FIFA Street is coming back next year, bringing a touch of flair and finesse back to football and taking the game to streets and various disciplines all around the world. EA's BIG label has been pretty dormant for a while, although with SSX now returning and Street lined up for the next year too, it looks like the lighter side of sport is getting a little boost.
We caught up with Line Producer Sid Misra to get the lowdown on the upcoming FIFA Street, and why the franchise is returning at this moment in time. On top of that, get ready for one of the fattest factual blowouts for the game seen anywhere.
Matt Gardner (Dealspwn): Give us the 'elevator pitch' for FIFA Street.
Sid Misra (Line Producer, FIFA Street): Compete with style in a connected and social authentic street football game.
Matt Gardner: Why bring FIFA Street back now?
Sid Misra: FIFA Street was always on the radar, but we didn’t want to bring it out until we could commit the right team and people to it, as well as ensure we could deliver a product that lived up to the quality expectations of the “FIFA” franchise. With the introduction of Player Impact Engine and Precision Dribbling to the award-winning FIFA gameplay engine in FIFA12, the foundation for building a great street football experience was in place.
Matt Gardner: What separates FIFA Street out from more conventional football games?
Sid Misra: It’s the style and variety of gameplay. Conventional football games are 11v11, and while the environments may be different, the area of play is the same. FIFA Street is an opportunity to play with a variety of players on the pitch (from 1 to 6) in environments that change the way you play the game (different pitch and goal sizes). It also offers a variety of play options/rules in addition to the normal timed matches. For example:
- Panna Match : bank points for your team by scoring 3 for a panna, 2 for an air beat and 1 for a ground beat – earn the points by scoring.
- Freestyle Match : it’s about being entertaining – show off your style and flair to bank points for your team, score to cash them in. Be careful though – turn the ball over and the opposing team can cash in your points.
- Last Man Standing : score a goal and lose a man – be the first team to lose all their players to win.
- First to X Goals : set a number for X, and be the first team to achieve it.
- Futsal : play a more organized form of 5-a-side with no walls and select futsal rules.
And all (except Futsal) can be played with varying team sizes. As you can see, FIFA Street also separates itself from previous versions as there is more variety.
Matt Gardner: FIFA 12 was marketed on a number of big changes to the core game engine (eg. Precision Dribbling, Impact Engine etc.) What new features can we expect to see in this reboot?
Sid Misra: As mentioned, the improvements made to the FIFA gameplay engine in FIFA12 helped lay the foundation for FIFA Street gameplay. FIFA Street then builds on that to create an authentic street experience with our key gameplay innovation, Street Ball Control.
Fundamental to Street Ball Control is what we are calling internally, “Standing Ball Control”. By holding L2/LT, you basically “brake” the dribbler – you can then move the ball using the left analog stick. This is done to “bait” the defender to come in and attempt a tackle, and based on gamer skill and timing, they have several accessible options to beat the defender:
- Panna : aim the ball towards the defender while in Standing Ball Control, then press R2/RT to accelerate towards him, while pushing the ball through the defenders legs. Player will avoid defender, pick up the ball on the other side and have a good laugh while doing it.
- Air beat : put the ball in the air by pressing R1/RB then aim at the defender to try and beat him in the air.
- Skill Move : use the right analog stick to perform a move and trip-up the defender while you move past him. Skill moves use more intuitive, accessible actions – with basic skills on the ‘flick’ up/down/left/right and more advanced skills available through gesture actions.
- Evade/Beat : release L2/LT while aiming away from the defender to evade a tackle. If you time it right, you can through the defender off-balance as they try to recover.
Street Ball Control encapsulates quite a lot more than just standing ball control, so I’ll try to cover some of the main points here:
- Player Movement : dribbler and defender are positioned facing each other to encourage head-to-head battles.
- Wall Play : users can use the wall for passing, or to shield the ball while trying to bait the defender in for a clumsy tackle.
- Skill Moves : accessible skill moves, plus additional depth through gesture-based moves.
- Chaining Skill Moves : users can pull off skill moves in sequence to create more spectacular moves.
- In-game Flair : user will see more stylish passes and shots during general gameplay. User can also choose even more stylish ones by holding L1/LB while passing/shooting.
Matt Gardner: What was behind the decision to drop the cartoonish visuals of previous games for a more realistic appearance?
Sid Misra: Realism/believability were important for us to achieve our central focus for this game—authentic street football. Pairing our gameplay with cartoonish visuals would have felt disconnected, and would have gone against a lot of the feedback we have heard from fans of the series and those waiting for a new FIFA Street.
Matt Gardner: Street football differs depending upon where you go around the world, with a number of different styles. How is this reflected in FIFA Street and how have you tried to capture the nature of the game in different locations?
Sid Misra: Great question – absolutely street football means very different things to different people depending on where you are. The first thing we did when starting this re-boot was research street football in 3 key markets – London, Amsterdam and Rio. Here’s what we came up with:
- London : ‘street’ football is really more about organize 5-a-side leagues which are meant to emulate club football on smaller pitches. It’s a more physical game.
- Amsterdam : panna is king – embarrassing the other player is more important than scoring or winning. We witnessed players who would panna an opponent, then hold the ball for the defender to get back into position so they could panna them again before trying to score.
- Rio : street football is almost a dance – there’s a rhythm and style to how they move with the ball. Skill and flair are important.
Hopefully, you can already see from the above responses how we’ve managed to incorporate these styles into FIFA Street. The Player Impact Engine plus award-winning FIFA Gameplay Engine provide the tools for delivering on the “London” style of street football. Street Ball Control, especially Standing Ball Control, delivers the “Amsterdam”-style panna gameplay. And accessible skill moves, juggling and flair bring the “Rio”-style gameplay to life.
Matt Gardner: We've seen official tournaments and street luminaries come to the fore in recent years. Will that be reflected in the game in terms of branding and player rosters?
Sid Misra: FIFA Street will feature actual street footballers. We have over 40 featured in the game on several teams. Gamers will face them in our World Tour mode and unlock them for regular usage in Hit the Pitch.
Matt Gardner: What can we expect in terms of game modes and multiplayer options this time around?
Sid Misra: Our key game mode is called “World Tour”. World Tour is a connected, social game mode that enables you to create yourself in game, build your own team of street footballers, and progress to become the best street football team in the world moving from a local area to national to Europe and then the world stage.
Connected gamers will be able to build their team using their friend’s created characters or other characters created by FIFA Street gamers, as all players and teams are sent to the EA servers. Their World Tour experience will then feature user created teams and players (including ones their friends make) – which creates more variety in gameplay as all the teams are tailored to each gamer’s unique preferences. What’s also cool is we have built online head-to-head functionality into the World Tour tournaments, so you can choose to play against other gamers directly from the World Tour game mode itself for additional challenge/competition.
Progression in the mode is driven by user’s success in challenges and tournaments – your performance in these help grow your squad and contribute to your World Tour rankings. When you rank high enough you unlock the finals in each stage which move you to the next level. Growing your squad is based on how stylish you are in your matches, which will earn your team and players points to help level them up and unlock new skills, styles and attributes.
Your World Tour will take you through over 35 locations around the world, culminating in the World Futsal finals in the spiritual home of street football – Rio.
Highlights of World Tour include:
- 16 tournaments and 20 challenges, all played in unique environments.
- Over 100 different styles, tricks & celebrations to grow your player and allow you to compete with more style and flair.
- Over 200 unlock items for your squad, including team kits, street wear, boots, environments and teams.
- Play connected, and all teams in the FIFA Street World Tour are teams created by other FIFA Street gamers – all grown based on the gamers’ own style and preferences.
- All tournaments give the user the option to play online head-to-head. Step up your game by not just playing against other gamers’ teams – but against other gamers.
- All tournaments & challenges feature their own connected leaderboards to compare your results against your friends.
In addition to World Tour, FIFA Street also has online-specific game modes including Street Seasons and Online Team Play. Street Seasons let’s you play as your squad in 10-game sets and work your way through divisions, as many gamers will have experienced in FIFA12. Online Team Play puts your character on the pitch with other FIFA Street gamers to play in 5v5 matches.
Matt Gardner: The skilful nature of street football has been reflected in hundreds of YouTube videos. With social network interaction and YouTube channels being integrated into more and more games, might we see this trend continue in FIFA Street?
Sid Misra: Great question. We have some plans around this that we will be unveiling in the months ahead.
Matt Gardner: Will FIFA Street be linked in to the wider EA Sports Football Club?
Sid Misra: Yes, FIFA Street will be connected to Football Club, and will contribute to your EASFC level, so you can continue to earn points/levels as you play. Again, I’ll have more to share in this area in the months ahead.
Matt Gardner: Any chance of HD re-releases for the previous games in the series, perhaps via the digital marketplaces?
Sid Misra: Never say never, but it’s not in our current plans.
Matt Gardner: Are there plans for any motion-control integration? Considering the body tracking of Kinect, could we feasibly see FIFA Street Kinect?
Sid Misra: This is not in the plans. As mentioned earlier – most important to us was to ensure we deliver the first quality Street Football experience. We didn’t see a natural fit for Kinect/Move integration.
Matt Gardner: EA made a big show of support for Nintendo at E3 this year. Will we be seeing FIFA Street on the Wii/Wii U and, if so, how has that affected development, particularly considering the latter's unique controller?
Sid Misra: At the moment, FIFA Street is only planned for X360 & PS3. Our commitment is to deliver the first quality street football game. Based on fan reaction, I am sure we will continue to explore where else FIFA Street can make an appearance.
Matt Gardner: Finally, a question we ask to everyone, what, in your opinion, is the most awesome thing about FIFA Street?
Sid Misra: The moves! Authentic street football still means crazy moves that you can’t believe – we had street footballers in the EA motion capture studio to help us capture cool moves, and what they can do with a ball is truly incredible. Add the ability to chain some of them together and we can’t wait to see what the FIFA Street community is able to come up with!
Matt Gardner: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Sid.