Ah, another year, another debate regarding the EA-formulated player ratings in the latest FIFA game.
Of course FIFA 17 is no different from its predecessors in sparking controversy – Lionel Messi replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as the game’s top-rated player is just one example.
As you’d imagine, there are even professional players out there who aren’t thrilled at the rating EA has given them…
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) September 14, 2016
You might wonder how EA actually manages the unenviable task of rating thousands of players each year, and how exactly they reach the decisions they come to.
Well, wonder no more – ESPN has delved into this thorny issue, based on an interview with Michael Mueller-Moehring, the man who oversees the whole thing.
Mueller-Moehring is producer for EA Sports’ internal database group in Canada, and has the fun job of collecting (and then verifying) the football data at the company.
Considering FIFA 17 has around 700 clubs and 18,000 players, there are roughly 5.4 million data points that go into ratings.
As it transpires, there is a degree of guesswork at first when it comes to the stats of certain, more obscure players. Naturally, not every player in FIFA is world-famous.
But no matter how obscure the player, the stats are then refined once each player is seen doing their thing by one of 9000 data reviewers.
This network of reviewers includes a number of professional-level scouts, but is mostly rounded up by season-ticket holders who attend a ton of matches anyway.
These reviewers then head to a secure EA Sports website, where they provide feedback on whichever players they’ve seen.
According to the ESPN piece, the league in which a player plays determines their lowest and highest possible stats when it comes to technical ability.
For example, ESPN writes that if Messi were playing in the Irish league, his attributes would drop ‘simply because he’s not on the highest level anymore’.
Of course, any physical attributes remain unaffected, regardless of the league the player is in.
Understandably, there are certain individual players that don’t really conform to EA’s formula. One such example is German forward Thomas Muller.
Michael Mueller-Moehring explains:
A case is Thomas Muller, who isn’t good at anything, really, apart from his positioning. He always finds the right spot on the pitch, it’s amazing. But he’s not a great dribbler and he can’t really strike the ball properly – his finishing is sometimes really, really off. Shot power is not his strength as well. So if you rate Thomas Muller properly, he ends up with a rating that we say doesn’t make sense. It’s too low.
In cases such as these, EA Sports will boost the overall rating to reflect the standing in the game. They can do the opposite too, but apparently have never had to.
There you go – that’s how the magic happens. Doubtless this will create far more debates than it will ever solve, but that’s life.