History is made at every World Cup, but rarely in such shocking fashion as Brazil's embarrassing 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany in the semifinals of this year's tournament.
The match was not only historically significant — no team had previously scored more than six goals in a World Cup semifinal — it was a humiliating loss for Brazil that left the entire nation reeling. The 2014 World Cup's host nation had been the favorites all along, with Brazilians hoping to win on home turf and erase the awful memory of their previous time hosting: 1950, when Uruguay upset Brazil 2-1. That loss was so painful for Brazil that the country coined a term for it — the "Maracanazo," which translates roughly as "The Maracanã Blow," for the stadium in which it took place — but this one hurt even more.
FIFA 15 developer EA Canada is focusing on bringing the emotion of soccer to life. Through a feature dubbed "emotional intelligence," players on the pitch will respond to events in the course of a match by emoting with their faces and bodies. A goal that should've been an easy save may cause the keeper's teammates to express frustration; a missed opportunity for a late equalizer may leave the trailing team feeling particularly dejected.
EA Canada is pairing the on-field emotion with a more lively and responsive crowd, which cheers with behavior that's authentic to particular clubs: The fans at Anfield, for example, will serenade Liverpool FC with "You'll Never Walk Alone." And the multiple commentary teams in the FIFA series have always done a good job of bringing the excitement at appropriate times. But in an interview with Polygon last week, FIFA 15 producer Santiago Jaramillo admitted that it remains difficult for game developers to match the excitement and significance of extraordinary moments like the Brazil-Germany game.
"If you start losing 4-0 after 25 minutes, the players won't crumble; the stadium won't be in tears; the commentator won't be in so much shock that he becomes almost like a poet and says, 'Everyone who's witnessing that knows that they're witnessing history,' and you can feel it in the way that the fans behave, the way that the players behave, the way the commentator speaks," said Jaramillo. "I think those are the things we don't quite have, because they're rare, and you need moments like that to inspire you."
To be sure, those events do also occur outside of the World Cup, such as Bayern Munich's 90th-minute victory over Real Madrid in the semifinals of the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League. But the World Cup is a global event like no other, and accordingly, the stakes don't get any higher. Jaramillo mentioned a feature in FIFA 15 called "crowd temperature," where fans will go into a match with an expectation of how their club should do, and if the team's performance isn't meeting their standards, they'll respond accordingly. The crowd will grow restless, and then people will start to whistle and boo. Still, the crowd temperature system can't quite account for something as unprecedented as Brazil-Germany.
Jaramillo pointed out that a real-life commentator can rise to the occasion of an incredible moment — they can "say things that really resonate with you as the viewer that are then ingrained in your mind forever, and that's why those moments become so timeless." But that's tougher to pull off with pre-recorded commentary in video games, even with the developers' best efforts to get that audio to match the in-game spectacle.
"When you get to those extraordinary moments, it's hard to find anything that's been pre-recorded that can match that moment," Jaramillo explained. "So we can get 70, 80 percent there, maybe, but there's 20 percent of that emotion, of that drama, that only living it in real life — or real time, rather — can produce.
"And it's really hard to get all the pieces together — how the crowd behaves, how the commentator talks — and put it all together when it's all pre-cooked. That's a big challenge."