After the ‘revolution, not evolution’ mantra of FIFA 12, I honestly wasn’t expecting much in the way of new features from the yearly release cycle for the massively popular football franchise. While new features such as Match Day keep your game up to date with what’s happening in the football world, I was genuinely shocked to see the PC being demoed on PC at gamescom. What surprised me even more was the potential for greater gameplay possibilities on a three-screen setup; which was exactly how EA was showcasing FIFA 13 in this particular behind-closed-doors session.
I sat down with the PC producer on FIFA 13, Ian Jarvis, and got him to talk me through what FIFA fans can expect from the 13th iteration of the game.
Atomic: This three-screen setup looks amazing.
Ian: It looks okay.
Atomic: Just the potential of being able to see the full field at once.
Ian: Yeah, yeah. It needs a little tweaking, I think. But it is pretty impressive; especially on things like penalty kicks. So normally you wouldn’t think that’s too crazy but, on this screen, you see what you’d normally see, but you also see the referee; and when the kick is taken, you see the other goal keeper run on and switch. So things that are actually there but you never see [on a single-screen configuration].
Atomic: So they’re actually there on the console version and a single-screen configuration?
Ian: Well, the thing is you’ll never see that on the console, because it’s not a tweak that you can do on console. It’s kind of… it’s almost a little bit of a hack. It uses the Catalyst Eyefinity system. So we have two graphics cards in here that are linked together, so it’s something you wouldn’t be able to do on a console. For PC, this isn’t even in the highest visual setting. I turned it down a bit [on the demo PC] to try and improve the performance across the three screens, because it’s kind of a hog when it takes up three screens with the rendering. On one [screen], actually, if you go onto the show floor, the machines out there are decent, and it runs silky smooth on a single monitor. [He was right. It did.]
Atomic: What are the tweaks you mentioned that you’re still wanting to work on?
Ian: Ah, yeah, well, visually, just like for this setup.
Atomic: I’ll let you play, by the way. Then you can just talk over the demo.
Ian: Okay. It’s kind of before you enter the game, you can change a whole bunch of resolution settings and Vsync, you can turn off certain aspects of Windows, you can change anti-aliasing stuff, you can kind of mess around with all of this.
Atomic: So you mean that you’re forcing it outside of the game?
Ian: Yeah, we use the Catalyst system: Eyefinity. So what you do is you create a group so that the game thinks that the monitors are all one, and then all you do is edit a little text file that comes with the game; anyone can do it. You just tell the text file what the new resolution is. It’s 900 tall and it’s 1600 wide, so when you do it this way, it’s 900 by 4800. And that’s all you have to do.
Ian: It’s pretty easy. We’ve had a little trouble, just because of the German TVs… there’s been a little bit of miscommunication between the two devices. But, I mean, it’s pretty stunning to look at, and if you’ve got the coin to throw down for a higher-end machine that can handle Crossfire, then you’re good to go.
Atomic: NVIDIA has a similar thing as well-
Ian: -They do. And they also have 3D technology, as well.
Atomic: Yeah, I was going to say, are you guys supporting that?
Ian: Well, the funny thing is, like FIFA 11, FIFA 12, you can run it on NVIDIA 3D and it’ll work. But this year we’re not officially supporting it, but we’ve done a lot of tweaks to make it work. So the layering, for example, in the past…
Atomic: Well, even before with that crowd-panning mode, it looked perfectly set up for 3D.
Ian: So things we had to change were the layers. The icon layers were all on different layers, and it really threw off the depth. So you’ve got this deep feeling, like, the game is out there in 3D, but then this was on a vertical plane really close to you, and it just didn’t work very well. So that’s some of the PCisms. But really our big focus this year was performance, and making this PC game feel more like a PC game, because it’s a port off the console. In previous years, you had controller button icons in game, and if you’re a keyboard player, you had to think, ‘Okay, I mapped… so when I see B, that actually means D on the keyboard.’ Now it’s in-game. If you’ve bound D, you’ll see the D prompt.
Atomic: What about high-resolution textures?
Ian: Yeah, that’s another huge advantage of PC: you can crank up the performance and resolution and stuff like that, and really take advantage of it. You can set up rendering settings, anywhere from Very High to Low. We actually added a Very Low setting this year because a lot of min-spec folks who might barely have enough to play the game, but they might have the settings cranked all the way up, and it’s just a really slow experience, so they can tweak it a bit.
Atomic: What is the min spec?
Ian: Our min spec hasn’t really changed since last year. It’s a dual-core machine and 1.8GHz [CPU], the 6800GT is kind of like the base line, and I think it’s the ATI 3600. And that’s kind of min-spec, so it hasn’t really changed since last year, but we bumped up our recommended specs. If you’re playing it, we recommend at least 2.3GHz [CPU] to play the game off a quad-core machine. So, our game is GPU-based, basically. So even if you have a really fast CPU, it’s not necessarily going to make the experience better; it’s really about the graphics card that you have. So that’s really where… if someone’s playing FIFA and they’re wondering about buying a new card, or a new computer, in general; if you want to play FIFA better, it’s really graphics-card based.