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The Sports Desk – A First Look At FIFA 17

by Matthew Kato on Jun 06, 2016 at 10:00 AM

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With today's official confirmation that FIFA 17 will use DICE's Frostbite engine and the game's first trailer, my mind naturally wanders to what could be.

Full disclosure: I'm not a huge tech guy, so I can't say I'm intimately familiar with the ins and outs of what the engine can do, but if we look at how EA has used the engine in the past, perhaps we can get a glimpse of what's to come in the future.


The new trailer shows a brief glimpse of a manager pacing the sidelines in what appears to be a Borussia Dortmund v. Manchester United match. While I can't say with any confidence that it looks like the back of Thomas Tuchel or José Mourinho's head, respectively, it would be cool if managers were integrated in the cinematic and real-time aspects of the game.

In the past, DICE has talked about the Frostbite engine and photogrammetry to help make Star Wars: Battlefront as good as it does, and perhaps that could be used to make managers or players look more like they do in real life.


With the rise of FIFA Ultimate Team and the game as an eSports title, adding a spectator mode – a staple of Battlefield and many competitive shooters – would be a welcome addition that the FIFA community has been asking for.


Lighting is something we always hear about from developers, and it may sound boring, but it's no small thing. While some of the more overt uses of lighting in video games often involves effects like lens flare or dramatic moments during a cutscene, it's very important to the moment-to-moment action. The right lighting can make the action on the pitch look just like it does in real life or on TV. Getting those details right like how a stadium looks at dusk, the shadows cast by the stadium, and of course, how the players look while playing are important. Lighting is something DICE has talked about for many of titles, including for Mirror's Edge: Catalyst.


Frostbite debuted with an EA Sports title last year in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, and at the time the touted advantages included using the engine to eliminate load times between holes on a course, and make it so that the holes themselves were larger with fewer boundary areas.

In terms of FIFA 17, it's hard to see how this translates. Could we see errant strikes fire off into the crowd and bounce back down to the pitch? Players jump behind the advertising and into the crowd to celebrate after a goal? Maybe it could affect how the crowds themselves are represented and behave. Interestingly, crowds coming to life was one of the things that the last EA Sports engine – Ignite – was supposed to be good at.


Ignite might not have been with us for long, but it has improved the company's sports games. Ignite's ANT animation engine has helped Madden achieve better gang tackles and tackle animations after years of slow iteration. How will Frostbite preserve these gains? While Frostbite is seen as a powerful engine, no sports fan wants to lose feature sets or take a step back while EA switches over to Frostbite. Hopefully the progress the teams have worked for with Ignite can be transferred over to Frostbite seamlessly.


BioWare switched over to Frostbite for Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is obviously a vastly different beast than a Frostbite-powered Battlefield shooter. Sports titles are also their own thing, and the teams at EA Canada and EA Tiburon (according to our sources, the other sports titles will move to Frostbite as well) will have to work with the engine to make sure it provides a stable foundation for the sports-related add-ons that will surely be layered on top.

The Frostbite blog of Dragon Age: Inquisition technical director Jacques Lebrun acknowledges the specific needs of non-shooter Frostbite titles such as his, and through a lot of hard work, he believes that in that game's case the engine was up to the task.

Specifically in relation to FIFA 17, could we see the franchise use Inquisition's conversation system? The only way this would make sense with the title is if players and managers interacted in a sort of RPG-esque mode. The NBA 2K series does it, and we'd love to see it come to FIFA so you could express how unsettled you are sitting on the bench.


As I mentioned above, getting Frostbite to cater to the specific needs of a sports game is seemingly not going to be easy. The two areas I'd like to see positively impacted are A.I. and animations.

Player A.I. for everyone on the pitch simultaneously in real-time is a huge element that makes teams and players behave like the should and like you expect. This ranges from teams playing in the styles they do in real life and individuals reacting like they should. We've had preset tactics for years, but it doesn't really feel like you're ever playing a team and players with their own identity. Given how tactics are a big part of the real-life game, it's something that needs to be more apparent in the video game.

Animations are at the heart of FIFA and EA Sports' games. The hard part is mixing those animations with other players and keeping up with gamers' inputs on the controller. How many times have in a game have we seen Player A win the ball from Player B just because the computer has already determined that Player A should do so and run the animation even though Player B is closer to it? These are the kinds of situations that I hope Frostbite can fix while still maintaining the fluidity and realism of the animations themselves.

What are your thoughts on FIFA 17 and the Frostbite engine? Put them in the comments section below.

Be sure to come back next week when we'll have fresh coverage of some of EA Sports' games at the EA Play E3 event.

For more from the Sports Desk, check out last week's entry.


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