The FIFA 17 community is demanding an explanation from EA after users found evidence of ‘momentum’ – also known as scripting or rubber band difficulty – in the game’s data files.
For those who are unaware, a rubber banding system dynamically adjusts the difficulty of a game according to how well – or how badly – a player is performing. For years, publisher EA has denied claims that its flagship football series stealthily includes such a feature.
However, evidence has surfaced over the past couple of days that points to the contrary. Reddit user girlfriend_pregnant kicked off the debate after data mining FIFA 17’s game files on PC and discovering, amongst other hidden attributes including ‘super sub’, a line of code that pointed to the team chemistry stat – used in FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) – being linked to ‘momentum’:
//— team chemistry (0-100) (used in momentum)
This initial thread launched a community-led investigation, with Reddit user Murhawk013 discovering that a recent EA Sports Spain video seemed to confirm that individual player ratings in FIFA 17 are artificially boosted depending on how they are performing in a match.
Yesterday, the poster of the original thread returned to Reddit with even more concrete evidence of the system. Another section of code, discovered by CatalystFCP, detailed various circumstances where the in-game difficulty is increased or decreased at various points throughout a match depending on various criteria, such as the total number of shots or overall possession, being met.
In the data files, the developers refer to this as “adaptive difficulty”, although it’s currently unclear whether it simply applies to player games against the AI, or online multiplayer and FUT as well.
As a result of the discovery, and confusion as to the context of its implementation, a number of users have banded together to create a campaign named #ExplainFIFAMomentum, in the hopes of prompting EA to clarify the exact nature of a feature it’s previously denied exists.
FIFA 17 players have complained that rubber banding unfairly and unrealistically influences the outcome of a game and penalises good performances, with the system open to being gamed and exploited by those who are losing a match.
If the feature does apply to FUT, it also opens a whole new can of worms with regards to players paying real money for extra in-game content, in the form of player packs, without being assured of a level playing field.