FIFA 18 will be Electronic Arts’ first game to be released on Nintendo Switch, ans a such many are curious to see how it will play out and what it will look like.
In order to learn more about the game, DualShockers had a chat with Producer Andrei Lazarescu, who gave us an extensive overview on how the game was developed, and on its gameplay and technical aspects.
Lazarescu mentioned that when Electronic Arts first learned about the Switch, they immediately decided that FIFA was the game they should have debuted on the console with. The developers felt that it was a good idea to provide Switch players with an incredibly strong brand, alongside an authentic, social and immersive experience. According to Lazarescu, bringing FIFA to Switch is win/win to for both Nintendo and Electroni Arts.
The development team feels that the game they’re working on is worth of being the first Electronic Arts game on the console, and come September 29th, it’s going to be one of the “must have” games on Nintendo Switch alongside Zelda and Mario Kart.
Of course, Lazarescu feels some pressure from the fact that the performance of the game will help determine the extent of Electronic Arts’ support for the console, but there is no better game than FIFA to start that partnership. He’s also looking forward to seeing Fe on the console.
Interestingly, we learn that the game was created in less than a year, with the development team at work on it over the last “ten or eleven” months, but that’s not too far from the usual timing, since FIFA titles only get a year in development on other consoles as well. This means that developers had to be very careful of the decisions they make: they better be the right ones, as they don’t normally get a second chance.
The engine actually does not use the old engine used on the PS3 and Xbox 360 version as it was mistakenly reported. It’s a custom-built engine made for the Switch. It’s very different from the engine used in other platforms, and this extends to the way you play, on top of the way it looks.
When the development team initially looked at the technical specs of the Switch, at what type of player would play the game and at what kind of experience they would expect, they determined that they needed to create a game that was fun, easy to get into, authentic, immersive, but is still FIFA. Lazarescu feels that this is a task that has been “99% accomplished.”
That’s when they decided to use a custom-built engine based on the fundamentals of FIFA. This engine supports physically-based rendering, crowds and 3D grass affected by global illumination. The Ultimate Team feature was also built from scratch for the switch version, and Lazarescu thinks that this is a better solution than just fitting features and tech designed for other platforms forcefully on the switch, and then having to scale them down.
While the engine is custom-built for the Switch, it’s not 100% new. It uses existing components with the addition of new ones catering to what the platform is and what it can do. It was certainly challenging, not only because the first game on a new platform is always a challenge, but also because developers weren’t able reuse a lot of the assets that they could have if they were working on an established console.
The challenge also comes from the fact that if you look at Ultimate Team, there is no other game on the Switch that matches it in terms of complexity with live services and microtransactions. It’s a game within a game. That being said, Nintendo has been very supportive of the project since day one, helping making the game a reality.
“The Journey” story mode could not be included as it “doesn’t live outside Frostbite.” Asked whether it would be possible to port Frostbite to the Switch, Lazarescu mentioned that it’s complicated. From a technical standpoint the Switch doesn’t match PS4 or Xbox One. It may or may not be able to run Frostbite, and it would require a lot of experimentation. While he won’t say that it’ll never happen, it also depends on the platform’s commercial performance.
Frostbite is scalable in terms of features and detail, but it’s also rather demanding in terms of the hardware it requires.
We also learn that the team might be looking into asking Nintendo to let them use some of their characters and imagery in the future, but for FIFA 18 nothing was done in that direction.
Interestingly, developers opted not to utilize the touch screen of the Switch, but the console does use a lot of the features of the console, including local wi-fi, the ability to play multiplayer on a single console with each player using a single Joy-Con. This is designed so that they can still enjoy FIFA-style gameplay, even if they don’t have the full range of controls that a single player gets.
The game runs at 720p when undocked and 1080p when docked, both at 60 frames per second. The game wouldn’t feel like FIFA if the developers went with less than that. Lazarescu wouldn’t even try to make a direct comparison with PS4 and Xbox One, as FIFA on Switch is a “different game” and offers a different experience and look.
The team focused a lot on making sure that the game feels good and responsive to the controls, ultimately feeling like a FIFA game.
FIFA 18 will release on Nintendo Switch on September 29th. It will also be available on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.