Aug 31

Match Plans – Offline management in 1.3


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.

Scenario Building

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.
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  • Mark Burton

    Using match plans while your online and watching is a great way to free up time to chat, whether in the match itself or in one of the other chat rooms. It allows greater freedom of your time usage in the game, and as you point out it helps to make sure you don't get distracted and make changes too late.

    No Opp instructions as yet, but that may come in a later version. Millie's idea is probably a good start, maybe an option to refine it by player reputation as well to ensure your marking up on the better players in the opposition team.

  • Tom Hales

    Great insight, Mark. Hopefully it should dispell the more extreme opinions (and even the hatred) for the current AI system.

  • abdullah from nicholson

    nice idea, but players are different: some are fast or slow, technical or not... you still need to adjust some times

  • Gareth Millward

    re: Opp. Ins. -- I think the best way forward would be to allow OIs by position. Most of the time, for example, I want to target their AMR. I'm not bothered if it's Cristiano Ronaldo or some crappy 15 year old, I want to target the winger because that is how my tactic works best! So, using OIs like that would enable them to be incorporated into the match plans.

    Great article, as always Mark.

  • abdullah from nicholson

    Love it, Love it, Love it. The only bad thing about 1.3 is that its not released. I was hoping to play next season with 1.3, but I guess ill have to wait another month.

    As for the match plans, I think i might even use them when I'm online; and interfere(sp?) just when needed. I think match plans could bring in better results, because a normal human might not react well when he is down in a match due to lack of focus.

    It will be interesting to see if match plans have Opposition instructions in them, instead of doing the Opp Instruction every time pre-match. I think the best way to solve this problem is that the server remembers the opposition instruction against every team, that way you would only make slight changes and spend less time setting up Opp Inst.

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