Football Manager Live
Imagine a world where football as you know it doesn’t exist. A world with no professional football clubs; No Manchester United, no Barcelona and no A.C Milan. In their place are hundreds of unknown teams, all on an equal starting block, ready and eager to make their name in the world. This world exists and it’s here in the form of Football Manager Live.
Football Manager Live or FML to its friends, is a subscription based football management game, similar to its sister title, the hugely successful, long running Football Manager series. Since 1992 (then under the Championship Manager title) the series has been praised for its accurate representation of the beautiful game, along with its highly addictive gameplay. FML continues this tradition but makes the subtle change of playing against real people instead of the computer. When I say playing against real people I’m not talking about 32, 64 or whatever pathetic number an FPS pits you against, no I mean 1000; that’s right FML is an MMO.
“I’m not talking about 32, 64 or whatever pathetic number an FPS pits you against, no I mean 1000”Starting off by choosing one of the many gameworlds to play in, it’s your task to create a new football club, deciding on the name, designing the kits and even creating an emblem from the games official website or via uploading a picture from the computer. Once all that’s out the way it’s down to the business of creating a squad, with each starting club given £500k. That might not sound a lot but then players don’t have real world prices; with the likes of Ronaldo costing £3.5m it’s clear that you can get a fairly competent squad for your money. Managers can either choose to sign a group of players themselves or opt for a balanced pre-made squad of 18. Choosing the latter option gives the 18 players 24-hour provisional contracts, so if there’s anybody not up to your high standards, they can be removed from the squad and the money for the player put back into the bank account.
Once the initial squad is sorted it’s time to choose an FA. Each gameworld has several FAs to choose from and aim to put similar managers together, forming their own league structure and cup competitions. For instance the Casual Weekend FA is for players who mainly play at weekends, but don’t want to play too many league games. Where as the Extreme Primetime FA is for people who primarily play in the evenings but want to play more league games. Interestingly, official leagues and cup competitions are likely to make up only a small fraction of the games you play. Spread out over a period of a month with 1 week for pre-season and 3 weeks to play all the matches, there’s plenty of time to get involved in unofficial matches. In fact if you pay regularly most matches will be friendlies, or even community competitions and leagues, which can have their own prize money. These matches can take place against anybody in your game world regardless of FA. As FML is a world for living, breathing people, it’s clear that managers are going to come and go. To make sure leagues and competitions carry on, each match has a fixture date that means that the match has to be concluded by a set time. If the game hasn’t been played by this date, the next active manager to sign in gets the rights to play the game without the opposing manager who is replaced with AI. If neither manager turns up then the fixture is resolved with both managers replaced by AI.
One thing to remember is that the game works in real time. When a player is injured they are out for hours not weeks, player contracts last months not years and wages go out daily not weekly. All this means that each gameworld is a hive of activity, with matches always being played, prize money always being won and players always being signed. In fact it’s so active that you can sell a player before going to bed and wake up the next day to see that he has already been sold again.
“You can sell a player before going to bed and wake up the next day to see that he has already been sold again”To counteract the obvious exploit of buying and selling players quickly to make a fast profit, the game has implemented tax. For the first seven days of owning a player 100% of the profit is taken away if he is sold on. It is then reduced by 5% each day until you can keep 100% of the profit. This keeps everyone on a more even playing field for longer by forcing players to have a similar value of assets. Sadly, It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when you see one of your players in an auction go for £100,000s more than you paid and knowing that you’re not going to get a penny of it. Auctions aren’t the only way to buy and sell players. Indeed there is the transfer list or you can approach a manager privately. Talking to another real person means that negations are a lot more involving, with proposals and counter proposals happening instantly between both parties. Spending a few minutes resolving a negotiation is extremely satisfying and it’s a prime example of why playing against real people is so much better than playing against a computer.
One thing that is completely new to Football Manager is the idea of leaning skills. The idea is similar to that of RPGs, with different categories of skills available so you can customise your talents as a manager. At the start of the game you’re given the chance to become a specialist in one area, which instantly unlocks of few of the skills in that field. There’s a skill set for every aspect of football management, from coaching, to business and everything in between. Annoyingly however, there’s also a skill set for tactics. What this means is that at the very start of the game you are given absolutely no tactical choices. You play a straight 4-4-2 formation with preset instructions. It can then take a few days for you to become able to play a style of football you like.
One of the most exciting prospects of FML is that it’s an evolving game. Sports Interactive Games, the company behind the title are constantly looking at improving the game. At the time of writing the most recent addition are stadiums, which are designed around the different types of fans that require their own seating type. Thus making it crucial that you design the stadium with the correct seating, to get the highest attendance and the most money. Speaking to Sports Interactive they also have lots of plans for future updates, including the addition of player camps where a manager can set up his own training facility and charge other managers to send their own players there. With that in mind it’s clear that FML is game that will offer hours of gameplay for years to come, with each new addition adding another dimension to becoming a successful manager.
Of course all of the above goes to scrap if the actually community that plays the game is rubbish. Thankfully I’m happy to report that in my experience the people playing the game are brilliant. In all my matches I’ve never had any abuse or experienced unsporting play. Each time I’ve requested help via the in game help chat room I’ve always received a speedy reply either from one of the in game moderators or other managers. Heck, I’ve even discussed Alan Shearer’s shirt when Match of the Day was on in the lobby.
“Heck, I’ve even discussed Alan Shearer’s shirt”Football Manager Live is a wonderful and addictive game and a must have for any armchair manager. The depth of the gameplay is still unrivalled and any little niggles and annoyances the game contains are small fry compared to the successes the game has achieved. In fact SI may have shot themselves in the foot here, after playing FML for far too many hours already, I’m not sure I could go back to playing the Traditional Football Manager series, dealing with a computer isn’t enough anymore.