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The “official games” of major sporting events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have traditionally been terrible. Short on polish or features, the games have felt like they were made on the basis that people were buying them more as a souvenir and without any regard for whether they provided any actual entertainment.

EA Sports FIFA World Cup 14

“Official” games have often had wonderfully rendered stadiums but offered very little interest inside of them.

I had heard however that the 2010 FIFA World Cup game was actually quite good. So I decided to make the investment this time and see how the game is. The short answer is that it is a good game, but you can get that from any other review. What I am going to look at here, is whether the game actually makes the whole ‘experience’ of the World Cup better.

In my opinion, there are two main things that a game like this needs to do. Prior to the tournament it needs to enable you to get ready and hyped up about the games ahead, and during the tournament it needs to allow you to play the games you are about to/just watched as realistically as possible.

This game achieves both of those very well.

Prior to the tournament

The obvious thing which the game needed to do out of the box was make it possible to play through the World Cup tournament. Unsurprisingly, it does this quite well. All the basic things are there, the stadiums, fixtures, the 32 qualified teams and their correct uniforms.

Beyond that, it also needs to make it possible to play through the tournament with a few “what if” situations, for example, you should be able to play through with teams that didn’t actually qualify, or using players for whom your personal attachment doesn’t match the opinions of the actual real-life manager (e.g. Carlos Tevez). The first part of this it does quite well, pretty much every single nation in world football is represented. Unfortunately it isn’t so good on the latter. The squads for nations, while larger than the final 23-man selections, don’t go far and have some strange omissions, so you can’t call up Tevez for Argentina.

Want to experience the World Cup the way it is in Zlatan's head, now you can!

Want to experience the World Cup the way it is in Zlatan’s head, now you can!

In addition to enabling you to play the finals tournament itself, the FIFA World Cup game put a lot of attention into telling the story of the qualifiers. This is a common inclusion, but always a bit interesting, since qualification was well over by the time the game came out.

The game presented qualification in not one, but two ways. Firstly, it allows you to play a complete qualification campaign with any team from any confederation. The best part of this was the presentation, which came complete with excellent radio commentary between the games, talking through the significance of each match and providing general interesting banter. The low point of the qualifying campaign is that there are apparently some nations, particularly in North America, where the scheduling is broken, so they can’t actually qualify for the World Cup. A fairly fatal flaw, made reasonable only by the fact that those nations are for the most part the smallest of minnows.

The other qualification-related mode is the “Story of Qualification”, a series of scenario-based games which cover over 50 of the most interesting and significant games of the qualification campaign. For example, it allows you to play both sides of the decisive playoff game between Sweden and Portugal. For anyone who has played FIFA games in the last few years, these scenarios should be familiar from the game of the week scenarios that you get – typically they boil down to needing to score a crazy number of goals in a very short amount of time.

The Story of Qualification mode allows you to play through some of the great games and performances of the qualifying campaign.

The Story of Qualification mode allows you to play through some of the great games and performances of the qualifying campaign.

The game genuinely has absolutely helped me build hype and excitement for the tournament. I have played through three world cup tournaments, full European and South American Qualifying, plus a large number of scenarios. Between these, I have been able to get a much deeper understanding of the squads and how they have made it to Brazil. In particular the Story of Qualifying scenario mode was excellent. I don’t think many people, even fairly serious fans, ever truly get an idea of what qualification is like in confederations beyond their own. But now I feel I have a fairly good idea.

During the Tournament

As I hinted earlier, in my opinion the key function of the game during the tournament is to allow you to “play along”. Again, this is something that the game does quite well.

Firstly, it was quite easy to set up a tournament in such a way that I can play the World Cup as every team. This allows my mates and I to play an “alternate reality” version of the tournament where we play every game between us and see how it goes. As it turns out, our version is a little less interesting, the first three games were draws and then Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0.

It is also very easy to play one-off games. You can pick your teams, pick the right stadium and even select the right round of the completion (group stage, quarter final etc). The teams are quickly and regularly updated for injuries and current form, so if you want to play out tonight’s big game, or get revenge for last night, you can do that well. You just might struggle sometimes, because Casillas will probably be as bad for you as he was for Spain.

With regular form updates you too can put five goals passed Casillas in the World Cup.

With regular form updates you too can put five goals passed Casillas in the World Cup.

Finally, they have also extended the scenario system through to the Finals, called, unsurprisingly, “Story of the Finals”. Within hours of each day’s games finishing, they put up scenarios which allow you to play out the morning’s action. Sometimes this is about repeating reality, such as coming back against Japan as the Ivory Coast, and other times it is about changing it, such as winning the game as Australia, or making Argentine put four goals past Bosnia. In general this is excellent. I applaud them for making them available so quickly, and unlike in previous games, making them available permanently – previously they would just have the previous night, so you could miss out if you didn’t play them immediately.

I do find however that the whole “score lots of goals in a short time” which most scenarios tends to boil down to is not only samey, but also quite annoying, and only representative of the attacking aspect of a game. I often find I have to play the scenarios at a much easier difficulty level than I normally do, simply to make it possible to achieve without replaying the scenario 100 times.

I wish that they would make the scenarios either much longer, or much shorter. Allowing you to play the entire opening game with the objective “Win as Brazil” with bonus points for doing so without conceding a goal would allow you to actually appreciate the ebb and flow of the game. Alternatively cutting the scope right down to “Replicate Neymar’s stutter-step penalty” would show-off little features like that in the game which you otherwise might not notice or use. In both cases, it would also make it easier to simply enjoy playing the scenarios at my normal level, rather than have to get bored hammering in goals against the dumbest version of the AI simply to get through them.

Conclusion

Despite a few minor foibles, the game genuinely does make the whole World Cup experience more enjoyable!

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It’s been mentioned before on this blog that Tropico is my favourite game/series of games in the world. Shortly I will be reviewing the recently released Tropico 5, but before I do that, lets quickly recap how the series has developed thus far.

Taverns of Tropico

The taverns of Tropico, Top left – Tropico, top right – Tropico 2, bottom left – Tropico 3, bottom right Tropico 4

Tropico – 2001

It’s important to remember that the Tropico series dates back to a time when building/management sims were actually AAA games. Games like Sim City, The Sims, Railroad Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon were all serious franchises that dominated shelves and discussions.

Tropico was from the makers of Railroad Tycoon and came into that market offering a quirky island version of a sandbox management sim. You picked a historical dictator (or created one of your own complete with backstory, talents and flaws) and tried to survive ruling a Caribbean island, complete with lush plants and impeccable Cuban music for the allotted 50 years. Your final score was based on not only how big and wealthy your island was, but also how much you managed to stash away in your Swiss bank account.

It was a remarkably deep simulation. You were forced to adapt your approach to economic growth in each game based on the skills of your dictator and the available resources of the island. As your island took off, immigrants would arrive looking to take advantage of the jobs and general idyllic lifestyle offered by your tropical paradise. Every one of these migrants had needs, a family and political leanings And so began your political problems. You needed to find ways to keep enough of them happy to survive regular elections, or risk being voted, Survivor style, off the island and into an instant game-over failure.

It was also a very small game. Unlike other similar games which could go for weeks, a game of Tropico was a pleasant 3-4 hours. Your island and population were also very small, around 200-600 citizens. It felt like everyone and their family mattered. With such a small population you seldom had enough time, money or construction workers to build everything the game had to offer.

This gave the game an amazing truthiness, you really felt like you were running a small, petty little island. Rather than gaming everything to min-max your economy and work out the perfect build order for everything, you instead would spend the whole game dealing with a list of strangely realistic problems. These might include winning a string of elections through micromanaging faction politics or dealing with rebels who would hide out in the jungles before attacking your favourite cigar factory. Most feared of all was trying to wrestle control over the economy back from the World Bank, who insisted on taking control of citizen wages (and hence general happiness) if the island went too far in the red. None of these were preset challenges or scenarios, they were just what happened to occur due to whatever area of the island’s development needs you weren’t quite able to keep up on.

Your problems might also be much smaller. In keeping with the island feel, Tropico managed to capture the idea of lazy tropical island life. Rupert the dockworker was going to go to the pub, go home, go to church and get his shots at the clinic no matter what. If that meant he wasn’t around when the trade ship came in, well, he’d help out on the next one. This made you care, to a ridiculous degree, about Rupert’s daily life.

Unfortunately, that significance of individual citizens was also the source of the game’s biggest frustrations, as an entire regime could be brought down because Pedro the 48 year old teamster died of a heart attack while pushing his wheelbarrow containing two years of cigar production down to the docks.

The combination of a quick, deep game that just felt perfect made Tropico being what I described as a “booty call” game. I would just get these random cravings to play one or two games, and then put it away for another couple of months.

 

Tropico 2: 2003

Tropico 2

Tropico 2 – completely different look and setting to the rest of the series.

In hindsight, Tropico 2 is very much the odd one out in the series. Unlike all the others, which take place primarily between the Cold War and today, Tropico 2 was set during the golden age of piracy.

Essentially you played the role of a pirate king. You provided a safe port and various ‘services’ to pirates who would go out, plunder the seas and bring back their treasure to spend and store on the island. By making them happier, and providing merchants to kit them out with cutlasses and parrots, you increased the potency of the pirate fleet, who in turn would be more successful and bring back more loot.

To complicate things, you essentially had two different populations. The aforementioned pirates stayed on the island, drank, visited bawdy houses and generally desired a good amount of “anarchy”. The other population were captives, who actually did all the work serving the alcohol, building buildings and providing, well, personal services. They were borderline (perhaps not so borderline in some cases) slaves who needed to be kept in check with “order”.

To explain the quotation marks, “Order” and “Anarchy” were actually a kind of aura generated by buildings and decorations. Brothels and taverns created the “anarchy” atmosphere that the pirates craved. Alternatively, making the place look like the set of Game of Thrones with the gratuitous placement of gallows and skeletons provided the necessary “order” to keep the captives in line. It was frankly a strange system, which was downright problematic with respect to captives who had to work in the pirate areas. It is a good thing that this design feature didn’t make it into any of the other Tropico games, but it did at least have the aesthetically pleasing effect of making you develop areas of the island a bit like a theme park.

A final, tiny creative flourish which I particularly enjoyed was the ability to name many of the buildings on the island. This allowed you to really add character to your game as Pirates visited the SCUMM Bar or the Llama and Pickle.

Most important in the context of the Tropico series was that Tropico 2 was primarily built around a campaign. The campaign was a series of islands and scenarios that took you from your first little island through to a bustling pirate stronghold. This was to be an idea that would dominate subsequent games.

Tropico 3: 2009

It had been a long time between rum-based cocktails when Tropico 3 was released in 2009. PopTop the original developer ceased to exist in 2006 and it was generally assumed that we would never see another game. Somehow however the Tropico franchise found itself in the hands of a Bulgarian game developer called Haemimont Games.

Tropico 3

Tropico 3 – a visually stunning reboot/reskin of the original

Much as I loved the original two games, I was very nervous about how good the game could possibly be. Although I was somewhat encouraged by the fact that it was now coming out of a nation with relatively recent experience of dictatorship.

Fortunately I had no need to be worried. This was still Tropico, lush, green and infected with a terminal case of the mambo. Haemimont had been extremely faithful to the original, and most of the buildings, edicts and mechanics were identical to what they had been in 2001. As we wrote at the time

“It looks better, runs better and has ironed out a veritable fruit stall of little quirks and bugs”

Of course, after 8 years, presentation was a notable upgrade. The game was now fully in 3D and had an impressive day/night cycle. There was also a bunch of really nice touches. Your Presidente was now an entity in-game who could visit buildings to improve production, or stand on the balcony of the palace to deliver speeches. And OMG the radio. I loved the addition of the radio. Tropico had always had amazing music, but now it was delivered interspersed with quirky radio DJ commentary on how life was going on the island. Simply awesome.

El Presidente

El Presidente is now a customisable avatar who appears in the game world. Here he is portrayed by a greaser in a top hat.

Then there was the addition of vehicles, which completely transformed the game cosmetically and structurally. By dramatically reducing travel times it solved the “Pedro’s heart attack” issue mentioned earlier. Vehicles also made it possible to develop an entire island, rather than being trapped in the tiny corner that Rupert could reasonably walk to. Incidentally, and a little ironically, it also finally enabled your island to look like the opening sequence to the original Tropico.

There were negatives to the change however. With larger islands and populations, now easily over 1000 people, faction politics became significantly less personal. The game transformed from being about appeasing 200 or so people on an island into a game about supply chains and traffic management. Essentially it went from being a ginormous game of The Sims into being a tiny version of Railroad Tycoon.

The balance was also completely different. Where previously a larger island made life really tough politically, in Tropico 3 your island could just keep growing in a state of perpetual happiness once you nailed down the economy and traffic flow. Now you pretty much could, and would, build every possible building and solve every possible problem in each game. Tropico had turned from a pretty but flawed banana republic into an utopia.

This probably would have made for quite a dull sandbox game, which may be why they decided to take the scenario idea from Tropico 2 and run with it. The game now became very much about building an island according to the requests and parameters provided by the game, more so than the resource availability or needs of the island.

Despite these changes, it felt like the developer had Tropico 3 was a refined but faithful homage to the original game.

Tropico 4: 2011

Tropico 4 felt like it was when the developer really started to commit to the idea that Tropico could be a significant commercial franchise.

Despite the fact that the two games looked very similar, Tropico 4 was a lot more sophisticated in almost all areas. The roads and traffic elements were balanced and no longer needed the obsessive control that they did in the previous version. The campaign was longer, more detailed and structured around a cast of jokey voice acted characters like Reverend Esteban the drunken priest and Brunhilde Van Hoof, a spoof of Margaret Thatcher.

The game also had a large amount of downloadable content (DLC). The previous games, going all the way back to the original each had expansions, but this time there were also ten small $5-15 packages that typically provided a building, a new scenario and some cosmetic changes.

In terms of actual gameplay, not much was different. The main change was the introduction of progress over time. Certain buildings would only become available later in the game. This continued the trend of increasing the potential island population size and reducing the importance of the island’s resources. By the end of the game you replaced your traditional resource gathering and dwellings with aesthetically ridiculous biofarms and ziggurats which enable you to house and feed a population the size of Shanghai on Nauru.

Tropico 4 ziggurat

The ziggurat – a visually ridiculous addition to your island utopia.

Another change, not huge in terms of gameplay, but significant in terms of the series was adding a sense of character development to your Presidente. While previous games had you pick a series of talents and flaws – eg an administrative genius with flatulence and a gambling problem, you now picked from traits which would “level up” and provide more powerful effects as you played more games. Now even Presidente could be perfect.

Conclusion

Tropico has evolved and developed much like one of the islands it lets you run. At the beginning it was a tough, tight little political simulation in which, like Civilization 5, you had to balance the strengths of your leader with the resources available to you. Islands were small and your objectives were focussed purely on satisfying the needs and desires of each citizen if you hoped to finish the game and not get voted off the island.

Over time the gameplay has experienced somewhat of an urban sprawl. By Tropico 4 it has become a game about managing traffic and supply chains to build incredibly large and densely populated cities. Winning/finishing the game is now achieved by completing a series of pre-ordained quests. It now feels like an anachronism that it is possible to lose the game instantly by losing an election, not that it is ever likely to happen since it is now also possible to build a tropical utopia ruled by the most talented person on the planet.

That could be characterised as an evolution into a more focussed, tightly designed game with a defined and desirable objective. All of which are good things and make Tropico 3 and 4 games I love to go back to on a regular basis. And to be honest the original Tropico, like many retro games, is now practically unplayable due to its old bugs and limitations.

But I do miss the days of seeing if an entrepreneurial former-nightclub singer with a severe case of kleptomania could survive ruling an island of 150 religious nutters.

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The fans have much to be happy about at the World Cup, but do they know enough actual cheers? I say no!

The fans have much to be happy about at the World Cup, but do they know enough actual cheers? I say no!

It’s a good news/bad news situation.

The bad news about the EA Sports FIFA World Cup game is that it is only for the previous gen consoles.

The good news is that means you can include custom chants! (it isn’t possible to add custom chants to the PS4/XBone versions).

Here are some custom sounds I have cut, mixed and mastered for use in your very own FIFA World Cup. For instructions on how to insert them into your game, see my earlier post – the FIFA 14 Custom Sounds Guide.

Unfortunately the custom chants system in the FIFA 14 World Cup game isn’t without problems. Hopefully you will have fewer problems than me, but this is what I have observed.

  1. The chants play A LOT, I strongly recommend including one or more tracks of complete silence within your chant playlists in order to space things out a bit. I have included a link to 10s of silence below (just before the playlists).
  2. The game doesn’t seem to be able handle having more than a couple of playlists to consider. Any more than that and I’ve experienced problems with it retaining the attachment of playlist to event, laggy play and even complete system crashes. This isn’t having multiple playlists loading into a single game or team, simply having 3-4 teams with their own playlist seems to create issues. I suggest picking one or two teams that you want to have extra colour, and sticking with that.
  3. The game really doesn’t like attaching sounds to the first team, alphabetically, in each confederation. So teams like Argentina and Algeria are very problematic.

Once again, I give credit to the unknown people who sang and recorded these sounds. I have come across them from a variety of sources including fanchants.co.uk (who I strongly support you to visit for more excellent chants) and the legendary Pro Evolution Soccer modder Thommsen.

To download – right click on the name of the track you want, and choose “Save link as” you should be prompted to download a .wav file.

10s spacer (for use for spacing out chants, insert one or more times into each playlist)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve always been a big fan of games, particularly sports games, that allow for customization of teams, sounds etc. The game designers can only do so much in terms of getting the gameday experience “just right”, but fans can really nail it.

To their credit, EA has been quite good over the years at allowing customization. FIFA in particular has a number of good options, including a quite deep system for customizing chants and music to be played during the game. Unfortunately, there are some quirks and foibles to this system, which is why I have written this guide.

This guide is based on FIFA 14 for PS3, but it should work the same on Xbox 360 and possibly some other platforms. Unfortunately it is NOT possible to add custom sounds to FIFA 14 on the next gen platforms of PS4 and Xbox One.

Getting started

First things first, I actually had a lot of troubles finding the “Custom Music and Chants” option in FIFA 14. It is well hidden.

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From the main menu, go to the Customise tab. Then go to the bottom right hand corner of the screen, flick the right stick to the right, and the “Custom Music and Chants” option will appear.

What does the custom chants system allow me to do?

There are a lot of things you can do with the customize chants system.

  1. You can change the menu music, using your own playlist to be played during menu screens and the arena, rather than the default EA Trax.
  2. You have extensive options for adding custom sounds to events in games played with the “Favourite Team” you selected in your profile
  3. You can add custom sounds to be played when particular players score a goal. These will be played regardless of who the player is playing for, so is a good option if you want to have a chant for a player you have signed in career mode. To my knowledge this is also the only way to have custom sounds in Ultimate Team mode.
  4. You can customize the sounds for all the other teams available in FIFA, but with a limited range of options compared to what you can do for your favourite team.
  5. You can add sounds for a variety of events involving your “Pro” player

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Important things to know when adding custom chants

  1. You need to work within the the audio file limitations of your console and speakers. I found that on PS3 the best file-types to use were wav and mp3 at maximum settings of 48k sample size and 16 bit depth.
  2. You can either assign single tracks or a playlist to an “event” within the system. Playlists need to be designed within the media management part of the console itself (i.e. the XMB on the PS3). Be aware that if you get into customizing sounds a lot, you will be creating a lot of playlists.
  3. FIFA has its own peculiar ways of determining the volume for sounds in-game. Goal celebrations seem to be quite loud while entry and victory/defeat music seems a little too quiet. Chants play at a lot of different volumes depending on what else is going on at the time. If you are finding that all of your chants are too loud/soft, you can change this by adjusting volumes within the overall game settings.

Notes on particular event types

Team chants

For non-favourite teams you just have the choice to have “Crowd Chants” These play A LOT. I observed that the game would play sounds 25 or more times during a game with standard 6-minute halves. It usually only waits 5-10 seconds from the end of a chant before it begins to play the next one.

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For your favourite team the “team chants” are divided into three categories of Anthem Chants, Positive and Motivational. Anthems will play all the time, positive if you are drawn or winning and motivational should play if you are losing (although I suspect this may not be working properly). As an interesting side-note, the positive/motivational tracks seem to play more often than anthems when your team is away from home.

I recommend only attaching your custom chants playlist to the “Favourite t because they actually play quite often, and I found that adding a playlist for the other options as well caused the game to crash.

You can also add “Team Rivals” chants for your favourite team. As the name suggests, these chants will play whenever your team is playing against a specific opponent. I typically found that these chants will play about 5-6  times per game. You can assign tracks or playlists to quite a large number of rivals. You can create great derby soundtracks by including the anti-team chants from both sides of the rivalry.

Goal Songs

These play immediately after a goal is scored, so you will hear them over the celebration dance and carrying through over the replay. An important thing to note is that team goal songs have priority over favourite player goal songs. So you will never hear the specific songs for a player when he is playing for a team you have assigned a team song to.

An annoying detail that I hope they fix is that team goal songs will play even when the team is playing away from home, which is quite unrealistic.

Entry and Victory/Defeat Songs

The entry songs start when you load into the game, and likewise the Victory/Defeat songs start at the final whistle. A couple of things to note are that FIFA seems to play these quite quietly. Also, with Victory/Defeat songs, you won’t hear them much until the commentators stop talking, which doesn’t happen until about 22 seconds into the track, so you might want to line up the “good bit” of the song to come in at that point.

My top tips

  • Have at least 10 different chants in any playlist you want to assign to “Team Chants”. If you feel that you are hearing your tracks too often, add in some tracks that are just 10-20 seconds of silence in order to space things out a bit.
  • If you want to hear a chant more often than others then put it in the playlist twice.
  • If you are able to edit the chants you put in the game, try to keep them to 5-20 seconds with a little fade-in and out. This will help the chants to blend into the game better.
  • For favourite team, use your playlist for “Favourite Team Anthem Chants” and leave both positive and motivational as “default”
  • For goal celebration songs, try to trim them down to the 10-15 seconds that you really want to hear while your players dance around celebrating their goal.
  • For Team Entry, Victory and Defeat songs, make sure your song is as loud and clear as possible. You may also want to trim to make sure you get the good bit, as people usually skip a lot of these scenes.

Example

Here is about 2.5 minutes of gameplay with some custom sounds I put together for AC Milan. You will notice that even in this short amount of time you hear custom chants come in 6 times.

And yes, I am playing against a Serie B team and on Semi-Pro, so it isn’t very difficult.

 

Below are the sounds I cut, mixed and mastered to go into FIFA 14. Good luck inserting them into your own game. I am also preparing sounds for international teams taking part in this year’s world cup. They can be found in their own post Custom sounds for EA Sports FIFA World Cup

Credit where it is due to the people that originally recorded these sounds. I have acquired them from many sources over the year, including the legendary PES modder Thommsen.

 

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Within the next few weeks, the Xbox One and PS4 will both hit the marketplace. This essentially marks the beginning of a new generation of games and consoles. With that in mind, we thought it would be good to quickly revisit the impact of what we like to call the “three” generation of the Xbox 360, PS3 and their old rival, the PC.

Here are the five storylines from that generation.

New storytelling techniques

The techniques for storytelling in games has evolved over the 8 years of the three generation. Much of this can be attributed simply to the evolution of the medium. Gaming has become a big business and more mainstream, this has led to bigger budgets and the ability to draw on more and more talented people, enabling the discovery and development of new ways of telling stories interactively. The increased graphical and computational power that the generation brought with it certainly can’t be ignored either.

Perhaps the strongest new developments over the three generation has been the move of games to be more cinematic in scale and scope, as well as the increased use of the environment to tell stories. While neither are completely new ideas in themselves, they have taken a particular form in this generation, specifically;

–          Shorter 10-30 hour games

–          Snappy dialogue, frequently delivered during “down time” while travelling between encounters

–          Separation of a main plot told through dialogue, and a ‘world story’ told through found items, radio chatter, looted items, and the art design of the world

–          Increased use of significant NPCs to create an emotional attachment with the player, these NPCs are frequently companions and things that happen to them are used to drive the drama of the final segment of the game

In my opinion, Grand Theft Auto IV was the first big “blockbuster” title of the three generation, and established both of these elements. Despite its length, GTA:IV told a very film-like story, a three act drama of a refugee finding his way in America, full of conflict and sub-plots. It also oozed story out of every part of the environment, from the posters on walls, to the chatter on the radio and all the little bits you could interact with such as watching TV.

If it was GTA: IV that heralded this type of storytelling for the generation, it was the Bioshock series that took the idea of environmental storytelling and really developed it. These ideas and techniques have now become incorporated into almost all big-budget, story-based games, and at the end of the generation, games like The Last of Us are a sign of just how far we’ve come.

 

Bioshock showed the world how a story could be told using the environment.

Bioshock showed the world how a story could be told through environment details like the layout and appearance of objects.

The death and resurrection of the PC

The PC has faced a remarkable cycle during the three generation. Much of this was as a result of the generational shift in TV screen technology. For much of the generation all three platforms competed on the equal playing field of the ubiquitous 1080-line resolution.

In the early years of the generation, the Consoles appeared to have a clear ascendancy. In addition to operating at an equivalent resolution to most PCs they had a cheaper entry point, hardware consistency, effective online stores and DRM. They also had the benefit of big-spending owners who ensured that developers prioritised the development of games as console-first, often to the detriment of PC versions.

Naturally this led to a lot of stories about the “death of PC gaming”, which for a while seemed to be sustained exclusively by World of Warcraft and a few die-hard FPS enthusiasts who refused to give up point-and-click shooting.

Things have changed towards the end of the generation however. Predictably, over the eight year cycle, the power available to PCs has increased well beyond what the consoles can manage. Less predictably, digital distribution on PC, particularly through Steam store has grown to rival anything on the consoles and the PC has actually found itself at the forefront of business innovations with the emergence of web-based and free-to-play gaming.

Content and services beat hardware?

Sony clearly went into the three generation with the most powerful console. It wasn’t really until the Kinect came out in 2010 that you could really say that there was anything that the Xbox could do better than the PS3 (is this perhaps why it is such a big part of the Xbox One?).

Tech gear is typically sold on power and features. And yet, despite the power disparity, the two consoles maintained a relative stalemate in terms of market share.

It’s hard to ignore the aggressiveness of Microsoft releasing a year before the PS3, and spending big on exclusive content as being part of the reason for their success. Early in the generation, Xbox established a strong exclusives line-up involving Halo, Gears of War, Viva Pinata and the GTA:IV DLCexpansions.

Cross-platform publishing

Once parity was established between the two platforms, it became entrenched. The large third-party publishers such as Ubisoft, EA and Activision all maintained a largely agnostic approach to the two consoles and PC. Games were built to look and play as identically as possible on all three. Arguably this was to the detriment of the PC and PS3 who had their versions restricted to what was possible on an Xbox 360.

It is also fair to say that the PS3 proved to be simply too difficult to write for. Only a very small number of first party games really showed that the PS3 was capable of doing more than the 360, and almost all of those seemed to suffer blowouts in terms of release schedules. Perhaps the greatest evidence of this is that the hardware for the PS4 is no-where near as idiosyncratic as its predecessor.

Changing of the guard of dominant franchises?

The eight years of the three generation also saw a shift in the dominant franchises in gaming.

Arguably the biggest franchises coming into the generation were GTA and Halo. Both had huge releases within the first year or so, but then had a large hiatus in which they dropped out of the public consciousness. In the case of GTA it has only just re-emerged 5 years later, having had 3 major releases in the 5 years before GTA IV.

In the middle of the cycle, the rhythm game phenomena of Guitar Hero and Rock Band dominated Christmas shopping and DLC purchases, but both died out during the course of the generation.

Now at the end of the cycle, Call of Duty is the biggest game in town. It has managed an annual release through the entire generation, and has really kicked on since the landmark Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007. If you only see one TV ad for a game this year, it will almost certainly be for Call of Duty.

Speaking of annual releases. There has also been a bit of movement in the sports games genre. Early in the generation EA Sports managed a complete victory in NFL by wrapping up an exclusive license for the game and shutting down all competition. They won it the right way in football however. Fifa adapted better to the generation than PES, and since 2009 has been the clearly dominant game. It hasn’t all been good for EA Sports however, as the NBA 2K series has established itself as the premier basketball franchise, perhaps because 2K sports doesn’t have to invest in NFL rights and development any more.

Conclusion

That’s our five top storylines from the generation. What do you think are the biggest developments and changed in the gaming landscape that have occurred over the past 8 years?

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Given that the european football season is now into its most interesting time of the year, it is perhaps unsurprising that I’ve been playing a lot of FIFA 11 lately.  There’s nothing quite like watching or reading about a game to put you in the mood to play a couple of quick games after work.

Over the past couple of years, I have particularly enjoyed FIFA’s  “Live Season” mode which allows me to play through the season of my team, one game at a time, with the correct formation, team selection and form, lovingly crafted for me each week by whatever funky gremlins they employ at EA.

Awesome as it is, the downside of this is that rather than being able to play a season at my own pace, I need to wait a week between games for the next one to first be played, then coded and finally arrive for download. This isn’t enough football for a natural obsessive like me and has required me to be more creative in my team choices.

My normal plan over the years has been to try to play with Grimsby Town FC, a lower-league English team from a town famous for being very cold and making fish fingers. Times have been tough for them lately, the fish-finger factory closed down after a fire in 2005 and I think that the team has dropped to a league so low that it no longer exists in the game. Even if they are still there, there’s simply too much of a time commitment involved in dragging them through 3-4 leagues to get to the top now, and playing with such poor quality players is fairly limited in terms of fun.

Plan B has been to try and find interesting teams from around the world. First up was Stabek of Norway. They were tempting because I’d visited their rather nice stadium recently, but after playing about a dozen games with them I realised that, like Grimsby, they were just too poorly skilled to have fun with in FIFA.

I then moved my attentions to the Russian league. This promised more skill, a bit of a transfer budget, and ultimately quite a lot of fun. I had a great time playing through a season with Rubin Kazan, terrorising Russian defences with the pace of Obafeme Martins.

But then what next? A little disappointed by the fact that Russia, like most leagues, has a massive disparity between the few good and many bad teams, I decided to try out the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is one of the most evenly matched and athletic leagues at the moment, and certainly contains a lot more skill than I’d seen in my teams on the coastline of the North Sea.

The only problem though, is that I’ve never even watched a Bundesliga game and had absolutely no attachment to any of the sides. I searched through the teams, trying to find one that matched the style I liked to play with a couple of players I liked. I didn’t have much luck.

Then a friend of mine heard about a cheat that allowed him to get 2 billion dollars in career mode, he went on a spending spree buying a bunch of talented youngsters (he set himself a rule of no-one over 25) and started having a lot of fun as Kaiserslautern.

I didn’t want to cheat, but suddenly I was inspired. I liked the youth approach, and the idea of starting off with a team built to play exactly the sort of football I wanted. I wasn’t going to “cheat” too badly to get it, but what if I could do it in some sort of fair way?

The plan

So, I picked a side to be the shell of the team I would use. I decided fairly quickly on Wolfsburg because;

a) I always thought it was awesome that around 1998/99 they were coached by a man called Wolfgang Wolf,

b) It was fun to displace Steve McLaren as their coach

3) they are owned by VW, and I own a VW

I set myself three rules for the project

  1. No players over 25 in the entire squad
  2. No players from other Bundesliga teams
  3. Every player transferred in must be replaced with a player out, of similar quality basic position (GK, def, mid, att), so the team should get younger, but not necessarily be much better in terms of ovr ratings.

Part I; building the team.

Wolfsburg had around 13 players under the age of 25, three of whom were a really solid foundation for the new team. These were

Dzeko, a lethal striker who in real life had been sold to Manchester City for big money mid season, I was not going to make that sale.

Diego, a skilful Brazillian attacking midfielder who also filled the valuable role of free-kick specialist

Kjaer, a monstrous Danish central defender, tactically sound and strong in the air.

It would be heartless to break this up.

Of the oldies I was trading out, the best were Benaglio, the Swiss goalkeeper, and Wolfsburg captain, and Josue a regular defensive midfielder for the Brazillian national side.  The rest were a mix of solid first-team regulars and fairly ordinary back-ups. I wasn’t going to be a galacticos, but as a 4-star (out of 5) rated side, I was going to be rather competitive.

After an afternoon spent scanning the FIFA player database I came up with the following side

GK,

Hugo Lloris (Lyon), taking advantage of the very high rating of Benaglio I snagged Hugo Lloris, despite being very young he’s captained Les Blues and is rated amongst the top few in the world between the sticks.

Mannone (Arsenal) a 6’3” keeper, currently on loan to Hull in real life.  22 yrs old and Italian, very much a back-up.

Marwin Hitz, young swiss goalie, already in the squad

Wing-Backs,

Kolarov (Man City), very good defensively and solid going forward, strength at left-back is important for dealing with the very fast and talented right-wingers I could expect in the Bundesliga.

Ilsinho (Sao Paolo) Capped once for Brazil, extremely skilful dribbler, an attacking threat of my own down the right.

Carlinhos (Fluminense), essentially a slightly watered down and left-footed version of Ilsinho.

Centre-Backs

Simon Kjaer, 6’2” Danish defender, 21 years old, already in the squad, has played 15 games for his national team.

Ranocchia (I got him from Genoa, in real life he’d been on loan to Bari and has just been bought out by part-owners Inter) 22 years old, 6’5”, has played one game for the Azzuri

Bonucci (Juve) 6’3”, 23 yrs old, can play centre or right, has played 8 times for the Azzuri

Zelao (Saturn Moscow) a 6’2” Brazilian centreback with good all-around ball-skills, figured he’d be useful for games where the other team sits back a lot and I need defenders to be able to open up space with passing.

Midfielders

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), a direct trade for the defensive midfield prowess of Josue.  At 6’2” he gave me a very tall, strong, and happily in terms of keeping a Bundesliga feel, German presence in midfield.

Afellay (PSV, in real life has gone to Barca), don’t really need to say much about him, was happy for him to be eligible.

Montolivo (Fiorentina), I didn’t have a player to trade for him, but I was able to buy him with the transfer funds available at the beginning of the game. He’s my favourite young Italian player at the moment, 5’11” playmaker, 19 games for the Azzuri.

Marlos (Sao Paolo) Very skilful passer and dribbler, a back-up for Diego

Elias (Atletico Madrid), classic box-to-box type midfielder, good passing, dribbling, and stamina

Ja-Cheol Koo, only brought in because the club had acquired him in real life, was very much a back-up

Medel (Boca, although in real life has been traded to Sevilla) a defensively oriented Chilean midfielder, bit of a Mascherano type, has played 28 games for his country

Forwards and Strikers,

Diego

Dzeko

Doumbia (CSKA Moscow) speed, skill and finishing.  Shame he isn’t a little taller.

Hernandez (Palermo) 20 year old, 6’1” Uruguayan striker, a useful back-up with similar pace to Doumbia.

Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad) 23 year old 5’8” Uruguayan striker, a super-sub type player, quick, skillful and good at finishing, but not much of a physical presence.  Can also play in Diego’s slot behind the strikers.

John Rodriguez (Burnley) a project player traded with an old and slow guy that probably needed to be cut, not likely to start any time soon, but has some promising basic skills, he’s quick and 6’1”

Part II, Tactics and Formation

I grew fond of the team immediately. It was packed with players that I like, in the positions I needed to build my favourite strategies.

Over the course of the season I settled on three different formations, and a small variety of tactical set-ups.

4-1-2-1-2

A very narrow but effective formation. Made by slightly modifying the base 4-2-1-2 in the game by moving the CAM to CF. In my experience, CAM is actually quite poor in the FIFA AI, neither making attacking runs against the opposition defensive line, or hanging back deep enough to pick up balls deflected behind the strikers. By moving Diego up to CAM I had all three of him, Dzeko and Doumbia making dangerous runs through the middle of defense.

In terms of tactical settings, I borrowed the default settings for the German national team, with the small change of Chance Creation from Organised to Free Form. What this gave me was a high-possession but unpredictable structure as I passed through the centre of the field.

As a formation and tactical combination it was extremely effective against teams with a high defensive line, and most teams that played a 4-2-3-1 for some reason (which is a lot of the Bundesliga). It was terrible against teams playing 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-1-2 as in all cases the midfield became too crowded to work in.

4-2-2-2

The Brazilian box formation. I’ve liked this formation in a lot of football games over the years, and once again it didn’t disappoint. The basic theory of it is that apart from the wing-backs, everyone has a central position, which provides a lot of strength defensively, and then a lot of room to run into down the flanks when in attack.

For this team it worked extremely well. Kolarov and Ilsinho thrived as wing-backs with all that space in front of them, while Diego and Afellay proved to be perfect LAM and RAM players respectively. Tactically I either used the same approach as above, or one that I’d modified with a much higher cross setting to make more use of the runs down the wing. This was a good formation for breaking down the 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-1-4-1 formations as shifting the creative midfielders to the outside moved them away from the defensive midfielder.

4-2-3-1

This is the vogue formation of the moment in real life, and particularly in Germany. It was the formation that dominated the world cup, being employed by Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Brazil each in their own way. I chose the Brazilian variant, created by modifying the 4-2-2-2 above by shifting the second striker back to become a CF.


The result is a formation with a lot of skill and numbers in the middle of the park. It works quite well with the modified German tactics, and the crossing variant discussed above, and also with a copy-pasted set of the tactics from Barcelona. Mainly I found this to be a good formation to shift to in games where either the 4-1-2-1-2 wasn’t providing enough width, or where I wanted to shut the game down by maintaining possession. I did also settle on it as the formation from the start of games against 4-4-1-1 because with a 5 vs 4 outnumbering in midfield I found that it was completely dominant.

Results

Building a team to my own specifications proved to be both very fun and extremely dominant.  I won the Bundesliga by 14 points with a record of 26 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses, 86 points..  It was all over when with 4-5 games to go, I had a rather well-timed match-up against second-placed Bayer Leverkeusen who I thrashed 3-0 in their home stadium.

Dzeko finished the season with 29 goals, 11 more than the next highest scorer.  Doumbia was the 5th highest scorer with 16 goals.  Overall the team finished with 63 goals for, 7 against.

The cup final was against Bayern, Dzeko scored early, within 30 minutes it was 3-0, and by the end of the game it was 4-0.

Overall it was a really great way of playing FIFA. A team I liked, playing the type of football I wanted, in a league that was actually really challenging along the way, despite the appearance of my dominance. As a play-style it fell neatly between the proper in-depth league simulation of career mode and the trading and grinding of Ultimate team. I strongly recommend it as an approach for anyone looking for a way to get a bit more fun out of FIFA or just to try out a wacky theory. In fact, right now I am in the process of setting up a second experiment, is it possible to win the English Premier League with an all-English team?

I love sports games, particularly how they provide their own, almost organic, heavily layered narrative. Every button-press matters not only in its effect on it’s own microsecond of play, but also in the context of a match, and ultimately a season. One late hit of the X can be the difference between scoring a goal that will decide whether many hours of play have been successful or in vain. It’s far more than any quick-time event will ever be.

 

Of late, my sports game of choice has been FIFA 11. I particularly love the “Live Season” mode which allows me to play through the season of my team, one game at a time, with the correct formation, team selection and form, lovingly crafted for me each week by whatever funky gremlins they employ at EA.

 

Awesome as it is, the downside of this is that rather than being able to play a season at my own pace, I need to wait a week between games for the next one to first be played, then coded and finally arrive for download. This isn’t enough football for a natural obsessive like me and has required me to be more creative in my team choices.

 

My normal plan over the years has been to try to play with Grimsby Town FC, a lower-league English team from a town famous for being very cold and making fish fingers. Times have been tough for them lately, the fish-finger factory closed down after a fire in 2005 and I think that the team has dropped to a league so low that it no longer exists in the game. Even if they are still there, there’s simply too much of a time commitment involved in dragging them through 3-4 leagues to get to the top now, and playing with such poor quality players is fairly limited in terms of fun.

 

Plan B has been to try and find interesting teams from around the world. First up was Stabek of Norway. They were tempting because I’d visited their rather nice stadium recently, but after playing about a dozen games with them I realised that, like Grimsby, they were just too poorly skilled to have fun with in FIFA.

 

I then moved my attentions to the Russian league. This promised more skill, a bit of a transfer budget, and ultimately quite a lot of fun. I had a great time playing through a season with Rubin Kazan, terrorising Russian defences with the pace of Obafeme Martins.

 

But then what next? A little burned by the fact that Russia, like most leagues, has a massive disparity between the good and bad teams, I decided to try out the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is famously one of the most evenly matched and athletic leagues at the moment, and certainly a lot more skill than I’d seen in my teams on the coastline of the North Sea.

 

The only problem though, is that I’ve never so much as watched a Bundesliga game and had absolutely no attachment to any of the sides. I searched through the teams, trying to find one that matched the style I liked to play with a couple of players I liked. I didn’t have much luck.

 

Then a friend of mine heard about a cheat that allowed him to get 2 billion dollars in career mode, he went on a spending spree buying a bunch of talented youngsters (he set himself a rule of no-one over 25) and started having a lot of fun as Kaiserslautern.

 

I didn’t want to cheat, but suddenly I was inspired. I liked the youth approach, and the idea of starting off with a team built to play exactly the sort of football I wanted. I wasn’t going to “cheat” too badly to get it, but what if I could do it in some sort of fair way?

 

The plan

 

So, I picked a side to be the shell of the team I would use. I decided fairly quickly on Wolfsburg because;

a) I always thought it was awesome that around 1998/99 they were coached by a man called Wolfgang Wolf,

b) It was fun to displace Steve McLaren as their coach

3) they are owned by VW, and I own a VW

 

I set myself three rules for the project

  1. No players over 25 in the entire squad

  2. No players from other Bundesliga teams

  3. Every player transferred in must be replaced with a player out, of similar quality basic position (GK, def, mid, att), so the team should get younger, but not necessarily be much better in terms of ovr ratings.

 

Part I; building the team.

 

Wolfsburg had around 13 players under the age of 25, three of whom were a really solid foundation for the new team. These were

Dzeko, a lethal striker who in real life had been sold to Manchester City for big money mid season, I was not going to make that sale.

Diego, a skilful Brazillian attacking midfielder who also filled the valuable role of free-kick specialist

Kjaer, a monstrous Danish central defender, tactically sound and strong in the air.

 

Of the oldies I was trading out, the best were Benaglio, the Swiss goalkeeper, and Wolfsburg captain, and Josue a regular defensive midfielder for the Brazillian national side.  The rest were a mix of solid first-team regulars and fairly ordinary back-ups. I wasn’t going to be a galacticos, but as a 4-star (out of 5) rated side, I was going to be rather competitive.

 

After an afternoon spent scanning the FIFA player database I came up with the following side

 

GK,

Hugo Lloris (Lyon), taking advantage of the very high rating of Benaglio I snagged Hugo Lloris, despite being very young he’s captained Les Blues and is rated amongst the top few in the world between the sticks.

Mannone (Arsenal) a 6’3” keeper, currently on loan to Hull in real life.  22 yrs old and Italian, very much a back-up.

Marwin Hitz, young swiss goalie, already in the squad

 

Wing-Backs,

Kolarov (Man City), very good defensively and solid going forward, strength at left-back is important for dealing with the very fast and talented right-wingers I could expect in the Bundesliga.

Ilsinho (Sao Paolo) Capped once for Brazil, extremely skilful dribbler, an attacking threat of my own down the right.

Carlinhos (Fluminense), essentially a slightly watered down and left-footed version of Ilsinho.

 

Centre-Backs

Simon Kjaer, 6’2” Danish defender, 21 years old, already in the squad, has played 15 games for his national team.

Ranocchia (I got him from Genoa, in real life he’d been on loan to Bari and has just been bought out by part-owners Inter) 22 years old, 6’5”, has played one game for the Azzuri

Bonucci (Juve) 6’3”, 23 yrs old, can play centre or right, has played 8 times for the Azzuri

Zelao (Saturn Moscow) a 6’2” Brazilian centreback with good all-around ball-skills, figured he’d be useful for games where the other team sits back a lot and I need defenders to be able to open up space with passing.

 

Midfielders

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), a direct trade for the defensive midfield prowess of Josue.  At 6’2” he gave me a very tall, strong, and happily in terms of keeping a Bundesliga feel, German presence in midfield.

Afellay (PSV, in real life has gone to Barca), don’t really need to say much about him, was happy for him to be eligible.

Montolivo (Fiorentina), I didn’t have a player to trade for him, but I was able to buy him with the transfer funds available at the beginning of the game. He’s my favourite young Italian player at the moment, 5’11” playmaker, 19 games for the Azzuri.

Marlos (Sao Paolo) Very skilful passer and dribbler, a back-up for Diego

Elias (Atletico Madrid), classic box-to-box type midfielder, good passing, dribbling, and stamina

Ja-Cheol Koo, only brought in because the club had acquired him in real life, was very much a back-up

Medel (Boca, although in real life has been traded to Sevilla) a defensively oriented Chilean midfielder, bit of a Mascherano type, has played 28 games for his country

 

Forwards and Strikers,

Diego

Dzeko

Doumbia (CSKA Moscow) speed, skill and finishing.  Shame he isn’t a little taller.

Hernandez (Palermo) 20 year old, 6’1” Uruguayan striker, a useful back-up with similar pace to Doumbia.

Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad) 23 year old 5’8” Uruguayan striker, a super-sub type player, quick, skilful and good at finishing, but not much of a physical presence.  Can also play in Diego’s slot behind the strikers.

John Rodriguez (Burnley) a project player traded with an old and slow guy that probably needed to be cut, not likely to start any time soon, but has some promising basic skills, he’s quick and 6’1”

 

 

Part II, Tactics and Formation

 

I grew fond of the team immediately. It was packed with players that I like, in the positions I needed to build my favourite strategies.

 

Over the course of the season I settled on three different formations, and a small variety of tactical set-ups.

 

4-2-1-2

 

A very narrow but effective formation. Made by slightly modifying the base 4-2-1-2 in the game by moving the CAM to CF. In my experience, CAM is actually quite poor in the FIFA AI, neither making attacking runs against the opposition defensive line, or hanging back deep enough to pick up balls deflected behind the strikers. By moving Diego up to CAM I had all three of him, Dzeko and Doumbia making dangerous runs through the middle of defense.

 

In terms of tactical settings, I borrowed the default settings for the German national team, with the small change of Chance Creation from Organised to Free Form. What this gave me was a high-possession but unpredictable structure as I passed through the centre of the field.

 

As a formation and tactical combination it was extremely effective against teams with a high defensive line, and most teams that played a 4-2-3-1 for some reason (which is a lot of the Bundesliga). It was terrible against teams playing 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-1-2 as in all cases the midfield became too crowded to work in.

 

4-2-2-2

 

The Brazilian box formation. I’ve liked this formation in a lot of football games over the years, and once again it didn’t disappoint. The basic theory of it is that apart from the wing-backs, everyone has a central position, which provides a lot of strength defensively, and then a lot of room to run into down the flanks when in attack.

 

For this team it worked extremely well. Kolarov and Ilsinho thrived as wing-backs with all that space in front of them, while Diego and Afellay proved to be perfect LAM and RAM players respectively. Tactically I either used the same approach as above, or one that I’d modified with a much higher cross setting to make more use of the runs down the wing. This was a good formation for breaking down the 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-1-4-1 formations as shifting the creative midfielders to the outside moved them away from the defensive midfielder.

 

4-2-3-1

 

This is the vogue formation of the moment in real life, and particularly in Germany. It was the formation that dominated the world cup, being employed by Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Brazil each in their own way. I chose the Brazilian variant, created by modifying the 4-2-2-2 above by shifting the second striker back to become a CF.


The result is a formation with a lot of skill and numbers in the middle of the park. It works quite well with the modified german tactics, and the crossing variant discussed above, and also with a copy-pasted set of the tactics from Barcelona. Mainly I found this to be a good formation to shift to in games where either the 4-1-2-1-2 wasn’t providing enough width, or where I wanted to shut the game down by maintaining possession. I did also settle on it as the formation from the start of games against 4-4-1-1 because it dominated that formation with more numbers in midfield, and an ability to completely shut it down defensively.

 

Results

 

Building a team to my own specifications proved to be both very fun and extremely dominant.  I won the Bundesliga by 14 points with a record of 26 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses, 86 points..  It was all over when with 4-5 games to go, I had a rather well-timed match-up against second-placed Bayer Leverkeusen who I thrashed 3-0 in their home stadium.

 

Dzeko finished the season with 29 goals, 11 more than the next highest scorer.  Doumbia was the 5th highest scorer with 16 goals.  Overall the team finished with 63 goals for, 7 against.

 

The cup final was against Bayern, Dzeko scored early, within 30 minutes it was 3-0, and by the end of the game it was 4-0.

 

Overall it was a really great way of playing FIFA. A team I liked, playing the type of football I wanted, in a league that was actually really challenging along the way, despite the appearance of my dominance. As a play-style it fell neatly between the proper in-depth league simulation of career mode and the trading and grinding of Ultimate team. I strongly recommend it as an approach for anyone looking for a way to get a bit more fun out of FIFA or just to try out a wacky theory. In fact, right now I am in the process of setting up a second experiment, is it possible to win the English Premier League with an all-English team?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defensively I had the option to play the very aggressive Brazilian right-backs, or shut it down by putting Bonucci there.

 

Midfield is probably my weakest area, but I’m expecting Khedira to be an absolute rock, and I can choose to attack in front of that with players like Afellay and Elias, or shut it down with Medel and Montolivo (who is also quite good going forward).  Up front I have a really nice mix that allows me to choose pace, height, strength and finishing.  Diego looks like he will score a lot of my goals, but the pace of Doumbia is very hard to handle, and he is great at setting up Dzeko with chances.  I’ve played two friendlies against a brazillian and a dutch side, won 3-0 and 4-0 respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From what I can see, that means they have 13 keepable players, 4 or 5 of which might be solid starters, so a lot to replace.  Because the rosters don’t seem to have been updated for a while they might still have Dzeko, that’s a good thing, and in fact I might break the rule to bring him back, purely because at the start of the season he was there, and he certainly qualifies otherwise.  I’ll also claim Ja-Cheol Choo, because he was just signed by them, and is very young.

 

 

I’m half considering doing a season similar to yours, only with a team made of the under 25’s that you haven’t picked (helped by the fact that I will use the roster editing method to grab the ones you couldn’t), with a bit of fancy exporting I then might be able to set it up so that we can play games against each other with our respective teams.  If you give me a full list of your squad then I will work around that.  I might do it with Wolfsburg.

 

Ok, so it is;

 

GK:  Akinfeev, Scott Carson as back up (I may change this as I just selected anyone).

 

Def

Oscar Wendt,

Fabio Coentrao,

David Santon,

Micah Richards,

Per Mertesacker,

M Sakho,

Gary Cahill,

Adil Rami,

vd Wiel

 

 

Mid

Antoine Griezmann

Ganso

A Turan

Eden Hazard

Steven Defour

Nuri Sahin

 

Att

Lukaku,

Gervinho,

Neymar,

Toivonen,

Llorente

 

Hmm, that is interesting; I suppose I’d look at something like

 

GK, Neuer, Viviano, Romero

 

Def

Bonucci,

Di Silvestre,

Subotic,

Ansaldi,

Azpilicueta,

Beck,

Santon

Otamendi

 

Mid

Dimitri Payet

Brahimi

Sissoko

Pareja

Yarmolenko

Rudy

Reinartz

Trasch

Strootman

 

Att

 

Aguero

Podolski

Rossi

Berg

DongWon

 

 

Hmm, ok, I’ve decided.  I’ll play Wolfsburg and go with 3 rules;

 

 

From what I can see, that means they have 13 keepable players, 4 or 5 of which might be solid starters, so a lot to replace.  Because the rosters don’t seem to have been updated for a while they might still have Dzeko, that’s a good thing, and in fact I might break the rule to bring him back, purely because at the start of the season he was there, and he certainly qualifies otherwise.  I’ll also claim Ja-Cheol Choo, because he was just signed by them, and is very young.

 

It’s a different approach, but should create an interesting squad. I’ll try to build it tonight, I’ll let you know who I wind up with.

 

Well, there’s plenty of players to move, just how good they will be, I don’t know.  I reckon I’ll mainly pick the players based on searching the FIFA database for people that are going to match the formation and style that I want, so I really don’t know who I will wind up with.  That heightens the anticipation I reckon, it could be a very interesting squad indeed. I’m rather excited about it.

 

Oh, and of course there’s a 4th rule which we knew but I didn’t write below, none will be players that you have So it will be a case of a team built to match my style, vs a team of almost all the young players you wanted.  Could be a very interesting match-up.

 

Incidentally, the choice of Wolfsburg is a) because I always thought it was awesome that from 1998 they were coached by a man called Wolfgang Wolf, b) it’ll be fun to displace Steve McLaren as their coach 3) they are owned by VW, and I own a VW

 

Ok, so as it turned out, I couldn’t get those guys because a) they were better than what I had to trade away, b) Muller plays in Germany.

 

So, the two best players to keep were Dzeko, a slow but otherwise amazing striker rated 85 overall, Diego, who is happily an amazing free-kick taker (and despite being brazillian has a bit of a resemblance to Ballack), and Kjaer, a useful Danish defender.

 

The best guys I had to trade out were Benaglio, the Swiss goalkeeper, and my captain, he is rated 86, and Josue, a defensive midfielder who played 28 games in Dunga’s selecao (high praise to be picked to play Dunga’s position by Dunga), he is ranked 80.  The rest were a mix of mid-high 70s and a couple of high 60s, I also have a bunch of young guys from the club that are rated in the mid-60’s I kept them to give me depth, but won’t be getting any game time soon.  The best position to trade from was centre back, they had a pair of 79’s (one of whom was Barzagli, a player I’ve always wanted to see at Milan, he’s only about 26 and was sad to let go).

 

Unfortunately I left my pad with all my notes behind, but this is my team as I remember it;

 

GK,

Joe Hart (Man City), a decline of 4 points from Benaglio, but the best u-25 goalkeeper from outside the Bundesliga (would have loved to get Neuer).

Mannone (Arsenal) a 6’3” keeper, currently on loan to Hull in real life.  22 yrs old and Italian, very much a back-up.

Marwin Hitz, young swiss goalie, already in the squad

 

Wing-Backs,

Kolarov (Man City), very good defensively, wanted to invest in security there to be able to deal with right wingers, that’s an Italian thing

Ilsinho (Sao Paolo) Capped once for Brazil, extremely skilful dribbler.

Carlinhos (Fluminense), essentially a slightly watered down version of Ilsinho.

 

Centre-Backs

Simon Kjaer, 6’2” Danish defender, 21 years old, already in the squad, has played 15 games for his national team, is rated around 79

Ranocchia (I bought him from Genoa, in real life he’d been on loan to Bari and has just been bought out by part-owners Inter) 22 years old, 6’5”, has played one game for the Azzuri

Bonucci (Juve), as we discussed the other day, 6’3”, 23 yrs old, can play centre or right, has played 8 times for the Azzuri

Zelao (Saturn Moscow) a 6’2” Brazilian centreback with good all-around ball-skills, figured he’d be useful for games where the other team sits back a lot and I need defenders to be able to open up space with passing.

 

Midfielders

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), biggest signing, but a fair 80 for 80 trade for Josue.  At 6’2” he makes it a very tall centre of my defence to break down.

Arouca (Santos) A back-up for Khedira at CDM, very different player, 5’6”, skilful on the ball, but fit and defensively sound.

Afellay (PSV, in real life has gone to Barca), don’t really need to say much about him, was happy for him to be eligible.

Elias (Atletico Madrid), classic box-to-box type midfielder, good passing, dribbling, and tireless

Ja-Cheol Koo (acquisition actually made by the club) rated about 68, I don’t know if he’ll get much of a game.

Medel (Boca, in real life has been traded to Sevilla) defensively oriented Chilean midfielder, bit of a Mascherano type, has played 28 games for his country

Montolivo (Fiorentina, not traded, purchased with transfer funds after the game commenced), my favourite young Italian player at the moment, 5’11” playmaker, 19 games for the Azzuri.

 

Forwards and Strikers,

Diego

Dzeko

Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), need I say more, speed, skill and finishing.  Shame he isn’t a little taller.

Hernandez (Palermo) 20 year old, 6’1” Uruguayan striker.

Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad) 23 year old 5’8” Uruguayan striker, a super-sub type player, quick, skilful and good at finishing, but not much of a physical presence.  Can also play in Diego’s slot behind the strikers.

John Rodriguez (Burnley) a project player traded with an old and slow guy that probably needed to be cut, not likely to start any time soon, but has some promising basic skills, he’s quick and 6’1”

 

 

When I bought Montolivo I also had bids in for Muller, Podolski and Banega (from Villareal).  Muller refused to leave Bayern, and of the remaining three I decided that Montolivo gave me the biggest bonus over what I already had.

 

I’m really fond of it as a team, it’s full of players that I like, and it gives me a bunch of strategic options. Defensively I can have the very aggressive Brazilian right-backs, or shut it down by putting Bonucci there.  Midfield is probably my weakest area, but I’m expecting Khedira to be an absolute rock, and I can choose to attack in front of that with players like Afellay and Elias, or shut it down with Medel and Montolivo (who is also quite good going forward).  Up front I have a really nice mix that allows me to choose pace, height, strength and finishing.  Diego looks like he will score a lot of my goals, but the pace of Doumbia is very hard to handle, and he is great at setting up Dzeko with chances.  I’ve played two friendlies against a brazillian and a dutch side, won 3-0 and 4-0 respectively.

 

Ozil must have been slightly too high (I had the search set to 70-80 overall, he must be a bit above that).  I was very tempted to grab Obafeme Martins (who is miraculously still 25) to go up front, but I wanted to try something a bit different and Doumbia looks like an equally perfect (and slightly lower rated overall) pick.

 

The team was 4* before I started, and 4* after all the transfers, but slid up to 4.5* after I purchased Montolivo.

 

Ok, so I finally managed to finish the season.  I won it obviously, 26 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses, 86 points, 14 clear of the next best team.  It was all over with 4-5 games to go, I had a rather well-timed match-up against 2nd place Bayer Leverkeusen who I managed to thrash 3-0 away from home.  I actually had a really strong finish to the season, a bunch of high scoring games as Dzeko just went off.  He finished the season with 29 goals, 11 more than the next highest scorer.  Doumbia was the 5th highest scorer with 16 goals.  My team finished with 63 goals for, 7 against.

 

Cup final was against Bayern, Dzeko scored early, within 30 minutes it was 3-0, and by the end of the game it was 4-0.

 

Then I got to have the off-season.

 

First things first, I re-signed with Wolfsburg, turning down offers from Bayern, Inter and Manchester United.  Between the tournament rewards and the general generosity of the club I had 43 million pounds to spend, which I immediately began augmenting by selling off players that I hadn’t used all season.

 

First things first, I spent 30 million on a little Argentinean guy from Atletico, a certain Mr Sergio “Kun” Aguero.  Gives me some more flexibility up front, I’ll be able to push Diego out wide if I want now.  It was a tough call to buy him, I was also strongly considering Bendtner and Falcao, who are both the “good in the air” model of striker that I was interested in, but I just couldn’t turn down Aguero.

 

The second guy I bought was a young Moroccan/Belgian, from Everton, Fellaini.  Again he gives me a bit more flexibility in the middle, should allow me to shut things down a bit more.  Also, he can play CF, so if I really want to cross into the box I can throw him up with Dzeko in the box.

 

I now have about 8 million pounds left, if I can sell one or two more of my fringe players then I intend to use the money to buy some more depth or quality at wing-back, my weakest position now.

 

My squad now looks something like;

 

GK

Lloris

Mannone

Hartz

 

CB

Rannochia

Bonucci

Kjaer

Zelao

 

WB

Kolarov

Ilsinho

Carlinhos

Karimow

 

CDM

Khedira

Fellaini

Medel

 

CM

Affelay

Montolivo

Elias

 

CAM

Diego

Marlos

 

Forward

Dzeko

Aguero

Doumbia

Hernandez

 

My best team is probably;

 

Dzeko

Aguero

Diego                                                    Montolivo

Khedira                Fellaini

Kolarov                                                 Ilsinho

Rannochia           Bonucci

Lloris

 

With Affelay and Doumbia on the bench

 

We both seem to have completely dominated our respective leagues, I think we’ve definitively proven that young teams can be uber-successful.

 

I think that there was a massive separation in my league too, although I think it might have been a case of me – daylight – Leverkeusen, Bayern, Bremen – daylight, everyone else.  Kaiserslautern came dead last.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Wolfsburg didn’t look so good in your league either (given that they are struggling near the relegation zone in real life).

 

I thought Aguero might give you some pause for thought.  I think he will do quite well, I have a theory that he will be amazing at making through-runs onto the ball, I also think Falcao has that skill set, but that Aguero’s dribbling and finishing skills made him more promising.  I did VERY seriously consider the heading experts, in both cases Falcao  and Bendtner fall about half-way between the level of Dzeko and Llorente (by my calculation, Lukaku is between them and Llorente).  The main thing that stopped me in the end is that I don’t have a team of amazing ball-crossers (highest are Diego and Montolivo around 80), and none of my 4 formations really make extensive use of crossing.  Fellaini does give me that back-up ability to throw him forward in games where it is really the only option for me, and should definitely be a force at set-pieces (by my count he is as good as Llorente).  Also I was reluctant to give away the pace of my attacks, which has been my primary source of goals with Wolfsburg and Rubin.

 

I’m definitely hoping that my maximum defensive box of;

 

Khedira                Fellaini

Kolarov                                                 Bonucci

Kjaer                     Rannochia

Lloris

Should be able to deal with even the most physical of attacks.  I think the shortest person in that list is Kolarov at 6’2”, a few of them are 6’5” and all of them have very high strength, balance and jumping ability.  They aren’t extremely quick (although they’re not bad), but with that sort of presence I should be able to hold them back and narrow, and that I’m hoping will allow me to deal with the various threats posed by the Champions League (and by your team).

 

I find that I can use skill moves in some games, but not others, it depends a lot on whether the formation and pressing settings give you the time and pace or not.  The goal in there with all the moves is actually scored by two subs that came on, they often are very successful with their high ball-control against worn-out defenders.

 

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Happy New Year!  Yes, we finally made it after 27 days of blogging about mostly old videogames and hopefully on the other side, 27 days of you guys enjoying some of it.  So enjoy this last entry, as trivial and short as it may be.  You never know, you may be reading about YOUR future 2010 game of the year.

2010 – Infinite Space

What a year 2010 was.  From a personal viewpoint I shattered my elbow, had another terrible job (that’s what you get for deciding to become an economist folks) and eventually moved back to the city I grew up in.  Never a good move – if you ever DO come to Australia from overseas don’t bother coming to Adelaide, and if you live elsewhere in this mostly great country of ours, just keep ignoring it.  But with the terrible came some great videogames, in abundance no less. Mass Effect 2, Bayonetta, Vanquish and Alan Wake all were all fantastic games that really made 2010 a year to remember for those of us who enjoy wasting our lives in front of our flat screens.  The good news is 2011 doesn’t seem to be giving us any respite, with a number of heavy hitters slated to hit store shelves throughout the year, starting off with Dead Space 2 in a couple of weeks.

It also happened to be the year this next, and last game in our countdown to 2011 came out.  It didn’t quite make our top 10 here (which you’ll find out what did in the coming week or so), but in terms of great games in the portable space you really can’t get much better than this epic space RPG.

While the real time combat is interesting and addictive (and too difficult to describe here) what really captured my imagination while playing this game was the sheer volume of customisation options available to make your ship exactly as you want it.  And not in an armored core ‘too much information’ kind of way either – it is all quite manageable and the impact of the changes or upgrades you make are usually quite tangible when you take your ship into battle.  Quite remarkable really to think that this game, complete with its massively customisation options and its storyling spanning two entire galaxies, fits on one tiny DS cartridge.

It makes for the third great release during 2010 from this particular developer which has developed consistently high quality videogames since it began in 2006.  Reminds me of Clover really….

Last year

2010 (image from giantbomb.com)

Do you know the game? Post your guesses in the comments section, and Happy new year – or whatever.

1 Day to Go – 2009

2 Days to Go – 2008

3 Days to Go – 2007

4 Days to Go – 2006

5 Days to Go – 2005

6 Days to Go – 2004

7 Days to Go – 2003

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10 Days to Go – 2000

11 Days to Go – 1999

12 Days to Go – 1998

13 Days to Go – 1997

14 Days to Go – 1996

15 Days to Go -1995

16 Days to Go – 1994

17 Days to Go – 1993

18 Days to Go – 1992

19 Days to Go – 1991

20 Days to Go – 1990

21 Days to Go – 1989

22 Days to Go – 1988

23 Days to Go – 1987

24 Days to  Go – 1986

25 Days to Go – 1985

26 Days to Go – 1984


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