This piece was originally posted almost two years ago on the FM-Britain forums.
Sports Interactive has provided football enthusiasts with a quality simulation game for over fifteen years allowing those to experience the dream of managing their favorite club. Whether it be a top-flight side challenging for European glory or a lower division team struggling to keep competitive, the primary opponent has been the computer itself. FMLive turns this long standing convention on its head by eliminating virtually all semblance of AI-driven actions – almost every variable in your experience comes from a conscious human mind. Transfer interactions, contract negotiations, match tactics and even the structure of your gameworld & federation is directly in control of the involved participants. This type of dynamic is across the board for all MMOs and the primary concept to take into account when diving into the game.
Truth #1: FMLive is not the same game as FM.
The title may contain the same words, the developer may be the same company and the playing interface may look very close to the PC release, but the two games are wholly different from eachother. The yearly computer release mimics that of a simulated real-life conversion of the current football world with the user taking the job of a club’s manager. With any job comes bosses (chairman), assistants (coaches) and support staff (physios & scouts). It is the combined effort of these characters and your ability to manage them as well as your players to accomplish your goals.
Football Manager Live does not have this real-life conversion at all. No one controls ‘Liverpool’ or ‘Barcelona’ and there is no similarity with the current football league structure. From the start of gameworlds, the ‘08 player database is used and all are up for grabs. (there is a system though that users introduced first cannot accumulate all the stars) If you had to compare, it is more like fantasy football than anything else.
Football Manager Live also no hierarchal structure of management. It is the users themselves that possess individual skill sets of all these combined functions that are attributed to staff members in the PC game. Success relies totally in the user’s hands and it is the user that is essentially a character in and of itself within the gameworld. No hirings or firings and no one you’re held accountable to (other than the bank as you’ll find out). The attributes that you develop to help the club are solely yours by way of the skills system. Do you want to focus your energy on coaching? How about specific coaching like physical or mental ability? Maybe you want a better scouting knowledge of South America or being able to determine potential in young players. Are your first teamers out on injury for too long of a period? Physio skills will help you in that regard. Just take the time involved to increase your abilities to do so in the areas you see fit. Remember though, you must sacrifice valuable time in one over others and to improve every available skill can take months.
For those not familiar with World of Warcraft or EverQuest, these types of games are called MMORPG’s. The initials stand for massively multi-player online role-playing games. In nearly all, the development of the player’s character is a primary goal. Many feature a progression system in which players earn experience points for their actions and use those points to reach “levels” which makes them better at whatever they do. Traditionally, combat with opponents and completing tasks is the main course of reaching your objectives, gaining experience and rising up the ranks and the accumulation of wealth is another way to progress. Many MMORPGs feature living economies, as virtual items and currency have to be gained through play and have definite value for players. These games always allow players to communicate with one another. The “worlds” generally have game moderators, which may be paid employees or unpaid volunteers who attempt to supervise the world. Some GMs may have addition access to features and information related to the game that are not available to other players and roles.
Truth #2: FMLive is a long term game & requires a long term attitude.
The ultimate goal in any MMORPG scenario is to achieve top ranking in your virtual universe, to be the very best (and to hold on to it). FM Live features up to one thousand users in each gameworld and depending on the creation start date, it can be one that is young in its life, very old or somewhere in between. Regardless of that fact, everyone is looking to secure a higher ranking, win trophies and earn a world class reputation. Using the skills in your arsenal, cunning in the transfer market, fiscal management and tactical prowess a user can achieve such success. On the other hand, a string of bad results and poor showings in cup competitions can combine with a season filled with injuries, unrest and financial distress to propel you way down the rankings pretty quickly.
An obvious assumption would be that the older the world, the more experienced users will be found. How can a new user expect to compete against so many people that have months upon months worth of skills and money? Well, in a nutshell, a new entry will not be forced to pit themselves against the titans right away. Within your chosen federation, you will likely be placed in it’s lowest division and playing league games against those sides that are of a similar level as your own. Depending on results, users will rise or fall on their specified league table trying to gain promotion or avoid relegation and in conjuction move up or down the world rankings. You may additionally play ranked or unranked friendlies against any team as you wish, but be aware that a significant differential in reputation and ranking between sides will likely produce a lopsided result.
As stated previously, experience does not neccessarily equate to results. The skills that users acquire over the course of time are only a tool for you to utilize specified features in a better way. It is how you act upon this new knowledge that ultimately determines whether or not you succeed. Heavy scouting of players and high potential youth signings can still turn out as duds. Top notch physio abilities can still not prevent your world class striker from getting a career ending injury. Coaching stats at max still won’t improve an ultimately mediocre player into greatness. Fiscal mismanagement can place your club into receivership and have lasting consequences spiraling yourself downward on the FML totem pole. In the beta release, it was possible for some new users to rise into the top 50 within their first few weeks as well as some with months of experience to plunge to the bottom of the rankings.
While these extreme cases are fairly rare and reality lying somewhere in the middle, it is still important to realize that FMLive is a long term game. Regardless of your past brilliance playing the PC version winning the Champions League with a 3rd division Romanian side in a week, there is virtually no way at all to achieve instant success from the onset of joining a gameworld. Repeating that again on a more personal tone (act as if this guide to speaking directly to you) – do not expect to win everything in sight once you start playing!
Truth #3: FMLive is a human experience.
Remembering truth #1, you are going to be pitting yourself not against a computer, but against other active users with the same agenda as your own. Unlike the AI you’re used to encountering, these opponents now have human minds working for them. Logic, intuition, creativity, adaptation, unpredictability and emotions will all come into play and there is no definitive blueprint to defeating everyone.
Tactics that work for your side against some opponents may not against others. It already has been shown with the FM08 release that the match engine has certain discrepencies when innovatively designed human strategies are input against the more pre-set defined ones of the AI. Now instead in FML both managers are involving themselves in a football “chess match” with a unique viewpoint attempting to stay one step ahead of eachother. No one can easily predict what their counterpart will do in certain situations and how to combat an ever increasing ability to adapt to playing conditions. While some users may go with the one tactic “play it out” approach, there will also be those that spend the time gaining tactical skills to be more effective highlighting their player’s strengths, cover their weaknesses and using opposition instructions to stimey your side.
Players values are in the eye of the beholder. There is no code that the computer determines a certain market value for a person and reacts to your action in dependence on it and the relation of importance to the club. Users will covet speficic players over others, weigh certain attributes more or less than you do and sometimes even show emotional ties to some players for no apparent reason. It is a common psychological theory amongst any group of traders that the selling party believes he has received a higher value for his product that it is worth while the buyer believes that his purchase was a steal of a price. Play FML with a fresh open mentality and don’t be disillusioned by the fact that you may not be able buy quality players under value. Conversely, don’t expect bids to come in left and right for players that are dead weight on your squad. Remember you’re dealing with opponents just like yourself and try to view things from their perspective in the transfer market.
Social interaction is encouraged in Football Manager Live and can be utilized to your advantage. The chat rooms on the gameworlds are typically filled with users discussing gameplay features (help centre), tactical strategies (tactics chat), posting sales/loans (marketplace) and anything/everything/gossip (lobby). While it is a good break in between matches and gives you the ability to find out the latest happenings in the gameworld, the social functions can be a useful tool for a manager. Developing relationships with other users can greatly increase your leverage in certain situations. Heard someone slating a certain player on his squad for a poor performace? Maybe if that player was in your sights, you can get a good deal for him now. Noticed in your mailbox that a club has an injury crisis? It’s possible that he’d be interested in one of your players for cover. Playing a newly entered user in a friendly? Maybe offer him a few possibilities for loan that can help his side out right away. Although some people may prefer a more socially isolated playing experience, the belief that the game is more commonly enjoyed by use of these unique interactive elements.
These three fundamental truths are the basis of how Football Manager Live was developed. An innovative blend of a football simulation and an MMORPG, it relies predominantly on the users to mold the game playing environment. A definitively “living” world with social nerves, economic veins and a highly competitive spirit. These virtues should always be held in high regard in your mind when confronted with any situation encountered in your game experience.
|Written By Jordan Cooper
A moderator on GW Fowler and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com, he has hosted/produced the Get Sacked! podcast for nearly two years providing humor and strategical insight to all about the FM series.