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NEW XAOR's Cave: Lack of BALANCE IN FIFA14. MUST Read. (PART 1)  XML
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It’s been over three weeks since the release of FIFA 14, and with the release of the second patch - which included numerous changes intended to improve balance - it's time to review just that. I can sum up my feelings on balance easily - FIFA 14 doesn't have a good balance, and it is seriously jeopardising my enjoyment of the game. In a two parter, I'm going to talk about balance in general, FIFA 14's balance, and what needs to be done to get us out of the rut we've been in for far too long.

For all of the substantial improvements EA have brought to FIFA this year, it simply hasn't summed to a better experience than what we had with FIFA 13. That isn't said to praise FIFA 13's balance - to the contrary, the balance has been poor since at least FIFA 09 - but to highlight my feelings that the quality of the balance right now is severely below poor. That sense of things contrasts greatly with that of an EA developer, Gilliard Lopes who tweeted the following prior to the second patch’s release:

“Balancing: the game is very well tuned already, but we are improving it even more based on feedback incl. headers and finesse shots”

Whether or not this represents the general feeling amongst EA developers - Gilliard's twitter page disclaims that his tweets express his opinions, not those of his employer - it's still very interesting. To me, the idea that FIFA 14 is 'very well tuned' is hard to swallow, and the patch, meant to improve it 'even more' hasn't made that much of a difference.

Before I get into the major issues with FIFA 14’s balance, there are a few things worth saying. Firstly, I play primarily online on Seasons, Co-Op Seasons, and in Clubs. What I feel about this game derives primarily from my experience of those three modes, and I respect that the game plays very differently in other environments - against friends locally, against the CPU and so on. Secondly, I’m sure some people’s opinions differ dramatically to mine - balance is a fairly subjective issue - but I have seen a lot more complaints about balance this year than usual, so hopefully I can go some way to explain that.

Finally, I’d like to ground this discussion by defining balance. Balance is variously defined by gamers, it has very different meanings for different genres of games, and there is no true definition to refer to. When I’m looking at FIFA 14’s balance, I’m looking at it from three broad perspectives - strategy, skill, and realism.

For me, strategic balance is really about three things: providing a variety of viable strategies, ensuring that no particular strategy is dominant, and hopefully crafting an experience where strategy is very much a game in itself - we should be heavily considering the way our opponent plays and attempting to outwit them with better strategy, not playing every game in a similar manner.

The skill balance is a totally different concept. It's about how much of the game is under user control - so we aren't passengers in the experience, and about ensuring that there is a good balance between risk and reward, as well as between difficulty and effectiveness. In a nutshell, achieving a good skill balance is all about ensuring that the game is "easy to play", but "hard to master".

Finally, the realism perspective is one which is crucial for a sports simulation. We are, presumably, all football fans and therefore we all have a fair bit of experience watching the game being played. When we play FIFA, we want to be noticing the very same phenomena, and it will always be difficult for us to accept things happening in the game which are blatantly unrealistic. Regardless of how well the balance may hold up in the first two respects, we play FIFA because we want a game which acts as an extension to the sport we love.

Now these three perspectives are distinct. A game can do well in one area but not in another. You could have a game which was well balanced strategically but in a way which had little to do with real football (the reverse isn’t so true - a truly realistic football simulation would have emergent strategic qualities). Similarly, you could have a very realistic simulation which wasn’t enjoyable to play because the player's level of control was minimal.

So that's how I'm looking at balance - and in my mind this definition is broad enough to explain all of the major issues with balance. So how does this all apply to FIFA 14? Well, for the remainder of this article I'm going to talk about strategic balance, leaving the skill and realism balance 'til part 2. I apologise to anyone who read the demo review I wrote a few weeks back: some of this will seem like repetition.

It is incredibly noticeable that, when you're playing online, most players have a very repetitive style of play and that furthermore, most players play the game in exactly the same way. FIFA 14's gameplay is balanced such that there is one general strategy which is both easier to pull off and more effective than any other. More or less, it can be summed up as: defend deep, press hard, attack fast.

In terms of attacking, it's all about the counter. Get the ball with your defenders or keeper, and fire the ball forwards to an attacker. If the pass is successful, you'll likely be in a fair bit of space with one or two attackers. From there, initiate a run via the player-run-trigger or a one-two, and try a throughball. If the throughball comes off, move towards goal. If you have more than one player goalside of the defence, pass across. If not, attempt a finesse shot.

That all sounds like an oversimplification, but it really isn't. That pretty accurately sums up a lot of the players online who do this for a large proportion of the game to great effect. It works for one simple reason - the two points in the attack which could go wrong don't go wrong nearly enough. The pass from the defence to attack is often guaranteed because there is almost always at least one attacker in so much space they won't be challenged for the ball. The throughball, or ball over the top, is not only "good enough" far too often, but is often inch perfect, beautifully rolling into the path of the attacker, not even causing them to break stride.

Two issues - passing accuracy and defensive AI - are culpable for the over-effectiveness of this strategy. Assisted passes, particularly airborne ones, are still far too accurate in FIFA, and everyone knows it. It's very hard, on this evidence, to remember that EA implemented Pro Passing in FIFA 11 to solve the very issues that are so prevalent four years later.

As for the defensive AI, it fails in its lackadaisical marking, it’s ability to cover, and it’s ability to play a decent offside trap. EA have improved the defensive AI this year, but it hasn't proven to be enough. I hope they’ll continue with it next year, and if they do, improving the AI of the actual defenders - the center backs and full backs - should be the focus. Deeper intelligence, allowing them to cope better with turnovers in possession, and greater cohesion, allowing them to work as a team to cover runs and to play an offside trap, is crucial.

In terms of defensive strategy, I said that it tends to revolve around defending deep and pressing hard, even if it does sound like a contradiction of sorts. Generally speaking, the telltale signs of this strategy are a defensive mentality and formation (like those with two defensive midfielders). With a deep, packed defence, you can rely on the defensive AI to the point where you can almost let it do the work for itself. That's where the pressing comes in - by constantly pressing the ball carrier with the midfielders, you can make it incredibly hard for your opponent to play, while not having to worry about the gaps you might be leaving behind. Simply run a player at the ball carrier at all times - you'll gain back possession in no time. Low risk - high reward.

The effectiveness of pressing is such that it becomes nearly impossible to play around and through the packed defence, and this is all about tackling mechanics. Like passing, FIFA's tackling mechanics have been a sorespot for a long time. They were justifiably complained about during the legacy defending period where players defended by holding two buttons and watching their players turn into homing missiles, and it is equally justifiable to complain about the mechanics in tactical defending with the overly automated contain function, and the flagrantly overpowered auto-tackles.

The major issue with auto-tackles is that they are far, far too accurate. Consider how often you actually see an auto-tackle miss, consider how often the auto-tackle causes a foul, consider how often an auto-tackle actually causes you to get beaten - practically never, right? That’s the issue in a nutshell. FIFA’s defenders auto-tackle at a sizable radius and with impossibly good reaction speeds. They will quite regularly snap the ball away from you as if they absolutely knew what you were about to do, and where the ball was about to go. What this leads to is a situation where tackling is almost all about proximity, and where people are hugely encouraged to run straight towards the ballcarrier without a great deal of thought.

Personally, even though we had a significant defensive revamp with FIFA 12 and Tactical Defending, I’d be hoping for another with FIFA 15. The tackling is one problem with defending which could probably be solved within the current paradigm, but there are many more issues in terms of how we control the defence that deserve a look in too (I will follow this comment up in future - been meaning to do so for ages).

The most important thing about the effectiveness of the attacking and defensive strategies (counterattacking & defending deep + pressing hard) is how well they complement each other. The very fact that you can attack so successfully with just two or three players, and that you can go from defensive to attack without needing to go through the midfield, means that attacking is no harder if you're defending with seven men than it would be otherwise. Best of all, the more your opponent pushes forwards to try and pin you back, the easier it becomes to counter them. In comparison to real life, in precisely the situation where one team would be dominating possession because the other was struggling to get it away, those defense-to-attack pinpoint passes make all the difference.

The sheer dominance of this way of playing makes for a game which simply isn’t that enjoyable to play and certainly isn’t that realistic. It’s incredibly tedious to play a game where you know exactly what your opponent is going to do, but one where you can’t actually do much to prevent it. A few times a match, any half decent player will be able to produce a golden chance if they construct every attack around two passes. It's a hit & hope approach where the hope can be replaced with confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone plays like this, nor that anyone plays like this 100% of the time - but it is an increasingly large number of people doing it for an increasingly large proportion of each match. When you think about it, that’s really sad, because FIFA's current balance reduces the hugely tactical game that is football to a shallow farce. It's sadder still that the dominant strategy is one that rarely produces good football. FIFA has been oriented around end-to-end counter and pressure since FIFA 09, and it's now surely time for a change.

It won't be easy. The strategic balance issues are underpinned by major gameplay mechanics like tackling, passing, and defensive AI, and so tweaks simply won't cut it. But that doesn't change the fact that strategic balance should be a top gameplay priority for EA going forward. Instead of making changes and hoping things fall into place, EA have got to start designing changes with the absolute intent of shifting the balance towards more thoughtful football - the first step towards this is recognising that there is a problem in the first place.

Retrieved from: http://news.futhead. com/posts/xaors-cave/26000-xaors-cave-lets-talk-balance-part-1

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 20/10/2013 05:17:35


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Xoars Borener

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john_wisdom wrote:Xoars Borener



Because it's long?

Everything he says in this article is right.


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Great post. Hope EA are taking the time to read some of the more well-thought-out comments in this forum like yours and make this the game we all know it can be.


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yeah, hits it


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juicemunki wrote:
john_wisdom wrote:Xoars Borener



Because it's long?

Everything he says in this article is right.

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Jacob_45Boss wrote:It’s been over three weeks since the release of FIFA 14, and with the release of the second patch - which included numerous changes intended to improve balance - it's time to review just that. I can sum up my feelings on balance easily - FIFA 14 doesn't have a good balance, and it is seriously jeopardising my enjoyment of the game. In a two parter, I'm going to talk about balance in general, FIFA 14's balance, and what needs to be done to get us out of the rut we've been in for far too long.

For all of the substantial improvements EA have brought to FIFA this year, it simply hasn't summed to a better experience than what we had with FIFA 13. That isn't said to praise FIFA 13's balance - to the contrary, the balance has been poor since at least FIFA 09 - but to highlight my feelings that the quality of the balance right now is severely below poor. That sense of things contrasts greatly with that of an EA developer, Gilliard Lopes who tweeted the following prior to the second patch’s release:

“Balancing: the game is very well tuned already, but we are improving it even more based on feedback incl. headers and finesse shots”

Whether or not this represents the general feeling amongst EA developers - Gilliard's twitter page disclaims that his tweets express his opinions, not those of his employer - it's still very interesting. To me, the idea that FIFA 14 is 'very well tuned' is hard to swallow, and the patch, meant to improve it 'even more' hasn't made that much of a difference.

Before I get into the major issues with FIFA 14’s balance, there are a few things worth saying. Firstly, I play primarily online on Seasons, Co-Op Seasons, and in Clubs. What I feel about this game derives primarily from my experience of those three modes, and I respect that the game plays very differently in other environments - against friends locally, against the CPU and so on. Secondly, I’m sure some people’s opinions differ dramatically to mine - balance is a fairly subjective issue - but I have seen a lot more complaints about balance this year than usual, so hopefully I can go some way to explain that.

Finally, I’d like to ground this discussion by defining balance. Balance is variously defined by gamers, it has very different meanings for different genres of games, and there is no true definition to refer to. When I’m looking at FIFA 14’s balance, I’m looking at it from three broad perspectives - strategy, skill, and realism.

For me, strategic balance is really about three things: providing a variety of viable strategies, ensuring that no particular strategy is dominant, and hopefully crafting an experience where strategy is very much a game in itself - we should be heavily considering the way our opponent plays and attempting to outwit them with better strategy, not playing every game in a similar manner.

The skill balance is a totally different concept. It's about how much of the game is under user control - so we aren't passengers in the experience, and about ensuring that there is a good balance between risk and reward, as well as between difficulty and effectiveness. In a nutshell, achieving a good skill balance is all about ensuring that the game is "easy to play", but "hard to master".

Finally, the realism perspective is one which is crucial for a sports simulation. We are, presumably, all football fans and therefore we all have a fair bit of experience watching the game being played. When we play FIFA, we want to be noticing the very same phenomena, and it will always be difficult for us to accept things happening in the game which are blatantly unrealistic. Regardless of how well the balance may hold up in the first two respects, we play FIFA because we want a game which acts as an extension to the sport we love.

Now these three perspectives are distinct. A game can do well in one area but not in another. You could have a game which was well balanced strategically but in a way which had little to do with real football (the reverse isn’t so true - a truly realistic football simulation would have emergent strategic qualities). Similarly, you could have a very realistic simulation which wasn’t enjoyable to play because the player's level of control was minimal.

So that's how I'm looking at balance - and in my mind this definition is broad enough to explain all of the major issues with balance. So how does this all apply to FIFA 14? Well, for the remainder of this article I'm going to talk about strategic balance, leaving the skill and realism balance 'til part 2. I apologise to anyone who read the demo review I wrote a few weeks back: some of this will seem like repetition.

It is incredibly noticeable that, when you're playing online, most players have a very repetitive style of play and that furthermore, most players play the game in exactly the same way. FIFA 14's gameplay is balanced such that there is one general strategy which is both easier to pull off and more effective than any other. More or less, it can be summed up as: defend deep, press hard, attack fast.

In terms of attacking, it's all about the counter. Get the ball with your defenders or keeper, and fire the ball forwards to an attacker. If the pass is successful, you'll likely be in a fair bit of space with one or two attackers. From there, initiate a run via the player-run-trigger or a one-two, and try a throughball. If the throughball comes off, move towards goal. If you have more than one player goalside of the defence, pass across. If not, attempt a finesse shot.

That all sounds like an oversimplification, but it really isn't. That pretty accurately sums up a lot of the players online who do this for a large proportion of the game to great effect. It works for one simple reason - the two points in the attack which could go wrong don't go wrong nearly enough. The pass from the defence to attack is often guaranteed because there is almost always at least one attacker in so much space they won't be challenged for the ball. The throughball, or ball over the top, is not only "good enough" far too often, but is often inch perfect, beautifully rolling into the path of the attacker, not even causing them to break stride.

Two issues - passing accuracy and defensive AI - are culpable for the over-effectiveness of this strategy. Assisted passes, particularly airborne ones, are still far too accurate in FIFA, and everyone knows it. It's very hard, on this evidence, to remember that EA implemented Pro Passing in FIFA 11 to solve the very issues that are so prevalent four years later.

As for the defensive AI, it fails in its lackadaisical marking, it’s ability to cover, and it’s ability to play a decent offside trap. EA have improved the defensive AI this year, but it hasn't proven to be enough. I hope they’ll continue with it next year, and if they do, improving the AI of the actual defenders - the center backs and full backs - should be the focus. Deeper intelligence, allowing them to cope better with turnovers in possession, and greater cohesion, allowing them to work as a team to cover runs and to play an offside trap, is crucial.

In terms of defensive strategy, I said that it tends to revolve around defending deep and pressing hard, even if it does sound like a contradiction of sorts. Generally speaking, the telltale signs of this strategy are a defensive mentality and formation (like those with two defensive midfielders). With a deep, packed defence, you can rely on the defensive AI to the point where you can almost let it do the work for itself. That's where the pressing comes in - by constantly pressing the ball carrier with the midfielders, you can make it incredibly hard for your opponent to play, while not having to worry about the gaps you might be leaving behind. Simply run a player at the ball carrier at all times - you'll gain back possession in no time. Low risk - high reward.

The effectiveness of pressing is such that it becomes nearly impossible to play around and through the packed defence, and this is all about tackling mechanics. Like passing, FIFA's tackling mechanics have been a sorespot for a long time. They were justifiably complained about during the legacy defending period where players defended by holding two buttons and watching their players turn into homing missiles, and it is equally justifiable to complain about the mechanics in tactical defending with the overly automated contain function, and the flagrantly overpowered auto-tackles.

The major issue with auto-tackles is that they are far, far too accurate. Consider how often you actually see an auto-tackle miss, consider how often the auto-tackle causes a foul, consider how often an auto-tackle actually causes you to get beaten - practically never, right? That’s the issue in a nutshell. FIFA’s defenders auto-tackle at a sizable radius and with impossibly good reaction speeds. They will quite regularly snap the ball away from you as if they absolutely knew what you were about to do, and where the ball was about to go. What this leads to is a situation where tackling is almost all about proximity, and where people are hugely encouraged to run straight towards the ballcarrier without a great deal of thought.

Personally, even though we had a significant defensive revamp with FIFA 12 and Tactical Defending, I’d be hoping for another with FIFA 15. The tackling is one problem with defending which could probably be solved within the current paradigm, but there are many more issues in terms of how we control the defence that deserve a look in too (I will follow this comment up in future - been meaning to do so for ages).

The most important thing about the effectiveness of the attacking and defensive strategies (counterattacking & defending deep + pressing hard) is how well they complement each other. The very fact that you can attack so successfully with just two or three players, and that you can go from defensive to attack without needing to go through the midfield, means that attacking is no harder if you're defending with seven men than it would be otherwise. Best of all, the more your opponent pushes forwards to try and pin you back, the easier it becomes to counter them. In comparison to real life, in precisely the situation where one team would be dominating possession because the other was struggling to get it away, those defense-to-attack pinpoint passes make all the difference.

The sheer dominance of this way of playing makes for a game which simply isn’t that enjoyable to play and certainly isn’t that realistic. It’s incredibly tedious to play a game where you know exactly what your opponent is going to do, but one where you can’t actually do much to prevent it. A few times a match, any half decent player will be able to produce a golden chance if they construct every attack around two passes. It's a hit & hope approach where the hope can be replaced with confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone plays like this, nor that anyone plays like this 100% of the time - but it is an increasingly large number of people doing it for an increasingly large proportion of each match. When you think about it, that’s really sad, because FIFA's current balance reduces the hugely tactical game that is football to a shallow farce. It's sadder still that the dominant strategy is one that rarely produces good football. FIFA has been oriented around end-to-end counter and pressure since FIFA 09, and it's now surely time for a change.

It won't be easy. The strategic balance issues are underpinned by major gameplay mechanics like tackling, passing, and defensive AI, and so tweaks simply won't cut it. But that doesn't change the fact that strategic balance should be a top gameplay priority for EA going forward. Instead of making changes and hoping things fall into place, EA have got to start designing changes with the absolute intent of shifting the balance towards more thoughtful football - the first step towards this is recognising that there is a problem in the first place.

Retrieved from:http://news.futhead. com/posts/xaors-cave/26000-xaors-cave-lets-talk-balance-part-1


Perfect as usual.


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Well constructed Article


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Articulate post sir, which I have read in its entirety.

I disagree about auto-tackle being the sole reason for OP high pressure however because when I lose to these guys a look at the player ratings screen and they usually have a tackle accuracy of 30-60% which does not happen with auto-tackle I presume they just keep hammering the B button. I keep a tackle accuracy of about ~85% but I make far less tackles than my opposition because I don't like to defend with such aggression.

As a player who tries to pay passing football I noticed that only in a fleeting sentence did you mention that it is impossible to pass round high pressure. In fact I am of the opinion that it is impossible to pass at all unless it always forward. Midfield is so clogged up you can't get through there. I feel that a) lack of pass power (Sometimes cooking up the pass takes too long before you get tackled) b) the game not reading passes as I intend them c) opposition players now stick to mine and intercept passes too easily and most of all d) The absurd frequency of poor first touches for simple ground passes conceding possession all make it impossible to play actual passing football and exacerbate the effects of high pressure.


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It's a combination of many things. The Impact Engine, for instance, the constant clipping, players falling over each other in defence which leads to goals.

Automated animations...how many times have we lost balls because the ball-carrier decides it's time to do this funny animation? Yah, we've all seen it...the one when the ball-carrier forgets about the ball and he suddenly jumps or clips (to give the impression he's been pushed). Worst of all, they take forever to recover from it..by the time they've recovered you've already conceded.

Changing the button combination of the knock-on feature. Possibly the worst idea brought to life in Fifa 14. Why change what's not broken? Yes, you can't still do it...but it's not as easy as before. In Fifa 13 you could get away from defenders with a long knock on, know you have to rely solely on passes and hoping the ball-carrier's stamina won't drain away quickly, giving defenders too much opportunity to catch up to him.


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The game's worst problem is in FUT, this is where no balance is really there

Till when Good teams get destroyed by low rated/silvers with no logic?


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This auto high pressing never existed in previous FIFA's. For whatever reason every single team auto pressures in FIFA 14.


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What an excellent read, it's hard to disagree with any of it.

I thought this sentence summed it up well.

When you think about it, that’s really sad, because FIFA's current balance reduces the hugely tactical game that is football to a shallow farce.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 22/10/2013 19:46:52



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Jacob_45Boss wrote:It’s been over three weeks since the release of FIFA 14, and with the release of the second patch - which included numerous changes intended to improve balance - it's time to review just that. I can sum up my feelings on balance easily - FIFA 14 doesn't have a good balance, and it is seriously jeopardising my enjoyment of the game. In a two parter, I'm going to talk about balance in general, FIFA 14's balance, and what needs to be done to get us out of the rut we've been in for far too long.

For all of the substantial improvements EA have brought to FIFA this year, it simply hasn't summed to a better experience than what we had with FIFA 13. That isn't said to praise FIFA 13's balance - to the contrary, the balance has been poor since at least FIFA 09 - but to highlight my feelings that the quality of the balance right now is severely below poor. That sense of things contrasts greatly with that of an EA developer, Gilliard Lopes who tweeted the following prior to the second patch’s release:

“Balancing: the game is very well tuned already, but we are improving it even more based on feedback incl. headers and finesse shots”

Whether or not this represents the general feeling amongst EA developers - Gilliard's twitter page disclaims that his tweets express his opinions, not those of his employer - it's still very interesting. To me, the idea that FIFA 14 is 'very well tuned' is hard to swallow, and the patch, meant to improve it 'even more' hasn't made that much of a difference.

Before I get into the major issues with FIFA 14’s balance, there are a few things worth saying. Firstly, I play primarily online on Seasons, Co-Op Seasons, and in Clubs. What I feel about this game derives primarily from my experience of those three modes, and I respect that the game plays very differently in other environments - against friends locally, against the CPU and so on. Secondly, I’m sure some people’s opinions differ dramatically to mine - balance is a fairly subjective issue - but I have seen a lot more complaints about balance this year than usual, so hopefully I can go some way to explain that.

Finally, I’d like to ground this discussion by defining balance. Balance is variously defined by gamers, it has very different meanings for different genres of games, and there is no true definition to refer to. When I’m looking at FIFA 14’s balance, I’m looking at it from three broad perspectives - strategy, skill, and realism.

For me, strategic balance is really about three things: providing a variety of viable strategies, ensuring that no particular strategy is dominant, and hopefully crafting an experience where strategy is very much a game in itself - we should be heavily considering the way our opponent plays and attempting to outwit them with better strategy, not playing every game in a similar manner.

The skill balance is a totally different concept. It's about how much of the game is under user control - so we aren't passengers in the experience, and about ensuring that there is a good balance between risk and reward, as well as between difficulty and effectiveness. In a nutshell, achieving a good skill balance is all about ensuring that the game is "easy to play", but "hard to master".

Finally, the realism perspective is one which is crucial for a sports simulation. We are, presumably, all football fans and therefore we all have a fair bit of experience watching the game being played. When we play FIFA, we want to be noticing the very same phenomena, and it will always be difficult for us to accept things happening in the game which are blatantly unrealistic. Regardless of how well the balance may hold up in the first two respects, we play FIFA because we want a game which acts as an extension to the sport we love.

Now these three perspectives are distinct. A game can do well in one area but not in another. You could have a game which was well balanced strategically but in a way which had little to do with real football (the reverse isn’t so true - a truly realistic football simulation would have emergent strategic qualities). Similarly, you could have a very realistic simulation which wasn’t enjoyable to play because the player's level of control was minimal.

So that's how I'm looking at balance - and in my mind this definition is broad enough to explain all of the major issues with balance. So how does this all apply to FIFA 14? Well, for the remainder of this article I'm going to talk about strategic balance, leaving the skill and realism balance 'til part 2. I apologise to anyone who read the demo review I wrote a few weeks back: some of this will seem like repetition.

It is incredibly noticeable that, when you're playing online, most players have a very repetitive style of play and that furthermore, most players play the game in exactly the same way. FIFA 14's gameplay is balanced such that there is one general strategy which is both easier to pull off and more effective than any other. More or less, it can be summed up as: defend deep, press hard, attack fast.

In terms of attacking, it's all about the counter. Get the ball with your defenders or keeper, and fire the ball forwards to an attacker. If the pass is successful, you'll likely be in a fair bit of space with one or two attackers. From there, initiate a run via the player-run-trigger or a one-two, and try a throughball. If the throughball comes off, move towards goal. If you have more than one player goalside of the defence, pass across. If not, attempt a finesse shot.

That all sounds like an oversimplification, but it really isn't. That pretty accurately sums up a lot of the players online who do this for a large proportion of the game to great effect. It works for one simple reason - the two points in the attack which could go wrong don't go wrong nearly enough. The pass from the defence to attack is often guaranteed because there is almost always at least one attacker in so much space they won't be challenged for the ball. The throughball, or ball over the top, is not only "good enough" far too often, but is often inch perfect, beautifully rolling into the path of the attacker, not even causing them to break stride.

Two issues - passing accuracy and defensive AI - are culpable for the over-effectiveness of this strategy. Assisted passes, particularly airborne ones, are still far too accurate in FIFA, and everyone knows it. It's very hard, on this evidence, to remember that EA implemented Pro Passing in FIFA 11 to solve the very issues that are so prevalent four years later.

As for the defensive AI, it fails in its lackadaisical marking, it’s ability to cover, and it’s ability to play a decent offside trap. EA have improved the defensive AI this year, but it hasn't proven to be enough. I hope they’ll continue with it next year, and if they do, improving the AI of the actual defenders - the center backs and full backs - should be the focus. Deeper intelligence, allowing them to cope better with turnovers in possession, and greater cohesion, allowing them to work as a team to cover runs and to play an offside trap, is crucial.

In terms of defensive strategy, I said that it tends to revolve around defending deep and pressing hard, even if it does sound like a contradiction of sorts. Generally speaking, the telltale signs of this strategy are a defensive mentality and formation (like those with two defensive midfielders). With a deep, packed defence, you can rely on the defensive AI to the point where you can almost let it do the work for itself. That's where the pressing comes in - by constantly pressing the ball carrier with the midfielders, you can make it incredibly hard for your opponent to play, while not having to worry about the gaps you might be leaving behind. Simply run a player at the ball carrier at all times - you'll gain back possession in no time. Low risk - high reward.

The effectiveness of pressing is such that it becomes nearly impossible to play around and through the packed defence, and this is all about tackling mechanics. Like passing, FIFA's tackling mechanics have been a sorespot for a long time. They were justifiably complained about during the legacy defending period where players defended by holding two buttons and watching their players turn into homing missiles, and it is equally justifiable to complain about the mechanics in tactical defending with the overly automated contain function, and the flagrantly overpowered auto-tackles.

The major issue with auto-tackles is that they are far, far too accurate. Consider how often you actually see an auto-tackle miss, consider how often the auto-tackle causes a foul, consider how often an auto-tackle actually causes you to get beaten - practically never, right? That’s the issue in a nutshell. FIFA’s defenders auto-tackle at a sizable radius and with impossibly good reaction speeds. They will quite regularly snap the ball away from you as if they absolutely knew what you were about to do, and where the ball was about to go. What this leads to is a situation where tackling is almost all about proximity, and where people are hugely encouraged to run straight towards the ballcarrier without a great deal of thought.

Personally, even though we had a significant defensive revamp with FIFA 12 and Tactical Defending, I’d be hoping for another with FIFA 15. The tackling is one problem with defending which could probably be solved within the current paradigm, but there are many more issues in terms of how we control the defence that deserve a look in too (I will follow this comment up in future - been meaning to do so for ages).

The most important thing about the effectiveness of the attacking and defensive strategies (counterattacking & defending deep + pressing hard) is how well they complement each other. The very fact that you can attack so successfully with just two or three players, and that you can go from defensive to attack without needing to go through the midfield, means that attacking is no harder if you're defending with seven men than it would be otherwise. Best of all, the more your opponent pushes forwards to try and pin you back, the easier it becomes to counter them. In comparison to real life, in precisely the situation where one team would be dominating possession because the other was struggling to get it away, those defense-to-attack pinpoint passes make all the difference.

The sheer dominance of this way of playing makes for a game which simply isn’t that enjoyable to play and certainly isn’t that realistic. It’s incredibly tedious to play a game where you know exactly what your opponent is going to do, but one where you can’t actually do much to prevent it. A few times a match, any half decent player will be able to produce a golden chance if they construct every attack around two passes. It's a hit & hope approach where the hope can be replaced with confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone plays like this, nor that anyone plays like this 100% of the time - but it is an increasingly large number of people doing it for an increasingly large proportion of each match. When you think about it, that’s really sad, because FIFA's current balance reduces the hugely tactical game that is football to a shallow farce. It's sadder still that the dominant strategy is one that rarely produces good football. FIFA has been oriented around end-to-end counter and pressure since FIFA 09, and it's now surely time for a change.

It won't be easy. The strategic balance issues are underpinned by major gameplay mechanics like tackling, passing, and defensive AI, and so tweaks simply won't cut it. But that doesn't change the fact that strategic balance should be a top gameplay priority for EA going forward. Instead of making changes and hoping things fall into place, EA have got to start designing changes with the absolute intent of shifting the balance towards more thoughtful football - the first step towards this is recognising that there is a problem in the first place.

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trackpass101 wrote:This auto high pressing never existed in previous FIFA's. For whatever reason every single team auto pressures in FIFA 14.


since fifa 11 exist but not insane like fifa 14, auto defense trinity ( contain, auto tackle, AI pressure ) since fifa 12 makes the game casual rewarding, but 14 is a total joke, a very bad player can beat anyone just with luck and counter attacks
FIFA 14 & World Cup  > General Discussion
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