Tactics and player power in Football Manager 2015

Football Manager 2015

PC Gamer: One thing that jumped out at me is Twitch integration—Football Manager doesn't strike me as a game people want to watch others playing. Is that fair to say?

Miles Jacobson: On Twitch there have been various charity—24, 48 hour marathons—that lots of people have got involved with, that are great things to watch. That was our inspiration for adding it in as a default thing. But while we were discussing it we actually realised there were lots of other applications for it as well. We have lots of forums out there where people will give other people advice on the game, particularly those that complain about losing, that say 'I've got the best team in the world!' and you look at their tactics and they just haven't changed anything. Yes they might have Leo Messi, but they're playing him as an advanced forward, not as a complete forward, so they're not going to get the best out of him. From that perspective I think that people are going to learn a lot from the best FM players out there, from those people that are high in the leaderboards. They're going to be able to go and watch their games, look at what they're doing differently—and while the initial integration is just video, we will have all the chat functionality in by Christmas, we're going to keep on supporting it to make sure we get all of that functionality in, so if people do want to do Q&A sessions—great!

There's a brilliant fanzine on the game called Clear Cut Chance that has some great, in-depth articles about the game and there are various websites out there that offer tactical advice. Being able to do that via video so that people can ask directly 'why have you got that player set as an inside forward, not as a winger—what extra does that bring?' I think is a great community element. While originally it was added for one reason, there are a lot more reasons that have come through over time, and I'm actually quite excited that I'm going to get to watch—hopefully—tens of thousands of people playing the game. The thing with Football Manager is there's no one way to play the game. We don't have a fixed way, there's no linear path to the game at all, so seeing how different people are experiencing it, from my position as the game's director, is also going to help us decide what direction we take the game in in the future.

PC Gamer: Is it strange to make a game that's an ideal representation of football, when the real sport is full of ethical quandaries and odd decisions—like, for example, Watford's three managers in a month? It's meant to be a flawless simulation, but it simply can't be one.

Miles Jacobson: The Watford situation is an interesting one. I'm quite close with a few people at the club and I don't think the club has done much wrong in that situation. If Billy McInley had been called a caretaker head coach, rather than just head coach, then nobody would be batting an eyelid. There's not much you can do when your manager becomes ill and decides that he's not going to carry on. But we are a very pure version, as you say. There are lots of things that I've seen go on in football that I don't like, and those are the things that we will not simulate. We keep within the rules because the rules are there for a reason.

There are lots of things that I've seen go on in football that I don't like, and those are the things that we will not simulate.

I actually like it that way, so no it's not difficult—it's easier. I would really struggle with adding in some of the more negative elements that are there. Player power—some people would see that as a negative thing, and it is something that's more prevalent in this year's game. But the way that we've done it is not necessarily from a monetary point of view, it's more a playing time perspective and promises that have been made to players. But I'm a moralistic little twat, so that's one of the reasons we don't go down that route.

I'm sure that someone could make a very fun game that had those elements in, but lots of people have tried and it just doesn't feel right when they do. There have been management games, games that are a mix between action and simulation, that have had bribery and betting in there, for example. It's fact now that people involved with football in England are no longer allowed to bet on football—I've been advised that I shouldn't be either, because of the various deals we have. So I don't bet on football either. It shouldn't be part of the game.

PC Gamer: I'd think that encouraging the old guard—like me—to learn new things and pick up on new features has to be hard. It took me years to realise you could select multiple players at once, because I was used to doing it the slow, old-fashioned way.

Miles Jacobson: Multi-row select is a wonderful thing. There are some things that it's easy for us to tell people about, and there are some things that are hard. There are some things that you need to read the manual for—and let's be honest, no one reads game manuals. Sometimes we don't even know why we write one. You can have the hints and tips system inside the game, but again that sometimes takes away from the perception of the person playing the game that they are in the football world when this message pops up and goes 'did you know that you can right click on this?' So we work on making the user interface as easy as possible, and I think people will see that this year.

There are a bunch of things this year that I know real hardcore fans are going to turn around and go 'this is a new feature!', and I'm going to be going 'no, it's been in the game four years—you just don't look deeply enough'. The hardest thing for people to get used to has been the change in the tactics system: the removal of the sliders and introduction of player roles. The old slider module was one of the only unrealistic things still left in the game, basically. We want realism. There's no way a manager could say to a player 'today I want you to be standing one notch further ahead than you normally do', or 'today I want you to be one notch more attacking'—as someone who's lucky enough to go to tactical meetings at clubs across Europe, that's not how they talk. They talk about the roles that players will be playing, and the player knows what they're meant to be doing. Sometimes the players and manager create their own roles, then we get to add the new roles to the game the next year when they've done it.

There's no way a manager could say to a player 'today I want you to be standing one notch further ahead than you normally do', or 'today I want you to be one notch more attacking...

We tried to highlight in FM15 how important those roles are with the new look to the tactics screen. You cannot avoid seeing what role you've set your player to, because it's right there, massive, on the left-hand side of the screen. It was a really difficult thing to fit in from a GUI perspective, and I think the artists are still having nightmares about it, particularly about trying to fit it all in in minimum resolution, but it was a really important thing because it's so important to the game. 90% of people who are failing at the game when they send us their tactic, it's because they've got the player roles wrong. It is a really important element.

Hopefully the old school and the new school are going to get new things out of the game each year—there are lots of features in there that many people don't use. There was one feature that I found out this weekend we hadn't tested at all, because I used it and the game crashed. It turned out that crash had been in place since March. We're as guilty of it as everyone else. But thankfully after a bit of a panic—there are a few other bits and bobs that people aren't really using here that others find useful that we have actually tested to make sure that they all work properly. The wonders of last-minute testing.

Football Manager 2015 5

PC Gamer: Going from one kind of accessibility to another: charity support. It's obviously very important to you. Does Football Manager help with awareness of organisations like War Child, Special Effect and so on? And would you like to see the wider industry more adoptive of support like yours?

Miles Jacobson: According to War Child they get more clicks from the game to their website than they get from Google. So yes, it does help raise awareness. The way that we've done the Movember stuff this year isn't just raising awareness, it's fun as well—the way that it's implemented in the game. So we'll be looking at doing more of that. We have a lot of eyeballs looking at our game a lot of the time, it would be quite easy for us to sell those to commercial partners, but I would rather that we would use it in the way that we do, which is the leagues get their sponsors in there which adds to the authenticity, then the rest we can give to the charities so that people can learn about it. Even going as far as Louis Tomlinson being in the game, because he's a player for Doncaster Rovers in real life. The deal that we did with Louis is very simple, if you go to Doncaster home games you'll see the ad hoarding of the charity that he's working with in there. It's nice to be able to do little individual things like that as well as big international things like Movember.

PC Gamer: It's actually refreshing to see that.

Miles Jacobson: War Child gets a donation for every game that we sell as well, which is something that was written into the contract when we signed with Sega. We used that clause to help decide which publisher to sign with —we had a bunch of deals on the table, they'd all matched the terms that we asked for, and Sega were the first people to fax back and say 'yes, that's not a problem'. That's one of the reasons we signed with them.


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