David Rutter, the producer of EA Sports' FIFA series, is the man charged with the overall creative and strategic direction of one of gaming's biggest franchises. We recently caught up with him to talk FIFA versus PES, revolutionising dribbling games, unsporting behaviour and the merits of annual updates to the franchise.
One of your stated focuses is on boosting the authenticity of the FIFA experience. Is there a temptation to include diving and other unsporting acts?
David Rutter: Not for me personally because I'm not a big fan of it. I think it's an easy one to say 'no' to because I think it breaks the experience for other people. So whilst I think a level of authenticity is important to fully recreate the sport, I think the same [as I do with] with spitting - there are things we'd probably never do in the game.
[Likewise with] handballs, there are bigger fish to fry. The key focus for the team is on making a really good game, [which is] about being able to pass, being able to shoot well, being able to have your players in the right place at the right time, dealing with balls in the right way and kicking them away properly for defenders, and having your goalkeeper behaving realistically. Once we get all of that done perfectly we can start doing some other stuff, but at the moment it's all about the fundamentals really.
A lot of people used to label FIFA with the 'style' tag and PES with the 'gameplay' one, but that impression seems to have altered and some people have switched their allegiance from PES to FIFA. Have you been able to document a migration of players towards FIFA?
Rutter: Not in the sense of migration as such, but certainly market share and things like that we have. I was one of the PES fans, I was a kind of anti-EA person, and it's been refreshing for me to move into a studio where, having thought that myself, I've found out that's not actually the case.
[We have] a large group of people focused purely on making a brilliant game, refining the game, responding to the stuff people want and innovating in a way that's going to make the game better. And also do a load of stuff on Manager Mode, which matters to a huge amount of people - I can't tell you how frequently we get asked to do that.
Doing stuff that matters most to the fans is, I think, a really important part of our duty and responsibility to the people that buy the game and I think that's what Konami has always done. I think what's ended up happening is we've ended up doing it more, [where as] in the olden days we might have been distracted by a marketing gimmick or something like that and we're not doing that anymore.
What do you think that PES does well that FIFA doesn't and vice-versa?
Rutter: I think we're a brilliant simulation of football, so we talk a lot about not breaking the momentum of the players and making sure that players are behaving correctly. They're things that Konami do very well as well. I guess for me it's about looking at what's there and trying to do absolutely everything you can to make everything that shouldn't be there go away as soon as possible.
Our 360 [degree] dribbling this year, unless they suddenly do it as well, is amazing. The skilled dribbling stuff is so nice, you just feel so in control, you feel like you can go anywhere you want and do anything with the ball that you want. That obviously needs to be balanced with the defending so you're not going to be able to dribble all around the pitch with the new cool thing in the game because that would just ruin it for everyone. For us it's about attention to the details that matter.