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Championship Manager interview

Everyone here at Thunderbolt Games knows I’m a huge fan of Championship Manager, so when I had the chance of interviewing the managing director of Si Games, Miles Jacobson, the red carpet was rolled out and I eagerly awaited the arrival of his limo. Not only is Miles in a high position at the company who makes the godfather of football management sims, but he’s also quite a good scout in the game itself, and I had to shake his hand and thank him for his services at Accrington Stanley during my 12 year stint as manager. Yes, I was that attachedÖ

Did you and SI Games have any doubts about CM4 with the way a lot of heritage in the series (like a print screen function and the first inclusion of the match engine) were left out?

Some of the features from the CM3 series were deliberately left out, and some were mistakes, but we did our best to rectify them as soon as possible if we thought that they were important. With hindsight, CM4 should have been better, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Would you ever see fit in the near future to release a Football Manager title with a 3-D engine, aka LMA Manager?

We won’t ever say “never”, but certainly not in the near future. We think it’s important to be able to see the whole pitch to be able to manage properly, as it’s not just about what your forwards are doing, but how the other players are supporting the attack, and how the attack supports the defence etc.

Does the development team plan to use real sponsors such as Reebok and McDonalds in future releases?

We’ve often had partnerships in the past, but we’ve no current plans to put ad hoardings into Football Manager or our other titles. I’ll bold up the stuff later.

In Football Manager 5, will the compare player option remain? And if so will it offer an objective star based summary instead of just giving everyone a top mark for their position (ie saying Ronaldo is as good at playing up front as Chris Sutton)?

There are going to be various compare player options in Football Manager 2005, including coach reports on the whole squad, rather than just individual players. You can compare players by whether they are better than each individual skill, or get coach reports which will mark players in stars as you suggest.

Surely after the speed issues of CM4 and CM03/04, compared to previous installments, is the processing time high up on the priority list?

We are working on optimizing our existing codebase for Football Manager, and are expecting a decent speed increase. However, we will not lower functionality and features for the sake of speed ñ our games are incredibly complex, and the amount of maths that are calculated for each tiny transaction and shortlisting is immense, but, without it, the realism goes out the window, so it’s a very fine line to balance.

Are there any plans to release beta versions of Football Manager for fans to test the game instead of patch after patch after patch being released? We don’t all have broadband to download 45MB updates in seconds!

We released a beta demo with CM4 for fans to try out, and I would expect that we’ll do some form of beta testing offsite (it may be a closed beta though). We do make our patches available on coverdiscs for people who don’t have broadband aswell, and will continue to support our games in the future in the same way as in the past ñ surely it’s better to have patches than not?

Will there actually be improvements to the media influence in FM5? Comparing CM4’s efforts to number 3 there seemed to be a step backwards rather than forwards. Will fans see the type of headlines in-game as in real life (ie the enormous speculation of Sven leaving England)?

I disagree with you about the media comparison with 3 & 4 ñ I thought the media in 4 was much better. Football Manager 5 will have loads more media stuff in it, including a manager mind games feature, which is looking really sweet at the moment. We’ve looked at every part of our previous titles to see what can be improved upon in the codebase, and are working very hard at making Football Manager 2005 the best football game from SI to date.

Given the centralised tactical ploy in CM3 and the ‘darting midfielder’ in CM4, is there any way for computer managers in FM5 to see this danger and try to shut out the threat? If Oskarsson put three past Tim Howard in ten minutes at Old Trafford in real life I could expect Alex Ferguson to be up on the touchline changing things around instead of letting the Icelandic wonderkid run things in midfield!

You can do that in our previous games though ñ you just go into the tactics and tweak them, whether that be with man marking, or going more defensive, or whatever. There will be more tactical options in FM than in our previous games, as we are working on every area of the game.

Where can FM go that CM hasn’t been before? Will we see inflatable bananas thrown onto the playing field before kick off? Dancers in the centre circle to provide half time entertainment? Managers throwing boots at star midfielders? You already have us pacing up and down in front of our PC monitors swearing at numbered circles racing round on a pitch!

You’ll have to wait until later in the year for all to be properly revealed, but we have already announced a host of new features for the game over and above previous SI titles. We’re very excited about FM.

Do you see Sports Interactive making games about other sports in the future?

We have an Ice Hockey title, Eastside Hockey Manager, coming out in the Summer, and we are looking at other proposals at the moment. Any growth into other sports will be organic, rather than rushing head first, as we need to ensure that we are working with the right people.

And the million dollar question- will Xbox fans ever see another version of FM on their beloved consoles? Even a watered down CM03/04? Please? Pretty please?

We are likely to make titles for consoles in the future, but how long or which consoles are currently undecided. We’re concentration on making EHM and FM great games for PC and Mac at the moment, and will announce our console plans when we know what they are!

Thanks for your time, and good luck with the series! You have every fan’s continued support!

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

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