When Football Manager Live was first announced I felt a number of emotions. Excitement, scepticism, anticipation, and hope were just a few of those that tickled through my nervous system when I heard the news.
Of course that doesn’t cover the main feeling that was sure to follow. The one that was more powerful than any other, the one that grew every time I heard news or read a preview.
That feeling was dread.
The dread that this
game beast was inevitably going to come into my life and stomp all over it like a some sort of discarded after thought.
That dread came to a wonderful reality a couple of weeks ago when I was invited into the ongoing beta test…
We Go Way Back
Champ Manager has been a part of my life since… well forever. I say Champ Manager because that’s what the franchise was classically known as – before leaving the naming right with Eidos, while taking all the talent a knowledge to the more creative Sega.
It was on the Amiga I first encountered the game. It must have been Championship Manager ’93 that was my first taste. I remember wasting more than a few hours on it, even though I was only 13 or 14. Printing and sharing stats with mates was a favourite way to past time. It looked fairly rubbish, even by 1993 standards, but it sill gave a unique sense of actually controlling a team of professional footballers. That was despite never seeing a player (or even the fan dangled graphical representations that you dont-even-know-you’re-born kids get these days) this was purely text based.
In fact I’ve always seen that as a strength of the series. It’s text based approach is like a very good book. It gives your mind a pointer and then lets the frustrated manager that’s in your imagination fill in the gaps. Other management sims try and take the movie route… movies are rarely as good as the book.
It had a big part to play in my football education. My love of both the game, and the game, grew hand-in-hand. It should be on the Nation Curriculum.
Anyway I could go on for hours, but to sum it up quickly here a few uggets of info.
I’ve played pretty much every version of the game since 1993.
I remember Championship Manager 3 being a massive event. It was the first beta test thing/leak/demo to hit the internet that was really relevant to me. I remember trying for hours to get my modem to stay connected long enough to download the huge 20MB file (or whatever). I think I succeeded around 5am. Ahh student days!
Football Manager 2006 is the most played game on my Xbox 360 with 115 playing days (it’s probably more – the game pre-dates the blog) logged on my Xbox’s 360Voice blog. It’s closest rival is just 55 days. The 2007 version of FM sits at 6th on the list with 28 days (I only bought it late because I still had unfinished business on 2006).
The 2008 version was released for the Xbox on Firday. I would have bought it already… but Football Manager Live came along first.
Then There Was Live
So back to the point of the post…
On Feb 29th I got a very nice (and surprising) email welcoming me to the beta of FMLive. Even though I was on holiday in Scotland celebrating our anniversary I still managed to sign in and found the ‘mighty’ KC Milan.
You get to design a kit (I love that bit, even if it could allow you to be a bit more creative), give your stadium a name, choose your pitch dimensions, select a squad of real life players, and join a federation to suit your playing style.
Once you’re done you are then left to roam wild in a fully real time, on-going, massively multiplayer game of Football Manager (2007 engine apparently). It’s a simple as that really.
I’ve never, ever, had dreams of slipping into a fantasy virtual world of orcs and wizards. Nor have I had any real ambition to have a Second Life where I can go to virtual strip bars to look at 3D ‘women’ that look like Kryten in drag.
I have, however, always found the dream of managing a struggling, penniliess, Rymans League standard team of also-rans and has-beens really, really, appealing!
Bunch of No Marks
I was in a bit of a hurry when I first started the game, and I made the huge mistake of letting the game automatically pick my squad for me. This was partly because I was rushing, partly because I didn’t read things properly, and partly because the ‘wizard’ things it starts you with kind of gave me the impression that it was the only way you could do things…
So my initial rag tag bunch of players were, to put things bluntly (but correctly), properly shite. To give you an indication of the level of crapness involved the only players I had remotely heard of were:
- Mark Tinkler: a journey man who started at Leeds, went to York City, via Hartlepool… now at Livingston)
- Richie Wellens: Doncaster Rovers ‘legend’
- Nathan Eccleston: Actually Nathan is a Liverpool reserves striker… who, to be fair, does have potential
These weren’t the worst players… just the ones I vaguely recognised!
To be fair, there were a few gems hidden amongst them who, although not household names, have proved very handy.
- Marc Stein: A very promising young German wing back who plies his trade at Hansa Rotock apparently. My player potential skills rate him as a 5 star Potential Superstar – he’s well on the way
- Ronald Raldes: a Bolivian international centre back who plays for Rosaria Central in the Argentine Premiership
- Marcel Silva Andrade: A very useful Brazilian attacking midfielder who actually holds the number 11 shirt at Corinthians, which is not bad going really
That was it really. The other members of the 22 man squad were completely unworthy of comment, and I had to start rebuilding the squad from scratch.
I didn’t actually start playing properly until the very evening of the first day of the All Evening Qualifier 3 league season.
So I stumbled into battle with my team… very quickly it was apparent that most other managers didn’t quite have my problems.
I needed to completely rebuild my team, while fighting a long 38 game season… it didn’t really work.
Over the course of the season I brought in no less than 18 new players. Some have been good… some have been shocking.
The thing is that you have a tight budget. A very tight budget. A budget that no only covers acquisition fees, but also wages. A budget that the bank keep a keen eye on.
Games can come along very regularly during a day, so you need to act fast. You can scour the World Player lists looking for free agents, you can do transfers between clubs… but everyone is looking for the same things. You have to act fast, some times that means you can miss things.
My main example would be in the goalkeeper department. I have actually bought in three keepers, the first two were really, really bad. My biggest mistake was Calvin Marlin.
Calvin, in real life, is a South African international – he played at the 2002 world cup. His stats in the game are impressive
- Handling: 17
- Anticipation: 16
- Positioning: 16
- Reflexes: 15
Great stuff, and much better than my current keeper. So I played him for something like 40 games, and to be fair he did have some great matches… but plenty more shockers.
The I noticed something I’d missed in his initial stats.
That’s four out of 20. I had been playing a keeper who, essentially, needed a zimmer frame to move across the goal. He was dropped instantly, and eventually off loaded for £1.
I was so desperate to get someone, anyone, I made that rash decision. I’ve made others too.
There have been some good buys… if not some great business. My biggest star – I say biggest, he’s really my only International class player – is Lionel Scaloni. He’s actually played seven times for Argentina! He cost me £140k, he’s now 30 so his acquisition fee (the games RRP) has dropped to £60k… but even still he’s been a good buy.
Anyway, despite trying frantically to paper over the considerable cracks in the squad, my transfer dabblings failed to make any difference. I finished 19th out of 20. Played 38, Won 5, Drew 6, Lost 27. I also let in 101 goals. The worst result being a 10-4 mauling (in my ‘defence’ I was down to 9 men).
I did however have a decent run in the Cup, picking up a last 16 berth and some much needed cash!
The Future’s Bright
After the first season concluded last week I’ve been on a mission to restructure the side. Having leaked over 100 goals it was obvious the defence needed tightening up.
I ditched my 4-4-2 and headed to the murky depths of 5-3-2 (well 5-2-1-2 if you’re being pedantic). I’ve always hated this formation since Roy Evans introduced it to Liverpool… but it really suits my personnel. Having Scaloni and Stein as the lynch pin wingbacks really works well.
I’m also heavily investing in youth. It might not make any difference now, but long term I think it’s a great way to make cash in the game.
Since introducing the new formation my fortunes have really turned around. Goals leak in a lot less, and I’m actually winning games.
Poor old Calvin’s replacement is really helping.
Marcin Cabaj his name is, a Polish keeper who plays for Polish side Cracovia Kraków. With an agility rating of 15 he certainly doesn’t need his zimmer frame.
All I need now is someone who can consistently stick one in the old onion bag. And a classy central defender. Or two. Or three. And a better, more creative supporting AMC. And DM. And maybe one or two others.
The Life it Sucketh
Normal every day Football Manager was bad enough.
But add in other real people, with a real-time world of teams, leagues, federations, transfers and wheeling and dealings and you have a potent mix.
I wasn’t sure they could pull off the same feeling in this MMO style… but they have. They have great mods keeping everyone in check, so far all of the other
players managers have been very friendly, there is a good atmosphere about the place. It works really, really well.
I’ve only really scratched the surface here. I haven’t even mentioned the skill levelling-up you can do to make scouting, training, physio and other bits easier.
Or the fact that the software is merely a client. I can have a version installed on my PC, a version on my Mac (yes, a native Mac version!) and log into them anywhere and the game just carries on, remembering all your preferences etc. so you can slip straight into it.
I’ve only been playing for about 3 weeks.
When was my last post before this?
This game sucks you in.
When it’s out of beta I will be happily paying my “couple of pints worth” subs to carry on.
I’m sure Claire will be over the moon!