Published on April 24th, 2013 | by David Bryant2
Indoor FIFA – A Community Obsession
On a Friday we tend to ask our Twitter followers a question, either to gauge feedback on a popular topic or, just to discover a little bit more about what our audience like and dislike. Last Friday was no exception where I asked “what was the first FIFA title you ever played?”
The responses we received were predictably diverse and ranged from FIFA’s humble beginnings, all the way through to the more modern interpretation of football simulation we’ve become accustomed to over the last five years. But the most interesting trend were the responses concerning a topic we didn’t even ask you about – Indoor FIFA.
Whenever you mention, or even gesture about a retro FIFA title the subject of the series indoor heritage instantly enters conversation, mostly driven by those hazy memories of isometric wonderment. But besides blind nostalgia, there must be something that keeps us all coming back to this point in time, something compelling, because FIFA Street has been and gone and yet we’re just as obsessed with FIFA’s indoor past as we ever have been?
The FIFA Street Factor
It’s been nearly two years now since the rebirth of FIFA Street and the much needed re-brand was largely a success. From memory we rated the experience at a strong 7/10 and in all honesty most of the criticisms we had were aimed at design decisions, rather than glaring faults with the experience. EA’s vision to make your own Street Team persistent across all game modes was admirable but to enforce it online when the game had a myriad of licensed teams we all wanted to experiment with, was madness. FIFA’s online is renowned for its diversity and choice, so to lock this down in a title vying for the affections of the hard-core FIFA fan, was just bizarre.
The gameplay on the whole was good though, the auto-facing tech was solid and the skill move changes certainly struck a chord with FIFA’s already thriving “skiller” community. At a fundamental level though a few things irked too often and the most irksome of them all was tackling. Getting the ball back from the AI was a nightmare and even if you did manage to eventually get your foot on the ball, you more often than not knocked it five yards away, for them to simply turn and re-gather. EA call it “tackle-backs” and it was rife in FIFA Street, especially at the higher difficulty levels. It’s a lesson EA had already learned from previous FIFA games, but sadly failed to apply here.
Under developed defensive mechanics, super human keepers and over-powered basic Skill Moves aside though, and FIFA Street was actually very enjoyable. Especially the games World Tour mode, which although a little repetitive towards the end, was a real joy to play through. The presentation was outstanding, the locations beautiful and because it was you and your mates, the journey felt that little bit more special.
So, if FIFA Street’s reboot was a success story (with caveats), why are we all still so obsessed with the thought of Indoor FIFA?
Realism vs Fantasy
I think the reason FIFA Street hasn’t quite filled this nostalgic void is because the game, although bound by the realism and physics of FIFA’s engine, still leaned too far towards the fantastical theatre of what stereotypically, street football is perceived to be. Now, these street footballers can do truly amazing things with a football, most of which leave you wondering if the tricks are literally even possible, but that doesn’t mean your average FIFA player wants to play like that way. You could pass around a bit in some of the games larger arenas but even then, the true success was always found by beating a player (or three) with the most elaborate trick possible. Playing FIFA Street you felt, railroaded almost in to playing in a style you didn’t necessarily agree with, or wanted to employ, even if the “street” was where you wanted to be. FIFA Street needed a strong USP to differentiate it from standard FIFA but I felt that USP took over and some of that core football ethos from the main series was lost.
If EA had dropped vanilla FIFA 12 in to an indoor space and not changed anything, they’d have been castigated by the community and press a-like for milking the franchise, or for “lazy” development. So some of this is on our shoulders too because we always demand the world from EA, when in reality it isn’t always required.
I’d argue that FIFA already has an elaborate enough skills tool set which if taken indoors in isolation could still have provided enough freedom to feel like genuine street football. That combined with some larger arenas, the auto-facing and panna systems and the AI improvements added to make the most of the smaller pitch dimensions, could have been a real recipe for success. Sometimes less is indeed more and although safe and a bit boring an even more “real” FIFA Street may have yielded even greater results for both EA and the community.
Back to the Franchise
The cynic in me would argue that now FIFA Street is once again credible after the caricature nonsense of FIFA Street 3, and performed pretty well in the sales charts that EA probably wouldn’t consider adding indoor football back into the main FIFA franchise because they would effectively lose a brand new revenue stream. They are the worst organisation in the universe after all, closely followed by Nazi Germany and The BeeGees.
But what if indoor FIFA could come back? What if the money-men deemed it viable, EA had the resource available and appetite from the development team was there to do it, and to do it well? We’ve seen some great gaming comebacks this generation with HD remakes being churned out like they’d already gone out of fashion, but Indoor FIFA would trump the lot. The forums would crash, Twitter would implode and meteors would fall from the sky, etc, etc.
The HD remake fad begs another very important question though; would an indoor version of FIFA even need to be a current-gen version? EA must have the FIFA 98 engine tucked away in a dusty old cupboard somewhere, so why not an HD remake packaged as a sort of arcade Easter egg for FIFA 14/15? A gift to the community if you will, to say thank you for their support across this generation of FIFA titles where sales, ideas and feedback have been abundant.
EA aren’t the worst company in the universe, the world, or even America (their washroom facilities are excellent) but if they did bring back Indoor FIFA, the outpouring of support and thanks from FIFA fans everywhere would be incredible. We don’t need an 18 month long, fully resourced project; we need a little piece of history with just a pinch of modern day finesse to quench this obsession once and for all.