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Sam Kovalev Interview: FIFA 23

The new FIFA 23 adds some of the most variety yet to the iconic soccer series. The final EA entry in the series, FIFA 23 has received a warm reception from critics, praising its large selection of modes and ways for players to customize their experience. The game also boasts stellar graphics, the ability to play as the eponymous Ted Lasso and his team from the hit television show, and more women’s clubs than ever before, among other features.

For the first time, HyperMotion2 was used to capture animations for FIFA 23, adding a new level of detail and human realism. Fans also have more competition than ever before, with new crossplay between both consoles and PC available to players. However, the game is also designed with less competitive players in mind – developers were sure to also include features to help make the game more relaxed, like the new bite-sized Moments mode.


Related: How To Play as Ted Lasso & AFC Richmond in FIFA 23

EA Producer Sam Kovalev talked to Screen Rant about tailoring the game to different types of players, the FIFA series finally getting crossplay, and the many innovations in FIFA 23.

There’s so many new things in FIFA 23, and I think maybe one of the new things that stood out most to me, although it’s not as big as some of the other things, is Moments. I think they’re a really cool new style of gameplay, because they give you these sort of shorter bursts. What inspired that new type of gameplay for FIFA?

Sam Kovalev: In general, I speak more about the gameplay team, like the core gameplay behaviors and the Moments and the playable highlights and Career Mode. And the in fact, Moments were done in tandem between the gameplay team and the respective departments who are doing the modes. And what inspired it is what you said, that it provides more of this smaller bite-size gameplay experience that people can enjoy in the shortest span of time. End of the day, you’re tired, you just want a quick relaxing play for a little bit, but you don’t know at which moment you might need to do some other work stuff. And we’re always trying to create ideas to support different types of players who enjoy our game.

I know right now even seeing the most recent feedback that just emerged because the game was released yesterday, many people enjoyed this because it’s just one of the quickest way to quickly jump into the game and try new things. There are some Moments where you go straight away to the free kicks, and then you can try and play with the new free kicks mechanic. That’s awesome! We can go quickly there, I can try the free kicks, try to craft and nurture, try to understand how exactly it works practice. I feel like that’s amazing.

In terms of new stuff that I know you’re excited about, you mentioned on a podcast that your favorite new addition is Power Shot. Can you talk a little bit more about why that is?

Sam Kovalev: The Power Shot is definitely on the top of the list. It’s always hard for me to say like, “Oh, this over that,” because I don’t want to play favorites. Because for me all the new features are like my children, they’re all my kids, I don’t want to have preferences between those. But I really love the Power Shot because it adds an extra design space and variety in terms of how to approach the game. We’re not influencing in any way that players should play the game only in a certain way, only with certain players, only with a certain formation. We are always trying to create these meaningful choices to try and experiment what works best for you, what type of player works for you, what kind of tactics.

The Power Shot follows this concept and provides a quite unique way to score a goal and have a little bit of a different positional play. The opponent gives you time, you can score from quite a long distance with some never seen before amazing shots, and they look just amazing. They look like something fresh and new, and the whole concept of playing a little bit differently, it’s a high risk high reward feature. You can understand why it’s better in certain situations, why it’s unnecessarily difficult in other situations, because it takes time to create, to do a full wind up motion. I feel like this variety and the choice that we leave up to the player to decide how to play at any given moment, that’s what excites me the most. Then the other part that I also like, it has the full broadcast package with the augmented reality replay, showing exactly what was your top speed. So then you can try to recreate certain shots that happened in real life, make a small video, make a screenshot, “Oh, look at this, I’ve been able to achieve this ball speed, this is amazing.”

I feel like you can feel that this feature has got lots of love and attention from within our team, and I really love that. By developing the Power Shot, it’s brought together so many different people from different departments. And this kind of cohesive brainstorming iteration on the feature, I really enjoyed the development part of this feature, as well as playing right now and using it in the real game.

You’re talking a lot about things looking amazing, and part of that is due to the new HyperMotion2 technology that’s been involved. I know that’s added something like 6,000 new animations, that sort of thing. What was that new capturing process like and how do you think it’ll improve the game for players?

Sam Kovalev: Yes, I feel like the HyperMotion2 is a cornerstone of the innovations. Like you said, over 6,000 animations, and it also supports the machine learning algorithm. But the key part there is the advanced match capture, 11 versus 11, which brings this unprecedented level of these true-to-life animations. This year, we had two full games with strong professional teams, a men’s and women’s team, and it’s a raw experience of 90 minutes. Full pitch size, no limits by the capture studio, or the amount of people whose talent you can capture at the same time, or the amount of specific situations you want to keep – he was just like, “You have a 90 minutes.” It’s a completely unscripted experience.

The only thing that we told them to inspire the players is we said, “This is a great opportunity for it to be your motion, your movement will be a part of the game. Play with your heart, play passionately, play physically.” And then these 90 minute games of unscripted behaviors, of more natural authentic movement that just appear in real life creates these animations and movements that we would never be able to achieve on our side – the more true to life, the more realistic and authentic. I think this is just truly an untapped source of the motion data that we can bring into the game to keep it fresh, and to keep it looking new, feeling new, and most importantly, staying true to life.

Related: You Wish Your Grass Looked As Good As It Does In FIFA 23

I’m sure you can’t give much away, but can you speak at all to what players can expect from FIFA 23 as we get closer to the World Cup?

Sam Kovalev: I don’t think I will be the best person to talk about that, but our PR department will share the details of what we plan for that. We do plan to bring the best possible experience to our players, so stay tuned. More details will be revealed.

One small detail I found really interesting is that FIFA 23 is the first in the series to let players disable critical commentary specifically in the game from match commentators. What prompted that addition? How do you think that helps gameplay?

Sam Kovalev: I feel like in general, one of our design philosophies when we created the game is that we’re not trying to create just one way to enjoy the game, or that there’s only one way to play. So we always try to create meaningful settings for the players to try to change the level of assistance, like more manual more assisted for each gameplay area. I tried to change the speed of the game for more simulation-type players in the Career Mode. We’re always trying to make sure that we do everything possible for our players to tailor their experience to their likeness, so they can enjoy the game the most. And many players, when they play in, let’s say the Career Mode at the end of the day, they just want to have the the most enjoyable, fun experience and don’t go into the game for a very sweaty, competitive type of realism, they just want to enjoy, and this was one of the things that could be beneficial for them.

Because even when you start the Career, and you have a player who is just on the verge of becoming great, but he’s still not as strong as the others, you can occasionally get like, a little bit of inaccurate pass, but then we want to continue to encourage you to play more to try more stuff. So it’s more about this positive thinking, to acknowledge when it’s a very nice pass, and maybe do less of the commentaries on the other hand, some of those critical commentaries. So I feel like it’s again the way you want to customize your experience within the game, and it’s up to the players’ preferences.

And talking about player versus player – now that leaderboards will be able to feature more players because of crossplay, do you think that’s going to change how competition works and feels for players?

Sam Kovalev: I think that the whole addition of crossplay and the leaderboards, in a way yes, it will kind of allow players to look on the global scale, on the competition, on the other players, and spark this competitive spirit within those players. So I feel it provides this kind of extra visibility. And also when you play online, you will be able to see the icon. “Am I playing right now against the owner of this particular console or a PC?” It’s visual, for some people, it might spark this extra desire to compete. For some people, it might not do the thing, but I feel like keeping it transparent for our players, I think that’s always good.

Is there anything else you want players to know about FIFA 23?

Sam Kovalev: My recommendation always is: when you get the game, you get it for yourself. Just to always remember that the foremost and most important part about playing the game is that you should enjoy and get the most fun you can get from the game. So never – especially in the beginning – there shouldn’t be any ways to influence you to which players to choose or which formations to use. Take your most favorite team, take your favorite player, try different modes, try the new features, look at the gameplay trailer and try to do the new features, try to experiment. Play with certain information and change the tactical instruction and gradually find this space, playstyle-wise, player-wise, that you enjoy the most and go from there.

I know that a lot of the time there are so many things to play with within our game. There’s lots of content, there are lots of new features, it might feel overwhelming at times, because this year is definitely the most expansive addition to the innovations in FIFA games ever. Just take your time, there is no rush. Try one mode, try the other mode, try new features, try the new free kicks, for sure play the Moments. There are so many ways to play, just take your time. Just remember that fun and enjoyment is always our core pillar and motivator when it comes to coming up with new ideas and new features.

Next: FIFA 23’s Women’s Teams Offer A Whole New Game

FIFA 23 is available for Playstation consoles, Xbox consoles, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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