Momentum: The FIFA 09 guide

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Did EA confirm the presence of a momentum concept in a FIFA guide published prior to the release of FIFA 09? In this post, I will look into what’s up and down to this claim which keeps popping up on community fora.

The screendump above was taken from a PDF document which was released about the same time as FIFA 09. It has been presented as evidence in support of the perception that the game will attempt to make matches even by shifting the momentum of a match.

manualmomentum

But is this actually the case?

Let’s read it before we interpret it

First and foremost, I think it makes sense to actually read the text. If you do that, you will notice that it doesn’t say anything about the game determining the momentum. The guide claims that when the momentum shifts away from you  for some reason such as conceding a goal, your players will perform worse. When you look at the typical complaints of scripting believers, this story isn’t really in line with it.

Who wrote the text?

Another question is whether the things layed forward in this guide in fact are correct.

As it turns out, EA has rejected that the text above was correct when it was released. FIFAsoccerblog.com brought this interview with Aaron McHardy, who is one of the game designers working with the FIFA franchise. In the interview, McHardy explains that the guide in question wasn’t an official EA document. As most FIFA players may have noticed, the game doesn’t actually come with a manual. EA prefer to communicate this information in other ways. According to McHardy, the guide in question was written by two external writers:

“We actually hired a couple of guys to come in and write a FIFA guide for our fans. (…) Obviously, we don’t have a whole lot of time because we are busy building the game. (…) Part of it, they took our direction on, but we kind of gave them creative license to go away and write what the felt were good tactics. (…) I think they overstepped it a little bit here, because they were claiming that something was in the game that actually wasn’t there.”
(– Aaron McHardy interview)

Why they wrote what they did

The interview McHardy also contains a few hints about what could have lead these external writers to write what they did. McHardy explains that a function similar to what is described in the screen dump indeed was present in FIFA Euro 2008:

“We did things like trying to detect how well you played and adjust the rate at which you fatigue, and that’s insofar as it went. (…) If you are playing really well, and you just scored a goal, and your team was happy, then adrenalin would kick in and reduce the rate at which you fatigue.”
(– Aaron McHardy interview)

If you gave up an important goal, your players would become slower and make more shooting and passing mistakes. In other words, this isn’t about setting or changing the momentum, but about catching it and adapting player stats accordingly.

There is no question that this kind of momentum was present in the game at some point and was removed later, but still, it bears no resemblance to the claims about the game being manipulated.

This doesn’t prove momentum

It’s obviously difficult to accept a document as evidence of anything, when the people who supposedly sanctioned it’s contents, say that the contents aren’t accurate. On top of that, the momentum system described in the guide, is fundamentally different from the system, which people complain about. So, even if the contents were accurate, they still wouldn’t support the claim that EA reverses the existing momentum to make matches even.