How will gamers play Battle of the Nations?Let’s make one thing clear before we start. The EURO 2008 game engine is an enhanced version of the FIFA 08 engine and the FIFA 09 engine will be an enhanced version of the EURO 2008 engine. That is the way it has worked year after year with these two soccer titles. However, EURO 2008 isn’t just FIFA 08 with a few subtle changes, there are some significant developments. From the jostling for headers to the increase in turning speeds, the enhancements made to the match engine have improved the whole football FIFA experience, making it a great game in its own right and the perfect summer accompaniment to the European tournament.
Before we get on to match day however, let’s take a look at the game modes and features. First up is the all-new meta-game ‘Battle of the Nations’, which rather than being an actual game mode as such, runs in the background, alongside both online and offline matches.
When you first start-up the game you’re tasked with choosing the country that you wish to side with throughout your EURO experience. This particular mode is only applicable if you’re signed into Xbox live because every match that you play, whether it is in single player mode or online, generates points that are added to a daily leader-board.
At the end of each day, points for each European nation are calculated and the leader-board is updated. Whichever country is top at the end of June, when the real EURO 2008 tournament ends, is crowned as European Champion. I presume that once the accolade has been awarded the leader-board will then be re-set and the tournament will start over again.
It’s crucial to realise that although you’ve already chosen the nation that you wish to represent when you first loaded up EURO 2008, you can now play with any team, but the points accumulated will be added to the tally of the team that you chose on start up.
The idea behind the meta-game was to create National rivalries and instil National pride when you’re playing. In an interview I conducted with Lead Producer, Simon Humber he explains it like this:
“If you play as France and you’re playing against Andorra you might only get 150 points for winning that match, but if you’re Andorra playing France you might get 500 points for winning. So people need to think about the challenge they’re taking on because they will want to get the highest score possible for their country, yet still make sure their country beats everyone else. It avoids the Barcelona syndrome. We’re trying to push the better gamers to take on more of a challenge by playing with the weaker teams and it also allows the weaker players to play with the stronger teams and be in with a chance of winning an online match.”
The concept is inventive and the system appears to be solid enough, with a well-thought out points system that appears, after some study, to be pretty fair, but as the game has yet to be released, it’s hard to tell just how things will pan out in the long-term. Will gamers stray away from playing with their own nations and play with the likes of San Marino in order to wrack up substantial points for their chosen country, or will some people even change their allegiance to a country other than the one they live in, in order to help one of the smaller gaming nations succeed? It’s unclear exactly how gamers will play approach the meta-game.
In theory the idea is great and it should definitely stoke up National pride and rivalries, but until I’ve put some solid time into the game after the launch, when the servers will be active, it’s hard to tell whether the system will, or can be, exploited in any way.