Diligent data miners have uncovered evidence of a “rubber banding” mechanic hidden in the game code for FIFA 17.
The evidence, uncovered thanks to the efforts of users over at /r/FIFA, began with the discovery of a single piece of code that mentioned “momentum”, apparently linked to the team chemistry stat in the FIFA Ultimate Team mode.
//— team chemistry (0-100) (used in momentum)
For the unaware, a “rubber band mechanic” alters game difficulty on the fly, making the game harder – or easier – depending on how well the player is doing at that particular time. As a mechanic, it seeks to maintain a challenge for the player, keeping the difficulty at a relatively similar level throughout their playtime. How this balancing takes place is down to the individual game – but in a game like FIFA 17, could conceivably take the form of seemingly impossible passes, incredible plays, and unstoppable players.
The rabbit hole went deeper as other users piled into the code, returning with various titbits for the delectation of their peers. One user found a YouTube video from EA Games Spain that out-and-out admitted the existence of a morale system that bolstered or weakened individual players on the pitch, depending on their performance in the current game. Eventually, the full code was unearthed by /u/CatalystFCP, and edited into the Reddit post by the original thread author. The code seems to point to the inclusion of the mechanic in the FIFA Ultimate Team mode (FUT), leading to more questions about where this mechanic sits in a mode where players may have spent real-life money on micro-transactions to ensure a stronger team.
EA Games have previously denied the existence of comeback scripts in their soccer games for years, and up until now have only had anecdotal evidence to fight against. It’s unknown how EA will react now that evidence for the mechanic has been found, but fans have started a Twitter hashtag campaign, #ExplainFIFAMomentum, to pressure the developer into an answer.
Games such as Dota 2 can rely on this sort of mechanic to keep a game fresh and interesting. In a game as closely tied to levels and gold, the additional gold and experience that a comeback mechanic can afford can be the crutch a losing team needs to get back ahead. However, is this sort of behavior acceptable in a game like FIFA, where it is the twitch-based skill that decides the day, rather than superior farming abilities or playmaking?
Is this sort of mechanic acceptable in a game like FIFA 17? Should EA have been more open with their changes in a game like this? Does this bring up questions of the value of micro-transactions in a game subject to change? Let us know what you think in the comments below.