You’re probably wondering why we’re quibbling over a game that we barely know about right now. And you would be right too, if this article wasn’t about FIFA 22, the newest addition to EA Sports’ hit video game series that’s centred around football. The company uses something called HyperMotion technology, which is supposed to bring a more “realistic” and “immersive” gameplay experience. Which sounds really good, but it may actually amount to nothing. At least that’s what we think at the moment, given the little that EA has told the world about the game.
HyperMotion technology uses motion capture and machine learning (ML) technologies to make the virtual players in FIFA behave more like real players. To do this, the company put Xsens motion capture suits on 22 professional footballers playing at high intensity. They then used ML algorithms on 8.7 million frames from match capture footage, combining the two to create this new “hypermotion” feature.
Here’s the problem though. Xsens suits and motion capture aren’t really uncommon in the 3D animation industry. They can, and have been used for good measure, and it’s not really clear why using this tech will suddenly change the way we play FIFA. That question should have been answered by the reveal trailer that EA shared for FIFA 22. But it does anything but that.
For what it’s worth, Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy game is also powered by Xsens. Here’s the trailer for that game.
Here’s a brief, yet closer look at what Xsens suits do.
About that 8.7 million number, sports footage is usually shot in 60 frames per second. Which means that a simple 30 second video will have 1800 frames. Do the math, that means they used the equivalent of 4833 such videos. The math here is obviously for representation only, and we know nothing about how many videos FIFA used. But the point is that while these numbers do sound great, their actual impact on an ML algorithm is somewhat tough to determine.
Why are we nitpicking? Because literally every company today claims to enhance things with ML and it’s very clear that the tech doesn’t necessarily enhance the overall experience every time. What it may do, however, is make it easier for EA to develop games in future. EA can reuse and improve its algorithms for FIFA 23 next year.
The reveal trailer shows close up shots of the virtual players, taking headers, running and making swift movements and so on. We admit, it does look incredible the way it’s showcased in this. The problem is, no one ever plays FIFA with these camera angles. FIFA is played the way we watch football on television, with the camera angle set to see things from up high. You want to see as many of your players as possible, because that’s the best way to play. Why then will a better looking header change the way we play? Why will a perfect flick of the boot make things more “immersive”?
It’s a little tough to buy what EA is selling here. We’re not questioning the intent, but we’re certainly doubting the final output. EA’s intentions might be right, but there’s a reason why football games like FIFA and PES haven’t changed a lot over the past five years or so. Companies like EA and Konami (who make Pro Evolution Soccer, or PES), have made changes to their algorithms, but most of these changes are lost on regular gamers.
An argument obviously is that games are no longer meant for the casual gamer, but no matter how professional gaming becomes, and how big e-sports is, video games have to be entertaining. Period. It’s possible that games like FIFA have hit the upper limit for how entertaining they can be, at least in terms of gameplay. EA had something good on its hands with VOLTA, the street football mode built into FIFA, but that’s about it.
In fact, one could argue that FIFA is already too realistic for the casual gamer. If you’re not interested in playing FIFA competitively, you really have no reason to try and learn the myriad button configurations and split second movements that the game requires. EA might want to tell us HyperMotion will make the game worth buying, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.
The technology is also resource intensive, limiting just how many players can actually see it in action. This is proved by the fact that EA is limiting HyperMotion in FIFA 22 to next-gen consoles like the Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5. It’s not even coming to PC, which tells you just how limited the company’s abilities with the feature really are and how closely it wants or needs to control the experience.