FIFA 15 producer talks MLS growth ahead of game’s next release

Dempsey FIFA 15

By TATE STEINLAGE 

LOS ANGELES — In a small, shoulder-to-shoulder cubicle connected to EA Sports’ other major franchises at this year’s E3, fans and media alike had the opportunity to get their first glimpse of FIFA 15. It was there that producer Sebastian Enrique spoke about the rise of Major League Soccer and its transformation in their award-winning video game franchise.

Enrique is certainly no stranger to the league. He moved to America a little more than a decade ago before moving to Canada to help work on the the FIFA series at EA Vancouver. He’s seen MLS at its worst — when teams were more concerned about staying afloat financially than winning a title. Now, like us all, he’s witnessing a sort of “soccer renaissance” in this country where the name “MLS” carries much more weight than it once did. That may very well be one reason why EA is talking MLS more than ever before.

EA’s reluctancy to focus on the league in previous years has been well documented. Licensed American stadiums have been non-existent. Players, second-rate models of their European counterparts. And who could forget blunders like “Sporting Kansas”? Enrique wouldn’t say it directly, but the league’s popularity has made it easy to overlook in past installments.

“We have a really good partnership with MLS,” Enrique told SBI. “MLS is always looking forward to doing things with us, and we’re always looking forward to doing things with them. The reality is that we have 16,000 players in the game and we have more than 500 teams, so it’s impossible to go and capture every single player.

“But for the World Cup games the entire World Cup squad for the U.S. was captured — that was a step forward. Even though I cannot tell you what is the new licensed content, in terms of faces and all of that, for (FIFA) 15, we’re going to be talking about that in August.

“It’s not that we are limited (though). MLS is extremely important to us, it’s certainly our league. It’s just tough to produce all the content in a year.”

It’s getting tougher for EA to ignore MLS, however. More youth are playing the sport than ever before. More than half of the league’s teams improved upon its 2012 attendance last season. Then 10 MLS players made the 2014 U.S. World Cup roster in May — up from four in 2010. It’s a culmination of interest that Enrique says his team has taken notice of.

“I think there are a lot of people in the U.S. that are not super fond of the sport, but they pick it up because it’s a good game to play, and they get into soccer because of that. They use that as an entertainment thing that is safe and good fun, especially with kids, and they get into the sport because of it.

“For me, it’s fantastic to see, especially coming from somebody who’s not originally from North America. (I’m) a South American guy whose lived football all his life. I moved to the U.S. 12 years ago, then I moved to Canada to work on FIFA. I’ve seen the growth in these past 10-12 years of soccer within North American and it’s amazing to me.

“There’s two teams coming in March, so the growth of MLS is amazing. The followers of MLS are amazing. It’s something that we’re not leaving behind by no shape or form.”

Enrique wouldn’t budge when asked about the specific MLS content coming this year, but he was adamant that there’s a clear focus on bringing a more authentic feel across the board for MLS in FIFA 15.

A boy outside the EA Sports booth was asked what he’d do if EA deliver on that promise. “I’d lose my mind,” he said with a smile on his face.

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56 Responses to FIFA 15 producer talks MLS growth ahead of game’s next release

  1. The Who says:

    I hate how they don’t put in the MLS stadiums!

    • reignman says:

      Doesn’t matter what stadiums they put in, King Fahd or bust.

      • Rory says:

        CONCACAF Champions league! Or at least give us a quarterfinal a with four MLS teams and four Mexican teams, or put MLS in the fake South American tourney (which uses two MLS teams as non-playable opponents)

        • Dace says:

          Not going to happen for a while, unfortunately…I’ve been wanting the same, but if they put the expansion sides in for this one then it should be coming within the next 5 or so versions (hopefully).

          • RBNY says:

            CONCACAF might not happen this time around, but how hard is it to enter the top 4 MLS clubs into the fake Libertadores? The already added the Liga MX teams to it. MLS is the only league in the Western Hemisphere that is left out of it on the game. Doesn’t make sense.

    • Ben says:

      I know Gillette isn’t the paramount of MLS stadiums, but they already have it modeled for Madden. Same with CenturyLink. Why not just port those over? I know it’s not zero work, but it’s got to make it a lot easier for them.

    • Brainiac says:

      I think that FIFA should offer a set of stadiums each year and change it up (like they do) and then have downloadable stadia so that fans could download the stadium of the club they support. It could be $1.99 or $2.99.

      I would definitely buy Red Bull Arena if it were available as a download. Probably a few other stadiums as well, including Providence Park in Portland.

      FIRE KLINSMANN.

      • beto says:

        instead of buying a new game every year ~$60 I would probably purchase roughly the same amount in downloadable content if they were constantly developing new teams, stadiums, leagues, competitions, jerseys, etc. literally the world of possible materials is endless…

        make the game itself last for 4 years or so and shift the focus to downloadable content

        personally i thought the creation centre was the best thing that ever happened to EA-FIFA but its kinda a lite version of what I was looking for.

  2. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    Hey this a story I have not read anywhere else. Good job Tate

  3. MemRook says:

    “And who could forget blunders like ‘Sporting Kansas’?”

    Was the blunder forgetting the “City” part? Or something else?

    • Kejsare says:

      The commentary for RSL is bad, instead of the Spanish “real” they pronounce it the English “real” (at least on my PS3 FIFA 14 version).

  4. cformusic says:

    MLS and US Soccer owe a lot of their popularity to FIFA, so hopefully the relationship will grow more and more over the years!

    • JayAre says:

      They sure do. I know a few Baltimore Ravens player who learned the game from playing FIFA. Laquan Williams and Tony Durant are pretty good at it but MLS need to step the level up, they are all big euro fans.

      • MLSsnob says:

        I wouldn’t worry about what league they like. I’m sure like the rest of us, they’ll start out with watching euro leagues and that’ll develop an interest in their domestic league. That’s how I started out, anyway.

  5. Dace says:

    UGH!

    I’ve been trying to find out since FIFA 14 came out if they were going to include the expansion sides in FIFA 15.

    • Rory says:

      They usually don’t, the American schedule means the 2014 league will appear in the 2015 Fifa. This is how all expansions have been handled (although next spring the two new teams will be available for online play, if they follow their pattern).

  6. Brett says:

    I think we’re lucky MLS is even in the game–lucky that the US is a huge market for video games.

    I hate that this headline is accompanied by a picture of Clint Dempsey kicking a ball in “Estadio de las Artes”, the “home” stadium for the USA. I don’t care that most MLS players aren’t capture-modeled, but at least give us a generic MLS SSS model (think NYRB). What ANGERS me is that EA already has Qwest field fully modeled and the USMNT has played a lot at U of Phoenix Stadium, Soldier Field, Fed Ex Field and Jacksonville’s stadium (I forget the sponsor right now, Alltel maybe) all of which are also fully modeled for Madden. Oh, but they thought to fully model the stadium in Vancouver…

    • Kenneth says:

      Dude, I totally agree. Why is Sporting Park or RedBull Arena not in this game? Don’t forget that EA also has Yankee Stadium modeled too ;)

      • CeezNYRB says:

        Yes! I wouldn’t even mind if it was a purchase-only feature where it had to be downloaded. I didn’t buy FIFA 14 because I just don’t play video games as much as I used to (more of a Netflix, HBO GO, and Hulu user now) but I would totally get FIFA 15 if there were MLS stadiums, even if only purchasable.

    • Tate Steinlage says:

      To be fair, EA cannot talk about what stadiums they have licensed yet (besides what they’re demoing), so that could be a placeholder for CenturyLink (hope so!). But I agree. Especially in comparison to European sides, MLS has some varying venus that would be conceptually different. Here’s to hoping we see some this year!

    • Fynnsky says:

      That’s because BC Place is a 30 minute drive from the EA office.

      • Tate Steinlage says:

        Yeah, Enrique told me they motion capture the entire Whitecaps team for player models. No surprise there, really, given the location.

        • TommyOC says:

          Every team visits Vancouver and LA *at least* once a year. Is it really that hard to make the EA VAN and EA LA offices available for a quick capture session on those road trips?

          I’d think MLS and the teams would be down for that.

      • MisterJC says:

        Also, don’t forget that EA is one of Vancouver’s sponsors. Of course they would be the club that gets attention first as far as MLS is concerned…

    • Dude mN says:

      Ever bank field

  7. Ben says:

    Think they’ll pronounce Lee Nguyen’s name right this time around?

  8. Stephen says:

    I doubt it matters that EA has a stadium “modeled” for a game like Madden — that’s a different game created by a different studio using different physics.

    That said, they should get some nominal MLS stadia — NYRB, LAG makes sense. Maybe Seattle.

    The Timbers stadium would be great, as it has such odd angles and isn’t really like anything else…

    • Tate Steinlage says:

      IMO, the game should ship with the following licensed stadiums: Sporting Park, Providence Park, Red Bulls Stadium, and CenturyLink Field. Sadly, even I’d be surprised if we see four this year.

    • Ben says:

      I can say with 90% certainty that the physics aren’t baked into the model, but are rather a part of the engine, and are applied universally on top of the models… and I’m not sure why you’re quoting the word “modeled.”

      It would absolutely take some effort to port a stadium from another game, but the base model, texture, lighting, are all largely accounted for. I’d find it hard to believe EA’s studios are using entirely incompatible tools for this stuff – there are a few big 3D modeling programs, texturing tools, etc on the market that, in my experience, are relatively ubiquitous.

      • Brett says:

        This is precisely what I meant. EA already put in the hours to take photos from all angles and digitally “model” these stadia, so why not give those specs to the FIFA crew. The hard work has been done. Obviously they need to model different crowds and adapt the presentation, but that stuff is revamped every year anyway.

    • Ed says:

      Both Madden & FIFA are built using the same engine (Ignite) and share a lot of the same traits. That being said, importing assets between studios shouldn’t be an issue. EA actually uses a lot of standardized tools between their studios (likely to keep costs and dev time down).

      Also, 3D meshes don’t include things like physics and game code.

    • MisterJC says:

      The FIFA and Madden studios have shared programming in the past. Madden used FIFA’s spectator code for their crowds since it was far superior on the last gen consoles. No reason why the stadium programming code couldn’t be used in a similar fashion…

  9. Kenneth says:

    I would rather not see any NFL stadiums in FIFA. Sporting Park, RedBull Arena, LA’s stadium, the new Earthquakes stadium, Union’s stadium…there are plenty of great stadiums to choose from that are soccer specific. I’d be happy to see just one of these.

    • Brett says:

      That makes little sense. Some MLS teams play in NFL stadiums. Authenticity is the goal, not sport vs sport.

      • RAMONE says:

        If we are going for authenticity, an we have S#i#le play any playoff games with Seahawks lines painted on then?

        :P

        • beto says:

          lol.. doesn’t BC Place have faint gridiron lines on it in FIFA14?

          should they add a 80% empty Foxboro Stadium with lines on the field? or maybe Yankee Stadium with the infield dirt?

  10. dude says:

    they probably have licensing issues trying to get the nfl stadia used in MLS in a soccer game might be an NFL thing..

    • Terron1015 says:

      Considering the NFL wants to tap into the euro market, they should say yes for free, it marketing they wouldn’t even have to pay for.

  11. roberto johnson says:

    as much as i’m rooting for the mls to succeed.. the ratings are terrible.. and that’s a big problem.

    • Sean says:

      Gotta spread the word. Talk about the games. Invite people over for watch-parties. Ask for MLS at bars and establishments. And, make sure that you invite the Eurosnobs to come support the league and see how it’s grown and help it grow more so we can start attracting the best players in the world.

  12. Ben says:

    Mostly I’m just waiting for them to figure out how to animate faces. There’s a book that’s required reading for 3D animators called “Stop Staring,” which largely addresses an amateur animation issue wherein faces move somewhat but the gaze still appears distant. It’s a big factor in the “uncanny valley.” And FIFA still has huge issues with it. They work so much on detail but when the faces appear so lifeless (mostly just hinging at the jaw), it’s creepy and takes you out of it. Crossing my fingers that the “emotional intelligence” or whatever they’re touting takes a step toward addressing that at the same time.

  13. Bradley's Missing Mop says:

    I know it is unrealistic, but I wish you could have a fantasy draft in any league.

  14. Perry Salvagne says:

    STADIUMS. STADIUMS. STADIUMS.

    The must-haves (and in my opinion, in this order of importance):

    Portland’s Providence Park
    KC’s Sporting Park
    SJ’s nearly completed stadium
    Toronto’s BMO Field
    Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium
    Vancouver’s BC Place (previously included)
    NY’s Red Bull Arena
    Montreal’s Saputo Stadium

    Honorable Mention:

    Salt Lake City’s Rio Tinto Stadium?
    LA’s Stubhub Center?
    Philly’s PPL Park?
    Seattle’s Century Link Field?