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Skip Navigation LinksPlayHard > In English > FIFA Manager 09. Interview with Gerald Köhler

Название: FIFA Manager 09
Разработчик: Bright Future
Издатель: EA Sports
Официальный сайт игры: перейти
Системные требования:
P4-2.0, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB 3D Card
P4-2.6, 1 GB RAM, 256 MB 3D Card
MultiPlayer: Hot-Seat (4)
Жанр: Sport, Manager
Игра вышла: 30.10.2008
Рейтинг: 7.7

The evolution of the FIFA Manager concept has been very notable in the recent years. The series has been improved in many ways and the authors always consider all the interesting wishes coming from the community. As usually closer to the end of the year we'll see the new installment - FIFA Manager 09. A few weeks before Bright Future starts sharing their developer diaries with us, we really enjoyed our conversation with the Lead Designer of the German studio, Gerald Köhler, about the project, the increasing role of the Russian fans in it and even Euro 2008. Read on to the exclusive interview featuring the world premiere of two screenshots from the upcoming game and a set of cool photos of the team.

Gerald Köhler- Greetings, Gerald! Please, introduce your role in the project.

- Hi, Alex! My name is Gerald Köhler, and I’m the Lead Designer of FIFA Manager 09. Additionally I’m also the Managing Director of Bright Future - but because we mainly focus on FIFA Manager I can spend most of the time working directly on the game. Football management games are my passion since about 20 years, I worked on the first three “Anstoss/On The Ball” games and since 2000 on all the EA SPORTS management products.

- What news about your team can you share with us?

- First of all we have finished FIFA Manager 08, two updates, a database update, and several player pictures updates. We also worked on a Xbox 360/PS3 game and released our first mini game, which teaches you the offside rule in football. It was only released in German but it was really fun to develop and hopefully as well fun to play.

- Have any new members joined the team since that time?

- We are growing the FIFA Manager team step by step. We have hired an additional engineer for the work on the 3D-match and we have hired an additional 3D-artist as well. Our focus has shifted to more technical aspects of the 3D-match and these were necessary steps for real progress.

- Have you participated in any public events last year or this year so far?

- I frequently did that in the past but not this year. I can recommend LA very much for every game developer. It’s expensive but it’s the best motivation you can get. This year I have focused on press events with presentations of the early versions of FIFA Manager 09. Maybe I will have a chance to give some lectures at a local university in autumn, this would be fun.

Bright Future's office floor with posters and screenshots from all the team's games.- Are you happy with the reaction coming for FIFA Manager 08 from the critics and the players?

- Yes, we were happy. Even in the countries we usually got bad reviews this changed last year. I think most of the reviewers liked the 3D-progress very much. It’s now just really exciting to watch the matches. They last 12 minutes – this means that not all the stats (corners) are 100% realistic – but that’s life. Nobody wants to watch 90 minutes of football just to get the right number of corners. Another feature they liked was the new Scouting section. Some magazines even upgraded their reviews after the second update. In Germany one of the biggest magazines finally gave us 90% for the first time in history. This was cool because it showed that our support for the game was recognized.

- What can you say about FIFA Manager 08 performance in Russia judging by its sales figures?

- FIFA Manager has more than doubled its sales figures in Russia last year. Russia is one of the two countries with the biggest growth rate, the second one is Poland. Regarding positive feedback the biggest contributors are Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Italy, Greece and Romania. The good news for our Russian players: because there are now more FIFA Manager fans in Russia your voice becomes more and more important. As soon as we have a certain number of players in a country we can, of course, also look for specific features for the fans. Last year, e.g. the country who got the most development time was Spain. They got great features you will never see if you manage somewhere else.

The FIFA Manager team waiting – this was before the 'Surprise Release Party' of the game. On the evening the team had to play Sherlock Holmes and to solve a murder case (with actors).- How do you work with the community?

- About 30% of the game’s progress is driven by our community. Most of the little features are implemented because of direct feedback. There are also some medium sized features the community drives. The bigger features and the general strategy is something we decide as designers. But even in these cases we ask our users, e.g. with a poll on the website. Another great source of inspiration is to do trips abroad. Spain is a good example. I don’t speak Spanish, but when you buy a number of Spanish football magazines you get at least an idea what’s it all about in the articles and in the stats sections. This created several ideas for FIFA Manager 09, like a domestic goal scorer list (no foreign players) or an evaluation of the manager’s performance (like the player ratings). The “Final 24h of the Transfer Market” was an idea that was generated the same way.

- What’s the main goal you’ve set to achieve for FIFA Manager 09?

- Our big topic this year is “Emotion”, compared to “Authenticity” last year. This means that we have put a lot of work in a more emotional match experience, but also in videos, sound, icons, background art, skinning effects, etc. Some features are really huge, like the new text mode or the 3D-improvements, others are small, like different contract papers depending on how rich your club is.

- What aspects of the game are you satisfied with completely now meaning they won’t be changed in the nearest future?

- Usually a new feature will stay in the game for 3-4 years before we totally rework it. During this time it gets improved gradually, mainly by listening to the wishes of the players. Text mode, e.g. is new, but it won’t stay untouched. We will try to improve it even further already with the updates for 09. Features that will not change that much after 09 are Scouting and Line-up. We are quite happy there. The stadium editor is another great example. Last year we did a complete overhaul, this year we do what the fans want to improve it further. Most of the improvements are little things, but they all make sense.

Mette, Adrian and Gerald at work.- Who’s helping you with updating your database? What are the newest additions there?

- There are about 100 researchers everywhere in the world who support us and there will be between 5 and 10 new countries this year. We have started to send the new editor to our researchers already. There are many little improvements like an even better Player Search, better starting conditions for the players (injuries, bans, both etc.) and finally a new talent system (1-10 stars).

- We’ve seen the new features list and started to like it. Let’s discuss them below.

- This list is not final, there will be even more. But let’s start [smiles].

- What's awaiting us in the "Tactics" part of the game?

- In the Tactics section we have tried to add more depth but also to simplify the options for the users. We’ll soon release the detailed screenshots and explanations. This is a key feature for us this year because - and this will also answer one of the earlier questions in this interview – our tactical depth is seen as a weakness compared to our competitors. But this is really something I can live with, we had already more than 20 different tactical options last year (plus full control over the players’ moves on the pitch with the 5x5 system). Adding more and more options would make this part of the game finally so complicated that only a few players would fully use it. An additional problem is also that the orders can often contradict each other. Therefore our strategy is not complicate matters but to give the players on the pitch a little bit more of free will and common sense.

Cord, Andreas and Joaquin waiting for the Russian spaceship 'Buran' passing Cologne on its way to the Technikmuseum Speyer of Germany.- Will the interface take any changes?

- This year we haven’t changed the basic interface that much. The menu structure is still pretty much the same. There were just some little adjustments like the “Previous Searches” feature, 10 new widgets and a new widget rotation system. What we did change was the interface for the 3D-match and the interface of the line-up and tactics section. One of the major problems of the line-up screen in football manager games is not the line-up at the start of the match but how many adjustments have to make to your line-up after a substitution or (even worse) a sent-off. And this is where we want to see progress.

- What is the updated graphics engine like?

- There are many new elements, some of them from FIFA 09. That’s why I don’t want to go into details. The FIFA team has given us great support and of course they have every right to release the shots of the new 3D-match first. The supporters are something we did in our team and we implemented a new animation system with various animations (waving with scarves, jumping, simply showing the scarf, etc.). The supporters also look a lot more realistic now.

- What about the stadium editor?

- The final list of stadiums is not decided yet. Regarding the stadium editor the big step with a totally new system happened last year. This year it’s about many little details. There are new elements, new materials, more stand colours, the environment is selectable. Many of these things are currently improved. Actually this is work in progress right now.

Bright Future's team in Nice.- How have you improved the AI?

- This time the AI focus was, e.g. on the assistant manager and the line-up. We have made some significant improvements here and also on the transfer market activity of the AI clubs. The match AI was improved further as well. But this is now only happening in smaller steps.

- What will the new overview screen show? Name some new player talks and promises we’ll encounter.

- The overview screen will simply list all real and potential problems in the team. With this screen it is a lot easier to have a full overview and to make the decisions who you want to talk to and what you want to tell your players. There are many new talks, e.g. you can tell a player to improve his weak leg. Other talks are about improving certain skills or about supporting injured players or strikers who didn’t score for a long time.

- How can a player challenge his staff and who are its newest members?

- It is important to find the right balance for every staff member. Too little work and they will get bored, too much work and they will get frustrated. The talent scout helps to find very young players (there’s now also a transfer market for these guys) and the lawyers help with contracts.

A videoclip for the First International Match in FIFA Manager 09.- Video clips is an intriguing feature. Tell us more about it.

- The screens in most football managements are totally static and boring. There’s no animation at all. The cheap excuse is that it’s “detracting”. But it’s possible in all other genres therefore we wanted to change that this year and we have added many little videos to the game. This starts with your first day as a manager at a new club – another one is shown before the start of the season. There are also videos if a world-class player comes to your stadium or if one of your players scores his 100th goal. It total there are about 25 occasions for a video.

- What kind of soundtrack can we expect?

- In FIFA Manager 09 there will be more music and – most important – there will be local music. Many clubs have special little songs. It’s not always serious, e.g. for the Bavarian clubs you get exactly the kind of music you would expect on the Oktoberfest.

- Explain to the newbie gamers what the RSS Feed is and how they can use it.

- You simply add the news feeds from your favourite websites to a list and as soon as something happens in real-life it will be displayed in the FIFA Manager 09 ticker. 9 feeds can be added to the game.

- In what way does the Assistant Manager help a player?

- The Assistant is very helpful for novice players. He will help them to make at least good decisions. If you want to make very good decisions, you have to do the job yourself.

This is Bright Future’s art department. Patricia, Rafael, Bernhard, Dennis and others are creating all the screens and backgrounds in the game.- How does the new Text mode work?

- After so many years with the old system we completely removed the old one. There is absolutely nothing left. Then we started to build a new system from scratch. It works like an Internet live ticker system. This means that the text quality can be a lot better as it has been in the past. There are also a lot more comments and tactical insights into the match. If something really important happens in a stadium (like a penalty) we switch live to the stadium and report in the old radio style way because it is more exciting. We also do this, e.g. for the final attack or if a yellow-carded player commits another foul. There are also many, many improvements compared to the old version, there’s more text, more stats e.g. We’ll also have an editor and this editor is maybe the coolest thing of the whole feature. Everybody can extend the text mode now within a few minutes. It is really easy to handle. You can watch a game live and type in all the events there directly into FIFA Manager 09. It’s just a fantastic new option if you love to play in text mode.

The Match Prognosis Tool in FIFA Manager 09.- What would you say when finding out that people started to use your Match Prognosis system for money betting purposes? What's the tool capable of in its latest version?

- In this case I wish them good luck [smiles]. If someone makes a lot of money with the tool it would be very much appreciated if we could get… let’s say 10%.

The tool takes into account all the player skills and tactical selections. It also allows adding every player of our database to a team to see whether a new signing would make sense. You can also set the fitness and energy levels of the players as well as their general form. In fact we are currently already testing the tool with the European Championship.

- What will FIFA Manager 09 offer in the multiplayer field?

- We are close to make a strategic decision how to proceed with the multiplayer aspect. For 09 there are no big changes, but in the future we’ll tackle this topic.

Adrian Wahl and Oliver Tunkel - the database team of FIFA Manager 08.- How do you see the modern football managers' market?

- In the offline world there was simply continuity. All the managers released new versions, some with smaller, others with bigger progress. In the online world things are changing fast but it also becomes obvious that these games won’t thread the existing offline games. They are too different. Right now I don’t see a great football management on console. The sales potential seems to be too small to justify a massive investment here. At Bright Future we’ll continue to focus on PC management. But you never know. Maybe somebody is already developing such a game and will surprise us.

- What will be the most important for future football managers? Do you believe that a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game can be successful here?

- Something has to happen, that’s for sure. The existing games on the market get bigger and bigger and the accessibility for new players is even lower than a year before. This may become a problem for the future of these games. The solution might be an online game, but this will not replace the offline version. Another solution might be a smaller, more accessible game. A game that is more fun to play but ignores some of the details of the sport. Maybe only this part of the game has an online aspect.

- You’ve released an expansion, Extra Time, to your FIFA Manager 07. How was the result? Will we see more add-ons to your games in future?

- Yes, we were very happy with the result. But it always depends on our technical plans for the coming season whether we can do something like that. For 08 we had major changes in the 3D-engine for 09 and the introduction of Unicode that made an extension pack impossible. For 09 it will be the same. We plan to release free updates, that’s it.

A typical work day in Bright Future- Name some games released in 2007 and 2008 (so far) that you enjoyed playing.

- My favourite games were the latest Guitar Hero on the PS3 and Metroid Prime Pinball on the DS. I’m also looking forward to Rock Band on the PS3. Another game I’m looking forward to see is of course Spore.

- What recent movies have impressed you the most?

- I liked “30 Days of Night” very much. My favourite film is "Amélie", but in general I like horror movies best.

- What do you think about the latest successes of "FC Zenit Saint Petersburg" & "Manchester United"?

- As Germans we have now seen Saint Petersburg quite often on TV, and they played great. For me it was no question who would win the final. The football in Germany is still too slow and as soon as the opponents play at a certain level the teams cannot adjust. The only German team who is able to play fast paced football is our national team. Ok, and Manchester United and Chelsea were just the best teams of the season. Nobody deserved to lose that final.

- What are your bets for the Euro 2008?

- Italy seems to be the strongest side in my opinion, in spite of their horrible defeat yesterday. France and Germany are close. But there are several other teams very good teams who could win, like the Netherlands and Portugal. All the teams in Group D are candidates for the semi-final as well.

Thirsty game designers- How do you see the condition of the Russian team?

- At least they have a very good chance to reach the quarter-finals and then everything is possible. The team can win against all the teams in their group. But on the other hand the group has no easy match and they have to be fully focused on their mission.

- Guus Hiddink is working as our National team’s coach. How can you evaluate his progress?

- He is a very experienced and intelligent coach. Some years ago there were rumours that he would become manager of my favourite team, Stuttgart. But of course I am not the right person to judge him. It’s pretty hard to see matches of the Russian national team here. But I will watch all the Russian Euro 2008 matches, of course.

- In your opinion, why is Football as a sport is so popular in Russia?

- This is a very philosophical question. It’s the same for Russia as it is for all the other countries. We could talk about this for days [smiles].

-If there is anything else, you’d like to add, please, do it here.

- At first I would like thank everybody in Russia who has supported us last year. The 08 game was really successful in your country and now Russia has become a really important country for us as developers. Actually it is already among the Top 10 FIFA Manager countries – and this means that we hope to have a fully localized version pretty soon. As I’ve already mentioned we changed the game to use Unicode already this year, therefore it’s now technically no problem anymore. This year we’ll also have our first presentations of the game to the Russian press. I will fly to Moscow in July! It’s my first time and I’m really looking forward to this.

- We hope to meet you there, Gerald, and we wish you an interesting trip and a great and fruitful summer!

Adrian (database), Nico (IT), Joaquin (QA) and Andreas (3D-engineer) visiting a Dortmund match (Signal Iduna Park Stadium).

11.06.2008 22:50, Unicorn


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