Friday, October 27, 2006

Virtual soccer gets makeover in "FIFA 07",

Virtual versions of Ronaldinho and Wayne Rooney are dribbling and scoring goals more like they would in real life thanks to a makeover of thousands of international soccer stars in the latest "FIFA Soccer" video game.

In "FIFA Soccer 07," this year's addition to Electronic Arts' blockbuster soccer franchise, a new physics and data-driven engine allows the players to move less like robots and more like individuals with their own playing styles.

That's because Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.'s upcoming PlayStation 3 next-generation video game consoles can process a lot more information on each athlete's unique traits than current-generation consoles, the game's senior producer said in an interview.

"With the processing power of the next-generation platforms we can now get a level of physics on the player that we couldn't get before," said EA's Andrew Wilson. "When you are watching it, you start to recognize them not by how they look, but how they move."

Not only are the players programmed to shift their weight, drop their shoulders and plant their feet the same way their real personas do, they also make decisions on things like what runs to make and how to shoot the ball based on their real-life performances on the field.

"People like Rooney or Ronaldo or Beckham make plays in the game based on how they would in real life," Wilson said. "What time of the game is it? Are they at home or away? All these things change how a player makes decisions on the pitch."

Because the number of the vast number of traits that can now be assigned to each player, the time it takes to develop the athletes has skyrocketed.

As a result, "FIFA 07," on sale from November 1, has just 3,000 or 4,000 players compared with more than 10,000 in the previous version.

Still, Wilson said the new player attributes make the game, one of EA's biggest-selling sports franchises, less predictable because gamers will have new in-game experiences even after racking up 200 hours of play.

"We are trying to offer a rewarding learning curve," Wilson said "People in the hundredth hour are seeing things they've never played before."

In addition, the game features new ball physics that allow the soccer ball to be passed between teammates or shot at the goal more naturally.

Previously, the ball had to be "attached," as if with an invisible rubber band, to a specific player when being dribbled, passed or shot. Now, the ball moves independently of everything else in the game.

"No longer does the (processor) know where the ball is going to end up," Wilson said. "You now have to play 'FIFA' the way you would play real football."

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