Aug 10

Match Engine Preview 1.3 – Part 1


With the feature lock of 1.3 imminent (apparently it will happen on a Friday, although which one is open to debate) I thought it would be a good time to start looking at some of the new features that it introduces. Post feature lock 1.3 goes into it’s bug fixing and QA stages, generally around 5 weeks, so although we can’t offer a definitive time of release that should give you a reasonable indication of when it will come out, assuming there’s no major dramas.

Last week we had a brief look at the roadmap and the ‘official’ threads surrounding those features, as the majority of those items are part of the 1.3 rollout we’ll begin to look at each in more depth over the next few weeks. Until final confirmation of features there’s not a lot of point in discussing all the features, but one area which can be discussed at length now is the new match engine.

Keeping in mind that the current match engine deployed in FML is halfway between the ’08 and ’09 versions, and the new one will be the 2010 version, there’s a lot of stuff to catch up on. So while we wait for the lockdown of the final version we can take a look at what changed between FML release and the ’09 version then later we’ll catch up on the extra. For those of you already familiar with the ’09 version you may just want to skip to the last paragraph this week.

Some time ago now Paul Collyer was kind enough to send me the list of changes between the current FML version and the ’09 engine, around 16 pages of change notes so I won’t be reproducing here, but having read through the list there are a number of significant differences that are worth highlighting.

Implemented new ball physics model
The biggest changes were around the physics model which the ME uses to determine ball movement and flight – largely due to the introduction of 3D graphics a more realistic model has been introduced, and while we won’t see the full benefit of this in FML for some time (until pitch conditions and weather are introduced). It will still have a major impact on the overall feel of the match and may impact on the effectiveness of certain players or set piece settings.
This area includes some major changes to the deflection code and the introduction of mid slice saves and headers, while it may not sound dramatic here it will take some adjustment. Overall the changes in ball movement look good, and have a noticeable effect even in 2D mode.

General Play
Over all a lot of changes about improving the usefulness of passing, better decision making in general for the ball carrier. Also some nice additions for players in difficulty, instead of crazy shots or just giving up they will now try other options, no matter how hard.

Important to note here this will put more emphasis on necessary skills and players with lesser ability will be penalised more. There are several mentions of specific player attributes, from the technical requirements of passing through decision making and first touch. Also some mention of players vision and improvements have been made in all these areas.
One of the great changes here is the first player to ball wins it – one of the more frustrating issues with the current engine, watch a few games and you’ll see how often the current ME gets that wrong, and what an influence that might have on your teams performance.

Goal Keepers
Goal Keepers will now have to play by the rules – that should be a nice change. Keepers will now drop the ball after 6 seconds if no other decent options, and they will now be penalised for handling the ball outside of the area. Also a number of references to ‘command of area’ an under rated attribute now, and clearly it will be more important under the new ME.
Some welcome fixes, particularly the lack of keeper dives during penalty shootouts, getting that fixed will have a big influence on keeper ability in important matches. A number of improvements to keeper reactions and positioning overall, more decisive interceptions and better choices when there’s no pressure, tempered with a welcome reduction of the keepers ability to save close range shots and reduced accuracy in keeper kicking.

A lot of general improvement in defenders particularly around set piece instructions, some of the improvements made around player positioning for corners, but also general marking and closing down. Closing gaps and blocking crosses more effectively and aggressively. Of interest were a couple of mentions of left side weakness in the current ME, with fixes to a bug that prevented defenders not pushing up and not picking up left side attackers.
When combined with the improvements made to keepers it should allow for the creation of tighter more consistent defensive play, and I’d imagine much harder work for lone strikers.

More first time shots at sensible times, improved choice of shot when clean through lots of modifications to close in decision making which should see greater reward for getting close to goal. Some good changes to reduce wasted shots from useless areas and rushed shots from ‘eager’ players with a clear opportunity. Some important movement changes too, with players getting in to attacking areas faster when a winger has good options, and the whole team setting up better to assist the ball carrier. There should now be good reward for players in close and less of the long bombs from nowhere that can ruin an otherwise good period of play.
Off ball, balance, decision making are amongst a number of attributes that get highlighted as being more important in front of goal. The stand out change for me is – Increased possibility of scissor kicks. Bring on the 3D graphics.

Height and weight play a more important role under the new ME with jumping now being reflective of distance a players feet get off the ground (not head) and weight being factored into strength related issues. Condition will also play a bigger role particularly in it’s effects on concentration levels, and players with lower work rates will cover less ground.
A lot of changes to the way players deal with lofted balls, whether by waiting for it to drop or better judging the flight. Again greater differences between skilled and non skilled players in a number of areas, with lower ability players taking a more safety first approach.

There are a few areas relating to player ratings which I’m not certain will relate directly across to FML. Some general improvements around the whole area of ball flight, this is largely in line with the new ball physics. With/without ball effects return, lost with the removal of arrows. Some good work here to return some control to the team shape depending on whether attacking or defending.

Injuries, not quite sure how much effect this will have for FML as the injury model is governed by activity rating – but the general principles outlined should carry through to FML.

That’s a very brief outline of some of the more notable changes between the current match engine and the ’09 one. Provided the latest version is locked by next week we’ll continue on with some of the additional changes that have been introduced. Hopefully that gives you some insights to the changes coming, keep in mind the 3D is still a long way off for FML – but definitely coming as an option one day.

In 1.3 a full 25,000 seater stadium is better than 25,000 in say a 60,000 stadium.

A full 25,000 seater stadium with hardcore will be better than a full 25,000 seater stadium with prawn sandwich munchers.

Nearly forgot – this week Marc Duffy confirmed that stadium atmosphere would be implemented in 1.3, but more about that next week.

Mark Burton

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.
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