It's the stuff of pub-chat legend (and often makes for a good Twitter laugh for those that follow football's pros), but the way EA rates its player stats in its FIFA games is often cause for debate.
With the release of FIFA 17, it's now trying to clear up exactly how each player's numbers are figured out. Speaking to ESPN, Michael Mueller-Moehring (producer for EA Sports' internal database group), revealed how it it handles so many players.
And, as you'd expect with 18,000 players over 700 clubs, some guesswork comes into play. Though top flight players like Ronaldo and Messi are under constant scrutiny, more obscure players from lower leagues can be harder to judge.
"There's always a player from the second division in Switzerland who gets bought on transfer deadline day," said Mueller-Moehring, "and all you know about this player is his name, date of birth and his position -- and his position may be as precise as, 'Oh, he's a midfielder.'
"And this player has to go into the game."
Making Muller look good
In effect, obscure players start at a base level defined by their league, which is then moulded based on known performances. After this point, EA sends out an army of 9,000 data reviewers (some pro scouts, though most are season ticket holders who attend many games) who then refine the stats using an EA Sports feedback website.
All in, there are 5.4 million data points which are cross-referenced to land on each player's exact stats. It's a system that requires some wriggle room too - Mueller-Moehring uses the example of Manchester City (who play with possession in mind) skewing the pass completion rate of its players, and potentially unfairly raising individual passing attributes if their team play style isn't taken into account.
Then there are individual cases which prove the exception to the rule. Mueller-Moehring singles out Thomas Muller, "who isn't good at anything" apart from his positioning. Yet he still knocks in plenty of goals, despite poor on-the-ball technique and shot power in the real world. In these cases, some attributes of Muller are artificially, subjectively tweaked, so that his in-game performance is more akin to his real-world hit rate.
For any FIFA fan the full ESPN piece makes for fascinating reading - and may even give you some ammo if you find yourself on the wrong side of a losing streak online against mates.
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