The moment many of us have been not so patiently waiting for has arrived, career mode updates in FIFA 20! It’s time to dissect EA’s improvements to see if they meet our (my) expectations.
Press Conferences & Player Conversations
Press conferences have been a staple of FIFA for quite some time now. Coming through as emails with limited options (motivate team/player, unnerve opposing manager/player), these press conferences had little effect on your team, let alone the outcome of a match. They would quickly become repetitive and many FIFA career mode players, including myself, skipped over them completely by deleting the e-mail as if it were spam. Fast forward to FIFA 20 and press conferences seem to have undergone a huge face lift, not only cosmetically, but functionally as well by having a measurable impact on your squad. This year, important matches will trigger a press conference before and after the match where you can discuss the team’s objectives with your responses having a direct impact on the performance of the match. With unique personalities tied to each player — hopefully they vary according to a player’s position on the squad (star player, regular first-team player, fringe starter, etc. — they should breathe life into what’s been a pretty stale player-management system.
EA has said, “this mode generates, and builds a variation of ever-changing stories” and that’s key to this all. PES 2013 had a similar feature and became repetitive very quickly. So it’s important that this mode not only offers a huge variety of player emotions but also has sound logic. Nothing will upset career mode players more than if their star players all start handing in transfer requests despite sound weekly wages, quality results, and top-flight competition domestically and in the Champions/Europa League.
Player conversations are also a new feature, and through a text messaging user interface you will be able to text with players and communicate throughout the season. Hopefully you all will be able to avoid Antonio Conte and Diego Costa-like conversations. There are a lot of other career mode features that should impact this, and vice-versa, so it remains to be seen how effective this RPG-like system will be at breathing life into things.
Player Morale System
Piggybacking off the new player conversations is a brand-new player-morale system to counterbalance the interaction you have with your squad through the text-message interface. Taking into account factors such as playing time, wages and performance, player morale could have a huge impact on how you manage your squad. Keeping your star players happy is usually pretty easy in FIFA as wages and playing time will normally get it done, but it’s the youth and fringe players that hopefully we’ll have to pay special attention to. FIFA 18 and 19 suffered from youth players who enforced “promote me to the first team or else I’ll terminate my contract” type ultimatums that frequently led to their release, especially if you were managing a decent side.
Incorporated into contract negotiations, a player’s role, specifically in what he requested and what you offered, often meant the difference in retaining key players and watching them force a move. It will be interesting to see how player morale changes during the inevitable ebbs and flows of a footy season, especially as you bring in new players — sometimes at the same position — to compete for minutes. An upgrade to the pre-FIFA 20 morale system was sorely needed so it’s encouraging to see the FIFA development staff expand upon it, bringing man managing to the forefront for your virtual manager.
By the sound of the latest Pitch Notes, it’s easy to tell that managerial customization was a popular request from the community. Starting with appearance, the stale silhouettes have been updated to give your avatar a more personal look, complete with new outfits and facial features. With the introduction of authentic managers in the Premier League a few years back, virtual managers in FIFA 20 will have more ways to make them look unique, whether that’s a man or the newly added female avatar. New accessories, albeit highly unrealistic ones (especially the gentleman to the far right in the picture above who looks more at place in your neighborhood dive than he does perusing the touchline), will help to differentiate your managers and give them a sense of style rivaling Pep Guardiola.
Live News Screenshots
Only a few lines were dedicated to “Live News Screenshots” in this latest version of Pitch Notes, but adding these pictures to the “Live News” feed on your career mode interface is a nice touch. Fresh content, hopefully tied into performance (so if you lose or drop points perhaps a shot of a dejected player?) would enhance the emotion that’s often neglected in career mode. EA hopefully takes this a bit further and enhances this feature by incorporating video highlights. College Hoops 2K8 had these during their weekly wrap-up show (albeit canned and repetitive), and NCAA Football incorporated your saved highlights one year when you accessed your trophy room.
Speaking of trophy rooms, in a sport where trophies are everything, why hasn’t one been incorporated in FIFA’s career mode yet? In the future, I’d like to see trophy rooms, club records (I believe one of the NCAA Footballs also included this), and other long-term accomplishments incorporated into career mode — both player-manager and as a player (Become a Pro).
League UI Themes
New league user interfaces (UIs) have been added for a few of the top-flight European Leagues as well as the Europa and Champions League. But let’s be honest, while presentation goes a long way, these new league UI themes are a cool addition but won’t move the needle when it comes to judging career mode in its totality.
Dynamic Player Potential
I feel as if EA glossed over this feature a bit, perhaps intentionally as to not give away too much, but the impact on your career mode save could be huge. Player progression has been a big issue for as far back as I can remember. From the early days on the PS3/Xbox 360 where you could turn the likes of Danny Drinkwater into Zidane to the more recent iterations where a training system was implemented, I was always perplexed and left asking myself, “Where does actual match performance come into play?” As many of us simulation freaks often do, taking a team from England’s League One to the Premier League often meant that you gave up on your first-year players as you traversed through the English tiers in search of the limelight and huge financial rewards the Premier League had to offer.
Finding a diamond in the rough is sometimes easier in FIFA than it is to find that guy who spends a few years out on loan only to come back and light it up despite having a low rating. Think of Tottenham’s Harry Kane who spent three tough years out on loan to four different clubs only to go back to the Spurs and absolutely tear the league up and represent his country in two major tournaments. In FIFA, if you hadn’t already sold Kane to a Championship or League One side, he would have returned to your squad with a rating of 70-72. With a few injuries and maybe some fixture congestion as only England can do (supposedly fixed in FIFA 20), you would have potentially given Kane the odd start here and there in the League Cup, resting the majority of your major players. In your League Cup match, Kane bags a goal as you advance and plays well enough to deserve another start when the next round comes along — or perhaps a substitute appearance on the bench when the matches start piling up in December and January. He plays well and scores a few more goals prompting you to spend a little more time with him, focusing on his training and seeing if you can improve upon his weaker skills. You resist the temptation to check SoFIFA, knowing that it could kill your patience and ultimately your ambition with Harry, and keep giving him opportunities.
When it’s time for the next season, he’s still only a 73/74 tops. If you can control your built-in FIFA muscle memory to loan out any player under 75 who isn’t a teenager, you instead keep him around the senior squad to give him opportunities early on to see if he deserves the extra minutes. Fast forward to the end of the season and he’s atop the club’s goal-scoring chart, yet he’s only a 76 overall despite bagging over 30 goals in all competitions. If FIFA 20 recognizes that a player like this is a late bloomer and his overall jumps to an 80 or 82 in that following season, yes please.
Dynamic potential has been missing in footy games for far too long, and if it’s addressed well in FIFA 20 the potential it has for mid-table club career mode managers is huge. And this would apply to things on the pitch, as well as the board room when it’s time to take that maybe-not-so-expensive-youth player and sell him for a small ransom to increase your transfer budget. The ramifications, if implemented correctly, are seemingly endless.
New Negotiation Environments – Two new backdrops being added during transfer negotiations is a decent feature, but if I’m being honest, it doesn’t move the needle enough to be mentioned in a blog about career mode.
Spot Fixes And Balancing Changes – A few of these moved the needle for me more than managerial customization. A better UI for “Player Comparison” is a nice touch, especially when you’re looking to upgrade a certain position and you want to compare how they stack up against your current top player at that position. Disabling international offers is cool, but disabling the ability to be fired would have been better. Occasionally, I’ve seen the board make what seems like a rash decision in firing you, and unless you have a prior save (hooray eight save spots and wink wink phillyphanatic), you’re out of luck.
A few FIFAs back EA made changes to the scouting name database, specifically inputting names that at least sounded like they were for from the country you were scouting. Taking it one step further, multiple ethnicities will be included within those countries where applicable I presume, which is a nice touch in 2019.
The EA devs also mentioned that they “increased the player value of defensive players based on the latest transfer market activity.” While PES has been slow to react to the astronomical transfer fees recently, FIFA has done a pretty decent job over the last few years on the most stringent board difficulty, but solely focusing on keepers, forwards and midfielders, and thus neglecting defenders. I don’t know if EA has spies inside of Premier League board rooms, but reading this blog days after Harry Maguire goes from Leicester to Manchester United for $80 million raises an inquisitive eyebrow that ultimately turns into a smile as it’s good to see balance and realism for all positions when it comes to transfer fees.
Another quote that intrigued me was:
“Improved the algorithm used by AI teams to determine their starting XI. Moving forward you should see far fewer instances in which the opponent isn’t using their prime starting XI in important matches.”
Wait EA, you’re just going to casually drop this in here as if it doesn’t address one of the most annoying issues over the past few years. AI managerial decisions have been one of my biggest peeves over the years. From stockpiling players at the same position to the odd starting XI choices, achieving success because your direct competition doesn’t always field their best lineup can feel cheap and unrewarding. Without a true online career mode with other human managers to keep you on your toes, it’s up to EA to squeeze all of the juice from the AI as possible, and this point by EA seems to do so.
Additions I Would Have Liked
Team Chemistry – Maybe the new player morale feeds into team morale in a way that resembles team chemistry. I want team chemistry to matter as it did to Leicester in 2015-16 when they shocked the world and won the league. I want a pre-match screen that goes over things like team form, which could potentially match you up against a team on a great run of form, aka team chemistry. I want your transfer signings to occasionally hit the ground slow while having a hard time adapting to a new team or possibly a new league, which would then affect your team chemistry. I want your team chemistry to suffer if you tinker with formations and player rotations.
I want all of these things to occur during the trials and tribulations that is a Premier League season, potentially even tying into your managerial expectations so if you’re a club like Man City or Liverpool a good run of results is to be expected, but a few hiccups along the way could mean your team chemistry drops a bit. Team chemistry in PES is overpowered once you settle on a formation and a consistent lineup, but at least it’s in there. Ultimate Team has it, and while it’s relatively simplistic by only taking into account things like club team and nationality, it’s a good start that would hopefully end with data metrics like matches played together. Imagine actually developing a center back partnership that increases your players’ overall, but also suffers if one is injured or moved on by the manager/board from the club.
A lot of us already instinctively think this way, even if the impact on the ratings isn’t measurable, but just imagine if it did impact ratings. The added dynamic would be a nice touch at adding another layer to career mode. The logic might be hard to code, especially if tying in several contributing factors (team form, player morale, etc.) but it would go a long way towards bridging the gap between FIFA and Football Manager’s deep managerial mode.
Online Career Mode – I will continue to beat this drum until my hands fall off or it’s implemented, whichever comes first. It’s time a multiplayer career mode came to fruition. It’s understandably difficult considering how volatile a soccer club’s schedule is, so making the a varied schedule work is most likely a huge challenge for any developmental staff, but if anyone has the resources and tech it’s EA. With a solid online architecture, EA has the ability to pull this off.
Lastly, kudos to EA. It’s not often that people say that, but I’m pleased by the way the developers stay abreast of the new rules, even when it’s to lesser leagues like the Austrian Bundesliga. It will be interesting to see how they handle VAR (Video Assistance Review), but I’d expect to see a few new referee animations in FIFA 21 as it might be smarter to sit this out while the Premier League adjusts.
Which feature are you most excited about? Conversely, what vital feature do you think EA omitted?