PES global product and brand manager Adam Bhatti talks PES 2017 with STACK.
How do you decide each year what the focus will be for the game? Is this dictated solely by internal decisions? Forum feedback? A bit of both?
It is a bit of everything, to be honest. When we introduced the FOX Engine to the series, it made a number of factors much easier to deal with: lighting, animation, etc. This then allowed us to work out an ongoing five-year plan as to where we wanted to take the gameplay.
We wanted to focus on the individual brilliance of players and how games vary based on the skill of those involved and the tactical strategies they employ. Thus, Team and Player ID have been constants in the game for several years, with more and more players and teams now mimicking the real-life abilities of their sides.
We also wanted to do away with sacrificing control for animation, and FOX Engine has been vital here. PES 2017 is incredibly immediate, but the animations are all context-sensitive, so players will seamlessly alter their body shape to make a pass or shot in line with the player’s wishes.
Fan support is crucial, though. The key factors people wanted after PES 2016 were better refs and goalkeepers, so they have undergone massive work this year, and the initial impressions are we have got it right. Keepers now have Player ID, but enjoy a wider range of save styles and have the reflexes to recover to smother a rebound shot after an initial save. Master League and myClub also have key additions thanks to fan input.
We listen very carefully to our community. They are with us every step of the way with each new game to the DLC elements throughout the year.
It’s now the second PES you’ve had with FOX Engine. What has it enabled you to do as a studio?
FOX Engine has been brilliant. It has been a learning process to implement and adapt it for use in PES, but it is an engine that does so much that previously we would have had to do by hand (lighting, animation, etc), so we are free to focus on key gameplay elements. As we get to know the power of the engine, and the engine is tailored to suit the requirements of the PES series, it has been invaluable to the game. It is the PES series’ twelfth man!
What did you decide you wanted to change in PES 2017?
Nothing drastic. People have enjoyed PES 2015 and 2016, so we wanted to evolve those elements but improve others. As previously mentioned, fans wanted better goalkeepers and refs, but we are constantly looking at passing, AI, tactical elements – such as the way corners are now set up, for instance – and the ebb and flow of a match. We want likenesses to be as good as possible, and we want every player to look and play like they do in real life. High targets, but it keeps us busy.
What new features can we expect?
myClub and Master League have been revamped, but there are also a number of key gameplay elements under the hood. Adaptive AI means that players who spam certain playing styles will find that the game learns and implements means to stop them. So, if Messi is being a nuisance, extra players will look to close him down and nullify him while others will then close down the passing channels.
The way corners are planned is better, and there are numerous on-the-fly tactical elements that can be implemented. AI has been further enhanced, with off the ball runs and players finding space, while the passing system requires greater skill – basically, we want players to work for a goal, but then feel the sheer joy when a great move results in a spectacular finish!
What’s involved with recording the commentary?
We have been using a great team for several years now, and they oversee it for every territory. It is a long, hard job, but one where they constantly strive to make sure the commentary is organic and flows. It is an area we have been criticized for, but the team and I are working hard to make huge improvements, and this year’s is a step forward.
Basically, the commentary teams are in a studio for a couple of weeks and both read from scripts and proffer individual comments, which are then implemented within the game; this tends to happen midway through the game’s development.
It’s a long and complex task, and we ask more and more of the poor guys every year!
What’s involved with the FC Barcelona partnership?
This is a fantastic deal for PES. Not only do we get unrivalled access to the team and players to allow for facial scanning, etc, but we get exclusive use of Camp Nou in the game, too. As we chase perfection, we need to be working with the very best in real football. Barcelona are keen to make sure they are represented perfectly in PES and have given us incredible access. With chants, a perfect recreation of the stadium and the players, our game will deliver the ultimate version of Barcelona within a video game. And it is just the start…