6. EA does listen to the gamers. Really
Prior says, “There is a kind of hierarchal laundry list of what we want to do, and some of that is driven by community, some of that is driven by the feedback of the previous game. We don't know or have an idea of how each edition will be received, but as soon as you put it out there and millions of games happen every day, you sometimes get feedback that you didn't expect. So it's a combination of those things.
"We deal directly with certain aspects of the games, we monitor the forums, we get a lot of feedback, we get a lot of people in to focus-test the game. All the most important people - and that's the people who buy and play our game.
"It’s a case of prioritisation, and certain features make sense at certain times. We need to be very specific with what we think will make a big impact. We want to keep a reason for people to pick it up and play it every year. So it's important that the features we do choose are sufficiently game changing.
"That can be challenging because we're on a very short cycle – we come out at a similar time annually. Another game might have the opportunity to try different things and push the release date out by two months. We don't have that luxury. I think it's one of our strengths that we do choose the features well."
7. Long shots might be the way to go in FIFA 16
While previewing the game, we found that defenders appear to be even smarter this time round, meaning it’s now harder to get the ball into shooting situations than on FIFA 15 - and it was hard enough there. As a last resort, we started letting fly from distance... with instant success.
Whether that's because the goalkeepers have been made easier to beat, or the shooting has been improved, is as yet unknown.
“Balance is the eternal challenge, because you want to introduce features that have an impact so people use them, but at the same time not overuse them so you can always score using this pass or whatever," says Prior.
"You want to introduce things that make a difference but won’t break the game. I think we've done a great job this year, it's interesting to hear your feedback on that [Stuff scoring more with long shots]. This is an early code, and I know that is an area they're looking at, with our gameplay guys having that as one of the top things on their list. You'll see a very different game when it comes out though."
8. EA wants to make you a better player
If you’ve ever tried to play Seasons online, you’ll know that it’s a great place… to get slaughtered by impossibly good players.
The developers don’t want that to happen, not least because you'll probably rage-quit and never play FIFA again, which is why they’ve included a trainer this year to help players improve their skills before they venture into the virtual colosseum.
“A lot of people go online too quickly, and if you're not ready for it it can be a very crushing experience. The standard online is so high, that if that happens you could lose 10-0, and there's a chance - depending on your personality - that you'll never look at the game again. So, part of the rationale behind the trainer is to get people better sooner, and we'll be doing things in future to improve that.”
9. EA works on each version years in advance
As mentioned earlier, with such a short cycle between games, EA can’t afford to start from scratch after every edition.
“We have a long-term plan for FIFA. It often changes, but we have a long-term vision where we look a couple of years ahead. Then we build features with a view to where they will be in two years time. We don't just build for the now and think ‘what next?’ There is a kind of method in the way we build things.”
10. The EA Sports team actually like PES
It’s one of the great rivalries in football: FIFA vs Pro Evolution Soccer. In fact, most players agree that you either play one or the other, and never both. However, Prior doesn’t think the rivalry is a problem.
“We're ultimately trying to make the best game possible, so we don't really kind of factor ‘These are our guys, these are their guys, how do we pull those guys away?’ I think if you make the best football game possible, you'll attract people.
"We like PES, we're glad it's out there. We think competition from the user perspective is good, so we're happy that they exist. They make a good game, it keeps us on our toes, and I'm sure vice versa.”