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All the secrets behind FIFA 17

Interview with a producer of the best football videogame ever

All the secrets behind FIFA 17  Interview with a producer of the best football videogame ever

FIFA 17, EA Sports' latest endeavour, is destined to change forever the way we look at a football video game. It has been defined as "the best football video game ever", and the sales in the first weeks have just confirmed this feeling. We have contacted Marco Castiello, Producer in the department of Data Collection and Licenses, in order to understand the work behind that kind of success.

 
Hi Marco, it’s a real pleasure to have you here. Before we go into details I’d like to know: how did you get to your current role, in the production team of the best-selling worldwide football game? How did it start?

It all started 5 years ago. While searching for info about the game online, I stumbled upon an advertisement in which it was written that the Data Collection and Licensing team – in which I’m currently employed - was searching for experts of Italian football. I applied for it and, after a quick test, I joined the Community as a Data Reviewer. My initial role back then was to offer feedback and suggestions on how to improve the data from the Italian leagues. After one year I was offered my very first independent contractor agreement as a Data Editor and became responsible for imputing data for a certain number of Italian teams. I always tried to prove myself to be a reliable member of the community and joining the production team in my current role –  as a Producer, the responsible of the data of Italian leagues -  felt like the natural next step.


Amongst your tasks, you also have to ensure the physical and facial appearance of players are properly reflected in the game. How difficult 
it is to track down the various hairstyles of Pogba, for instance? More in general, do you wait a certain amount of time to make sure the given hairstyle is used by the player or you update it immediately?

Keeping track of all the data for one player, the physical appearance, the attributes and traits, the behaviour, the animations, the tactics, and finally also the pure factual data, is certainly not an easy task, but this is our job. We cannot miss any detail of players in real life. We have a solid protocol in place which gives us the opportunity to update all physical and facial appearance of players in a reasonable amount of time.

 

You certainly know really well what all of the kits from Series A teams look like, given your role. Which ones do you like the most?

There are several kits I do really like, but my favourite is probably Crotone’s home kit: it’s colourful and it has a little reference to the ancient history of the city which I do really appreciate. I do also like Napoli’s tight kits, Juventus’ blue jersey and all variations from Sampdoria, of which I always loved the unique design of the jerseys.


Does it happen that you start supporting a certain player during the development of the game? Maybe someone you didn’t know before…

Yes, it happened once when I was a Data Reviewer. I remember I was quite impressed by Insigne, Immobile (both on loan to Pescara under coach Zeman) and Florenzi (on loan to Crotone). It was 2011/2012 season and I knew already they were going to make a name for themselves on the bigger stage, after their loan spells have ended. At the moment nobody has stood out in particular this season, but I think that players like Caldara, Gagliardini and Kessié from Atalanta; Barreca from Torino; Locatelli from Milan; Pol Lirola, on loan to Sassuolo now, together with Politano, Pellegrini and Mazzitelli will have their say in the future.

 

Does the media relevance of a player have any influence on the selections made for FIFA Ultimate Team campaigns?

Not really, no. If you take the most known Ultimate Team campaign, the “Team of the Week” selection, we just base our choices solely on sporting criteria.


How much and how is the “media exposure” reflected in the players' attributes in the game?

It doesn’t have much importance. In defining the player’s attributes, we just let his performances do the talking. If a well-known player goes through a bad period of form, his attributes will be altered accordingly, regardless of his media exposure. However, for these kind of players we make sure their personality and reputation is properly reproduced in games modes such as Career Mode. E.g.: if a player is known for being loyal to his club above all personal interests and sits on the bench without complaining, we make sure this is reflected in-game.

 

There is something that I’ve always been intrigued with: by defining players’ attributes you’re incidentally stating who is the strongest player in Italy, England and the rest of the world. Has it ever happened you’ve received complaints from Ronaldo’s or Messi’s fans, or from Icardi’s or Higuain’s in your case, their favourite player doesn’t have the desired values?

Yes, we do receive constant feedback and criticism on the technical, physical and mental attributes we assign to players. Sometimes even from players themselves, who are lovers of our game. Of course, there are few who believe to be overrated in our game, they all believe they are much better in real life! We read everything and listen to everyone, no single feedback gets overlooked or ignored, as this is something we use to improve our work day by day.


Aside from being a Producer, you’re a big fan of your game, therefore I’d like to ask you what it could mean for the world of gaming the introduction of Alex Hunter’s story mode in the game?

The idea behind “The Journey” is to give football experts an insight on the life of a rising English football star and immerse player’s in Alex Hunter’s story, which can be impacted by their own choices. This could represent a milestone in the story of football videogames.

How many games do you usually watch per week, aside from Napoli’s ones that I know you support.

In a week with European games I usually watch up to 6 full games per week. When there are leagues fixture played simultaneously I try to watch them in mosaic mode, so I don’t lose track of anything. Besides this I also watch the highlights from all games played in the weekend for my leagues, I read articles, match reports and ratings from several sport newspapers, in the office.


In your “Talent Scout” website there is the chance to apply for a Data Editor or Data Reviewer position. You told me that you’re constantly seeking for applicants, so which suggestions would you give to those who want to start a career in the video game database’s maintenance?

Thank you for your question. As you said, we’re constantly seeking for new applicants, so I’d strongly encourage any football expert reading this to apply via the Talent Scout website (www.eafootballtalentscout.com). Having said this, the keys to success are: researching, having passion for the game and for football, being absolutely committed to the role and having the right attitude and always put yourself on test. Another important thing is to remain impartial in your judgement and to put aside your football loyalty for a team, this is crucial if you want to work on a football game database.