Let’s put one myth to bed. Playing the AI in Football Manager Live is not the equivalent of playing Football Manager 09. It just isn’t. It might be annoying to you, it might go against the ethos of Football Manager Live, but it is not, never has been nor could ever be comparable.
I can’t cover every difference in a short column like this. But I can shed some light on some of the subtle, but important tactical issues that arise in a MMO vs a computer simulation. It may be the same match engine as FM1, but there is far more to consider when setting up your side.
This is, I must admit, a theoretical piece this week. I can’t really offer many concrete tips, but I hope the following truths give you some food for thought when considering what went wrong (or right – there’s always that possibility) with your tactics.
Truth #1 – Humans do not behave like computers
Logically, when 2-0 up and going into the final few minutes of the game, FM’s AI will tell its players to calm down, sit back and hold onto the lead. It won’t make the players continue to play at the full velocity they were before. Humans, however, don’t work like that. In many cases, managers pay little attention to their tactics mid-match, and if they do make changes they may not be the changes you would expect FM’s AI to make. Therefore, it’s more important to take into consideration what your opponent might do. Is he a guy who won’t make any changes? Well, if things are going well for you, maybe you shouldn’t either. Changing strategy may actually benefit his game plan and result in a negative effect rather than a positive one. If he is someone who is willing to modify his strategy, however, it might be worth paying attention to the changes in his style of play and countering them. Just because your game killing strategy works against a predictable AI doesn’t mean that the other human manager isn’t doing something odd with his settings that will throw you off.
It pays to pay attention, basically. You can set your watch by the AI in FM08 once you learn how the PC operates. Not so with humans. They do clever things, sure, but they also do bizarre, even stupid things. And if you get complacent, these stupid things might, ironically, pick holes in a tactic designed to hold off the AI’s usual 4-2-4 ploy late on. Just be aware that things can go wrong, and be prepared to do something out of the ordinary yourself.
Truth #2 – AI in FML <> AI in FM
The AI does nothing2. This is a phrase you will hear time and time again on this site, no doubt, but it is one to bear in mind when playing in FML. The AI does not make tactical changes. Therefore, if the opponent has a weakness, you can exploit it and he cannot plug it. If the opposition get a man sent off, they will not reshape the side, perhaps leaving a big hole on the wing or through the centre. Use your men to poke a stick in that wound. Remember, if you can find a system which is working against his AI, he will not change. So chances are you won’t have to make too many changes yourself to preserve the status quo. For this reason, you should always have a better record against the AI than against Humans – providing you pay attention, realise the inherent flaws in the opposition’s system, and are willing to make a few changes of your own.
Truth #3 – You don’t have all the tools you had in Football Manager
This is a less relevant truth with 1.2’s new tactical system on the horizon (and we’ll be discussing this at a later date in this column and on the podcasts). But at the moment the skills system means it is very difficult to have the full control you have in FM in FML. This isn’t an issue all the time (do you really need 20 notches of creative freedom?), but if you rely on precision changes to get your tactics to work then you will need to learn the relevant skills to make those changes. Therefore, it is important to realise which skills are most important and which you actually need. Sometimes though you think you need something, you may work out other ways of achieving the same effect. Good planning and a good understanding of tactics are needed to maximise efficiency with skill learning.
Or, at least, in 1.1 it’s an issue. Very soon it won’t be. Stay tuned.
Truth #4 – You will play Premier League and Conference level sides many times a day
While managing Barcelona, pretty much every team you play will be weaker than you, and so your main tactical repertoire will include strategies for breaking down the opposition. If you’re in a lower league, you will probably be on a par with those around you – or at least you won’t be significantly worse than those above you. In FML, however, you will be playing sides two or three divisions below or above you, perhaps one after another. It’s important, therefore, to have a range of options available. Breaking down weak sides, damage limitation against bigger sides, and a range in between. Understanding your players’ skills and strengths is vital. In most cases, there will be plenty of sides better and worse than you – judging where you really fit in the hierarchy, and not overestimating your team’s skill is of the utmost importance.
Some issues to bear in mind, then. Just remember – you’re not playing FM.
1. It’s not quite the same ME, but the tactics sliders are the same. It’s an updated FM08 system.
2. OK, OK. The AI subs injured and very tired players out. That shouldn’t be enough to derail a good game plan, however.
|Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.