For years, players of EA Sport's football-monolith FIFA have been complaining about alleged scripting in FIFA matches. With FIFA 21 gracing store shelves, EA Sports was hit with a United States federal lawsuit, alleging that Electronic Arts is practicing game-scripting for the purpose of selling more Ultimate Team packs to unsuspecting players.
The plaintiffs claim that EA Sports is using a scripting method called Dynamic Difficult Adjustment to artificially adapt the difficulty of a match. Electronic Arts has, in the past, denied the use of such systems. While the system in itself is not unlawful, the charges are based on EA Sport’s alleged failure to alert players to its existence.
So, this probably all seems like a load of gobble-de-gook, right? The problem with all of this legal mumbo-jumbo is that it makes it hard to form a reasonable understanding of such a case, as it is so difficult to wade through. Thus, we’re going to break it down for you! What is scripting, how does it work and what on earth is this lawsuit REALLY about??
So, what is Scripting?
Scripting is a common term used by gamers that describes a system that uses artificial intelligence to adjust game difficulty based on contextual in-game cues. So, put simply: when a game's company artificially increases or decreases difficulty according to how well a player is doing.
If true, this is a pretty sad move by developers who seek (as in the EA Sports allegations) to incentivize the purchase of loot boxes and other assorted microtransactions, by increasing the game's difficulty. At this point, it should be noted that, in 2020, microtransactions are at an all-time high.
An example of scripting would be, say, if you were winning a game by 4-1, and the opposition suddenly becomes much more effective whilst your ability is reduced. This may happen within a few minutes at the end of a game, significantly reducing (or in some cases, overtaking) your team's margin.
So, is scripting happening in FIFA 21?
We won’t comment on the validity of ongoing allegations, but the discussion around game scripting has been an open one for years! Even back in 2012, there were ongoing discussions with FIFA’s producer Aaron McHardy about the validity of scripting behaviors in FIFA. Sitting down with FIFA Soccer Blog at the time:
“This scripting behavior...I can absolutely say this is not in gameplay...we hate this kind of logic!”
There are, however, many instances of players allegedly coming into contact with this kind of behavior in FIFA's AI opponents. Discussions have been ongoing since FIFA 06 featured a momentum bar for the first time, more than a decade ago. There are also countless videos on YouTube that could, perhaps, hint at scripting.
So, what’s this lawsuit?
The lawsuit itself does not just allege that scripting is happening. It also claims that the purpose of this scripting is to influence game outcomes and incentivize players to purchase Ultimate Teams packs, or loot boxes. Thus, it is alleging that EA Sports has violated Californian consumer protection laws on the basis of false advertising and unjust enrichment.
“Unbeknownst to most gamers, however, without disclosing it, EA utilizes one or more artificial intelligence technologies... such as ‘Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment’ and ‘Adaptive Difficulty’. These technologies use heuristic prediction and intervention to dictate or even influence outcomes, thereby keeping gamers more engaged.” (Snippet from Zajonc v. Electronic Arts lawsuit brought to Californian court)
The suit has been brought up by three FIFA players, Jason Zajnoc, Danyael Williams, and Pranko Lozano. They claim that the real in-game effect of these technologies are bad passes, poor shots, and wildly varying pace for FIFA 21 players. Through this, they claim that a “self-perpetuating cycle” is triggered, influencing players to spend money on FIFA 21 Ultimate Team Packs.
- READ MORE: FIFA 21 FUT Season 2 Rewards
The lawsuit also mentions EA Sports franchises like Madden and NHL, which use similar systems to FIFA 21. EA was widely reported earlier in the year for making almost $1billion USD just from microtransactions in the final-quarter of 2019. The developer has various suits and fines against them for similar micro-transaction based allegations.
Responding to the allegations, Electronic Arts has released a statement denying the accusations, saying: “We believe the claims are baseless and misrepresent our games.”
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