Is there evidence indicating that FIFA is scripted?


The internet is floating with alleged evidence of scripting. Is it really evidence and what does it show? In this post, we present and discuss the evidence presented by scripting and handicapping believers.

In the following sections, we present and analyse some of the alleged evidence in favor of scripting, handicapping and momentum. Our aim is to determine whether the alleged evidence in fact does support the claim that EA deliberately intervenes in our matches.

We are going to look at four different groups of evidence:

  • Video footage
    We can’t deny that the by far biggest group of alleged evidence is video footage portraying the events which have led people to complain about scripting in the first place.
  • EA apparently revealing its inner secrets
    EA – and it’s employees – have un numerous occasions said or written something, which in the community has been interpreted as EA confirming scripting.
  • Homemade experiments
    A number of scripting believers have attempted to prove their theory via small, home-made experiments.
  • Information from the game’s code base
    Part of the game’s code base can be read on PC. Some of the information found in there has been presented as evidence.

Video footage

A search for ‘FIFA scripting’ on YouTube will return thousands of results. According to their authors, the clips prove that scripting exists in the game. But from a scientific perspective, there is no doubt: They don’t prove anything, and they are not evidence in any sense.

Logic dictates that the mere fact that something happened in itself doesn’t prove that it happened due to a specific cause. That is, unless that particular cause is the only possible cause.

The fact that you concede a goal due to some event, which the game somehow influenced, does not in itself indicate that EA made it happen on purpose. And the fact of the matter is that there are other possible explanations to all those clips. We previously analyzed some examples here and here. The examples portray events in three different categories:

  • Graphics errors, which accidentally happen to impact the end result of a match
  • Players missing apparently open chances
  • Players conceding silly goals

In all cases, it takes little effort to explain what actually went on and why it happened. Usually, it comes down to a mix of coincidence, intended game behavior, glitches and players making mistakes, which they perhaps not acknowledge themselves.

The mere fact that something bad happens at the worst possible moment doesn’t lead to the conclusion that EA is out to get ya.

EA apparently revealing its inner secrets

Next in line, we have a range of alleged evidence, where the recurring element is that EA has said something, which then is interpreted as evidence confirming that something is going on.

The group of alleged evidence that we are going to discus here, currently consists of these pieces:

So, what is at stake here?

As a representative example, take the interview with David Rutter, (executive producer on FIFA), which has been brought up as evidence in support of the theory that handicapping is present within the game. Below are some of the quotes which have led to that perception:

“We are the definitive simulation of the sport they love, and we’ve done it in a way that I think allows people who aren’t into football to enjoy it too.”

“And so, looking at this year’s game, and how we wanted it to be unpredictable and dramatic…”

“Moving away from the football thing and looking at non-football fans, what they see is this amazing simulation of humans running around kicking a ball of leather, that when they perform an action is executed in a way that makes complete sense.”

“My kids love it, and they’re like… eight and five years old.”

As far as I understand it, these quotes are perceived as evidence by some people, because they interpret ‘not into football’ as synonymous with not very good at FIFA, while ‘making the game unpredictable and dramatic’ is interpreted as synonymous to making the better player or team lose. Hence, the first quote above becomes a confirmation of EA wanting the game to be enjoyable even for people who aren’t very good at it by making the better player or team lose.

What however is quite clear when you read the full interview and hence the quote in its own context is that David Rutter isn’t talking about handicapping. First of all, he is responding to a question regarding people who aren’t into football, not people who are bad at FIFA. The entire point of the question is that you may like FIFA without loving football. Second, he isn’t confirming that the game is scripted. In fact, he rejects it further down in the interview.

In general, all the seven pieces of alleged evidence listed above are examples of cherry picking, i.e. picking the parts that seem to confirm your claim and ignoring all the parts that doesn’t fit into your preferred narrative. On a general note, you can ask yourself what is more likely: EA suddenly revealing something in an interview or a TV ad, which the very same people have been denying adamantly on all other occasions – or – you misreading or misinterpreting a quote?

Home made experiments

The third group of evidence in our wrap up is an ever-growing list of homemade experiments designed to test or prove scripting, handicapping or something similar.

On the site, we have looked into three different studies, which are quite representative to a lot of other examples floating around on the internet:

Briefly explained, what these people have done is to play a few matches and record some of their feelings and observations in a more or less structured way. If they felt there was handicapping, then that feeling becomes proof that it exists.

There are all sorts of things wrong with these experiments. Data are not recorded systematically, the measurement methods are not reliable, samples are far too small and so on and so on.

Take as an example xtoonator:

He played 30 matches and lost 8. That’s already a completely unacceptable sample size by any standards. He then draws various conclusions about why he lost. He argues that he lost against worse players, but fails to realize that he determines the quality of his opponents using a rating system, which according to its own author isn’t suitable for that purpose. He also argues that he lost against players operating in lower divisions while ignoring the fact that since he was in division 1, he couldn’t test whether it was possible to lose against opponents residing in a higher division, as there aren’t any. And it goes on.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to create an experimental design, which to the untrained eye looks convincing, even though it is pure crap from one end to another. None of these designs would pass high school level, and even less college level exams in basic scientific experimental design.

Information from the game’s code base

The last group of evidence in our wrap up is evidence coming directly from the game’s code base. Since you can edit various settings files and access the database files on the PC, it is possible to get some insight into the game’s inner workings. Also, we decided to include the chemistry glitch in this group, because it in a way does reveal something factual about the game’s configuration.

The evidence, we are going to look at here, is:

We would like to discuss the three pieces one by one, as they are quite different by their nature.

The match intensity table

The infamous screen dump from FIFA 11’s database

The match intensity table is a database table found in the game’s huge database. The game apparently uses the table to look up a “match intensity value” based on the current score difference and current match minute. The table itself doesn’t reveal anything about what that match intensity value is used for.

But, given that it’s a value which depends om the time and the score line, scripting believers have speculated that the table is involved in some kind of artificially invoked momentum shifts, or perhaps, that the table is the reason why you so often concede in the 45th and 90th minute goals, because you know, it says 45 and 90.

What does match intensity actually mean? An educated guess would be that it has something to do with the level of excitement (how intense is the match?), which definitely would depend on the score line and the time you are in. Hence, my guess would be that the table controls commentary and crowd behavior, making sure that the commentators and the crows are acting in a way which fits the context of the match.

But this is of course only guessing. The only thing that is completely clear is that absolutely nothing suggests that this table changes the progression of the match. I wouldn’t even call this cherry picking, because there isn’t any information in that table, which supports any of these theories. It’s taken out of thin air.

Adaptive difficulty

The product.ini file is an ini file used by the PC version of FIFA to control various aspects of the game play. When you open the file, you see certain settings and rules related to difficulty. Even a person without technical knowledge can read the file and verify that the game will change the difficulty depending on the score line and in a way where it will try to narrow the lead. If the player is getting beaten, it will reduce the difficulty and vice versa.

And yes, this absolutely happens, and EA admits it openly. But it’s a single player feature, and absolutely nothing indicates that it’s happening in multiplayer matches as well. Logic dictates that the mere fact that EA has applied a technique in one context obviously doesn’t indicate that they also are using it somewhere else.

The chemistry glitch

Last but not least, there is the chemistry glitch. When it first was discovered that informs didn’t receive the intended chemistry boosts when adding chem styles, people started speculating that this glitch could be the reason why they sometimes lost despite having the better team. It however didn’t take long before more experiments revealed that this problem wasn’t isolated to informs, but in fact to all non-day 1 cards in the game. Hence, the glitch wouldn’t necessarily disadvantage the player with the better squad, meaning that we essentially were able to reject the claim that this had anything to do with handicapping.

Concluding comments

What should be clear from the above walk through of just about every piece of alleged evidence ever presented in support of scripting, handicapping and momentum is that there is no evidence!.

I’m aware that most scripting believers consider the lack of evidence a minor problem, as long as they haven’t been proven wrong. But the fact is that there is no reasonable doubt left: We not only miss evidence supporting their beliefs – we also have solid evidence rejecting them.

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