Ever since Ultimate Team was introduced in FIFA 09, gameplay responsiveness and server issues have been common complaints.
From unfair disconnects and slow menus to unreliable gameplay, there have been issues in the series that players have had little to no control over. Yet, EA Sports has remained quiet on the subject, often placing the blame on players’ set-up or network connection.
With FIFA 19’s recent Pitch Notes, however, EA Sports has acknowledged that gameplay responsiveness can be improved on their end, and that it’s not all in our heads.
With FIFA’s move towards competitive play, especially with the launch of FUT Champions a couple of years ago and Division Rivals in FIFA 19, the complaints have been louder than ever.
That doesn’t mean that gameplay has worsened in recent years, it’s likely the opposite, but the focus on tough matches for set rewards highlights the game’s issues and ensures that players notice everything that could be wrong with their experience.
Misplaced passes, strikers taking a touch when receiving the ball a yard or two from goal, or incorrect player switching are just a few of the in-game instances that occur frequently for many players.
‘Bad gameplay’ and ‘button delay‘ are phrases that have been heard more than ever before since FIFA 19’s release and, while there’s certainly a section of players that use it as an excuse for losing or exaggerate the issues, it’s undoubtedly an issue for many.
Also, just as EA Sports note in their new Pitch Notes article, gameplay responsiveness is down to more than just server issues. What type of monitor you play on, the time of day you play, your ISP, whether you’re playing with a wired or wireless connection, and even something as simple as where you are in the world can have an impact.
With all that said, though, the complaints from so many players around the world and the regularity of the issues make it clear that a lot of it is down to the infrastructure behind the scenes.
For FIFA players in the middle east, South America, and many parts of Northern America, it’s a roll of a dice whether you’ll find a game with a good connection on not.
Even for me in London, a new promo event slows down the menus and I know games will likely be less responsive at certain times of the day or week, and it can be frustrating when success in the game is so reliant on reactions and precise timing. It’s huge for the series, then, that EA Sports are looking to improve.
They say that they are using advanced telemetry to analyze a group of players’ matches to help them understand responsiveness complaints and what can be done about it on their end.
There hasn’t been widespread evidence of it, with complaints and issues still prevalent, but they have already made some changes.
They have made “network and data center configuration changes that have improved efficiency and capacity,” and “multiple individual hardware changes due to specific hardware issues in various server locations around the world,” among a couple of other alterations.
Of course, the FIFA series has more than its fair share of gameplay issues that are down to design rather than connection, but working to fix any issues on that side could improve the series significantly going forward.
The Pitch Notes are disappointingly vague, giving us little tangible information about what’s being altered, how it’ll help, or when we should expect to see results, though.
While it could be a PR move to please fans as we move into one of FIFA’s best periods of the year, Team of the Season, and it may have as little impact some of the previous gameplay patches, it’s a big change to EA Sports’s messaging on the issue.
On the gameplay side, the proposed changes would help to minimize the impact of existing design issues and make the game feel less inconsistent. Rather than not knowing how the game will feel to play match to match, players will feel confident about what version of FIFA they’re going to get when they search for a match.
That leads to the biggest impact improved gameplay responsiveness would have; it would improve fan opinion on the game and reduce the toxicity in the community.
The issues have been so frustrating because they feel out of players’ control. In FIFA’s most competitive modes, a loss is unrecoverable, making every match important, so losing partly due to heavy gameplay or button delay is incredibly frustrating.
All the issues do is create anger and a negative sentiment to every aspect of the game. Reducing the influence of connection issues, even a little, will only change fans’ opinions of the series in a positive way, building trust for the game and how it works.
I hope that EA Sports keep FIFA players updated as they continue their efforts to improve gameplay responsiveness. Acknowledging the issues is a great first step, but we need to see the changes make a noticeable difference to how FIFA feels to play.