Thursday, July 03, 2008
Football Manager Live
I'm in the beta for Football Manager Live, and as there is no NDA and the game is supposed to come out this summer (published by SEGA), I'd like to tell you about it. First of all a warning: This is a football (soccer, not the US version) manager game. If you expect lots of action or beautiful graphics, you're in the wrong genre here. The fanciest graphics you'll see in FML are a bunch of dots running over a 2D football field. Lots of the gameplay has you poring over stats, with all the graphical charm of an Excel spreadsheet.
So why would anybody play something like this? Because the first football league was founded in 1888, now they have 120 years of experience in how to make balanced and fun PvP, and FML is using the best of this experience to make their player versus player game balanced and fun. Not playing often? Playing rather badly? No problem, you'll end up in a league with people like you, and will still have fun in games where you actually have an even chance to win.
The developers, Sports Interactive, have a series of single-player games called Football Manager 2008 (2007, 2006, etc.), so they drew on a huge database of real-world football players' stats. You start out with a limited budget, so even if you know the best players, you can't simply grab them early, because you can't afford them. Instead you'll have to make do with lesser players, build up a team, determine tactics, join a league, and play lots of friendly and league games. The fun is when you see how your decisions made a difference. If you after long consideration finally decided to spend a bigger bundle of money for a new forward center and he shoots two goals in the next match, it is great joy. There is still luck involved, and you can't do all that much to influence a match, but you can change tactics or substitute players and hope that helps. Even if you're not a big fan or expert of football (and I'm not) you can have great fun in Football Manager Live.
There are around 1,000 players per server, in many different leagues, and bidding for the same pool of real-world players. The game has elements of fantasy football, an EBay-like auction system, a football manager game, and role-playing elements where you increase the stats of your manager. And of course with many people online at the same time in the same game, you can chat, make friends, or discuss strategy.
League systems in other games have often failed due to the difficulty of getting players online at the same time to play their league games. FML solves this elegantly by giving you a number of days to find your opponents, after which the match can be done in the absence of one or both players, just using their standard team setup and tactics to determine the outcome. But it also tries to get people to be able to play a maximum of matches with both players online, by grouping them into leagues based on preferred playing time. So you'll state at what times you're most likely to be able to play, and the game finds a league for you with people with similar preferences.
Right now the game is in stress test beta. That can be annoying, because the devs deliberately overload the servers, so you have bad lag, or the server crashing just when you were about to win a match. But this is because they put 4 gameworlds on one server, which they won't do in the release version. I'm already having lots of fun, and I'm considering paying a couple of months for the release version when it comes out (the game will be free to download). Might be just the thing while waiting for WAR and WotLK. But as I said, I don't recommend it for everybody. But if you ever played and liked a football manager single-player game, FML is well worth checking out.