We chat with the developers behind Xperia PLAY exclusive FIFA 12

by XB on 1st December 2011

in Games, Xperia PLAY

Xperia PLAY FIFA 12EA Mobile has officially launched FIFA 12 today. The blockbuster game will be an exclusive on the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY until February 2012 and as confirmed yesterday it will be FREE for a limited period. You can find FIFA 12 on the Xperia PLAY game launcher and you’ll need around 1.5GB of space on your SD card.

FIFA 12 has improved upon FIFA 10 in several areas including gameplay depth, authentic commentaries, updated teams from the top leagues and new replay systems. Interestingly, we are told that FIFA 12 will also be available exclusively on the wider Xperia range in due course.

Sony Ericsson held a live webchat for the media yesterday with EA Mobile. We’ve included excerpts of the transcript below that is well worth a read. You can read how EA Mobile ported FIFA 12 to the Xperia PLAY, improvements it has made to the game as well as thoughts on the Xperia PLAY hardware. Read it all below.

Live webchat transcript discussing FIFA 12 on the Xperia PLAY

Below are excerpts from a live webchat that took place on 30 November to discuss the launch of FIFA 12 on the Xperia PLAY. In attendance was Tim Harrison, Head of Content Marketing & Strategy at Sony Ericsson who hosted the call and Andrei Lazarescu and Alexandru Ruse from EA Mobile.

Andrei Lazarescu has produced FIFA games on mobile platforms since 2009 and when not creating FIFA for mobile devices, he enjoys gaming and getting on the pitch himself.

Alex Ruse has been working in mobile gaming for the past six years and on FIFA since 2010. He considers it an honour to work on such a globally renowned franchise with such a talented team, heralding FIFA as one of the most challenging yet exciting projects he’s worked on during his career.

FIFA12 requires no introduction, it’s a huge global franchise and the release has been a huge hit, most recently on consoles with the recent FIFA12 launch, so what will this latest instalment bring to Smartphone gaming?

Andrei Lazarescu: This year, fans can expect greater gameplay depth, authentic commentaries, updated teams from the world’s top leagues, and new replay systems and stadium designs to make for a more powerful FIFA mobile experience.

What was the most challenging aspect of taking a huge game like FIFA 12 and porting to the Xperia PLAY?

Andrei Lazarescu: A lot of things, but surely the most important one is optimizing the engine so that it could run on a mobile platform. We’re really proud of what we have managed to achieve this year, we think fans will agree that the game is a beautiful game and also adapted to the Xperia Play.

How has the game been optimized for the Xperia PLAY?

Alex Ruse: One of the things we spent the most time on was the controls. We went through a lot of iterations to make sure they fully exploit both the touchscreen, and the hardware PLAY controls.

Regarding the multiplayer aspect of the game: is it going to support servers or only have local options like Bluetooth.

Alex Ruse: For our first foray into Android, we wanted to make sure we get the football gameplay just right, and that we fit perfectly with the platform. So no multiplayer right now, not in the first release. We want the single-player to be 100% right first.

Did you feel limited in any way by the Xperia PLAY hardware when developing FIFA 12, or were you able to keep your original vision intact?

Andrei Lazarescu: We have managed to include in the initial release all the features that were planned for and the Xperia Play hardware even allowed us to have top notch graphics.

What do you think has been the biggest step forward with this iteration?

Alex Ruse: Definitely the graphics and the football engine. It’s an amazing experience, and everyone play testing this was blown away by the new visuals. It runs silky smooth, and the PLAY controls really blend in with that.

When you look at FIFA 12 for the consoles: where there any key aspect like physics or something you definitely wanted to carry over to the Xperia PLAY version?

Andrei Lazarescu: We would have definitely wanted to emulate the ball and player physics from the console version. However, the mobile platform doesn’t yet allow us to use the full engine of the console version.

Based on the other titles EA have produced as exclusives for the PLAY, do you think PLAY owners sway towards the sporting genre as it’s most popular? What kind of gamer has the PLAY predominantly attracted, based on the sales of your titles?

Tim Harrison: Certainly sports is a popular category. Shooters too. The physical gamepad certainly lends itself very well to any games that utilise directional rather than gestural controls

Andrei Lazarescu: I think we got really close, the game flow is very enjoyable and users have a lot of possible plays at their disposal.

With graphics being a huge part of gaming do you see a Tegra 3 version of the game coming in the future or will the current version perform better with that type of CPU?

Alex Ruse: At the core of the FIFA franchise, our vision is to create the most authentic FIFA experience that fosters one of the largest football communities on the planet so the team took special care to ensure that authenticity carried through on PLAY.

Tim Harrison: That said, we’re seeing a very broad range of content downloaded on PLAY – it isn’t easy to generalise. PLAY just makes good games even greater and owners are responding!

In terms of market share where do you see mobile gaming for this series in comparison with the PSP market? Will it outsell in volume the number of units sold?

Alex Ruse: The current version won’t be significantly improved running on Tegra’s but the engine we built is very capable and expandable. It will should allow us to scale gracefully on anything I can think of at least for a year.

How long is the Xperia Play exclusivity period? Once this comes to other devices will we see it optimized for Android tablets as well as handheld devices?

Tim Harrison: The title will be exclusive on Android to Xperia until February. And we’re delighted it will also be coming to the wider Xperia family very soon.

Alex Ruse: We’re certainly seeing major growth on mobile gaming right now, with the platforms becoming increasingly more powerful. Hard to speculate on who will come out on top, but we’re really excited about the upcoming mobile games, and the market trend.

According to you, what part of FIFA 12 is more awesome in this version?

Andrei Lazarescu: The whole game is more awesome! To highlight the two things I am most excited about I would have to say the graphics and the controls. The player models and animations are top notch and the controls are beautifully adapted to both the PLAY hardware buttons and touch screen.

Did you use a previous FIFA android engine or the engine from a FIFA 12 console game?

Alex Ruse: The engine is not based on a previous Android one. We used a lot of knowledge and libraries from the Console team into building an optimized, high-end smartphone engine.

Is FIFA 12 cross platform between Xperia Play and PSP for example?

Alex Ruse: No, FIFA 12 Xperia and the PSP version are quite different games right now. There won’t be any cross-play or anything like that for now.

And what are the key differences/improvements between FIFA 10 and FIFA 12 on the Xperia PLAY?

Andrei Lazarescu: The most significant difference is the engine. As mentioned earlier, for FIFA 12 we have created a completely new engine and have adapted it to the mobile platform. All game areas have been completely revamped: AI, controls, speech, chants, graphics and menus.

As developers, how confident are you in the Xperia Play’s ability to compete as a gaming platform alongside faster multi-core phones over the next year?

Alex Ruse: We were pretty amazed by the PLAY’s performance during development. It really is a very powerful device. I don’t think it will become obsolete in a year’s time, developers won’t really build for just one super high-end device. And upgrading game engines takes time too.

Will Ultimate Team ever be part of the game on the mobile?

Alex Ruse: Nothing to announce on Ultimate Team just yet. That said, we feel it really fits with the mobile gamer, the freemium mobile model, and it’s a superb game mode to take on the go.

PES and FIFA have always been compared, with this mobile variant are the key features that make FIFA stand out, the same as with its console counterpart?

Andrei Lazarescu: We’re on a different market here, the mobile one. We have adapted the game to fit both the device and the market we’re in so for this release we have focused on the core features: controls, AI and graphics. Right now, we believe these are the features that make the game stand out. At the same time, this version meets the same FIFA brand values that we are used to.

Was it challenging to provide the same feeling of playing FIFA like on consoles?

Andrei Lazarescu: I believe PLAY is the closest to replicating the console experience in smartphone gaming.

What is the minimum hardware spec needed to make the game run when it’s released for other handsets?

Alex Ruse: Ballpark figures, the engine should run smooth on at least 600MHz CPU, PowerVR SGX 535 graphics and at least 256 MB of RAM. That’s the lowest, but it can scale very well to monster devices, with dynamic shadows, lighting, weather conditions, antialiasing, background audio mixing and animated crowds.

Have you had any feedback from footballers who have played FIFA 12 on the Xperia PLAY? And were any of them involved in the development of the mobile game?

Tim Harrison: Well, we sent Jack Wilshere a PLAY to take his mind off things, and he thanked us at least.

Andrei Lazarescu: We know that footballers, as well as athletes outside the sport are loyal FIFA fans. PLAY gives them another way to experience it.

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