Monday, 9 July 2012

[FIFA12] The Great Handicap Debate


Before I start this post, I have to state a couple of things. I’m a little biased, though I like the FIFA series, I generally regard EA to be a shady corporation whose main concern is squeezing money out of their players.

Am I slow? NO!
One of the most controversial subjects in the FIFA community is that of Scripting/Momentum/Handicap (for the purposes of brevity, I’ll call it handicap in this post – though I’m aware that scripting and momentum refer to slightly different issues). Handicap is described as the feeling of sluggishness, poor ball control and general bad luck that some players with a high-rated team experience when they face a player which has a low-rated team. This only seems to happen when they face a team which is substantially lower rated than theirs, hence why it is referred to as “handicap” – almost as if the game is compensating for their opponent’s poorer players.

This is a big issue, because people work hard to buy the highest rated players on the game – and if these players aren’t performing how the card game says they should, simply because of the rating of their opponent, then that means that the people who bought the players are getting ripped off.

I fall firmly on the side of the fence which believes that handicap does exist. I certainly feel like I’ve experienced the feeling of general malaise which surrounds your players when facing an inferior team – when every wayward touch seems to fall to the opposing player, every centre back (with 70 pace) utterly outpaces your striker (with 90+ pace), and their players seem to move with lightning pace and effortlessly perfect touch.
My opinions, however, are beside the point. The main issue is the lack of substantial empirical evidence. There is no end of posts on the forums stating one way or the other, and now we’ve got one of the content designers who has kindly agreed to address all the questions posed by players on the subject – the result of which has been a resounding “no, these issues do not exist in the game”. As I stated above, my opinions on EA’s general untrustworthiness has already been addressed, so I’m not sure how much I believe Mr McHardy’s words – but I applaud the guys for at least giving it a go.

Am I fast? NO!
The Proposal

What we need to happen is for someone to take the reins, get in game and try it out. Take a highly rated gold team, stick a very low-rated bronze bench on and play a whole bunch of games – recording every one (50 or so should be enough – each game starting with full fitness and full morale, and the exact same players). Then repeat the process with a gold bench. With the bronze bench, the player will come up against teams which are lower-rated than them, with the gold bench they should face teams which are of a comparable level.

With this experiment we aren’t looking for whether the tester wins or loses – because that is based on the skill of the tester themselves (and a good player should be able to overcome a handicap anyway). We are just looking to see if the players on the tester’s team run faster or have a better touch etc when they are facing the lower or the higher rated team.

Over 50 games of each type, we should be able to pull out a good number of comparable situations – ie, instances of the RW running down the wing, the STR getting in behind the defence and trying out outrun the CBs, the CB jumping up to compete in the air with a STR – we will then be able to see whether the tester's player physically performs better against a lower or a higher rated team. We would literally be able to time how quickly Walcott covers the distance between the halfway line and the touchline in each situation - and compare the two situations.

Until we can actually show one way or the other, I don't see how we can properly prove that the concept of handicap does or doesn't exist.

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