I started this series over a month ago now and back then if you had of asked me are the game worlds dying? I would have answered with a resounding No!
Struggling certainly, less active than they once were, but ultimately fixable given a boost in numbers and some minor issues resolved. Now though I’m not so sure.
In the first article we took a good look at Inactive Managers and some of the issues that they cause. Certainly there have been many changes since the first worlds launched, and some of those have been aimed at addressing these managers. Not only in trying to limit their impact on game worlds once they go inactive, but also in terms of addressing many of the issues that led them to become inactive in the first place.
Going forward I think we can expect both less impact from these managers, as well as a reduction in the number of inactive teams throughout the game worlds. But the impact they have had so far has had an effect on the current state of the game worlds, and some of the issues they have caused will continue to affect these worlds into the future.
Mergers and Larger Worlds
In part 2 we went on to look at some of the proposals regarding Mergers and Larger Worlds and whether or not they would provide some answers. We discovered that larger worlds are certainly on the agenda, but more work needs to be done before they are possible. More importantly we looked at how sheer numbers are not the problem; it’s not just about getting more people into the game worlds. There are some fundamental flaws in the game that make people stop playing, and whether there’s a 1,000 or 10,000 managers in a game world those issues will continue to reduce the attractiveness of the game for all but the upper echelon of managers.
One of the key areas discussed was creating a better sense of progression, giving more meaning for all managers to improve, especially those in the lower tiers of the FA’s. A lot of good changes coming into the next update (see article 1.4 Beta Discussion) and many of these will address the reasons people have to keep playing even when they are at the bottom of the pile. Changes to the reputation system and some very recent discussion around changing the structure of FA prize money go along way toward addressing the issues raised in Gareth Millward’s Giving us Something to Play For.
But the top teams are already there however big the changes are to the way progression occurs in the future, it won’t be retrospective; it won’t even up the advantages these teams have already had.
Football Associations and Other Competitions
A good look at Football Associations and Other Competitions was the focus of the third article in the series. Some big decisions have been made in this area, the removal of prize money from friendly competitions and an emphasis on FA leagues as the primary competitions for all managers. Continuing discussions surrounding the implementation of CPU teams into the FA structure and a major overhaul of both the way prize money is allocated and more importantly the amounts on offer look very promising. Cannot guarantee all these changes will make it into 1.4 but serious efforts are being made to develop and test this area in time.
Linking reputation to your league performances, removal of cash cows like DYM’s and other changes will make a big difference to all game worlds. But they won’t undo the cash reserves teams already have, they won’t change who is already rich in the game worlds.
Fantasy vs. Reality
Finally in Fantasy vs. Reality we looked at some of the reasons people play games, not just Football Manager Live. Addressing some of these areas won’t be easy, developing a sense of immersion that’s relevant to a broad audience will be difficult when so many different people have different interests. We now have the latest match engine, and more importantly the facility to keep up to date with the latest code. The 3D match view is something that will come next year along with additional infrastructure elements.
The concept of re-introducing real name players has proved controversial, but I believe it’s vital for the longevity of game worlds to offer new teams the same opportunities that teams had from day one. Discussions around having different types of worlds with different rules, regen only, reset game worlds and other ideas thrown about the official forums show that there is still plenty of confusion around what Football Manager Live actually is.
Getting the identity right will be a big factor in the marketing of the game and ultimately will determine who plays in the future. Getting the right types of managers into the game worlds will have an impact on how long those game worlds can survive. Maybe one day there will be room for an FML Lite or an FML Hardcore, but for now focussing around what the game itself is about and accepting that won’t suit everyone is more important. Some managers won’t like some changes; some will leave because the game no longer attends to what they liked.
Over the last 12 months some big improvements have been made to stabilise the game worlds, and more are on the way. That the current game worlds have already been affected by many of these issues is unavoidable, will they continue to suffer from the legacy of the early days well into the future is an unknown. But nothing lasts forever, and no-one ever suggested the game worlds would. The fact that people are not fleeing these dying game worlds already suggests they aren’t dead yet, shows that the basic underlying structure of the game is well enough developed to maintain the interest of many managers long term.
The coming changes will have a dramatic effect on how new worlds will develop in the future, but FML is a game of constant development and changes will always come. We knew that when we joined up to start with, for me it’s one of the greatest attractions. Ending worlds simply because the game has changed doesn’t make a lot of sense when the game is designed to keep changing. Continuing to work out ways to make worlds attractive to new teams and old is a critical part of that constant development, as is having the patience to see whether those changes work
Are Game Worlds Dying?
It’s been a common perception for over 6 months now, but they are not dead yet. Should the game worlds die? Maybe, it’s likely some will in time, whether the changes made can address the current imbalances in the game worlds is something that’s worth discovering. That some worlds may not survive is fine, nothing lasts forever. That people feel comfortable enough to move to older worlds at any stage is a fundamental process to get right for the longevity of worlds and the game itself.
Killing the current crop of game worlds now won’t tell us if the new changes work, it won’t show what more needs to be done to make the game a long term attractive proposition with the flexibility to cope with people leaving and joining as the mood takes them. In time we will have a better idea of whether the errors of the past can be overcome, if we restart everything now we might find just as many issues in 12 months time. Then again maybe we will anyway.
Should Game Worlds Die?
I think so, but not yet. There’s still plenty of development to come, and seeing how that affects the old worlds is worth sticking around for. One day I’d imagine that it will be worth closing some of the original worlds, one day I’d probably like to start off fresh in a new world to see how differently it develops. Not just yet though, there’s still plenty of life left in Fowler – and the community has a strong foundation that would be hard to find elsewhere. You can probably say the same about your game world, if you can’t though, if the community isn’t there; if it doesn’t satisfy what you want from the game anymore, then move on. Somewhere there might be a world that suits you better; there might be a community more to your liking.
Making a game where you can move around until you find the right place for you would be great, and that means making a game where it doesn’t matter how old the world is when you first join it.
|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.