Sep 07

Computer Controlled Teams – The New AI


* Added the concept of non-human teams – these sides will always accept match challenges and so are the ideal opportunity to test out new strategies or get practice before big matches. - official change list notes 1.3

*There are plenty of sides available of different qualities and styles. Allowing a broad range of tactical options to be tried and tested. Who will be the first to beat the mighty Buckton Titans? – official change list notes 1.3

Last week we looked at match plans, and part of that was a shift away from the perception of AI management in human owned teams. In part this shift was also about making room for a new breed of AI teams, after all where would we be without the AI to rant and rave about. The passion you can have for your team is great, and FML captures this element of football better than it’s offline partner, but it’s an individual passion. It’s the passionate ire against the AI teams that can truly unite the communities of both the offline and online versions of the game.

Those that have been following my articles for a while may recall my previous rant against the term Artificial Intelligence and while much of that remains valid here (The Turing Test), this version is far more akin to the traditional AI that game users expect. With full access to the touchline instructions, substitutions or any other tactical changes and governed by a manager with his own personality traits, these computer controlled teams get as close to representing artificial intelligence as we are likely to see in a football management simulation.

“Added the concept of”, that is a fair assessment of the development of these teams. Whilst the teams themselves are fully fledged entities, with manager personalities and full player squads, their involvement in the Gameworld is fairly minor at this stage. If we look back to the roadmap blogs by Marc Duffy we see mention of Missions, and this is an area under development which will see the computer controlled teams integrated further into the game worlds. For now though they make their introduction to the game worlds and that’s limited to playing unranked matches and competitions.

Why Would I play them?

There’s a lot of “why” type questions you could ask about the introduction of CPU teams into FML, the most common would be based on the “why not just play FM” area. Quite simply the Buckton Titans are not Chelsea, or Real Madrid, or Milan, they are better!

Beyond the debate over which version of the game is better (seriously they are both good), there are a few advantages introduced for playing against the CPU teams.

Injury concerns are a big factor for many managers, and whilst this area of the game continues to be reviewed (we will see some changes here in 1.4) matches against these teams offer two immediate benefits. First up no injuries from these matches will stick post match, this allows all managers an opportunity to test out new tactics, trial new players, etc. without the concerns of having good players struck down with injury. They also provide an avenue for getting players fit, one of the biggest issues for the casual manager, any matches played against the non-humans teams count for match fitness and again this should help to minimise the potential for injuries in more important matches.

Match ratings, goals scored, matches played, none of these are recorded from matches versus the CPU. To prevent any potential exploiting of statistics, or player progression all matches against the non-humans are unranked and have no lasting benefit (apart from match fitness) to any player, basically they are just practice matches.

The challenge, although the missions will develop this area further in later updates, has been thrown down by the CPUFA and all managers will find a level of team that is hard to beat. We’ll take a look at some of this later, but it’s another reason many will want to play versus these teams – losing to the Titans time after time won’t sit well with the top teams in any game world.

How do I find them?

There are a number of avenues to locate the non human teams, from the managers & clubs menu there’s a tab for CPU Teams, or you can head straight to their association (CPUFA) and check through the teams. But the best way to find one is through the opponent finder, much as you would looking for a human opponent there are a range of options to select to match you up with the type of team you want to play against, whether that’s purely by level or through a refined search for teams with specific strengths.

The CPUFA is set up as the non-human equivalent of the UFFA and a quick read of it’s description will explain the premise under which these teams are entering your game world. At present we are limited to playing them in unranked matches, although you can add CPU teams to your own competitions (via invites) again to avoid any forms of exploit this is limited to unranked competitions without prize money.

In the future we are likely to see these teams filtering into the domestic FA’s, to fill holes in the leagues and maintain a consistent league structure in all FA’s that allows newer clubs to compete purely against teams of their level, human or otherwise.

Manager Personalities

As mentioned the non-human teams each have their own manager and each manager his own style or personality. From the teams profile page you will be able to access the manager profile for each, and here you get a brief outline of the managers ‘history’ as well as an indication of how he will approach any match between your two clubs. So while the manager of the Buckton Titans (level 20) Hank Sillbly is likely to attempt to dominate the midfield on his way to a big win over my club, the manager of Hardsley Park Ravens (level 1) Jose Maria Salas isn’t likely to attack too much and will be happy to get away with a draw against Web Spinners FC.

The Non Human Teams

At present there are over 300 teams to choose from, each has a ‘level’ rating from 1-20 which will indicate to you how strong they are. They also have a description that will give you some idea of the clubs strengths and weaknesses, if they have any, and between these you should be able to find a team that allows you to further refine your tactics in preparation for any important match.

Working out what the levels equate too will take a little bit of experimentation for each club, and part of the initial challenge of these teams is finding out what level your own club matches up to. Whilst some of the players may change form world to world, and it should be noted the CPU clubs use a different player database to the rest of us, I’ll try and give you some indication about the two clubs I’ve already mentioned.

The Buckton Titans, the elite of the non human teams with Hank Sillbly at the helm. This club has a squad of 22 ‘Household’ names including the infamous To Madeira, it’s something even the most dominant human teams can dream about. With my own squad ranked 29th in the world I was up for the challenge, two close losses gave us a bit of confidence as we’d at least scored in both, some minor defensive changes and we followed up with two draws. Slightly disappointing as we’d led in both matches only to concede a late equaliser, still press a bit more at the start to get a bigger lead and we should be right ~ wrong ! The following match ended in a humiliating 7-1 defeat, time to return to the world of mortals.

Hardsley Park Ravens, to be honest it’s doubtful whether their manager Jose Maria Salas even knows the names of half of this squad. All ‘unknown’ players they are considered one of the weakest sides around, suitable cannon fodder for even the newest of human teams. To keep things fair we trotted out the Under 21’s for a series of matches, and although ranked 80th amongst the human youth teams we came away with a string of comfortable victories. Perhaps we’ll throw the U19’s at them next time we meet.

Hopefully I’ve managed to portray a useful overview of what these non-human teams are about, and why they have been included. I think there’s really something for everyone here, and if we keep in mind this is just the beginning of their interaction with the game worlds they will add an extra element to FML that we can all enjoy. How far their integration with the game worlds goes will largely depend on the feedback received through the official forums, so give them a go and then post your comments about how you’d like this area of the game to evolve.

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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  • MooSys

    I love the Ai teams! :D

  • Mark Burton

    No youth AI teams at this stage - but as mentioned the lowest tier of AI teams is at a level for youth to play against. As there's no progression benefits there's no real point to "CPU Youth" teams, as long as there's teams at a level your youth can compete against.

  • amg from nicholson

    Great addition to FML, although I was hoping that the teams would use real players from the GW. In nicholson we have 16 free World famous players. I thought AI teams might pick those players up and only sell them for MV. Free youth players could benefit from AI teams as they can be picked up and get a chance to develop into good/decent players.

    Which leads me to this question, is there any youth AI teams?

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