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The Great Control Debate

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Control settings. A topic that’s always guaranteed to spark discussion. Everyones got an opinion on which is right and which is wrong. Is there even really a right and wrong? Is it the control setting that’s the problem or the player behind the pad? Personally, I think it’s a little bit of both.

Firstly I’ll lay it out there, for those who don’t know, that I’m a manual player. I ran a manual league and site that was working pretty well and at one point looked like it might flourish. In the end it didn’t and that was that, it was good fun and I learnt a lot in the process. At one point I probably could have been considered a manual evangelist, swathing through forums spreading the word of all that is good and pure in relation to user input. Having slowly made the switch from being a predominantly online player to an almost solely offline player, I’ve found myself caring less and less about what control schemes other people use, but it remains a concern for a large number of players.

For the most part, the players that it bothers are manual players. I often see people complain that assisted is too assisted and that assisted players should try taking the training wheels off. The usual response to those comments are that control settings are a personal choice. I think it boils down to how you want the game to play. Some people prefer the faster gameplay that assisted controls allow, others prefer the freedom that manual controls offer and take the inevitable increase in error on the chin. Then there are Semi controls, which muddy the waters totally. In some ways they’re the best of both worlds as they allow you to customise where you’re assisted and are a pretty good tool for helping players transition to using full manual controls.

Are assisted controls too affective? A manual player playing against an assisted player online would say that they are, largely I think due to the gulf in pace. Assisted controls offer much snappier passing, which coupled with a very small error margin, allows you turn a dangerous situation at the back into an offensive situation with one tap of a button. Does that happen in real football? Yes. But the frequency and accuracy of those passes doesn’t sync up with that of real football. Can you do the same thing with manual controls? Yes. But again due to the increased error involved it’s highly unlikely that you will regain possesion from a hoofed ball.

An interesting point I saw raised recently, was that assists should be tied to difficulty. New players, playing on lower difficulties get the help they need to find their feet and as they improve, the assists are slowly removed. It’s a nice idea and I think it would be a great way to encourage people to try a different setup, but there are two problems with it. Firstly, you can’t force people to use a certain control type or play on a a certain difficulty, I hate the “I paid for the game, I’ll do what I want with it” arguement because when it comes to online play that’s simply not true, but offline, it very much is true. Secondly, It doesn’t help the situation for people that play online, which is where the problem is in the first place.

From the Pro Passing Reveal, it looked like Pro Passing would be the answer. Although designed to negate ping pong passing, it would also slow the pace of the game, creating “the thinking mans fifa”, and in turn it would level the playing field for players who wanted a good representation of the beautiful game. From our early playtests, we were pretty happy with what we saw, it certainly seemed to have an effect. Sadly somewhere between those playtests and release, things changed. Pro Passing as it appears on the disk does little to even things out.

So what else can be done to bridge the gap? I think that for a start the animosity between players of varying control types should stop. It’s pointless. Everyone has laid out their pros and cons, everyone has said their piece, there isn’t a right or wrong, just preferrence. Assisted players often accuse manual players of being elitest, and sadly there is a portion of the manual community that voices their opinions in that way, but I’d still wager that they were in the minority. At the end of the day, everyone who is actively involved in the FIFA community wants the game to be the best that it can be.

Berlin Wall

Sadly it’s balance that’s missing, and that’s out of the players hands. EA need to take on board the arguements of both sides and make changes that keeps everyone happy regardless of their control choice. The only other option is segregation online, but I think that would hit manual players pretty hard given that they are the minority anyway. The way I see it, everyone should be able to jump into a QRM, be matched with someone of a similar skill level, and be able to compete, whether they’re using assisted, manual or semi controls. At the moment, that’s not really the case.

The following that manual controls have could be defined as hardcore, but that’s partly caused by the fact that so little is done by EA to accomodate them. They are forced to go outside of the game to organise themselves, often running their own sites out of their own pockets to be able to play with like minded players. If EA can’t do anything to create a fairer matchup online, then the only option would be to provide more tools for manual players to create leagues with the controls settings defined, but again, that would slice up the playerbase.

I think it’s fair to say that manual isn’t well publicised. I’ve got friends who didn’t even know other control settings were available until I showed them, so I think that EA could be doing more to promote manual controls to people who aren’t aware of them. There’s an achievement/trophy for winning a game with manual controls but that’s about it. Given the freedom it allows and the effort they’ve gone to program the controls into the game, it’s strange that they do so little to encourage their use.

Would a unified control scheme help? Possibly. It would remove any “us and them” from the equation, and put everyone on the same page. There would surely be benefits from a development point of view too, allowing EA to just work on perfecting one setting rather than having to keep working on the three that there currently are. This then raises the problem of where the line is drawn. Some people would lean towards things being more assisted than manual, other would lean towards them being more manual. Who gets to decide what the “perfect” settings are?

I appreciate the above may look in some negative towards assisted players and I genuinely don’t mean it to. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, it’s not just the game that’s at fault. A lot of the issues are accentuated when you get an “abuser” to play against, and those players are a problem for everybody, no matter what control setup you, or they,  use, but as it stands it’s extremely difficult for manual players not to feel handicapped when playing online.

I’d really like to know where the FSB community stands on the subject of controls, I think I’ve barely scratched the surface on the issue and I’d like as much input from different types of players as possible, so as always, post your thoughts in the comments below.

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