but the thing I'll say, especially about this year's Ultimate Team, is that it's all about chemistry. To me, the strategy is to see who you get to start, and then start building around that. You can quickly go into some lower level tournaments, win some coins, and build up that way, but all along as you build, you really want to pay attention to the chemistry. And we made some great little changes to the chemistry system. Last year, if you had a right back who preferred playing in a 4-4-1-1 and you put him in a 4-4-2, you would have no formation chemistry. But this year, you'll get some chemistry because for a right back, that's almost the same position.
Another thing I'll mention is that if your right side has earned a lot of chemistry and your left side just doesn't have much, the right side is going to play better. So when you get onto the pitch, definitely know that and push the ball up the right side because those guys will have better passing, better runs, better trapping, and better shots.
Robinson: Were you surprised by how many people played "Ultimate Team" last year? Obviously, "FIFA" is popular, but I don't think anyone could've guessed how many people would pay five bucks for a single add-on.
Hossack: It surprised us, in all honesty, just how many people played. What was really neat is that you really don't know how it will perform until you throw something like this out into the wild. You never know what people will love about the game, and last year it was the auction system that people really loved. So we went ahead and made some little tweaks to the auction system this year that I think are going to be really fun. Last year, if you bid on a player and then somebody else put their bid in at the last second, they would get the player and you wouldn't even get a chance to react. There might not be another version of that player coming back in the auction for four hours and you just lost out on the one guy you really wanted. You were stuck. So now, anytime there is a bid on auction in the last 15 seconds, we reset the timer and add 15 seconds. So it turns into more of a live auction feel at the end, because now if someone out-bids you, you still have 15 seconds to up your bid a bit more and see if you can get the player you were looking for. We know people love the auction system, so we were just looking for ways to help players have more fun with it and not feel so frustrated because they missed out on what they truly wanted for their team.
Robinson: Has the training been tweaked at all? Last year there were a lot of teams being made with 99-rated no-name players.
Hossack: The training is something that we actually changed quite a bit from last year. Like you said, last year, with the training items, you could train a player up to 99-rated player, and that could be some nobody player. So half the teams you'd meet online would have all these superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, and the other teams you'd meet would be all 99-rated players of nobodies. So this year, training applies to your next match, but it's only temporary. After that next match, you player comes right back down to his original rating. We're pretty excited about this because the feedback we received is that the best players in the world should be the best players in the game. You shouldn't have Joe Nobody be better than Cristiano Ronaldo.