Sunday, 26 June 2016

[FIFA] The Handicap Mystery Finally Solved!

Back in July 2012 I posted the following to this very blog:
"One of the most controversial subjects in the FIFA community is that of Scripting/Momentum/Handicap (for the purposes of brevity, I’ll call it handicap in this post – though I’m aware that scripting and momentum refer to slightly different issues). Handicap is described as the feeling of sluggishness, poor ball control and general bad luck that some players with a high-rated team experience when they face a player which has a low-rated team. This only seems to happen when they face a team which is substantially lower rated than theirs, hence why it is referred to as “handicap” – almost as if the game is compensating for their opponent’s poorer players."

I went on to explain that it was a controversial subject and how bringing it up on official forums would get the post deleted and after many years of the theory being decried by official and unofficial sources as false, it was considered superstition or conspiracy theory. 


Today we might finally have cracked the case. Users  /u/RighteousOnix and /u/TheFakeNepentheZ (someone whose practices with regards to coin selling I do not agree with, but in this case I must concede has done great work), seem to have pinpointed exactly the issue which we've struggled with since the advent of Ultimate Team in 2010. 

This is potentially HUGE, as it will confirm the suspicions of thousands of FIFA players over many many generations of the game. It will show that EA either knowingly or unknowingly has been handicapping high rated teams in contrast to low rated teams, and it will vindicate all us supposed nut-jobs who have been arguing that handicapping really does exist and its not just in our heads.

To explain the glitch I will need to explain two important features of FIFA Ultimate Team mode - chemistry and upgraded cards. 


Chemistry is the degree to which your players work well together - the higher the chemistry your player has, the better he will perform on the pitch.

You can raise the chemistry of your players in a number of ways, play them in the correct position, play them alongside players from the same league, team or of the same nationality, assign them a manager from the same league or of the same nationality and so on. 

Players can have chemistry score of 1-10 (in FIFA16 at least). 

A team with full chemistry
What chemistry actually does is that the higher your players chemistry score, the more his in-game stats are boosted, conversely the lower the chemistry the more his stats are reduced. The threshold is chemistry 4: at chemistry 4 your players stats in game are exactly as they are displayed on his card. Anything from chemistry 5-10 and your player will be getting his stats boosted, between 1-3 and his stats are reduced. 

And this is the crux of the matter. Remember how I said "Handicap is described as the feeling of sluggishness, poor ball control and general bad luck that some players with a high-rated team experience"?...

It turns out that there is a glitch where certain players will be considered to be at 4 chemistry regardless of any other measures you take to increase the displayed chemistry score. But this glitch only occurs for what is now known as "non-day 1 cards". 

Upgraded Cards

If a player performs well in real life, sometimes EA will release a version of their card with supposed upgraded stats. Take, for example, Gareth Bales original card:

Day 1 Bale
This was the card available to all players at the start of FIFA16. It could be found in card packs purchasable from the EA in game store. Its relatively rare because he's a really good player. One week during the past season Bale performed really well in a game so EA released an "in form" version of his card:

In form Bale

It has a pretty picture and its black and most importantly it has better stats. His pace stat (PAC) has gone from 94 to 95, shooting (SHO) from 83 to 86 and passing (PAS) from 83 to 85 and so on. For that week (Wednesday to Wednesday) this card is available in packs. At the end of the week it stops dropping and the original card returns to packs. 

The 87 rated Bale card is his "day 1" card, the 88 rated is an "in form". There are other types of changes to cards, sometimes EA will release position changed cards (Bale has one in a striker role, as opposed to his right midfielder role on his original card), and at the end of the year the very prestigious "Team of the Season" cards are released and these cards often go for many hundreds of thousands of coins. 

What our intrepid FIFAites have discovered is that chemistry is bugged for any card which is not the "day 1" version. 

Day 1 versions of cards will receive all the proper boosts which come from achieving 10 chemistry score - that is, a significant boost to in game stats. Whereas any other version of the card will only ever be considered to be on 4 chemistry and will therefore receive absolutely no benefit from increasing his chemistry to 10. 

This means that sometimes the day 1 card on full chemistry will have better stats than the considerably more expensive in form versions of the card, as these non-day-1 cards receive no chemistry boosts. 

User /u/Masakari666 mocked up some side-by-side comparisons of day 1 with base stats, day 1 with 10 chemistry and then upgraded with 4 chem to demonstrate the difference:

All credit to MarakariPrime - contacts on the image.
Here you see the leftmost card is his day-1 card (NIF means non in form), compared to his day-1 card with 10 chemistry in the middle, and his recently awarded man of the match card on the right. Notice how the middle card is almost as good, and often better, in stats than the rightmost card. His pace, shooting, passing and dribbling are better than the significantly more expensive MOTM card, and his defending and physical stats are almost as good. 

All credit to MarakariPrime - contacts on the image.
Same again here - the leftmost card is Aubameyang's day-1 card. The right-most is his exceedingly expensive in form card. The second card from the left is his 82 rated day 1 card with full chemistry and it is superior in every stat compared to his 85 rated in form card, as well as being significantly better than the upgraded 84 rated card he received in the winter upgrades list (which, as it is not a day-1 card, is also glitched).

This glitch has not been discovered until now because the stats boosts attributed as a result of high chemistry scores are not displayed on the card, instead they are hidden. So the only way we've been able to tell the difference is the way the player feels to play with in game - which is a nebulous concept to pin down. 

THIS is why sometimes high rated teams feel slow, awkward and clumsy in comparison to low rated teams. Low rated teams will contain many of the cheaper "day 1" cards which receive significant boosts to stats from their chemistry score, whereas higher rated teams full of upgraded versions of players will only ever be using their base stats as if they are glitched on 4 chemistry. 

I have to say, if this is proven to be true then it is really satisfying to be vindicated in my assertions that there was something effecting the performance of highly rated teams in FIFA. How or why this glitch made it into the code for FIFA in the first place and exactly how it seems to have survived not only many generations of the game itself, but also survived the jump to a whole new console generation we might never know! But by highlighting the problem to EA perhaps it might be fixed in time for FIFA17 later this year.

Below is a few of the technical details as to how this glitch was discovered, as well as RighteousOnix's original video explaining how he uncovered it.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

[GW2] Why Mo's Announcement Takes Gumption, But ArenaNet needs to Pull its Bloody Socks Up

Having to announce the cutting of future content is never going to be easy. Particularly when you are announcing the cutting of said feature in the middle of a somewhat lengthy content drought, and particularly when that content was one of the features upon which you sold your recent expansion pack.

So needless to say that Friday's announcement by Mike O'Brien (ArenaNet President) that work on new legendary weapons would be suspended "indefinitely" was met with nuclear-level meltdown on the subreddit and associated forums and social media. 

The grievances with this announcement are many, some more legitimate than others - but I think they are covered very well with the countless posts on the reddit and forums. As a result I don't really want to cover them here, instead I want to talk about a very important element of this announcement which seems to have garnered little coverage since Friday night. 

What kind of environment are ArenaNet producing content in where a team of six developers can go a whole half a year and only produce one workable legendary weapon?

Now, I've found that the gut response to this question has often been: 

"Well legendary weapons take a lot of work, Will, you've got the collections and NPCs and quests and items and then you've got to produce the artwork, model, textures, animations and sounds for the weapons themselves. Its a lot of hard work!"

My response to this argument is as follows: no fucking shit.

So your work is hard? Welcome to the wonderful world of employment, buddy. Game developers are not alone in having to complete complex pieces of work to demanding deadlines. But what the above arguement really implies is that the job is too hard to complete in the time given. 

If your job is too hard to complete before the proposed deadline then you have to do something about it - not get six months down the line and when results are expected simply responding "it was toooo haaaarrrddd :( :( :("  Because that kind of shit will get you fired (or else moved onto another team) work being hard is not an excuse for not getting it done.

If you are not able to deliver because the work is too hard to complete in the allotted time frame then there has either been a serious misalignment of resources by management in the first place, significant time management issues within the team or else some unforeseen complication which has delayed development. And if any one of these are the case - then you need to highlight that to the people in the hierarchy who can make the changes so you can get the job done. 

Lots of people have hard jobs; they produce work in restricted time frames and to demanding deadlines. That's the world of work. Saying "its hard" is not an excuse for not delivering.

I respect Mike O'Briens gumption when it comes to this change. It's a real shit show, and it feels like he's made the tough decision and he knows we'll hate him and the team for it.
Strictly speaking I don't have an issue with them axing the legendary weapons. I think it sucks, but like - wtf are they supposed to do if they aren't finished? They can't release them now. And if the team working on them was allowed to continue on their current path then we might not get the full set for another two years or so.
No, I have an issue with them allowing it to get to this point at all; I don't know how a properly managed team can work for 9 months and produce so little end product - that's more worrying than anything else. I think that's what Mo means when he says "spread too thin", teams must have been working where they were either poorly monitored, poorly motivated or else severely under resourced and so we get to a point where they can only produce 10% of the content we were promised.
Are these same thinly spread resources the reason why a steaming turd of a WvW map was allow to eek out into the game? Or why the fractals update was so off the mark (and why we still have so few new fractals)? Is it why they had to discontinue any support for dungeons? If so then how long have they been working like this - and which of the coming updates can we expect to be below par or unfinished because for the past several years the team has been spread too thin?
Anyway, because of this royal fuck-up, he's had to come out and put his hands up and say "I'm sorry guys this is going to fucking suck, but here's whats going to happen". And I respect that, even if I don't like it.
He's absolutely 100% spot on when he says we will judge when the April update rolls around. They better fucking knock it out the park.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

[FIFA] How FIFA reconnected me with my Dad

This morning I noticed a thread on the r/Soccer subreddit from a football fan living in Atlanta, he wanted to know how he might introduce the sport to friends and family when they haven't grown up with it.
I expected responses such as "go to local games", "get to know the players", "watch other leagues like the Premier League". But the top comment, by a long way, is "Play FIFA", and its not an aberration: "Play FIFA" is a comment which comes up at least 7 times in the top comments, sometimes accompanied by "play Football Manager".

I was astounded, because that is exactly how I got into football. But I didn't realise it was such a comment route.

In Britain, whilst you don't HAVE to like football, you are locked out of a lot of "blokey" conversations if you don't know anything about it. It's parodied in those IT Crowd sketch(es):

(Incidently, Arsenal DO always try to walk it in)

My dad has always had a season ticket to Leicester City, even when they were down in the lower divisions. My cousins have always been into football, my fiance's family and my coworkers all fluent in football banter. I was always a little behind. I'd watch England matches in European or World Cups, and I'd occasionally put a Champions League match on in the background if there wasn't anything else on - but I wasn't really interested.

Then one day I went to my cousins birthday party - I think he might have been 21 or something - and he and his friends were playing FIFA. I gave it a go and though I was terrible I enjoyed it.

First off, this is the weird thing about football in Britain. People who don't like football simply won't play FIFA - but there is no reason why you couldn't enjoy the experience of the game, what people tend to not like is the ethos around the game, the arrogance of the players, the way they are such arseholes but get paid so much money, the general inanity of the football-talk which surrounds the whole idea of football. But that doesn't mean you couldn't enjoy the experience of moving a player around a pitch and the challenge of putting the ball into the net - that's no different from shooting a player in CoD, or farming loot in Diablo 3. Its all just gameplay. Just look at the popularity of Rocket League amongst non-football types and you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, I decided to take a pop and when the next FIFA game came out I bought it. I still wasn't interested in football, but I enjoyed the game. Then I tried Ultimate Team - where you buy cards which represent players, and then build your team around those cards. Sometimes a player will perform well in real life, and that week EA will make an "In Form" card for that player - it will be a card with boosted stats. Suddenly I had some link to the real world of football - I was interested who might be getting an in-form card this week, so I started watching football and from then I was hooked.

I remember about a year ago I was talking with my family and my cousin said "This is weird, Will is saying things about football". I'd made it - I was a bloke. At one point I was noticeable football-illiterate, but now I had the patter, I could talk the talk - I knew that Arsenal do indeed always try to walk it in, I knew that Theo Walcott may (at the time of the sketch) have been better as a "super-sub" due to his pace, so Wenger putting him on early might be a mistake, and I would know which displays each week were, or indeed were not, ludicrous.

So thanks to FIFA I had this whole new connection to my dad. Its not like we were ever unconnected, but now I could go to games with him and we could sit together to watch matches and I'd actually know what was going on. I could talk to him about something he is passionate about, and that is priceless. I think that perhaps now I can even be a little bit insufferable about football, because I read the r/Soccer subreddit and try to keep up with all the gossip and transfers. It was inevitable that I'd get a bit nerdy about it really!

Either way, I've bought every FIFA game since '10 and, despite all of the games' flaws, I can't see myself stopping any time soon. I'm happy to play because it has given me a new thing to be passionate about, to talk to people about and to bond with my family about, and despite it being owned by the almost comic-book villainous entity that is EA, I still find myself loving regardless.


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