Interview with Matt Holme – UEFA Champions League 2006-07 Producer

Matt Holme is an EA producer on UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 for the PS2, PSP & PC. He is 25 years old and has been at EA SPORTS for three years now since moving over from sunny Brisbane, Australia. FIFPlay has a chance to interview him and ask him some questions regarding his new product: EA Sports’ UEFA Champions League 06-07:

What are the main and key features of UEFA Champions League 06/07, which you can talk about at this moment?
Matt Holme: I can definitely fill you in on some of the cool new features you’ll find on the PS2, PSP and PC versions of the game. Firstly, I’ll start with what we’ve done with gameplay as I strongly believe this is what really matters at the end of the day. I know very well that you can make the world’s coolest game mode, but if the gameplay is not up to scratch, then the game as a whole will not be there either. One of the things we’ve done with gameplay is really push the pace of the game to a new level. In doing this we strongly believe we’ve created a more realistic simulation of Champions League football. Champions League matches are naturally faster, just look at how quickly Bayern Munich scored that goal the other day as an example, or the speed that Cristiano Ronaldo displayed against Lille to get that cross over to Larsson. So speeding up the game has made a big difference.

We’ve also added a new controls system called Quick Controls. What Quick Controls allows you to do is keep the game constantly flowing. Anytime play stops for a foul or the ball goes out you can hit L1 to activate a quick free-kick, throw-in, corner or goal-kick. This too adds to the pace of the game. You have to try it out yourself to truly understand what a big difference this relatively simple gameplay mechanic has on the gameplay.

GK’s have also been tuned, meaning they’ll now be charging off their line a lot more. This really generates a variety of different and challenging scoring options.

As a whole, it really feels different to any game you’ve played before. It has a unique feel which I personally think adds a new level of enjoyment to the game.

Our big new game mode is a season based story mode called “The Treble”. What we wanted to do with The Treble is give the gamer more than what they have come to expect from a licensed event-based football game. The gamer always expect to be able to play in the UEFA Champions League when they buy this game so we decided to add a busy schedule of League and Cup matches as well. This means that not only are you managing your team on and off the field and trying to win the Champions League, but you’re also taking part in League and Cup matches with the ultimate end of season goal being to win the treble.

Add to this our Ultimate Challenge mode that features over 40 real world Champions League challenges, the new winter effects (snow, players with gloves, player breath etc) our PSP to PS2 link (you can transfer your save games from your PS2 to your PSP and vice-versa), a complete Lounge Mode, Online Play and of course the official UEFA Champions League Tournament mode and I’m very confident our game offers the complete football package.

How big are the teams and players database? … Is there Euro stars or Euro classic team?
Matt Holme: We have 268 teams from 17 leagues, most teams with 25 players on their squads (that’s over 6500 players). All of the teams from the UEFA Champions League Group Stages are in the game as well. We don’t have any classic players in the game (licensing issues stopped us unfortunately) but we do have a new “Champions League Stars” feature which highlights the best players on their field by placing a star above their head. This lets you easily target your star players to ensure they are on the ball as much as possible.

Beside of the Gameplay improvements, have CPU player and goal-keeper also been improved?
Matt Holme: Absolutely. I guess I already jumped the gun on this question and answered it above. Like I said, we’ve done a lot with GK’s to make them really act like a GK should. Having a GK charge off their line at you as you’re through on goal really adds to the realism of the gameplay.

Should not UEFA Champions League be released earlier, for example at the beginning of the real season?
Matt Holme: We wanted to ensure we had as much time as possible to release a game with as many new features as possible. In addition, the real interest in the UEFA Champions League is naturally going to occur during the more exciting final stages (e.g the upcoming Quarter Finals), so this is why you’re seeing the game released now instead of earlier.

As everyone knows, you are the founder of Soccer Gaming Network, one of the first FIFA communities on the web … In FIFA 06 we could see “Soccer Gaming” as a sponsor in manager mode, will be there any footprint of Soccer Gaming in UCL 06/07?
Matt Holme: Not this time. I didn’t want to abuse my power as Producer so SG won’t be making an appearance in this game 🙂

More than hundred fans suggested at FIFPlay that either FIFA 08 should have the UEFA CL competitions included or UEFA CL should release every year by EA Sports, is the publishing licence only for this year or EA has it for several years?
Matt Holme: The FIFA and UEFA licenses are separate licenses, so unfortunately it is not possible to merge both titles together. We haven’t made any announcements on future football titles yet but of course we have plenty of big plans.

As you know FIFPlay tries to deliver Fans ideas to EA developers, has UCL developer team tried to check FIFA 08 Ideas section at FIFPlay to realize some of them but in UCL?
Matt Holme: Absolutely. Our UK Community Managers send us weekly feedback reports from the official EA Forums. In addition the entire EA Football Production team is constantly reading the wish lists and forums to ensure as many of the community requests are added to the games as possible.

Which features you would add to FIFA 08, if you were the executive producer of FIFA 08?
Matt Holme: Great question, but unfortunately you’ll have to wait and see about FIFA 08, at the moment I’m just talking about the new UEFA Champions League game.

What are your favourite club and player? (Do you think your club can win UCL title, if it’s a European and playing in Champions League?)
Matt Holme: Liverpool! So yes, we’re right in it and looking very good! It’s a great year for me to be involved with the UEFA Champions League game. If Liverpool can win the title, on top of the fun I had producing the official game I will certainly be a happy man. My favourite player (if you can still call him a player) is Harry Kewell. He hasn’t seen much time of the pitch lately, so if I had to choose an active player I’d definitely pick Steven Gerard.


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