Today, EA Sports posted a blog outlining changes coming to the backend of FIFA 21’s online gameplay. Today’s Pitch Notes goes into detail on what, and how, EA plans to help improve connection quality when playing online multiplayer. Hopefully, the changes will improve gameplay responsiveness when playing FIFA 21 online.
The biggest detail here is that EA has built a new FIFA Game Data Center (FGDC) in Miami. The goal of the new FGDC is to improve the online experience for players in North, South and Central America. EA has also designed an official connection quality report. According to EA, its report will help players identify situations where their internet connection could be impacting their responsiveness online.
You can find the full pitch notes below.
FIFA 21 Pitch Notes: Gameplay Responsiveness Update
My name is Joel Doonan, and I am the lead Producer for the Player First Operations team, part of the FIFA Live team.
Before jumping into the updates covered in this Pitch Notes, I just want to extend my best wishes for health and safety to everyone during these challenging times. I hope that you and your families are doing ok.
It’s been a few months since we last touched on topics in and around the ongoing online gameplay responsiveness efforts by the FIFA Development Team. As we have detailed previously, this has been, and continues to be, a top priority for us.
At a high level, the work that we have been doing has been focused in two areas, internal infrastructure, and external education and information. Today I am pleased to be able to provide updates on the following newly available capabilities:
- New FIFA Game Data Center (FGDC) in Miami
- Connection Monitoring
- Connection Quality Report
So let’s get to it!
- New FGDC is live in Miami, Florida.
- Aimed at improving the experience for players in Northern South America and Central America, in addition to the Southeastern United States.
- Connection Monitoring is now available for use in FIFA 21.
- Check here for more information.
- Connection Quality Report is available as a public beta.
Today we are announcing that we are officially live with a new FGDC in Miami, Florida. While we believe that this will bring some improvement to players in the Southeastern United States, the primary driver for the addition of this FGDC is actually aimed at helping players in Northern South America and Central America.
Why add a FGDC in the United States to help players in Northern South America and Central America? To answer that, let’s look back at a previous Pitch Notes about FGDCs. In that article, we not only covered the process by which we investigate where to add new FGDCs, but we also covered how sometimes what seems to be the most logical solution for a location doesn’t actually give player’s the best experience. The example we reviewed in the article was how the FGDC in Dallas was actually giving many players in Mexico City a better connection quality experience than they were able to get from the FGDC located within Mexico City itself, likely due to issues with internet routing in the area.
So, when looking at players in Northern South American and Central America, our investigations found that they were often getting sent to FGDCs in the United States rather than routing to the physically closer FGDCs located in Brazil or Mexico City. Digging deeper, we found that traffic from Northern South America and Central America was often being initially routed directly into Miami, resulting in the fastest connection available to those players being one of the FGDCs in the United States.
This posed a bit of a challenge for us, as we had reason to believe that attempting to place a FGDC in various locations in Northern South America or Central America would still result in many players preferring the routing to the United States instead of routing to this location, limiting the benefit to the players in this region.
To that end, we decided that the best solution available to us at this time would be to set up a FGDC in Miami itself, since that was the initial landing point for much of this traffic coming from Northern South America and Central America.
We expect that this new FGDC will provide improvements to the player experience in Northern South America and Central America, but we will continue to monitor and look for options to improve the experience for all our players where we can.
Up to this point, much of our efforts around online gameplay responsiveness have been in the infrastructure area. While having reliable and stable FIFA Game Data Centers in various parts of the world is one aspect that goes into a player’s online gameplay responsiveness, a player’s personal network setup is another part of that. To that end, we know that providing you with information about your connection quality, along with education on what it could mean to your online gameplay responsiveness and how you may be able to take actions to improve it, is critical. For some players, it will be the major factor in improving their online gameplay experience, especially in situations where infrastructure changes are not going to be the difference maker for them.
To support these efforts, we have two new ways for you to learn about your connection quality in FIFA 21 that we are pleased to be making available.
During the FIFA 20 cycle, we initially announced that we were adding Connection Monitoring functionality to the game for a limited number of players. We did that so that we could investigate and make updates to their design before we made them available for all players in the future. We wanted to ensure that they were appropriately informative without being distracting. Many thanks to those that took part in those tests and provided us with feedback, your assistance helped us to get here.
We are now at the point where we believe that they are ready for use by all our players, and we are happy to announce that they are available in game right now.
Connection Monitoring is intended to enable players to better monitor and understand their connection quality when playing a match of FIFA 21 on a FGDC. While players were previously able to view their ping during the pre-match flow, they were not able to monitor their ping throughout the match, or other potentially impactful connection quality metrics, without using secondary network monitoring tools. With this functionality in place, players will now be able to recognize when there are significant changes to their connection quality during a match.
Located within the Visual Settings of the Game Settings menu, Connection Monitoring provides players with a few different options.
Ping Only – This displays your roundtrip ping value, in milliseconds, on the screen at all times during a match that is played on a FGDC. This value will update every second throughout the match.
Connection Indicators Only – This enables a set of icons that can display during a match, being played on a FGDC, if certain connection quality thresholds are met. More details on these icons below.
Ping and Connection Indicators (Default Option) – This will enable both of the settings detailed above.
Off – This will disable both of the settings detailed above.
The Connection Indicator Icons are intended to provide you with an in-game alert when one of the three core connection quality metrics: ping, packet loss and jitter, reach a level on your connection that we believe may impact your experience.
One of the things that clearly came through from players that took part in the live study of this feature was that the ping, packet loss and jitter values that players reported would impact their experience fluctuated significantly from player to player. As a result, we picked fairly aggressive thresholds for the icons, with the yellow icons representing thresholds that we think will be reflective of the expectations of our higher skill or core players, while the red icons represent thresholds that we expect will be more reflective of the expectations of our more casual players.
Let’s take a look at each of the icons, their associated connection quality metric and the current threshold values that, when met or exceeded, these icons will display at. Note that the threshold values listed here may change over time as we tune or adjust based on feedback.
High Ping: You’ll see this icon when you are currently experiencing a high ping value. To learn more about ping and how it can impact your connection quality and gameplay experience, check out our Ping Explained article.
Packet Loss: You’ll see this icon when you’re experiencing potentially impactful packet loss. To learn more about packet loss and how it can impact your connection quality and gameplay experience, check out our Packet Loss Explained article.
Jitter: You’ll see this icon when you are experiencing jitter, a sudden and significant change to your ping within a short window of time. To learn more about jitter and how it can impact your connection quality and gameplay experience, check out our Jitter Explained article.
Here is how they will look, in-game, if they appear during a match. You can see, the icons will appear at the top of the screen.
For more information on Connection Monitoring in FIFA 21, you can check out this EA Help article.
Connection Quality Report
With the release of the Connection Monitoring functionality covered above, players will now have a way to better understand the quality of their connection during a match. However, we didn’t want to stop there. We think that it’s critical for players to have a more holistic view of both their own personal connection quality in FIFA 21 as well as the connection quality that is being experienced by other FIFA 21 players in their area, so a player can know what level of connection quality could be possible where they are located.
To support that, we are pleased to announce the public beta release of the EA Connection Quality Report.
*Note – The image above is for representation purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation for any specific ISP
What Is The Connection Quality Report?
At a high level, the Connection Quality Report is a tool intended to help players better understand the quality of their connection using data from applicable FIFA 21 online matches that they’ve played.
It does this by surfacing a bunch of data to a player:
- Data about their personal connection quality in FIFA 21, simplified by the creation of the new Connection Score metric, built off the ping, packet loss and jitter values from applicable FIFA 21 online matches.
- Data about their ISP’s FIFA 21 connection quality metrics and Connection Score.
- Data about other ISPs in their area, and their FIFA 21 connection quality metrics and Connection Score.
The site also contains education about connection quality along with a variety of troubleshooting steps intended to give players some options on how they may be able to improve their personal connection.
How Can This Help Players?
In a previous Pitch Notes, we talked about how we use data to help guide the process when we look to add new FIFA Game Data Centers. At the same time, that data can also help us to understand where there are players that are not hitting the connection quality metrics thresholds that we believe would provide a player with a good or great experience when playing online.
Looking at this data, we can see that there are a number of players who are not hitting those connection quality thresholds, but who are living in places where the average player is hitting them. In short, we believe that there are many players, located around the world, that could be improving their connection quality and online gameplay experience by making some changes to their personal connection.
To help those players, using this tool, we want to arm players with the information they need to understand whether they are getting the most out of their personal connection. Whether that’s through understanding how they stack up to the average FIFA 21 player in their area that is using the same ISP as they are, or by comparing the FIFA 21 connection quality metrics for the various ISPs in your location. The key factor is information, and we are committed to providing players with as much of it as we can.
It’s important to call out that there is an inherent link between the Connection Monitoring functionality touched on earlier, and the Connection Quality Report. Many of the thresholds that we use for the Connection Monitoring icons are also the same thresholds that we use to categorize connection quality in the tool. The main difference is that this tool generally looks at a much wider lens of a player’s connection quality instead of just looking at a single match.
How Can I Use The Connection Quality Report?
You can access the Connection Quality Report here. Keep in mind that you will need to login to the site to be able to view any data for yourself or your location.
I would recommend starting by looking through the FAQ/Guide to the Connection Quality Report, as that is intended to explain, in more detail than I can go into here, how the tool works and what you are able to do on it.
What’s Next For The Connection Quality Report?
As mentioned earlier, the site is currently available as a public beta. We will be continuing to gather feedback from our players, while looking to make updates and improvements to the tool when possible. We will share future news on the tool through @EAFIFADirect when available.
Curious about how we feel about FIFA 21? Check out our review here.
Want to talk sports and/or games with the fastest growing community in gaming? Join the conversation by registering at the official Sports Gamers Online Forums, and check out our Twitter and Facebook pages as well as our growing YouTube Channel!