With Pro Evolution Soccer not being released on next-gen consoles this year, and with FIFA 14 being bundled in with XBox One consoles at launch, the PES team really do have their work cut out for them if they are to convince football gaming enthusiasts that their football game is in with a shot. Luckily they still have everything to play for, and with a Fox Engine overhaul, this year’s PES 2014 looks to be the best yet so as to deliver the true football gaming experience.
At Gamescom this year, I was lucky enough to meet with Naoya Hatsumi (Senior Producer) and Manorito Hosoda (Marketing Producer), and together with the translating aid of Akane Oyagi, managed to ask some tough questions about the beautiful game. What follows is a conversation that I was able to have with the PES team, where the aforementioned PES personnel fielded queries on what long-standing PES fans can expect from this year’s release, as well as tackling the issue on how the franchise can continue on next-gen consoles. Enjoy the (volleyed) Q&A.
Do you plan to provide a World Cup national team squad roster update before the tournament begins next Summer?
We are preparing special content for the World Cup. We have some exciting plans for Summer and we will be updating as and when the time comes.
Did you have any teething problems in incorporating the Fox Engine for the purposes of PES 2014?
We had to overhaul and create everything from scratch. The Fox Engine caters for the Metal Gear title, but isn’t specially made for football titles, so we had to modify the engine in order to allow it to be used for our title. You can see this in the visuals, which demonstrate that the Fox Engine is there, but we have added so much on top so as to complement some of the extra features – like the physicality of the ball as well as the faithfulness of the controls.
Does this mean that Konami may have plans to license the Fox Engine to other developers?
We’re basically the ones using the Fox Engine. If there are any plans for licensing, then it would be up to Kojima Productions, as it is their engine.
With Hideo Kojima overseeing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, did he have any directorial or creative input as to how the Fox Engine could be utilised for Pro Evo?
As Kojima Productions originally created the engine, they have the knowledge and the skills to help tailor the use of the engine for their purposes. We had to obviously learn from them as to how to use the engine and how to modify it so as to integrate it into our game. And of course, they have their insight and input as to how we could maximise the creative use of the engine – especially for the visuals, the shaders, and the actual output of the product itself. The quality standard also obviously has to be quite high…
How does the Fox Engine stack up when it comes to next-gen consoles?
We are continuing to modify the engine so that it is more and more useful for our football title, and we are going next-gen next year for our next title…
So Pro Evo is still this gen for this year?
Pro Evo is this gen for this year.
Why is that?
It’s because we wanted to do everything that we possibly could on current gen consoles, and we wanted to maximise the use of the consoles. To try and organise what we can do, and what we have to achieve in our next-gen titles. We feel that we haven’t yet pushed ourselves to the limit in terms of what we can achieve from current gen consoles. PES 2014 is where we try to do that.
With rumours that FIFA 2014 is being bundled in with XBox One consoles, and with PES not coming to next gen consoles until next year, does that not mean that FIFA will have an unfair advantage when it comes to the franchise being associated with next-gen consoles?
So it has to do with one of the reasons as to why we are sticking with current gen consoles for this year. We understand that these bundles are only available to limited users in limited areas. We wanted to provide something that is in demand now and is in demand by everyone. We don’t really feel a threat from the bundles or from EA.
How is the PES team ramping up and preparing for next-gen, and have you thought about the implications of next-gen in terms of staff numbers?
Obviously from a development side, we always have to have costs pinpointed. We try to make the development team and our environment more efficient, so that we can let the engine direct. Until recent titles, we had to expand our team and create everything manually by hand. As a direction, we have to go for that cost-effectiveness where we can maximise the use of the technology in order to allow staff to do their detailed work.
Is the game coming out on Wii U?
No, and we are still reviewing its confirmation for Wii U.
How do you think the gamepad will be utilised if the game were to come out for Wii U?
There are multiple approaches to consider for traditional consoles, but we are not especially thinking about a Wii U specific version in order to cater for that audience. Obviously, we have to evaluate the controls and everything, but that isn’t yet being considered.
You’ve been showing the game on the PS3. What is the lead platform? Is it the PS3?
You mention that you will be releasing a mobile app to coincide with the release of the game. Do you have any plans to expand the functionality of the app so that eventually you’ll end up porting across the PES experience on to smartphones?
It depends on the user reviews. If its purposely effective, then we would like to further extend the use of the app.
Would you say that the animations are “better” using the Fox Engine?
We have recreated the animations from scratch.
In terms of the production values and the required investment, how much more expensive was this year’s version in comparison to previous years?
All we can say is that it was very, very expensive.
You created a studio in London last year. How were they able to contribute to the PES project this year?
Our UK studio is mainly working on our title for next year (PES 2015). They are going to start putting a lot of their creations into that. However for 2014, they gave a lot of their insight in terms of cultural value, so a lot of the cultural animations are a result of their say. As experts in gaming, as well as knowing a lot about football itself, the staff had a lot of opinions on how the game could be balanced – from the view of a consumer, a football fan, as well as from the perspective of a PES expert. We took their advice into production in order to finalise the game.
With PS3 being the lead platform for this year, and with the London studio now mainly working on PES 2015, which next-gen platform is the lead platform for next year?
That’s to be confirmed. We haven’t decided yet.
Which do prefer between Xbox One and Playstation 4… in terms of it being able to utilise the strengths of the PES title?
(Everyone laughs) Manorito Hosoda says that since he is Japanese he supports PS4, but Naoya Hatsumi says that he supports XBox One.