Every time you lose a game of FIFA, it’s an absolute fix up… or at least that’s long been the suspicion of the game’s millions and millions of players. As much as EA have asserted that they don’t massage the game’s difficulty and player stats to allow for dramatic last gasp goals, fans have disbelieved them, and that has not been helped one bit by the appearance of a ‘Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment patent.
Originally filed in 2016 and granted to EA in 2018, the patent describes a method of automated difficulty adjustment that could be “undetectable by a user”. It would monitor and predict how long a game could keep a player engaged, both in a single play session and more generally through returning to the game, and adjust the difficulty of the game to try and keep people hooked.
Suspicion around this patent in particular pushed EA to issue an official response:
We’ve heard your concerns around the Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment patent family (here and here), and wanted to confirm it’s not used in EA SPORTS FIFA. We would never use it to advantage or disadvantage any group of players against another in any of our games. The technology was designed to explore how we might help players that are having difficulty in a certain area of a game have an opportunity to advance.
Obviously, as publishers like EA seek to hook players into games as a service like FIFA and Anthem, being able to tweak the difficulty to keep players on the bubble of enjoyment, challenge and frustration so that they spend more time in the game (and so get tempted to spend more money on sweet, sweet microtransactions) is a pretty big deal for their coffers.
Will we see something like this implemented in a game soon? Arguably systems such as this are already used, albeit not in as complex a fashion. Games like Left 4 Dead (and its more modern spiritual descendant World War Z) intelligently looks at the player health and progress, deciding how many enemies to throw at you and when, to keep you off balance and keep replaying levels fresh.
At EA Play just before E3, EA revealed the latest entry in the FIFA franchise, predictably called FIFA 20. It features a ‘new’ mode FIFA Volta, which brings street football back to the FIFA series as a mode in their mainline games.
FIFA 20 will be coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch (but probably without Volta) on 24th September. Expect people to bang on about unfair game losses despite what EA have just said.