Oct 28

The FML Council: Is Sports Interactive Out of Touch?


Marc Duffy recently posted on the official forums with his version of the State of the gameworlds – An SI View, an “official” response to the question on whether the game worlds are dying.

An extensive post that looks into the various issues people have concerns with and a series of proposed solutions that are being… What?

No it’s not, it’s a quick post that refers back to the roadmap blogs and recognises that the biggest area of concern is the“perception” that older game worlds are an unattractive starting place for new players.

It goes on to hint at the names of players as a big part of this, and announces the intention to announce a possible solution to this in the near future.


He goes on to talk about a new initiative that Sports Interactive are taking with the formation of a FML Council.

We’d like to put together a group of FML managers, both past and present, to represent the community by meeting with the team regularly in order to discuss the game. Marc Duffy – Sports Interactive

On the surface this suggestion has gathered instant support from the forum masses; some others though see it as a big slap in the face for the community as a whole.

Face to Face

The idea behind this new FML council appears to be the formulation of a select group of people who can have ‘face to face’ meetings with someone from SI/Sega where they will be told some future plans and given an opportunity to discuss them.

In an era where worldwide communication is instant what value is there in face to face meetings? Beyond the opportunity to befuddle those attending with a bit of hype and shiny presentation I’m at a loss to come up with a sensible reason.


The recent reorganisation of the official forums was done to separate those playing the game from the general public, providing additional levels of communication for information sharing. There are a range of options available now to determine and control information flow, the addition of an exclusive FML council hints at further limiting the access to ideas and proposals is required.

If there’s a good idea to discuss outside of the development team then why not discuss it with everyone playing the game?


My first concern (and probably the biggest) is what’s wrong with the beta testers?

Isn’t the further development of ideas and feedback on those ideas what beta is there for?

The fact Sports Interactive feel the need to bypass their beta testers in order to gain feedback from a more specific group raises some doubts over the effectiveness over the beta process as a whole.

Instant Response

I’ve been involved with the forums long enough to realise the most constructive threads are those where the responses between community and developer are in close proximity. Bouncing ideas around is a lot easier to do when all parties are doing so at the same time, and responding to threads in the forums (or online chat rooms) while the other party is still online can be very effective.

But an important part of this is having time to disseminate the information from the other user, and time to thoughtfully formulate a response.

Both are minimised in a group face to face discussion, I can give you a far better response to your question after ten minutes than what I could straight away – but by tomorrow you will have lost the focus on the subject.


Live discussion via the technology currently available, whether that makes use of a forum, emails, twitter, skype, live chat rooms, etc, etc.

The tools are there to communicate in real time with whoever you wish, with as big or small a group as you want, whenever you find it necessary.

Get on line and get active!

Having set times when the forums will be manned by certain members of the SI or Sega community (developers, marketing, etc.) is a far more effective method of gathering feedback from a larger range of users than a face to face presentation.

To help me further clarify my sentiments, Jordan Cooper has weighed in with his thoughts on this issue with two videos.

One is a quickly slapped together (using YouTube clips & Windows MovieMaker) general overview into the macro-level concepts he’s trying to get across in conjunction with this editorial.

The other is a completely ad-libbed personal opinion on his part recorded via webcam earlier today – be aware that this is not the most flattering of outlooks on Sports Interactive’s customer relation practices. It may be quite harsh and can very easily “stir the pot”, but it’s an honest viewpoint coming from the perspective of a community advocate in the Football Manager Live playing public.

Definitely post your opinions in the comments section 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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  • T-Bag

    Yeah I do agree it is perhaps a bit archaic and i'm really not sure what it can actually achieve.

    If we were in a situation where the game was doing amazingly well where no one really had any major issues and SI invited a few of us down to form a council to represent the user base, then I think people might look on the idea a bit different.

    But it seems to have been presented as some method to find a solution to issues that people have. I'm not sure what benefit there would be to me (yes I was invited, but I wont be able to attend, so don't panic :P) and Jak meeting up to have a discussion about which FA structure would be the best! We've already done that on the forums ??

    There are loads of ideas out there from different people. I think there would be benefit from official forum posts along the lines of "we are thinking about doing X & Y - discuss" With some more active discussion like you see on the beta forum. It's fine me or someone else hashing out big ideas but there's not always much point expanding on them or doing into detail if we are unaware if we are way off the mark and it's not something that would even be considered.

  • Dural

    I agree it would be much better if they came out with some ideas and just said discuss. I'm not lucky enough to be in the beta worlds so I don't find things out until its made it into the official update, why??

    Why does it have to be all hush hush? Look what happened with regens, I don't know if it was mentioned in the beta forums but why did it only come to light about when best to have players age, people only realised and made a fuss once it was too late and the 1.3 update was finalised. If everyone was included in these discussions then these things are less likely to happen.

    I don't want the game to be a democracy but SI can be more savvy in the way changes are made by communicating more.

  • My opignion is that SI does not respect his efford for FML. They don't give the attention they shoul and the attenton they could in FML...This "Gameworld becoming Game-neiborhood" situation was the main subject in Greek threads, as we were talking about Keane.

    Let's see if they can do somethink. I'm sure they can do but i don't know if the really want to...

  • Dural

    As Gareth says the forums are populated by the minority of FML users and even less post on them. I don't think a smaller and smaller amount of people talking to SI is the answer. Never mind skype, formums, emails or anything else, if you want to know what's going on SI, actually take some time out every month chose a few GW's and have a live debate with users in the lobby. Don't just leave it to the mods, log on and talk, bounce ideas around with people, find out what peoples problems are, get to know the everyday user better, not just people who feel the need to go over to the formums and have a moan.

  • T-Bag

    @ Jordan's

    I think this is highly unfair in all honesty. Of all the criticisms you can lie at the feet of SI and Sega, them not being involved and engaging is probably the most inaccurate! They are very active on the forums - I sometimes wish Ov would spend less time posting and more time coding!! Much more active than what you see over on the FM forums too.

    There has perhaps been a drop in responding to posts on the subscriber forum of late but with the hostile nature of the forum it's not exactly surprising. You have had Ov on the podcast twice and some Sega bods too ! What more do you want??

    I just want them to act on stuff, I don't really care if they post about it on the forum or not. A guess some kind of live developer chat with users could have some benefit though.

  • SI are very good at engaging with those who know how to engage with them. If you're a regular on the forums, then you get a lot of to-and-from with the game developers. NOBDOY IS SAYING SI DON'T CARE OR THAT THEY AREN'T TRYING. But, as Mark says, they're going about it in such an archaic way.

    This council will have a small minority of vocal posters who are regulars on the forums. The forums are a minority of their customer base. A minority of those check back regularly. A minority of those are vocal. And a minority of THOSE will be attending this meeting.

    The intentions are noble - but this isn't the way to do it. Engaging more openly with the forums and with their customer base as a whole is the best way of doing things. Personally, I don't want the game to be a democracy where the will of the people is encoded. SI should be the ones in charge - but good engagement with the community raises spirits, retains customers and attracts new ones. That's what we're all after, I assume.

  • Mark_Burton

    Great to see T-bag jumping to the defence of SI (who'd of guessed that :))

    "Of all the criticisms you can lie at the feet of SI and Sega, them not being involved and engaging is probably the most inaccurate!"

    I don't think Jordan (or me ) was saying they don't do it - what we are saying is they don't do it enough !
    And we see this "face to face" meeting style as a bacward step - not a bad thing - just an archaic thing.

    Give me one good reason why they can't have someone responding to the community at large 24/7 ?

  • The FML Council is a good idea, because I think SI needs to organize thoughts and different opinions about the main issues FML is having. It seems more like a knowledge management problem rather than what you pointed out in the videos. By starting a structured discussion from the most critical and interesting approaches, hopefully the development will map issues and solutions, get more in touch with the general feeling and proceed to the right directions. FML Council is better than no FML Council :(

    On another note, I totally agree with what you said. The inadequate management of the forums and customer relations in social media (inadequate especially in response times, in my opinion) it's probably one of the causes of what I perceive to be poor knowledge management. Threads about the same topics should be analyzed and "official" replies should ideally summarize, give credit to posters and organize different point of views to spark constructive discussion. This unfortunately doesn't happen often (or it happens too late in my opinion).

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