In response to the many calls in the forums for SI/Sega to address the concerns of dwindling numbers in older game worlds, an announcement was made at the time of the launch of the last new game world (Altobelli), keeping in mind many of the concerns raised in the past about new users in old worlds (see Protectionism).
The big announcement by SI/Sega was the implementation of free trial accounts. The purpose of course is to boost numbers in older game worlds but also to break down the assumption by many that old worlds are too hard to start in. Alongside this announcement was the addition of several new (optional) football associations for all game worlds, these are designed to further develop the progression available within older worlds and further additions on the progression theme are being planned for future updates. But for now let’s take a closer look at the free trial program and what it means for the existing game worlds.
To start with we need to look at the actual announcement and what it means, step by step.
A gameworld is open to free trials if it is in between seasons OR within 3 days of the end of a season.
OK, so trial teams can enter gameworlds from 3 days before the end of season up until lockdown. The 3 days prior to end of season is a good move. It gives those who enter early some time to acclimatise to FML and maybe pick up some good players in the wage auctions at end of season. It should also generate some activity in the market place, as those older or lesser players that seasoned teams don’t bother to lock up will suddenly become possibilities for poaching, another dimension to end of season transfers.
The gameworld must have also completed 3 seasons in order to be valid for free trial spaces.
Another good step. By restricting trials to older worlds only it ensures they fulfil there purpose (adding to older worlds) but it also gives new people an opportunity to experience FML as it was meant to be, beyond the initial race and exploit process that has overcome the recently opened new worlds.
There is also a 200 paying user buffer in each gameworld that can not be given to free trials.
So a limit on the number of trial accounts in each world, essentially this means any world over 80% full won’t have room for trials. Again this helps to ensure they go to the worlds that need them most, as well as ensuring room in all worlds for those who choose full accounts from day one, through box sets or the website.
Some good news there from a game world perspective, trial accounts going to the smaller, older worlds and entering at a good time to add some activity to the transfer markets in their first season. Let’s take a look then at the individual accounts, and how they will work.
Trial teams will last for 21 days or until the manager cancels.
Fairly straight forward, each trial lasts a maximum of 21 days and any manager that does not cancel their trial prior to the end of those 21 days will be billed for the subsequent 3 months (minimum subscription period).
A user can only have 1 trial ever. This is limited by SEGA Pass account and Credit Card details.
One trial ever, well that’s the intention anyway. In many ways this part of the system will be the most important from the perspective of those already in a world. We’ve all seen what people will attempt through dual accounts, hopefully we’ve also noted how unsuccessful the vast majority of these are. Limiting trial accounts to one per email address and credit card, will go someway to limiting the number of attempts people will make of dual accounts – how many credit cards can they have after all.
If a trial team cancels then they are deactivated in game immediately. All players will be released immediately if in between seasons or at the end of the current season.
The last thing we need is more players locked away for season after season in an inactive team, ensuring all players are released from cancelled trial teams at the end of their first season will prevent this and keep players available for the next crop of triallists who join.
Trial team names are made available again immediately once cancelled.
Not something that will impact on the current users, but it does ensure a team name is not locked up by someone who doesn’t end up playing FML long term.
Moderators will be notified in game if a team is on the Free Trial so that they can be monitored for any rule breaking.
The important one, well from my perspective anyway, moderators will be informed and easily able to track the activity of trial accounts. This should enable us to limit any potential disruptions they might bring to the communities we have developed over many seasons.
Trial teams will play in a New User FA.
This is the one area I’m not convinced about, not a big fan of the NUFA and those in Fowler will know we got rid of it fairly quickly in favour of new user (or beginner) leagues in other FA’s. The major benefit from that was being able to utilise more of the community (through FA chat rooms) into welcoming new users, as well as making them feel part of a full FA from day one. Largely though this was done based on the small numbers of new users joining each season, with the potential of larger numbers of new users into a game world then the NUFA may be a more viable option, either way though the important thing will be to ensure new users are placed in leagues within which they are competitive, as well as making sure they have sufficient access to the community to explain how the game works.
So will it all work ?
Largely that will come down to each game world and the efforts of the current members to interact with these trial accounts in a healthy way. If you want to try and rip them off, through outclassed competitions or by ripping them off in the transfer market, then it’s likely they will move on at the earliest opportunity. But, if you invest the time and effort to make them welcome in your world then there is a great potential for many worlds to grow substantially through this offer.
It looks like the best scenario at this stage for all worlds, and users. No more new worlds for a considerable a time, and even then trials only in worlds older than 3 seasons. This will give all worlds several seasons of trial top ups to encourage new users to join their world on a more permanent basis. Ongoing emphasis by SI to further develop the progression aspects of FML, combined with the recent “promise” of more regular updates, should assist all new players to find enough reasons to stay. The major revolution of the tactical interface in 1.2 will also allow non FM oriented people to adapt to FML and be competitive in a very short space of time.
Ultimately there is a lot of speculation about how this will all work, and whether it is enough. Until we see it in action it’s impossible to judge fully, but on the surface this announcement does appear to tick a lot of boxes and shows the heads behind FML have put some good thought into the issue. For all the other suggestions made throughout the forums in recent months there have been as many negatives as positives, at least with this approach there is very little negative impact on the existing user base, and 21 days free is a big bonus to any new user. For now it gets a thumbs up from me, but we’ll certainly revisit this topic in the near future when we have seen the impact (or lack of) it has on game worlds.
For now SI have presented a great way for new people to join your game world, what happens from there is largely up to you – what sort of world do you want yours to remembered for.
|Written By Mark Burton
A moderator since May 2008 in a number of beta worlds and now GW Fowler, he strives to highlight the community aspects of FML and inform new & experienced users about future game development.