Published on April 27th, 2013 | by Tom Mills2
Taking Lounge Mode Online
A combination of revisiting FIFA 11 for project we’re working on, a thread on the official forums and a teasing statement on ea.com/fr has led us to wonder if fan favourite lounge mode could make a return, and if it did, would it work online?
It’s not been widely reported, but a bullet point on the french version of EA.com notes that FIFA 14 will include “A new online mode that promotes social competition”. Not much to go on there, but that won’t stop us speculating.
For those of you who didn’t play it in FIFA 11, here’s a refresher. Lounge mode was THE mode to play with your mates and some beers. It supported up to 20 players and provided a structure for tracking results and stats over long sessions. Those sessions were saveable and also featured cheap shots and badges.
Cheap shots are match modifiers that you’d choose at the start of a match, for example turning on the Invincible cheap shot would make your team injury proof and they wouldn’t be able to pick up cards. There were also attribute drains that you could force on the other team, goal boosts and the switcheroo, which would remove your opponent’s best players and replace them with someone from the bench. Badges were small tokens with no value other than the honour of earning them first, by scoring a hat trick, for example, or a direct free kick.
Since we last saw lounge mode in FIFA 11, EASFC has been introduced bringing in a cross-platform XP system, as well as the EASFC Catalogue which provides a way for players to unlock in-game items using their earned XP. So, could either of those be used to pimp out a new version of lounge mode?
Cheap shots would work pretty well with an XP/Catalog system. If XP earned within lounge mode was sectioned off, cheap shots could be put within their own catalogue, with more powerful cheap shots obviously being more expensive, and players could unlock and use them as they see fit. It certainly seems like a good fit and a fairer way to distribute cheap shots.
One of the biggest hurdles of an online lounge mode would be matchmaking. Previously, with Lounge Mode offline only, you had to gather all of your friends in one room to be able to play, so there weren’t any matchmaking issues, and the mode simply distributed the fixtures. To take it online you’d have to be offered a short fixture list of sorts, for example your next 3-5 matches, with an indication of whether that player was online. Pop in a shortcut to invite them to a match and you’re most of the way there.
There’s little EA can do to combat people not playing their matches, but the standings could benefit those that are playing regularly, with those that aren’t dropping to the bottom. XP boosts could be offered for regular play to encourage people to play their matches perhaps, with random cheap shots being gifted at certain intervals.
As a final way to keep things tidy, you could have the ability for lounge mode admins to kick players that aren’t playing, removing with them any stats from games they have played. You could even automate that process somewhat and have a cut off setting within the initial setup. If a player hasn’t played a match for X days, remove them and their stats from the league, that way people would be aware from the start what was expected from them and different groups of friends with different tolerances could make things as relaxed or strict as they saw fit.
The Social Aspect
Probably the largest dent that would be made in lounge mode if it were to go online would be the lack of banter. It’s all well and good digging into someone over the mic during a match, but offline lounge mode offered more than that. Elbows could be dug into the ribs of opponents as you played, there would be multiple witnesses to any pasting, and crossed words in the heat of the moment would be heard by everyone in the room. It’s near impossible to recreate that kind of atmosphere when everyone is isolated in their own homes.
As much as I hate to say it, a Facebook style wall for each lounge is probably a good place to start. Post match, players could be offered the option to post the result to the wall, with a message, and then have a comments thread underneath it. If that wall (as well as the rest of the lounge’s stats) were available from the web and/or EASFC app, it would make communication a lot easier. Facebook/Twitter integration could also be used in some way.
None of that is the same as being able to properly yell at someone in person, but I know that if I saw I’d been overtaken in the league table on twitter, I’d be looking to get back in and play some matches that evening.
The stat tracking that was previously in lounge mode was good, so I wouldn’t personally worry about trying to cram too much more in there, but it would be nice to see a decent filtering system to allow you to see the data you’re after clearly. For example being able to view your stats against individual players as well as overall, and perhaps blending that into the social side somewhat by allowing you to push stats to certain social networks, purely in the name of winding people up.
Obviously all of this would need to be stored up the EA servers somewhere, but it would be good to be able to export settings or create templates, possibly through Creation Centre, which could then be downloaded by other players. It would also be useful to have the option of making a new lounge session either private or public for those of us with no friends, and there would need to be a choice between having locked match settings and allowing players to choose at the time. Other customisations could include turning off cheap shots altogether and just using the framework for stat tracking.
It’s pretty likely that this is way off the mark and the new online mode isn’t a refreshed Lounge Mode – maybe EA have decided that they’re done with the mode altogether. I certainly don’t remember them mentioning why it was removed, but it would be nice to see them provide some functionality for groups of friends that play together regularly, whilst offering more than just a flat league structure, so hopefully this new feature at least does that.