UEFA Champions League associate producer Matthew Prior talks about the authenticity and presentation that's so crucial to the game, which is due out on Xbox 360, PC, PS2, PSP and mobile from 23rd March.
The UEFA Champions League is the premier club competition in the world and features some of the most recognisable teams on the planet. The UEFA Champions League final is second only to the FIFA World Cup final in terms of viewing figures. Players and fans alike frequently make reference to their preference of winning the UEFA Champions League with their club team over winning the FIFA World Cup with their national team.
Given its ever growing popularity, we wanted to ensure we accurately captured the spirit of the competition from an authenticity and presentation standpoint. UEFA has done an exceptional job of honing the UEFA Champions League brand and has been fundamental in growing the reputation of the tournament.
In the early stages of planning, one of the key areas of focus was ensuring we emulate the atmosphere and look of the UEFA Champions League right down to the most minor of details. We set ourselves a goal of taking the presentation and authenticity to the next level by attempting to replicate all the key facets that go towards making the UEFA Champions League experience and I am glad to say we achieved our goal.
In game Visuals
The UEFA Champions League has a very different atmosphere and look to a regular game primarily because of the night time kick-off but also because of the slick presentation and branding UEFA employ. From the first moment the pre-game intro starts, you'll see the UEFA Champions League logo in the centre of the pitch and hear the UEFA Champions League anthem blasting out.
We also wanted to replicate a TV broadcast quality when it came to the visuals. We achieved that by authentically creating all the on-screen graphics you would see in a real life match, right down to the starting eleven and formation overlays. During a match we have even re-created the branded transition that you can see when the game cuts from the action to replays. It's such a recognisable feature of the real-life broadcasts that is was essential to include it.
Furthermore, we enhanced the day and dusk lighting and completely re-worked the night time lighting to lend the game a suitably glamorous, sophisticated look. The game represents the best looking football game we have ever produced and the lighting effects truly bring out the night time atmosphere of the UEFA Champions League.
Replays have been completely revised and now take on a much more dynamic and exciting look, incorporating brand new camera angles taking the user right down into the action. For gamers, being so much closer really accentuates the quality of the graphics on Xbox 360.
The work on the presentation has been so well received that a colleague walking past my desk one morning actually stopped, sat down to ask which teams were playing as he was that convinced that the intro was from a real UEFA Champions League match. Only when the game changed to the gameplay kick off camera and the in-game HUD came up did he realise his mistake.
The Ultimate Competition needs the Ultimate Stage
One of the main UEFA branding elements that they have incorporated this year over previous years is the UEFA Ultimate Stage, a virtual stadium whose roof is created from the 'stars' you see on UEFA's logo. As soon as we saw that, we instantly knew we wanted to build it.
We are fortunate that we work in a virtual world and we can create what would be impossible in the real world. We took UEFA's idea to the next level and built a completely interactive stadium within which gamers can actually play.
The stadium is also a key part of the front end. When you select 'Play Now' from the menu, you'll swoop down into the stadium where you'll select your teams. Select the UEFA Champions League tournament and you'll zoom out of the stadium up into the sky to view a night time interactive map of Europe. From here you can setup the tournament with any of the teams in the game.
It's when you actually play inside the stadium that you're able to appreciate the great design. It really does look pretty spectacular and I am sure gamers will be as impressed with it as UEFA were when they first saw the stadium themselves.
In game Atmosphere
Commentators frequently mention the special atmosphere of a UEFA Champions League game during a real match on TV. While some of this can be attributed to the mid-week night time setting, a lot of this also has to do with the crowd. UEFA Champions League games are incredibly important to fans and this usually results in an electric atmosphere inside the stadium.
We tuned the crowd sound effects and reactions to emphasise the highly charged atmosphere and you'll hear the crowd react realistically to every kick of the ball. We devoted a lot of time to chants because football is like no other sport when it comes to the atmosphere. Fans are so involved and reactive to the on field events and as all fans know, there are hundreds of chants unique to different countries, leagues and teams.
For the first time ever, we have recorded authentic chants that were captured from real life matches. Football fans that play the game will instantly recognise many of the anthems they'll hear. For instance, if you play with Liverpool and you can hear the Kop's famous, 'You'll Never Walk Alone' anthem. Play at Newcastle and you'll hear 55,000 Geordie faithful blast out the 'Bladen Races.'
We haven't just concentrated on the bigger teams. For instance, West Ham fans will be able to get their fix of 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles' and Portsmouth fans will recognise the famous 'Pompey Chimes'. We have samples throughout all the leagues and in total there are over a thousand real chants which really add to the overall atmosphere of the game. Next time you're at a match in the real world, look out for an EA SPORTS guy with a microphone pointing at the crowd and sing up - you're representing your team!
For the English commentary we have signed Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend who preside over the real matches in the UK. Their commentary is far more encompassing and intelligent than ever before and you'll frequently hear them chatting about various facets of the match. Previously, we avoided from such banter between the commentators as repetition quickly ruins the illusion and you're reminded that you're playing a game. However, for UEFA Champions League we have ensured that the banter will only trigger once per profile so it won't become annoying.
An Emotional Experience
As any fan knows football is a passionate and emotional game. Being a lifelong Manchester City fan, I know all about the highs and lows of football (far more lows than highs, unfortunately). In previous older generation games, representing the emotional side of football is something we have always struggled to achieve due to the limitations of the technology.
With the advancements in technology in the next generation of consoles we now have the ability to recreate some of that emotion and taking the gaming experience to the next level. We have a state-of-the-art motion capture facility at our studio here in Canada that has recently expanded to include a new type of technology called Performance Mocap or 'PCAP' for short.
Whereas traditional motion capture is focused only on body movement capture, the PCAP focuses on facial and body movement. This is achieved by applying dozens of sensors to an actor's face that in turn capture all the facial movement authentically. This data is then transferred to our in-game skeleton.
We have utilised this technology for the first time in a football game so you'll see a lot more emotion on the players during the animated sequences. These include arguing with the referee, disappointment at offside decisions and missed shots plus sheer incredulity and anger at being sent off.
The end product
The UEFA Champions League is a very special competition and we have created a very special game to complement it. UEFA Champions League represents the best looking, best sounding and most authentic representation of a real world broadcast we have ever created in a football game and I hope gamers enjoy playing it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Get your first month for £1 (normally £3.99) when you buy a Standard Eurogamer subscription. Enjoy ad-free browsing, merch discounts, our monthly letter from the editor, and show your support with a supporter-exclusive comment flair!