- Polska Scena FIFA Manager
Articles - Interviews
Written by Lukasvista & Kily - Tuesday, 08 September 2009 10:49  |  Skomentuj artykuÅ‚

We would like to present you today an exclusive interview with Gerald Köhler and Adrian Wahl for Firstly we want to thank you for finding time for this interview in spite of pressure of work. Before we start talking about FIFA Manager 10 we want to find out how this project looks from behind the scenes. So first questions related to this topic are intended for you Gerald.

1. Could you describe how does your workday in the Bright Future studio look like? Do you have a common meeting or you start working according to earlier determined tasks?

Gerald: Gerald: We have meetings on Monday (to prepare the week) and on Friday (to discuss what happened during the week). We also have a company meeting every Wednesday where we present the progress of all Bright Future projects to every employee in the company. We also have an Intranet where everybody can find the current schedule and all the individual tasks. And of course there is a lot of communication between design, programmers and QA. Ideally, designers and programmers discuss a feature before it is finally implemented. Afterwards QA performs a quick check to find the most obvious problems before the feature is added to the current build. After this is done it’s available to everyone for testing and the remaining bugs are entered in a database.

2. I wonder how many so-called milestones you set yourself as a goal in this year during making FIFA Manager 10?

Gerald: At first there was some preparation work, then we had four milestones, each lasted for about 6 weeks, then a smaller Alpha milestone. Then there are of course two more steps, Beta and Final.

3. How long it takes to create the conception of interface for FIFA Manager 10? And I wonder if it changes together with the game progress?

Gerald: It usually takes about 4-8 weeks and three people are involved. Afterwards only little changes are made, mainly for technical reasons. As soon as you have started to create the 800-900 screens for FIFA Manager you must have a very good idea how the game will finally look like. Otherwise you are doomed.

4. I have to ask this question because I am always curious if graphical elements diversifying game interface (e.g. pictures on website), are created by yourself or you base on other sources?

Gerald: These are all created internally. Sometimes our webmaster Sascha does some modifications for the website. The cover artwork is usually done by a special department within EA.

5. Making a game is always a huge undertaking. Could you tell us how many people are bound up in FIFA Manager project?

Gerald: The core group consists of about 25 people. Then we have 20 testers at EA and about 20 people who help us temporarily during the year (e.g. with translating the game). Then we have 5 people working on player pictures, and about 60-80 people working externally on the database. This doesn’t include webmasters, moderators, beta testers etc. In total there are another 125 of them. Finally there is also the FIFA team that helps us a lot.

6. How important for you, as game producers, are fans’ remarks and wishes?

Gerald: We are not doing the game for ourselves. Therefore our fans have a lot of impact on the game. When you look at the offline mode this year, you clearly see the influence of the fans. We have implemented hundreds of suggestions from the forum, many of them in direct communication with the people who first came up with them. We also know that our users usually buy the game every year or at least every two years. This means we cannot afford to ignore them.
But there are also strategic decisions, which the development team has to make. If we decide to simplify our user-interface or the training section, the idea will not come from the forum.

The people there always want more and they usually want it as complex as possible. But this is not always good for the game. The online mode is another example for such a strategic decision. In fact this is the most important strategic decision for the coming years, but in this case it’s of course also something many fans demanded.

7. I always wanted to know if computer games producers watch rival company doings? I mean if you observe manager games market? Do you draw conclusions from rival company doings or you work in accordance with you own plan?

Gerald: That depends. If there is something really innovative going on, we have a close look. If it is only about B and C class features, we don’t. We don’t want to copy features from competitors, it is much better to come up with our own stuff or to simply listen to the community. But this of course doesn’t exclude that the community demands features of competitors… But normally they tell us in this case.

8. Do you think that piracy, the biggest plague on the computer games market, have influence over game production?

Gerald: There are many influences. We have to implement a copy protection, which costs time (but not too much). If a game is successful, the development team will usually grow, if everybody steals the game, then the team will sooner or later get reduced, which reduces innovation, which will ultimately kill the game or the entire franchise. At least certain versions, e.g. PC, get cut.

In any case a downward spiral begins. Historically, platforms like the Amiga died because of piracy since it didn’t make sense to develop games only for pirates. Another effect is of course the effort we put into country-specific features. Let’s assume the users in a random country all decide to simply buy the game instead of copying it. This country would get huge benefits within a year: Suddenly it becomes possible to buy player pictures, to implement local cups, to pay for additional licenses for stadiums or lower leagues etc. Sometimes it suddenly even makes economic sense to translate the game to a new language.

9. We know that many users are divided when they are talking about game realism. Some of them want to see the game as realistic as possible, but the others prefer to achieve all successes in a short time even leading weak clubs. Which way FIFA Manager producers choose?

Gerald: It depends. We try to go for realism, but if it spoils the fun, we step back. E.g. we do not want to split match days just because it is realistic.

10. Recently, the biggest problem for manager games are bugs. Unfortunately it has to be admitted that two biggest titles on this market (FIFA Manager and Football Manager) were practically unplayable before first official updates. Why? Is it not possible to release the game a month or two months later, and ensure that it will be possible to play the game without any problems?

Gerald: I can only talk about FIFA Manager, but there are years with many technical changes and these are the toughest ones for bugs. But FIFA Manager 09 was still far away from being unplayable. Our biggest problem here was the save game bug after Update 2, we’ll try very hard that this stays the only version with such a problem.
But we made some important decisions this year regarding bugs. First of all we extended the Beta test group. Then we hired a special tester to make sure the options for the users to add content to the game are thoroughly tested. We are also working on a huge document to make sure that all options to modify the game are explained in detail. This will avoid crashes e.g. because users remove the “League Limitation” option in the user.ini. Our final decision was that there won’t be any more new features in our updates. These will just include bug fixes (if required) and database updates. This is an important decision because it will make sure that there is little chance for bugs from a former version to survive until the next year.

11. Let’s move to the newest FIFA Manager edition. We want to ask you Adrian first: Could you reveal how many licensed and unlicensed leagues will we see in FIFA Manager 10?

Adrian: We´ll have 60 playable countries, 43 are licensed. Additionally we have several second or third divisions that are also licensed. In England we have original names down to the sixth league.

12. We know that the game is now in alpha phase. Tell me what is the progress of works on database in FIFA Manager 10?

Adrian: At the moment our Database team (which consists of 60 experts all over the world) has started to update their leagues. In the first week of August everyone sent their files to us and we tried to balance the database and fix some bugs.

13. Could you tell us how many people work currently on database for FIFA Manager 10? How do you verify work made by so big group of people?

Adrian: Our database team consists of 60 people. In some important countries like France, or Italy we have more than one person for the country (3-4), but most of the countries are controlled by two real experts. They usually send data updates and we check their work and report bugs or unfitting ratings or something else.

14. Could you tell us something more about researcher system, how it works, how it is organized, how the cooperation with people helping with works on database look like, how many researchers help you with database etc?

Adrian: We have about 60 researchers all over the word and about 10 helping hands, who are supporting us. The central coordination is based here in Cologne, the communication is mostly done via email or the internal forum, in exceptional cases by phone.

In late spring we provide the researchers with the new editor for collecting the data. This data is submitted to us in regular intervals. Our job is it to check this data for errors and make it compliant to the global balance of the database. After that the data is added to the game. Final database-deadline in view to the release is in early September, the database has to be finished and without errors at this point of time.

After that, the workings continue for the updates, which should cover the development of players and teams.

15. Adrian, could you explain us who is responsible for gaining new league licenses, Bright Future or EA Sports?

Adrian: EA is responsible for the licensing. They buy licenses and we can use them . Especially for FIFA MANAGER we licensed several leagues that FIFA doesn’t have. The third German league (3. Liga), the fourth German leagues (Regionalliga Nord, Regionalliga West, Regionalliga Süd), the second Austrian league ( ADEG Erste Liga) and the second league of Switzerland (Dosenbach Challenge League)

16. I wonder how big sum of money is necessary to buy licenses for individual leagues e.g. in Poland, and what factors decide about license price in various countries. Could you tell us something about that?

Adrian: Well that´s pretty hard to answer. I´m not a real expert in the field of licensing, so there would be no informative answer.

17. Adrian, this year you were responsible for FIFA Manager 10 presentations in various countries. What were people reactions during that kind of meetings e.g. in Poland?

Adrian: Yes, you’re right. It was the first time that I was responsible for the European press tour. I visited Paris, Moscow, London, Warsaw, Hamburg and Munich. The reactions of the people were positive all over the tour. Most of the people really love the online mode. In Russia I met some community guys that are really enthusiastic about FIFA MANAGER, to answer the questions to satisfy them was a hard challenge.

18. Is there any chance in your opinion in the future to see all leagues and competitions available in FIFA Manager fully licensed?

Adrian: I think the current status is really good, there are only a few more countries we would like to cover, but we have to follow FIFA.

19. How does your workday look like, what are your responsibilities as a database chief?

Adrian: I normally start at 8 am and I have to work until 6 pm. As Database Lead you have to take care of your database team and you have to make sure that everyone follows the database guidelines and sends his updates in time. We try to check every website dealing with football, to make the FIFA MANAGER database as authentic as possible.

20. I suppose you don’t have currently too much free time but do you find any moment to play FIFA Manager 10?

Adrian: Not really :(. If I play the game I only check the database and check the development of players, wrong ratings, missing transfers etc. You wouldn’t call it “playing” anymore.

21. When you come back home after work, do you have a willingness to play any game?

Adrian: Yes of course, I often play FIFA 09 on Playstation3. I frequently play FIFA with some of my colleagues, for example with our Lead Artist Bernhard Maiberg. Playing against our new international community manager Sören Stöß, however, doesn´t make fun though, he is just too good in that game!

22. Which Total Club Manager/FIFA Manager edition is in your opinion the most successful? Do you think that FIFA Manager 10 will achieve the status of the best ever game in this series? If yes, give arguments which will decide about the newest FIFA Manager game success.

Adrian: In my opinion each year was a big step forward. I often hear that people love FM 06, or FM07, but I always prefer the latest version. We spent so much power in improving the game each year so I always love the latest one and FIFA MANAGER 10 will definitely be the best FM ever.

23. Do you watch competitive football manager games doings? If yes, please tell me which features you would like to move from competitive games to FIFA Manager?

Adrian: To be honest I´ve never really played other football manager games. I always check their ratings and we know their features, but the games focus on different target groups.

24. Football management game of your dreams – describe how in your opinion the ideal football manager game should look like?

Adrian: Tricky question :). Well I´m a huge fan of the development in the past years. The Managagement games are much deeper than 10 years ago. Gerald always says the perfect game is two years ahead…so he´s right.

25. Do you plan to expand competition script? We know that there is a problem with rounds limit in cups, that’s why for example Polish Cup can’t be done for all teams in our fansite patch Polish Giga Patch.

Adrian: We would love to implement more scripts but it costs a lot of time to check them and guarantee that everything is running, so it´s quite hard.

26. There is a winter break in some leagues. During this time we can organize an indoor tournament. But it often happens that this tournament is being cancelled because of lack of teams. Is it going to be improved in FIFA Manager 10?

Adrian: We knew about this bug and fixed it, so it should work now .

27. Gerald you are the Game Designer. How would you compare new features implemented in this year to the whole game contents (in %)?

Gerald: In total? Maybe 20-25%. A football management game is like a balloon. You breathe in air every year. At the start it gets bigger really fast, but after some years, even when you breathe in more air, it’s sometimes hard to see the progress because there is already so much there. And with every additional feature there is a potential feature you have to keep in mind when you add something else. E.g. if you have a newspaper or a manager biography, you must keep this in mind all the time. Good examples wood be the national teams. You have to check every new feature how it would work for them as well.

28. On the official blog, where you describe progress of works on FIFA Manager 10, you mentioned about stadium editor not much. Will it be expanded significantly or only slightly modified and improved?

Gerald: There now is an optional simplified interface. For the 3D editor we focused on bug fixes and small improvements, like an “Undo” functionality for the changes of a block.

29. How the tactics section will look, it will be reconstructed from scratch or only improved? Will we see some new team settings and individual orders?

Gerald: The interface will not change very much. But we worked on the effects in the 3D game. Every single tactical setting was improved or re-implemented from scratch.

30. Many people still wonder why you resign from 5x5 system. Is there any chance to see this system back again in FIFA Manager?

Gerald: We removed it because many people simply didn’t get it. The people in the forum had no problem with it, but these are usually very experienced players. And the complaints after the removal were very moderate, therefore it was the right decision.

31. Can we expect improved 3D mode in FIFA Manager 10? I mean throw-ins, game physics etc.?

Gerald: Yes, there will be many improvements. But I would say that it’s better to have a look on the demo than to just read about it. There is also still a lot of tuning going on at the moment and it is getting better every day. We’ll definitely give you more information on this in the coming months

32. As we know the newest FIFA Manager will base on animation system from FIFA 09. Are you going to make use of any other elements?

Gerald: Yes, there are usually many elements we take from FIFA, especially art like kits and player faces. But our big technical step was last year, this year it’s mainly about the animations and cut scenes.

33. In most cases when a player is a free agent on the transfer market for one year, no matter if he is old or young, he decide to end his career. That’s very strange when e.g. 23 years old player retires. Are you going to correct that?

Gerald: This information is about the “professional” career of the player. If you haven’t found a job in a year it makes perfect sense to look for something else to do. Then football becomes something like a hobby and the player simply continues to play in a very low league just for the fun of it.

34. When you get contract offers from clubs, national teams or sponsors, you get 3 random offers. Is there any chance in the future to choose from wider group of offers from the list?

Gerald: There must be some kind of decision here. And 3 is a good number. We don’t want to present you a list and then you just select want you want.

35. Gerald, you wrote on official blog that text mode has been extended by lines of new text. Can we expect also new texts in other element such as interviews and websites?

Gerald: The website will change completely, therefore there is new text as well. But we’ll simplify it a little bit, because the stories are for four years in the game now and start to become pretty boring for many users.

But the biggest amount of new text this year is for the help text.

36. Could you tell us if we will hear new songs in FIFA Manager 10?

Gerald: Yes, there’s a completely new soundtrack. And there are probably more songs compared to previous years, because we now have a Dual Layer DVD.

37. Do you think if it is possible to see in the game situations which happens now in reality on the transfer market, I mean unimaginable huge offers from Manchester City or Real Madrid?

Adrian: We have huge transfer fees in FIFA MANAGER as well, but it’s hard to simulate something like this with the AI. This is a really complex thing. In FIFA MANAGER, these huge shopping tours are normally made by the human players..

38. Can we expect any support for Windows 7 after its release day in case of any crashes?

Gerald: Yes, of course. Many people will buy Windows 7 and the game must work with it.

39. What is the progress of game tests now? How many bugs have been detected/eliminated so far?

Gerald: At the moment we have eliminated about 3,500 bugs and we have about 80 open issues. That’s pretty good for now.

40. Are you going to increase the group of beta testers this year?

Gerald: Yes, we’ll have about 120 people in the group - this means the size of the team nearly doubled.

41. What do you think about fansites activities/works, such as ours?

Adrian: Without our fansites FIFA MANAGER would not exist anymore, that’s for sure. Our community is our big asset, and since about two years we have made many steps to improve our international communication as well. We have all news now in German and in English at the same time, there is an international community manager, and we’ll also have an international community day soon.

42. It is characteristic for manager games that lots of patches are made by fans. How game producers perceived their works/doings? In your opinion big companies making games should make editing game easier to users or they should restrict that?

Adrian: This year we have produced a huge document with more than 50 pages that describes all the options in detail. It’s a fantastic new tool that will give you many cool ideas what you can to do to extend FIFA MANAGER. We have also made several steps to make fanfiles compatible with each other (e.g. by using the same UNIQUE TEAM IDs).

But there are ways people can edit the game that we do not support and we will make them stop in the future. The parameter files are an example. If our users start to modify the values in these files then we have a problem because we have absolutely no chance to use their feedback anymore. We get too many save games with reported problems and when we look at them we find strange things that show us that one or more fansite patches were used that caused the issues. E.g. last year there was a tool that removed the league limitation. Sounds like a great thing, but when you play without this limitation the game will crash after a while because it is running out of memory.

Summary: Yes, please modify the game as much as you like, but also please stay within certain limits. But I’m sure you will be surprised when you read the document how much you can actually do. It’s a long list.

43. Have you ever heard about our fansite patch so-called Polish Giga Patch? If yes, how would you rate it?

Gerald: I have heard of it and we have a team member who speaks Polish, this means we can even understand everything what you are posting. We frequently visit all our fansites to see what’s going on.

44. At the end of this interview, could you describe at least one new feature implemented in FIFA Manager 10, not yet disclosed on the official blog?

Gerald: The final “feature” we have implemented this week is the new generic 3D player faces from FIFA 10. They look a lot better than the old ones.

Thank you again for your time spent on this interview. We wish you further successes in works on FIFA Manager 10.

Interview conducted by ?ukasz Tomczyk and Kily.

We would like to thank all persons for questions they sent and Sören Stöß for his help.

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