Hopefully some of you will remember my “Career Mode: The Road To Success” editorial series from last year and it’s back once again to look at the next leap required to ensure Career Mode continues on its evolutionary journey. First up I’ll be looking at improvements needed to existing elements of the Manager portion of the mode but before I start proper I want to tackle some of this year’s issues.
The Road To Redemption
I don’t think many people would disagree that FIFA 13’s Career Mode is certainly the best iteration since the death of Manager Mode but sadly much of this great work has once again been blighted by widespread instability. Game save corruption, games not advancing, things going missing, it’s an all too familiar tale for those (like myself) who’ve remained steadfast in their support of FIFA’s bread and butter simulation mode.
The problems are perhaps heightened this year more so than any because there is so much to celebrate if you haven’t been scared off by the glaring deficiencies in QA. Two patches have come and gone and whilst they appear to have minimised some of the bugs I wouldn’t call them anywhere near a total resolution. My Twitter timeline is still far too full with complaint.
So what can EA do? Well it’s really very simple. No one in the community cares how or why this happens, we aren’t software engineers or programmers – we’re football gamers. We just want it fixed at all costs and it’s EA’s job to make that their number one Career Mode priority this year.
That’s why for me, Career Mode is on the Road To Redemption because it needs repay the faith and time that the community have put into it for the last four years. Most of you will probably retort with “it will be the same next year, it always is” and that really is the gauntlet laid down to the team at EAC. No more motivation should be required.
Now on to more cheery matters…
The transfer system this year is actually very good (hooray). The reduction of transfer activity is on the whole a welcome one and the number of big names deals in each window feels just about right. I guess the only negative impact this balancing has had is on Transfer Deadline Day which now ends more often than not in a damp squib rather than the frantic mess of panic buying that you’d expect to see in the real world. If EA could feed some extra activity in to just the final stages of the transfer window to create some much needed light and shade, it would at least give the CPU the perception of market intelligence, even if it is pre-defined.
An extra layer that I’d really like to see added to transfer deals are performance based add-ons which are becoming an ever-present in modern day transactions. At the moment the only way to buy a player is to offer all the money in one lump sum which makes things simple, but feeling ever so slightly archaic. If the CPU wants 10 million for a player who’s injury prone, then perhaps we should be able to offer 8 million plus another 2 once they reach 30 games for the club? There needs to be multiple ways to structure transfer deals in Career Mode and that’s of course just one of many scenarios for EA to consider.
The other community “most wanted” feature is the option to turn off the first transfer window preserving the real world squads until January. People have been asking for this for as long as I can remember and for Career Mode purists, it’s an absolute must for FIFA 14.
Before I move on to critiquing Player Growth, I’d first like to say how brilliant it is to actually see it working. FIFA 12’s player growth was so miniscule that it was almost non-existent so it’s great to see players actually develop and eventually reach their potential. The only problem is that the growth curve is a little too rapid even for players who should be advancing quickly. After just a few Career Mode months players can jump 3-4 OVR which represents a huge leap for the majority of players in the database. Player growth will of course plateau at varying stages to calm this but the growth stage still feels a bit fast on a baseline level.
The good news is that the spread of players growing, declining and staying exactly as they are is actually really good and it feels like an even 33% split between each category. That’s exactly how it should be and EA deserve a lot of credit for getting that side of the balance right.
The Squad Report is the best place to view Player Growth but once again it’s hidden away in the sub-menus. EA need to find a way of directing us to the excellent Squad Report system more often either through monthly squad updates or directly from player interaction. I’d really like to see it woven in to a brand new Team Management UI, but that’s a topic for another day.
To be honest, EA didn’t really do anything to advance the media communication options in FIFA 13 and the starting point that were the pre-match press conferences in FIFA 12 have remained untouched. I assume it simply fell off the priority list this year but it really needs to hop back on the radar as the options are extremely limited.
Improving them is simple; it’s football management simulation 101 really. More conversation options, more media ramifications, press conferences that are mandatory at certain stages of a season (or for derby games, big signings, etc) and a more intuitive way of initiating them perhaps through a link-up with Player Stories?
This leads me very neatly on to Player Stories which are another huge plus point of this year’s Career Mode. Much of the Player Story topics remain the same from FIFA 12 but what EA have done quite brilliantly is make them expand and continue over many Career Mode months. I’ve had some really wonderful examples of unhappy players, where rumours circulated in the press, players commented on the situation and eventually the board ended up selling them for me, because the bad press didn’t look good for the club. Moments like this are pure Career Mode magic and the mode needs even more of them coming from every angle to enforce the feeling that you’re amongst a living, breathing football ecosystem.
My one major issue (which I mentioned in our review) is that Career Mode is in Read Only mode 99% of the time. All these great stories are happening around you and yet there’s no way for you to actually interact with them. It’s incredibly frustrating as a user because if my aging goalkeeper tells me he’s considering retirement I should be able to persuade him not to. Or if a youth team player wants a starting berth in the cup I should be able to tell him “no”, rather than the story simply reacting to whether I choose him or not in the next game. It’s just not quite fluid enough for me as a system yet, even if it is showing remarkable potential.
I moaned about this in person to Mr Humber and Mr Bell and it still didn’t get fixed this year! It’s almost as if my whims aren’t their number one priority? When you finish a match in Career Mode you get a lovely round-up of the other results in the competition which is great. But, your result still isn’t presented in the list and it’s made even worse this year because the brilliant audio run-down calls your result out even though it’s not in the list, arghhhh. It’s worse again when your match is the only game played that day because the update actually says “no results” even though you’ve just walked off the pitch. I’m on my knees EA, please fix it…
There were some really big headline grabbing features in Career Mode this year, International Management and Europe First Season to name just two but, there was also a really promising theme running through the mode this year, realism.
Take the Transfer Leniency feature for example which governs the percentage of funds received from player sales to be added to your budget. The EA of a few years ago would have without doubt left the 100% value in the game in the name of “accessibility” but I’m so glad they stuck to their guns and set the low level at 85% purely in the name of realism. This section isn’t so much a suggestion then, more a want for EA to continue down this path of strong decision making to keep Career Modes credibility as a simulation prominent, whilst its competitors falter.
Right, that’s your lot for Part One and if a topic you’re especially interested in hasn’t been discussed yet don’t worry as there’s much more to come. Next time I’ll be looking at the Player portion of Career Mode but if there’s anything you especially want me to look at in future editorials let me known in the comments.