How 'FIFA 22' Made a Major Leap Forward

The title’s lead gameplay producer on gearing up the franchise for next-gen consoles.

Gaming
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FIFA has long been one of EA’s most successful franchises, even among its massive roster of successful video game titles. Its release every year has become a bona fide moment, as fans wait to see how the series will move forward.

This year, the gaming giant has teased a leap in realism for FIFA 22, which releases today. The title’s major innovation is thanks to HyperMotion technology — a brand new advancement that EA used to create over 4,000 new animations for the game — and the introduction of next-gen consoles, which allow the game to fully spread its wings.

But animation aside, FIFA 22 has also received crucial changes and improvements both in terms of gameplay and the modes it offers to create a more immersive and full experience for players. To coincide with the release, HYPEBEAST sat down with the game’s lead gameplay producer Sam Rivera to discuss some of the biggest differences between the latest installment and its predecessors.

HYPEBEAST: HyperMotion technology has been the real headliner for FIFA 22. Can you tell us more about what exactly it is and how it sets the new installment apart from previous years?

Rivera: HyperMotion combines two big technological advancements together. The first is the new advanced motion capture that we used for FIFA 22, and the second is how we use our machine learning algorithm to learn from that data in order to re-create animations in real-time in the game.

With motion capture, we organized a match in Spain between two professional teams wearing exosuits. We asked them to really play competitively because the data we captured would power the animations within the upcoming game. Organizing that shoot was quite logistically complicated because of COVID-19 and because we had to put 22 players in these exosuits, but after months of trying, it finally happened and we received a lot of data.

For reference, with 22 players playing a full 90 minutes, we collected so much data that we were able to create over 4,000 new animations for FIFA 22, covering a lot of different areas like how the goalkeeper moves, shooting, passing, and dribbling. It gave us the chance to create a major refresh for the franchise.

But why can we do this now? The reason is because motion capture technology has been developing throughout the years and while it’s not the first time we’re using exosuits, it is the first time that those suits have evolved in a way that the allowed us to go anywhere in the world, put them on a group of 22 players at the same time and capture all their movement for 90 minutes across a football field.

Aside from HyperMotion, EA also says that its AI has been improved too, including CPU players and the goalkeeper. How much has changed and how will this play into the gameplay experience?

Because of the power of the new generation of consoles, we now have more cycles and more memory to create better AI, and as a result we can create smarter support for the player with the ball, whether it’s making certain runs or positioning themselves in various areas of the field.

With the new hardware, players can make up to six times more decisions per second, so we really spent a lot of time working on the AI again to create a more authentic behavior. For example, in terms of defending, the AI players will now behave more as a unit and move together in respect to their formations and ideal positions. They’ll be able to determine which spaces to cover if there are holes in the defense, and if you compare it to real football players you’ll see that movement in FIFA 22 is very similar.

In terms of goalkeepers, we’ve had so much feedback from our community which helped with development a lot. Goalkeepers are a lot more reliable now, and you can really trust them much more than before. There used to be certain bugs in the system with goalkeeping, and in the past whenever we implemented a new goalkeeper system, we were always worried that the saves weren’t good enough and we had to elevate their quality. But this time round, we actually created a system that was way too good at saving shots, which actually is a good problem to have because we can then introduce more personality to the different goalkeepers and provide more variety for players. It’s definitely a change you won’t miss when you start playing.

You’ve also tweaked the physics of the ball and how it moves. What was the process behind that and how much will it affect players who may be used to the old system?

We have a lot of data regarding ball movements, and when we initially compared how the ball moves in real life versus in-game, we found that the trajectory was slightly different. In real life, the ball would travel faster in the beginning and then hit a hang time before decelerating, whereas in FIFA the entire movement was more linear.

So learning that, we readjusted a lot of parameters in order to bring the ball physics as close to real football as possible, and it definitely changes how you perceive the game and how satisfying it now is to hit the ball, whether it’s a goal kick, a shot or a teammate controlling it with his chest.

Now that the ball physics are much more realistic, in terms of players having to adapt, there’s definitely some learning to do. But that’s not just because of the ball movement but also all the new features we talked about like HyperMotion and AI changes. A while ago we were talking to Tekkz — one of the best players in the world — and when we saw him play, he was trying to create chances in the way he did in FIFA 21 and he wasn’t succeeding as much as last year, and that’s because the game is so different now with a lot of components.

At the end of the day, the game is closer to real football now so as long as you know the sport, you’ll know the game. As usual we’ll continue playing the game and talking to pro players, casual players, and new players to make sure the experience is good for everyone.

Turning to some of the game’s modes, of course a massive fan-favorite is the FIFA Ultimate Team mode. We know there’ll be a new progression system for rankings, the addition of an Elite Division and the introduction of a new public co-op matchmaking mode. Tell us more about those new features and what other new changes FUT fans can look forward to.

EA: FIFA 22 Ultimate Team redesigns how you compete in Division Rivals and FUT Champions to create a more accessible way to test your skills and progress against other players, gives you even more ways to make your club your own with new depths of customization both on and off the pitch, and introduces FUT Heroes – the return of some of football’s best-loved players.

The Elite Division is a new tier of competition beyond Division 1, where the best FUT players in the world can compete. Progression in the Elite Division changes to a Skill Rating system, which players might be familiar with from FUT 21. All players in the Elite Division are Ranked, based on their Skill Rating, with the top 200 appearing on the Global Leaderboard.

In FIFA 22, we will also be introducing a new mode in FUT Friendlies called Co-op Public Matchmaking, with the goal of having a casual drop-in experience playing FUT with a new partner against other co-op opponents. This will serve as a great chance to try out some of the best players in FUT. The Squads will reflect recently released Player Items in the game, so you’ll see appropriately balanced teams.

VOLTA seems to be another area that’s receiving quite a few changes, like the brand new VOLTA Arcade mode that carries a number of fun minigames and the introduction of the Skill Meter. Tell us what Volta fans can expect for this year.

For FIFA 22, we’ve made VOLTA FOOTBALL all about getting together with friends, and having a great time together. VOLTA FOOTBALL returns with more flair all over the pitch and new ways for players to express themselves. This year, we bring more heat to every match with restyled small-sided gameplay that rewards you for your skill on the ball, and play unique events in special locations each season. We are also offering limited-time Arcade Tournaments that give players a fresh way to compete online in VOLTA FOOTBALL. Players will be able to battle multiple rounds of free-for-all and 2v2 mini-games like Foot Tennis, Dodgeball, Keepaway(and more while earning points for your performance.

As for the new Skill Meter, we wanted to make VOLTA FOOTBALL feel and play differently to any of the other modes in FIFA. For FIFA 22, we prioritized playing with flair and rewarding players for taking each other on with Skill Moves, fancy passes, and wall passes. We wanted to make sure that playing with flair isn’t just possible, but that it is the main way to play VOLTA FOOTBALL. This led to the creation of the new Skill Meter system.

Pro Clubs will also be introducing some new features, such as Perks and Archetypes. Can you walk us through those?

Our main goal for this year of Pro Clubs is to make it easier to connect and play with your friends. The new season of Pro Clubs offers new customization options to make your club stand out in the stands and on the pitch, a new player growth system that puts you in control of your Virtual Pro’s development, and streamlined social play that makes it easier than ever to find your next game. We’ve also added Female Virtual Pros for the first time, and allowing players to take them to the pitch in mixed 11v11 matches in FIFA 22.

As for Perks, they are a new way to improve your Virtual Pro, allowing you to refine your Play Style further. We will have four different sections of perks and those are Attacking, Chance Creation, Defensive and Goalkeeper.

Also new to FIFA 22 are Archetypes, significant Attribute increases that help you create, customize and secure your Virtual Pro’s identity on the pitch. Archetypes are acquired through Skill Points, made available at the end of a skill tree branch. You can equip up to 3 Archetypes, depending on how you decide to allocate your Skill Points.

Finally, we know there’ll be some differences between different versions of the game depending on which platform you’ll be playing on, like the Xbox One versus the Xbox Series X/S. How different will the experiences be depending on which generation of console you’re on?

Given how cutting-edge HyperMotion is, it’ll be exclusive to gen five consoles, so a lot of the features we talked about will be available only on the new generation of machines. If you’re on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you’ll still get a lot of new features like our new goalkeeper system but it won’t have everything simply because of the power the new consoles bring to the table.

As a studio we need to continue developing the game and so focusing on gen five was our priority, but we have improved a lot of elements within the previous-gen version as well and the feedback we’ve heard from the community has been very positive.

FIFA 22 is now available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox one, Xbox Series X/S, Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch and PC.

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