PC Gamer: In game terms, is there any way of making them so they aren't world class or are there some players out there in FM 2011 that'll be a lock, they'll always be amazing whoever they play for?
Miles Jacobson: There's some that will because their mental stats are amazing. The ones where there are uncertainties about their mental capabilities, they may work out or they may not. Also, if you manage a player badly then again they might not make it.
PC Gamer: So are there any changes to player stats at all?
Miles Jacobson: There's something that I can actually talk about even though it wasn't in the press release it was in one of the screen shots. We've changed the way player positions are described to you. Whereas previously you would previously have AMRC, for example, you would expect that an AMRC is an attacking midfielder that can play on the right or the centre. But it may be that that person is actually a central midfielder who can also play as a right winger but can't play in the hole behind the strikers. We've therefore changed the way those descriptions are a little bit so you might see players with multiple positions rather than one position. Beyond that, stats wise, nothing that is visible to the human.
PC Gamer: Have any players ever complained about their rankings?
Miles Jacobson: Oh, loads! Loads and loads and loads of players! The most direct one of those which was actually quite funny as well, because it wasn't a major complaint, but Danny Webber came into our office once when he was at Watford.
I'm a big Watford fan, and he came in and he was looking at his stats and comparing them with another player from the Man United youth team that he grew up, saying: “I'm better than him at this! We used to be room mates and we used to practice this and I'm better than him in this stat, but, to be fair, he's better than me in this stat.” He was actually moving stats up and down and being quite honest about it. Sometimes you do just get an email from a player's agent saying “my player thinks he's much better in this” and I'll reply: “look, all of our stats are independently researched and if he does think he's better than finishing he should score more goals and his local research will put him up.” We don't pander to it, unless they want to put them up and down at the same time.
We've had cases where other people inside football have complained about their stats who are not actually players, so we can't display chairman stats any more, and haven't for many many years because someone complained about their business acumen.
I also went to a few training sessions last year at clubs. When you're there with a bunch of the players they all do have a joke and a giggle, normally about someone else's stats rather than their own because a lot of players play the game. I actually did say directly to a player whose mates were ribbing him about one of his stats – his response was “I should be better than that” - so I pointed out that one of the tackles he made on Saturday was horrific and that I wasn't changing it, and that if he calmed down by the end of the season maybe I would. The rest of the players fell about laughing.
PC Gamer: What did you gain from developing in a World Cup year? Could you release a World Cup themed save or mode?
Miles Jacobson: We actually have something here where literally we press a button and it can churn out a tournament, but we can't do it because of all the legal and licensing situations.
What we did learn from the World Cup is to be very careful with our ball physics! I was doing a daily blog on players to look out for in the different games as well as hosting parties, so certainly fun on a lot of levels. But we're not planning to add in training camps where players have to go to bed at 9:00 and aren't allowed to do anything.
PC Gamer: Hardcore discipline.
Miles Jacobson: I think the England squad were allowed to do a lot more than the press let on: I know they had certain consoles with them, and I know they had certain computers with them, and I know that some of the players were playing certain games...
PC Gamer: Are there any plans to release a classics pack or similar, with old players?
Miles Jacobson: There's three issues here. The first one is doing the research for all of those players, what age do you do get them? Do you do Hristo Stoichkov at 30, do you stop player ageing? What happens when those players retire? That's point one. Point two: it was brought up many years ago, it was tried, and then dropped, so it couldn't have been any good. Third: unless we can get the licensing rights for all of those players, and unless the members of all the different footballing unions we have agreements with accept the licensing agreements, it's just impossible to do.
PC Gamer: Obviously it won't be soon with a thousand features on the table, but will there be a point when you think FM is as good as you want it to be and you start releasing seasonal updates instead of a game?
Miles Jacobson: If FM is as good as I want it to be, I will leave, I'll go and work in Burger King, and I'll let someone else take up the mantle, because if I and the team ran out of ideas then we need to pass it on to someone else. We are our harshest critics and we've been accused of being complacent in the past: probably the biggest insult anyone can give to us, because we are far from that. We want to raise the bar each year, and in the same way that world records will continue to get beaten, we want to continue to beat our own quality records and what we're trying to do with the game.
We're very passionate about making that ultimate football management game, but football keeps changing, so that forces us to keep changing stuff as well.
PC Gamer: Will it be released on Steam this time?
Miles Jacobson: Yes. It will be Steam, day one, PC and Mac, and other digital platforms as well. It will be on as many platforms as we can possibly make the game available via for PC and Mac. We love working in particular with Steam. They really are a pleasure to work with as a partner, with the speed of turnaround they have on things. Even on the Mac side, they flew over to tell us about Steam coming to the Mac because they wanted to tell us face to face.
It's little things like that, and the way that they listen to the developers and games and develop the platform to work with that, so we will have achievements exclusive through Steam, and there will be more of those. But the boxed copy ain't going anywhere either. It's about giving out customers choice to be able to get it from wherever they want to.