Sep 29

Are Game Worlds Dying? Part 1 – Inactive Managers


Over the course of the last few months there is one common thread theme that continues to crop up, a quick look over any page of the general forum will show at least one thread dedicated to a discussion about the death of game worlds, if not the death of FML itself.

Is there any point to them? Is there any truth to them?

There are certainly enough of them, and enough people commenting in them to suggest an issue worth looking at. What they don’t have though is a united common reason; there is no resounding single issue that identifies why the game worlds might be dying. Instead there are a number of different issues around the game play and the activity levels that are regularly discussed.

Over the coming weeks I’d like to take a look at these issues, one at a time, and try and get a comprehensive view of the root causes of these issues. Highlighting the suggested solutions from the forums, alongside that we’ll look at what has changed in the game in response to these issues ~ as well as what is planned to change or perhaps more importantly what needs to change.

For many the ideal place to start might seem to be the marketing/advertising side of things, but I disagree with that. Although it’s a common enough gripe I don’t see it as a root cause of the current state of play – and I don’t see much point in addressing that side of the issue until the underlying causes are dealt with.

Inactive Managers

From the end of the first month of FML there have been inactive managers, some no doubt just don’t like the game and for whatever reasons decided after signing up to a subscription it wasn’t worth the time to log in again. For these managers there’s really not much that can be done in the short term, perhaps when the game has evolved further they will return, perhaps they won’t. The big downside of these managers was the fact they had signed a squad of players, and the best of those players (through auto extends) were stuck with that team until such time as the subscription expired.

Locked Players

It may not sound like a big problem, and initially I don’t think anyone considered it to be, but over time it’s had a big impact on both the market place and player progression, an impact that continues to have it’s effects today. Let’s take a closer look at that, how could someone who only played for a week or two at the start still be affecting the game almost twelve months later ?

Take a small number, maybe 10 teams, and let’s suggest they each pick up a couple of reasonable players in their initial squad, and maybe one reasonably high potential young player – and they set 4 players in their initial squad to auto extends. That’s 40 players that no one else can touch 40 wanted players that no one else can buy, 40 less players to spend your money on. That increases the value of the players that are available, increases the profit for those managers willing to cash in. All other aspects aside it is one of the factors leading to inflated prices in every game world.

But the more sinister and long term effect of these locked players is the lack of progression, any player signed to these clubs has been hampered in it’s progression. Any youth player signed by these clubs has had minimal progression, and that leaves a hole in the quality of players available that continues to affect the game worlds today and again that continues to inflate the values of those youth players that have progressed as they should of.

Now I’m not suggesting these are the only issues to destabilise the economy early in a game world, nor that it’s the only problem with player progression, far from it – but they have had a subtle effect on the way game worlds have developed, an effect that is still felt many months later and if you take a look at your current game world you’ll see a lot more than 10 inactive teams.

A recent initiative from Sega/SI resulted in an email sent to over 7,000 inactive managers (paid subscriptions, not signed in for more than 2 weeks) – That’s an average in excess of 200 teams per game world.

How much impact are they having on your game world?

Rewarding Inactivity

Another of the issues that frustrated the active managers, and possibly encouraged some to employ an inactive strategy, was the simple fact it was a rewarding way to play. Not in terms of enjoyment by any means, but as a cash building strategy there was certainly a number of managers (generally those with teams on multiple worlds) who chose to leave one team inactive for long periods while their stadium was paid off, or merely to build a large bank balance.

Again these teams have tied up players, denied progression to the data base and they have been rewarded by coming back to healthy bank balances and far more buying power than the majority of managers that have played the game as intended. Further destabilising the economies of the game worlds they return to, and to make things worse many of them simply disappear again after signing one or two high priced players.

Sort it out SI

Two distinct player groups, but both have had an impact on the way the game worlds have developed, and on the way they continue to develop. It’s an area that raises many concerns so what’s been done about it?

Possibly more by accident than design (although I’m happy enough to give them the benefit of the doubt) Trial Accounts have had a big impact on the first group mentioned here. By allowing free trials for those that haven’t tried the game before, those that give up or don’t like it have their players released at the end of that season, their clubs terminated. No longer are these teams stuck in a game world for the minimum three month sub period (or longer) that they were at launch, no more players locked away forever.

Bug fixes to stadium deterioration and the introduction of the 16 player rule have had a major impact on the earning potential of inactive teams. Combined with new ways of handling the CIFA (Casual Inactive Football Association), reducing both the reputation of these clubs and the potential for them to earn prize money. These are deliberate actions taken over the preceding months to restrict the reward element of inactive play, and they are working. Along with this there has been a recent initiative to adjust the bank balances of some of these teams that may have prospered by some of the earlier bugs in the game.

Locked players are an ongoing issue, as much as we may be frustrated by the morale effects that determine a player’s decision to refuse a contract extension this is one way of combating this area. It needs to be more reflective though of the time since these players have performed in competitive matches and possibly the time since a manager last signed into their game world.

The market imbalances, and in particular the teams that log in to buy one or more players at vastly inflated prices then disappear again. This is a hard area to police especially when there is no connection to the selling team. Often it’s players bought on auto-accepts or instant buys from auction and I doubt people would be overly enthused by these options being removed from the game.

There has been discussion about introducing an upper limit to transfers (2xMV) but that’s another unpopular way of preventing this practice. For now it appears we’ll have to live with this one, and hopefully the measures in place now will prevent these teams from amassing the kind of cash they have in the past.

At least it gives the general world economy a boost when this cash is used to purchase other players, but sadly no one ever appears to buy my players for 10xMV.

Lost progression is probably the most annoying long term issue these managers cause, anything done here would impact on the managers who dedicate their time to bringing through youth players, even if there is a way to boost these players who have lost large amounts of progression time. Perhaps as the Academies are structured and implemented into the game there can be measures put in place to ensure regular upkeep of these structures is required to maintain the players.

Maybe we need to look at a base level of progression for all players, whether signed to a club or not, whether actively being played or not. Certainly the current state of players across many worlds is now showing a lack of quality in the players coming through, and while this may only be a small part of that problem it’s something that needs to be addressed.


The term griefer does not refer to any player that causes grief to others. Rather, it refers to a player whose only objective in the game is to cause grief, and who cannot thus be deterred by penalties related to in-game goals, because they have no in-game goals other than to cause grief. Wikipedia

Does FML have griefers? Could any of the above be consistent with the behaviour of griefers? It’s certainly not a common claim, but the possibility definitely exists that some of these inactive teams are deliberate ploys to destabilise the game worlds.

  • Be against the spirit of the game,
  • Have a negative effect on the balance of a gameworld, or
  • Have a detrimental effect on another player’s experience of the game

The last three items in the FML code of conduct ~ and in my opinion these teams breach all three!

Harsh perhaps but somewhere we need to implement some base rules on what level of inactivity is acceptable in FML. There will always be occasions where someone has reasons to be absent from the game for extended periods, and if they continue to pay their subscription then they deserve some parity of treatment.

But when their inactivity begins to have an adverse impact on the rest of the game worlds, then they are in breach of the code of conduct and some form of action must be taken. In no way should this detract from the options of the casual manager, but there’s a point at which casual turns into inactive ~ and that point needs to be addressed, and balanced for the prosperity of all.

Rant Over!

Next week – Gameworld mergers or bigger game worlds, would that solve any of the problems?

If there’s an issue you feel has a detrimental effect on your game world, or the game in general then post a comment below.

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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  • good stuff, i think it is lame that inactive teams are rewarded. but i think it may be hard to institute something to stop the abuse.

  • Mark Burton

    Some good responses, and it's clear that this issue is one that concerns many users in the game.

    @Myron, Real Players is on my list - something that gets raised often enough to take a look at in the near future.

  • Myron Shipp

    HI all
    I agree with most of the points raised and I was about to post a forum thread on my thoughts re the future of the game. Why play FML rather than any of the other football management games? I think the 2 main reasons are the live games with in game chat and the fact that the game has real players. I fear both these factors are being lost in FML which is one of the reasons I have many teams, to try and get to a younger world were real players still exist, the current youth (under 20) world cup is a case in point, every player I have seen and searched for I have been unable to find in the FML database as new players come on to the scene but are not added to the game, new players are regens. An F1 game I play is in season 36, what will happen to FML worlds such as Clough come season 36, I still think that the basic model of FML is wrong and should be more like Hattrick where game worlds are based on countries, and there is only 1 FA this way the inactive teams drop to the bottom and new players rise to the top so that in the top divisions you have all active players, also chat can be in the language of that worlds so everyone who wants to chat in Greek can join Greek world, this is already happening as Greeks head to Keane Aussies to Fowler etc. another alternate idea is to have different flavours of game worlds as Ov Collyer hinted at in a recent podcast, one flavour I would join is a world that resets every 12 seasons and then the new FM10 etc database is used for the next 12 seasons, if you don't like that don't join those worlds stay where you are. In a few years time players like Kofi Danning will be big stars and not in the game so the disclaimer regarding use of real players names will be pointless. for sentimental reasons I have kept my original team in Fowler but have regularly jumped to new game worlds but now I don't know what to do as no new worlds are being launched so I will gradually close my teams till my interest will just be in the youngest team.
    Rant over

  • Paul Clark

    You're dead right that it has to be a balance.. FML has to be playable for both hardcore and casual players. That's why my suggestion was a trigger period of a season's length.

    What you're looking to make rules for is the difference between 'casual play' and 'never coming back'. The rules can't be so harsh as to punish players who may only log in once a week, or every 10 days. However, I think if you did a statistical analysis of playing habits you'd find very, very few managers who log in less than once every 2 weeks but still actually play.

    Of course, come summer people will go on holiday for 2-3 weeks and may not sign in. Its not fair to take their team off them for that... but most active players would prepare for this - use their 'on holiday' days up and maybe let other players know they will be away a while.

    If, within 24 hours of contract renewal, the game checked manager activity and saw that there had been no player-controlled matches played in the past 4 weeks, then all locked contracts could revert to at least auto-rebid. 99.9% of managers who haven't logged in for 4 solid weeks are not going to return... This would stop good players being wasted in inactive teams for multiple seasons but woulnt hurt those who just log in from time to time.

  • Very good comments, guys! I think too many of us are looking at inactivity from the wrong user's perspective. It's been said to death that the main priority has been on user retention and increasing the "churn" rate. While I do agree that the current FML model makes it so inactive clubs have a significant enough impact on others, it's also important to note that we cannot punish it to the point where people who have spent time away feel like they can never get back to where they stood.

    A system that makes it so a user can leave for X amount of time, yet still come back to a reasonable status compared to that of which he left is one of the paramounts of a good retention rate. Punishing people for inactivity just pushes them FURTHER away from playing... It's quite likely many users have not returned because they assume that there club is now in such a condition that they'd need to start all over again. (not that this is the case, but it's a perception)

    Finding the compromise between keeping inactive teams in a state that their manager can easily return as well as having it so they don't significantly harm the economy/progression for the active teams is probably very important to get right ASAP in order to see FML develop a larger user base.

  • Dan Stevens

    We will never be able to stop a certain level of inactvity and I myself am guilty of this when my work crops up and I simply dont have the time to play, I think that players should be deciding not to have their contacts extended in any way if they arnt being played so that a team will gradually empty if a manager does not sign in and they will then have to build from scratch if/when they come back

    At least this will stop players rotting in squads and not progressing as they should do and perhaps promote a healthier marketplace.

  • Tom Hales

    Great article Mark :)

    I think Paul has some really good points about 'punishments' (bad wording, I know  :-P ) for inactive managers. Given the fact that FAO's removal of teams from an FA are used on the basis of being inactive for four weeks, why not apply the same for auto-extends? It would certainly go al ong way to aiding player progression etc. in GWs.

  • Paul Clark

    I'm pretty sure if you visit the forums of any/every MMO game currently running, you will find posts by doomsayers proclaiming the end - it comes as part of the attitude of your average online gamer.

    I think it would be fair to add in actions triggered by a certain length of inactivity. Such as:

    1. If a manager doesn't log in at all from season start to end, all their players are set to either no renewal or, at least, auto re-bid.
    2. Managers who have been inactive for the length of a full season have their club accounts frozen - or - are forced to pay stadium maintenance etc at a level sufficient to make sure they cant return to millions of profit at a later date.

    Perhaps the most simple solution would be to make the players less forgiving of playing for inactive teams. If the manager hasnt logged in and played any games then the players get very unhappy, refuse to re-sign and walk away for free... Free... i.e. the team doesn't get the AF either.

    I could write about this all day.... damn you 3000 character limiter!! :(

  • Guest

    Really good article.

    Player development is a HUGE problem. If you compare players in a 10 season old GW, you only have 1/10 of the quality compared to the starting players.

    Locking of players in inactive accounts should be adressed as well. If there are too many CPU matches, players should be rejecting auto-extends and go to rebid.

  • Bertie BG

    Good constructive article.

    With relation to the Free Trial accounts, it was very much by design that players be released at the end of the season for Trial accounts and for the reasons you pointed out.

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