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To Skill Move, Or Not To Skill Move?

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That is the question you have been debating on the FSB boards and throughout the FIFA community of late. And there seems to be a very clear difference of opinion about whether Skills Moves are having a positive or negative effect on FIFA 11. Are Skills Moves taking FIFA down a road more akin to FIFA Street or are they providing us with excellent entertainment in an otherwise rigid environment?

As a gameplay implementation Skill Moves are a wonderful addition to the FIFA series, perhaps the best of all time. In fact I don’t think I could ever imagine FIFA without them, so in that sense they’re an un-quantified success story that the developers can be very proud of. The use of the analogue stick combined with the L2 modifier is a huge winner and year on year EA have continued to expand the library of Skill Moves available to us all.

It’s not all a bed of roses though because whilst the usability might be the envy of the football gaming genre there are some huge problems with Skill Moves which EA need to address. Some are confined to the actual gameplay elements themselves whilst others raise questions about gamer ethics and whether EA’s vision of the “thinking man’s FIFA” is tinged with hypocrisy as each and every rainbow flick, robbana fake combo is completed.

First of all Skill Moves are just too powerful, once the animation has begun there’s very little defensively you can do to stop it without giving away a blatant foul. To defend well against Skill Moves you either have to stay on your feet or get there especially early to prevent the animation from starting. Whilst those two tactics work they don’t exactly promote realistic defensive play and for some of the more elaborate moves there’s almost no formula for prevention.

What skill moves lack to balance their power is any kind of variation in the outcome, there’s no contextual error to speak of at all which in all honesty is 90% of their power. If you get the analogue stick combination right then the animation completes and that’s all there is to say about it really. The players knock the ball ahead the same distance, they turn at the same speed and at the same angle each and every time; Skill Moves are essentially full proof.

And it’s that reliability which has built up an incredible dependency on Skill Moves within the FIFA community. If you play online or you enjoy the vast array of skill compilation videos on You Tube it’s easy to see why Skill Moves have become the weapon of choice for the elite FIFA player. They’re extravagant, brilliant to watch, and punishingly effective it’s almost too perfect.

I’d also argue whether being able to perform the hardest five star Skill Moves is a good indicator of a FIFA player’s quality. Skill Moves remind me a lot of Mortal Combat in a way where learning the combinations and performing them quicker than your opponent is the recipe for success. And that’s the most damming thing about Skill Moves in FIFA for me because they reward dexterity with the analogue stick over playing good football.

With all those problems I do still use Skill Moves myself though because as I said right at the start I think the implementation is fantastic. But for me to enjoy FIFA there’s only a small selection I’ll actually use which I feel fit the type of game I want EA to make and the type of game I want to play. Beyond body feints and step overs there isn’t really anything else I use (unless it’s by accident) but that’s a personal choice and it’s not one I’d force or advocate for anyone else.

Many of the community videos we post on FSB do contain very impressive Skill Moves so perhaps in that sense we’re hypocrites ourselves. For simple entertainment value though Skill Moves are great, especially when they’re combined with fantastic editing which we’ve seen a lot of recently. It’s entertaining sure, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the community’s vision of where they want FIFA to be in the future. We’ve all banged on about “simulation” for years now and in a way the most outlandish Skill Moves are the antitheses of that because they aren’t representative of the real game.

This might be coming across now as an attack on Skill Moves and the well known players who use them, which it’s not. The fact is these gameplay elements exist within FIFA 11, therefore it’s perfectly legitimate for any player to utilise this tool set however they see fit. Whether they’re balanced or appropriate isn’t really our call that’s up to EA to decide.  It’s also important to remember that this is a game we’re talking about here and because of that FIFA should have a license to do things a little out of the ordinary. If you’ve paid your £40 for FIFA 11 then you can play it however you like, it’s your choice. EA however need to choose how and where Skill Moves fit best and how their implementation effects the community’s perception of the product.

VERDICT

I’m a bit of a football purist at heart and that’s why I feel so passionate about this topic and from the comments we’ve had on FSB recently many of you share that stance. Skill Moves are a love/hate gameplay element for many but those who hate Skill Moves don’t actually hate the idea of them at all. What they hate is their at times ludicrous nature and the effectiveness at which they can be performed.

Without an adequate defensive gameplay mechanic to combat them effectively there’s very little you can do to stop them. It’s like Gotham City with no Batman to keep things in order. The key here is balance and at the moment the scales are tipped wildly in Skill Moves favour.

The emphasis for me needs to shift away from the spectacular and more to the mundane. There’s incredible variety and intricacy in even the simplest of body swerves and it’s time FIFA catered for that. At the moment you have a choice between going left or right and that’s about it. If EA removed some of the top end moves and used that wiggle room to evolve the variety of simple step overs and feints I think it could have a massive impact in how we play FIFA and most importantly why we use Skill Moves.

At the moment EA are having their cake and eating it with FIFA’s gameplay, adding Pro Passing and Stamina Models for realism with one hand and then promoting fantasy with Skill Moves on the other. The game is at a cross roads for me and the direction EA take Skill Moves with be the biggest indicator about their plans for the future.

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