The most controversial of additions mentioned in the roadmap blogs, match plans are a certain addition for 1.3 and as such worth a detailed look.
However much people dislike the concept of offline management in FML, it’s a necessity, and something which will remain. Addressing the reasons why people dislike this area of the game though is a major part of what the match plans are about. From both sides the current “AI manager” leaves a lot to be desired. For the casual manager it’s clear the AI manager fails to deliver a consistent match result and feels like a penalty for not being able to live online. For the more active managers it varies between being a predictable and pointless opponent or a super powered unbeatable computer opponent, or something in between – dependant on the skills of the manager of course.
Enter the concept of match plans, this new feature goes a long way toward addressing all the gripes with offline management. Hopefully the concept will continue to be added to and refined over time but the initial options offer a large degree of control for matches and should satisfy both the casual manager and the hardcore looking for a more relevant experience of human versus human match control.
Match Plan Creator
A detailed plan for a match you haven’t played yet, and won’t be around to play, is never going to be easy to create. But the match plan creator will take you through a few simple steps to get you started. Firstly it’s important to note you can make many different plans, much the same way as you might make a variety of normal tactics. You can also set different plans for different squads and within each squad you have the option to set up different plans for home, away or neutral venues.
Step by Step the match plan has a wizard (much like the one for making tactics) that will walk you through a series of choices. Play For The Win, Smash and Grab or Strangle The Game are just a few of the initial template choices. And of course you can further refine the selected options to suit your own style.
Advanced View does away with the wizard and opens up all the steps of match plan creation for you to set as you desire. This is where the real tacticians can spend hours setting up a multitude of scenarios to cover a multitude of possibilities.
Creating a match plan is all about visualising the different stages of a match and setting up tactical tweaks and changes in advance to get your team to react the right way in certain situations. Initially you’ll probably look to set up time dependant changes. Here the scenario options are split between a variety of time blocks: from the whole match down to five or ten minute blocks.
Most managers will have fairly definite ideas of the changes they want to make at various times throughout a match. Match plans allow you to set these up ahead of time. Assuming that the match is going to your plan of course. But what about when it’s not? When a sudden flurry of goals by the opposition makes your pre match plan irrelevant? This is where the next phase of scenarios come into play, allowing you to get your team to react to going a goal down, or two or three. Even switching to protective strategies should you go up by a goal or two. Again the set by goal options are further refined by time elements, and making full use of these can set your team to hold on late or steal a last minute equaliser ~ all without you being there !
Formations and Tactics
The match plan you create will enable the full use of any pre-saved tactics or formations; even switching formation mid match and bringing on substitutes if that’s what you have planned. The full range of touchline instructions is available for use with each scenario, and there’s a lot more of these to choose from under 1.3. But again the use of these is limited by the instructions in any ‘classic’ tactics you may be using.
Pitch size is another element you can account for in your tactical options, setting the match plan to react to the length and width of your opponent’s field. This can often be a crucial element in away games, and having the option to counter it when your offline is a great addition.
When to use
The match plans are a great new tool for all managers, but they can’t be used everywhere. Keeping in mind the more hardcore managers don’t want their opponents to get any benefits from being offline, there is now an option in competition set-up to deny the use of match plans. Primarily for use by the more intense associations, the option is also available when creating friendly competitions and no doubt this will be another trick to watch out for from some of the more unscrupulous managers.
The good news for many of the busy managers, or those that have other interruptions to their day, is the ability to activate your match plan at anytime during a match. Being able to watch your match plan in action is a great way to refine it to better react how you might for each of the scenarios. It also gives you more time to chat with your opponent, without having to pay attention to the needs of all those little dots.
Your plan. That’s what it is. Whether you’re online or not your team will now play the way you intended. Your opponent will play to the plan created by their manager, not some useless or overpowered AI. This addition should see the end to the whole debate around AI teams being unbeatable or too easy. It will hopefully see the end of managers seeking easy victories by avoiding challenges and only playing when you’re offline.
It has seen a change in much of the terminology in game around the AI structure. Now it more correctly identifies the “AI” as the “offline manager” – a real manager, a real human, just someone who isn’t logged on right at this minute. But then again there are real AI teams to play against now: teams with real AI managers to pit your wits against. Each with it’s own style and unique set of players. But that’s a topic for another week.
|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.