This past Sunday the FUT Champions Weekend League claimed another victim, an innocent victim that really did nothing wrong except fall into the wrong crowd. That victim was my PS4 controller who was violently smashed into the ground shattering into dozens of pieces. I would like to say that was the first time I’ve demolished a controller but then I’d be lying to you. The body count from Weekend League rage has become too high to count or quite possibly I don’t wish to remember all those horrid memories. The idea of the Weekend League is great on the surface but the execution, whether intentional or not, has many flaws. Flaws which make this mode unenjoyable and damn near unplayable on many occasions.
What is the Weekend League?
The Weekend League is a 40 game gauntlet over a 72 hour period (Friday to Sunday) that ignites FIFA rage to the extreme. The qualification alone can be frustrating but the actual event is enraging. If you win a daily qualifying tournament during the Monday to Thursday time period or you achieve Division 1 status in Online Seasons then you’ll have the “privilege” according to EA to compete in the FUT Champions mode.
From the mouth of the devil themselves, “everyone who competes in the Weekend League has a chance to earn in-game rewards to help build their club for the next competition.” The rewards will vary depending on your accumulated win total for the week and there are also monthly rewards at stake as well. From 40,000 feet it sounds great, what isn’t to love about that? But just like Marx’s initial concept of Communism which was great on paper not everything goes according to plan.
Create a Tier System
My biggest complaint about the FUT Champions is how every single person who earns entry into the Weekend League is thrown into one big pot and they compete at random. Whether you are a professional or someone who just had enough luck to grind out four games in a row and win a tournament you’re in the same field. As you can imagine many of these games aren’t competitive at all. For a professional to beat up on an amateur shouldn’t be fun at all and obviously the reverse scenario isn’t pleasurable either.
What I’m proposing is split the Weekend League into three levels (the line between Silver and Gold is thin so I’m combining them) and you have to be able to “unlock” the next level based on win totals. As diagrammed below and using the similar rewards vocabulary in FUT Champions there are three tiers: Bronze, Silver/Gold and Elite.
The first month of FUT Champions will be open to everyone and based on your results from the first month of participation you’ll be assigned into a tier. Then each time you qualify you’ll be facing competition within that same level. Based on your current performance in that level you can either be “promoted” or “relegated” via your win totals. So if one happens to have a bad month and start in Silver/Gold but win enough games they have earned the right to compete in Elite. Similarly if you hit a slump and continue to lose matches then you’ll be relegated down to a more appropriate competitive bracket.
This keeps the sharks away from the minnows and promotes a more competitively balanced match pairing scenario without the system biases of team rating, skill rating, etc. which all can be manipulated or deceiving to a player’s actual skill level on the field. Let the results on the pitch speak for themselves.
Another option I would be open to is utilizing a hybrid UEFA Champions League draw with the “pot system”. The UCL “pot system” separates teams into 4 buckets and then as they make the draws for the group stages no one group can have more than one #1 pot (seeding/ranking) in that group. It creates once again competitive balance. You could do that with FUT Champions as well, based on your ranking (Elite, Gold, Silver, Bronze) then X% of your games will be against Elite, Y% vs. Gold, etc.
For example, if you’re a Silver level player (which would be the equivalent of a consistent player who is good most of the time but bad on occasion) I shouldn’t be going up against Elites all that often. I don’t think it would be fair to avoid them entirely since you do need to go up against the best and probably the best will win but such is life. I created the table below based on the 40 games and what percentage you should compete against which tier. There are two methods: one that balances your matches against your own level equally among the tiers and another which weights the difficulty more the higher you progress.
An average game of FIFA lasts between 15 and 20 minutes, let’s call it 20 for argument sake when you factor in pauses, cut scenes and the time wasting nonsense during halftime and pre-game. Yes shortened games via rage quit will be less and extra time or penalty shoot games will be longer I get that but let’s use 20 as a round number. In order to play all 40 games in the Weekend League that is a time investment of approximately 800 minutes or 13.3 hours.
You have 72 hours to complete those matches, you would need to invest 18% of those hours to complete the 40 matches. That doesn’t take into account sleep, if you have a job (makes Friday almost null), if you have a family, if you have a life, if you actually try and have sex with girls, etc. If you do work and only Friday night is available then you’re looking at 54 hours to complete the task and you’ll need to commit 25% of your weekend for the 40 match marathon. The time requirement for the Weekend League is insane and since all the rewards are predicated on win totals if you don’t complete the volume of matches you’ll be missing out on the better rewards.
Either the amount of games needs to be reduced from 40 or the duration of the “weekend” needs to be extended by an additional day. Playing that many games of FIFA is problematic for many reasons, one being the quality of game deteriorates quickly as you become fatigued. The max I can play in a row is about 5 games before my eyes become tired and my mind loses focus. Mental errors pile up and I’ll drop matches to teams I have no business losing to. Five games at a time (12.5% of the total 40) is a small chunk to bite off and if you have aspirations to complete the full set it’s going to take you an entire day. Also if you get FIFA rage then go on tilt and try to play through it the results are going to be very disappointing. You’ll need time to cool off and get centered but again that only pushes out the time investment in this whole process.
Should the rich truly get richer? Under the current model the best players get the best rewards and the gap between elite and gold/silver becomes a chasm, bronze becomes Pluto a distant planet far off in the solar system. When you reach elite status and start reaping the monthly rewards and earning untradeable TOTW cards you’re really piling onto teams that are already stacked. Chances are these gamers already invest a good amount in FIFA packs and Squad Builder Challenges so their teams are in the upper echelon to begin with. Handing them free players is like giving the Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant. Oh wait….
Yes the best players should be rewarded with the best rewards I do agree with that. And yes you should only earn rewards, nothing should just be given to you but the way I’m viewing this is more like the professional sports drafts.
The teams who finish last or near the bottom get to pick first in the draft. They get rewarded with the top prospects to help build their organization to one day reach a championship caliber. Those teams who go deep into the playoffs and compete for a title pick later because theoretically their teams are already set up for success. I view FUT Champions in the same manner. Giving an In-Form Mauro Icardi card to a guy who already has OTW Gonzalo Higuain isn’t a real benefit for him, he’s already stacked. But that Icardi could would go a long way in helping someone reach from Bronze to Silver or possible push someone from Silver to Gold. I don’t know what the right answer is here because you want to incentivize winning and incentivze the best being the best but in doing so you’re creating a greater competitive imbalance.
Free Play → Arms Race
Another issue I have with FUT Champions is the unregulated and ever growing race for In Form/Special cards. The majority of the Weekend Leagues and Qualifying Tournaments have no requirements, meaning any team you wish to play with is allowed. In certain events they put qualifiers limiting you to a specific team rating or number of gold cards, etc. Without those filters in place you have an arms race to see who can build the biggest, most expensive and thus “most bullshit” team money (and WL rewards) can buy. By this time of the year teams are so ridiculously stacked the better player may not even win. You will legitimately see teams loaded with Team of the Season and other high Team of the Week cards that in total cost millions upon millions of coin. That is a bad thing not only for the Weekend League but for the direction of this game in general.
Not everyone wants to or is able to afford to spend their discretionary money on packs. And even if they did they have no guarantee of pulling anything in those packs unless they dropped hundreds if not thousands of dollars in hopes of hitting the jackpot on some cards. Who is this game catering to after all? The casual player or the competitive eSports gamer?
Don’t get me started on these YouTubers and their “Road to Glory – FUT Draft to Glory” videos. Stop it right now. Their experience doesn’t represent the experience for the rest of us. I’ve been playing FIFA since 2002, I’ve participated in Weekend League since the opening week, I know what I know and I’ve seen what I’ve seen. These are just my observations. Others may differ and that’s fine but this is based on my experience.
The mega teams in FUT are ruining the game in my opinion. The elite players have elite teams and thus reinforcing my suggestion to create a tiered Weekend League system. Isolate those Elite players with the unlimited bankrolls and let them battle it out. Don’t force players like myself in the Gold and Silver bracket to deal with their bullshit.
By adding squad restrictions you’re actually strengthening the FUT Transfer Market dramatically. By narrowing the requirements you are forcing players to utilize difference cards. So it’s not all about Messi or Ronaldo, you might have to invest in Arjen Robben or Dani Alves. The more creative the restrictions are in my opinion the better. Put an emphasis on silver players, make gamers find hidden gems in the below 80 rated gold cards. The creativity of squad building really comes into play. It doesn’t take a genius to build the highest overall rated team they can. But to make a max 82 rated team, with no silvers or bronze allowed and max 6 players from the same league that would be a fun challenge. It would also separate the players who excel by having great cards versus the players who are truly great with any team given a competitive landscape.
I fare much better in a restricted environment than during open play. Based on my style of play and my tactics I can utilize any team to success. I struggle going up against super teams because the “magic” in those Special cards boost my opponent’s abilities while for me I will play the same way with IF Ronaldo as Anthony Martial on the wing. The most fun I’ve had during a Weekend League Qualifying Tournament was when FIFA introduced an MLS related restriction and I was destroying fools with David Villa, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. If anything the restrictions break up the monotony of squaring off against the same teams over and over and over again. How many times have you run into a Premier League team with Smalling, Bailly, Bellerin, Kante and Mane? Restrictions will introduce excitement and differentiation into the mode.
FIFA 17 Game-play Call Outs
There are so many things that FIFA from a game-play and game experience standpoint need to do better. It is the same handful of issues that we’ve all been bitching about for years. I think 80% suggestions from my “List of Demands” post via FIFA 12 still holds true to this day.
Servers Disconnects – Every week people across FUT Champions are winning matches and unexpectedly disconnected from the servers and handed a loss. There have even been some occasions where players have been disconnected in the menu screens and given losses. There have been too many issues with FIFA 17 and their severs resulting in chaos that has ensued on people’s win/loss record. Let’s not forget about the glitch early on where people could back out of a match they were losing and not get tagged with the loss. If FIFA is going to tout this as a competitive sports platform then they need to do a much better job in creating an environment where these issues cannot happen.
Pace Relativity– At some point I really need to understand what pace ratings actually mean in FIFA. Does the rating on the card vary by position? Because inherently one would think that Sadio Mane at 92 pace could not be chased down by 74 paced Chris Smalling but it happens time and time again. Maybe a 74 paced center back is the same representation as Mane’s 92 pace at left wing. The game skews towards defensive players hunting down offense players on the regular, I think they could balance this out just a bit more and explain the ratings calculation.
The clip below is 98 rated Cristiano Ronaldo being run down by Mats Hummels in a FUT Draft online match. It was the most stunning thing I’ve ever seen in FIFA. Look at his starting position and look at how he closes the gap like a cheetah. It’s shocking and based on their pace ratings it should be 10,000% impossible.
Shielding – It’s amazing that in FIFA 17 every single player no matter who they are can hold you off the ball like they’re the Incredible Hulk. Anyone from Eden Hazard to Lionel Messi can shield any player without the defender being able to to even sniff the ball. Not only can you not toe poke the ball away you can’t actually disengage from the shield unless you move away. Nine times out of ten if some d-bag is playing that way I’m going to slide tackle right through them and take the red card. I don’t care, the principle is worth the loss.
Button Sensitivity – If I fucking press the shoot button then shoot. If I press the cross button then fucking cross the ball. Some many times in FIFA 17 for whatever reason the button responsiveness is atrocious. My player doesn’t do what I want them to do when I tell them to do it. And even more frequently they do the action after I moved on to the next sequence. For example, my player is being jockeyed on the flank and I’m feverishly mashing square to cross the ball into the box. The ball comes loose as I’m getting puppeteered from behind by their right back and then my player executes the square button which happens to be a slide tackle and I get a straight red card. It’s lame, it’s frustrating and there’s no reason for it.
Below is great example of Hugo Lloris doing nothing in net and letting a ball bounce right off his chest without moving.
Fouls (Volume) – I can literally go ten matches without attempting a free kick. I have countless games where the box score at the end shows each team with 15 tackles on each side and either zero or one fouls called. Soccer is never that clean, there needs to be more of an emphasis on calling fouls especially when players are reckless with the turbo button and are flying around the field drunk on aggression.
Fouls (Consistency) – Not only does the volume need to be fixed but the consistency would be great as well. I know there needs to be a “variable” component to make it more life like because not all fouls are called in the same manner but every match is nothing like the prior. There are basic maneuvers or tactics that you should or should not be able to do. Depending on the timing of the tackle or situation then you can have your variable decision making of the A.I. referee. Having a consistency with fouls will significantly lower the amount of FIFA rage from the user side.
Just some examples below, can you guess which ones were fouls and which are not?
Fitness Cards – Since the Weekend League is a 40 game marathon do we really need to exert fitness cards to keep our players at 100%? If you’re promoting me to play 40 games and spend over 10 hours of my weekend on FIFA then cut me a break and let me players keep their stamina from game to game. It’s yet another in game FIFA coin expense to manage and it’s completely unnecessary in my opinion.
Attribute Cards – The attribute cards should be abolished entirely. The rating on your card should be the rating on the card. Temporarily boosting attributes is silly, so all of a sudden this player is going to take steroids and get a +6 rating across the board? Stop it’s dumb. Recent tournaments and Weekend Leagues have limited the use of these cards in the competition but I think they should be removed from the game entirely.
Bench Bronzing – Can we also change the mechanism to calculate team rating to only include the players in your Starting XI? Teams have been utilizing the “bench bronzing” tactic for some time now and it’s completely ridiculous. Loading your team with 55 and 60 rated players to drive your overall team rating down when your starting forwards are all in the 90’s. That doesn’t truly represent a mid 80’s rated team, it’s cheating the system. FIFA knows this by now since it’s been going on for years. It’s time to fix it and only derive rating based on who is in your Starting XI.
Yes the next cheat is to put three bronze players in your Starting XI to drive the rating down then immediately sub them in with Golds or In-Forms. Fine if you want to be that douchebag then you’re getting one over on the system. But you’re also utilizing all three subs early in the game and won’t have fresh legs for later. I’d much rather take that option that the current nonsense.
Kick Off Glitch – Why are we still talking about this? How has this not been addressed? Time and time again a team is 10x more likely to score coming of a kick off than anything else in FIFA. That’s a complete and utter contradiction to what happens in real life. Sure there are times where a team will allow a goal immediately after they score because they relax but FIFA holds nothing back and lets that team march right through your defense like the Germans walked across the Rhineland and took France in about 44 minutes.
45′ & 90 ‘ Magic – The tag line speaks for itself. Never get too comfortable towards the end of a half. If you have an opportunity there’s a good chance it might go in. The reverse might happen if your opponent has a look heading into the 45th or 90th minute be prepared for the worst. I can’t even argue this one anymore because we’ve lived with it for so long. We just need to accept it and move on.