EA Sports has issued a statement denying the FIFA games make use of an EA patent that dynamically adjusts difficulty in video games.
Whether FIFA has dynamic difficulty - or momentum as it's sometimes called - or scripting, as others put it - has been a debate that's raged within the game's community for years. This is the idea the game will give you a helping hand if you're losing, or knock you back if you're winning, in order to create a sense of drama. A last-minute winner by the team you've dominated for 90 minutes, that kind of thing.
This is something the developers at EA Sports often address in interviews with the press. Indeed, EA Sports has denied its existence in interviews with Eurogamer. But this week EA Sports took the unusual step of issuing a statement in response to the existence of a couple of old EA patents about Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment - stressing they're not used in the FIFA series.
According to these patents, which are themselves a couple of years old, Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA) "is a technique for adaptively changing a game to make it easier or harder".
The description continues: "A common paradigm to achieve DDA is through heuristic prediction and intervention, adjusting game difficulty once undesirable player states (e.g., boredom or frustration) are observed. Without quantitative objectives, it is impossible to optimise the strength of intervention and achieve the best effectiveness."
The goal of it is "maximising a player's engagement throughout the entire game". Here's an example of how it could work:
"Some other non-limiting examples of features of the video game that can be modified, which may or may not be detectable by the user can include providing extra speed to an in-game character, improving throwing accuracy of an in-game character, improving the distance or height that the in-game character can jump, adjusting the responsiveness of controls, and the like. In some cases, the adjustments may additionally or alternatively include reducing the ability of an in-game character rather than improving the ability of the in-game character. For example, the in-game character may be made faster, but have less shooting accuracy."
FIFA players have pointed to these patents and used them to fuel the theory that scripting exists in the game. After all, reading that paragraph above, it's easy to see how it could be applied to FIFA.
Now, onto EA Sports' statement, which, according to Corey Andress, Global Franchise Lead, Community, took a while to produce because "we wanted to be 100 per cent sure that this patent didn't exist in the game. This includes all aspects - every mode and gameplay".
"We've heard your concerns around the Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment patent family (here and here), and wanted to confirm it's not used in EA Sports FIFA. We would never use it to advantage or disadvantage any group of players against another in any of our games. The technology was designed to explore how we might help players that are having difficulty in a certain area of a game have an opportunity to advance."
That's a definitive statement about the patents, then, at least as they relate to FIFA (perhaps they're used in other EA games?). Still, I suspect there will still be many, many players who blame scripting for what happens on the virtual pitch.
Football, eh? What a beautiful game.