Football Manager Live
|a game by||Sports Interactive Limited|
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Sports Interactive's guru of all things FML, Marc Duffy, believes the reasons behind the game stalling and the subsequent drop off in player numbers are threefold. Firstly, there were the elite players who became unbeatable because of the structure of the game. They sucked up all the best players, both young and old, pricing everyone else out of the transfer market, and dominated everything to do with the game.
"When we did analysis last year," admits Duffy, "we found that most of the teams in the top 100 in any game world had been there since day one, and had accumulated the most money, so there wasn't a hope in hell that anyone was ever going to catch them. This meant nobody wanted to join those game worlds, and if we wanted to keep a game world going for 10,15,20 seasons, we had no chance of attracting people."
Secondly, there was the error in judgement that lead SI, perhaps excited about player numbers in the initial phases of the game's life, to open far more servers and game worlds than necessary. Every time one got to 70% of capacity, another new one would be opened. After a while, players began to leave the older worlds, making them effectively ghost towns where the elite would rule over an empire of few subjects. The new worlds would then be decimated by veteran players employing all the fast-track tactics made popular on servers, leading to the process of domination beginning again.
As you can imagine, when there's no prospect of non-elite players advancing or building even a reasonably successful team, especially when you're paying for the privilege of basically failing constantly, numbers began to slide. The third issue that compounded the other two was that just mentioned: price. The minimum subscription model you could go for was a $28/quarter affair. Players who just wanted to try the game out for a little bit to see if they liked it were left out in the cold somewhat. A year-long subscription for over $70 also proved perplexing to a lot of potential players, who naturally refused to countenance such an outlay on a game. Consider that the majority of Football Manager players play only that game, and maybe a basic selection of blockbuster titles as well, and you can understand the difficulties of pitching a project like FML to them without a short-term trial option.
"When we went for the hard launch in January 2009, that [$80 for one year] was the price every potential player saw and they just went 'I'm not going to pay that much for a game,'" Duffy laments. "The minimum you could pay for was three months, so anyone who just wanted to come along and try out the game had to pay $30. Originally, we wanted the game to cost two pints a month, but it ended up being two pints in Norway rather than the UK." But hope is around the bend, with a new beginning for the game. A reboot that, with all football puns that could be applied to that word ignored, could really lift it off the bench and back onto the online pitch as a viable contender for your readies. For a start, there'll be two ways to play it: Fantasy and Returning Stars. The former is a completely randomised world, where no names are real and only your abilities and list-scouring will be able to sort the Djimi Traores from the Torben Piechniks.
The Returning Stars will be for those not necessarily wanting to compete with the FML elite, with real footballers and a very promising draft system that grants bonuses to new and weak players. Essentially, after every season, certain older stars retire and are reborn in the game at the same age they are in reality, with updated stats to reflect their age.
The players with the worst teams, or who've just entered the game, will get the highest draft picks - the worst team will get the best reborn, and the 10th worst team will be given the 10th best reborn player. Conversely, the best teams and players will be miles down the list, and will get the worst of the reborns, meaning theirs might just be some no-mark.
SI are hoping this and the other changes designed to keep the world vibrant and relatively equalised will encourage people to stay in the game, even if they did terribly in a season.
The addition of youth academies helps this along too. The best teams will not be able to sign all the best players the second they appear in the game, as they'll only be created in clubs' academies, so teams will all have a good chance of unearthing a new Leo Messi. They can then choose to sell them for big money or use them to improve their own team.
This is certainly a step in the right direction, focusing on renewing the challenge every season for all players, experienced, successful or not. New players will feel their big chance will be a season away, while the best will have to deal with surging newcomers looking to strip them of their crowns.
Competition is what is key for a game like FML. Before the reboot, the odds were stacked in favour of those who invested the most time into the game. This time, everyone has a chance - at least, much more so than before. The future looks significantly brighter than it used to for Football Manager Live. Oh, and there's going to be a new 3D match mode too.
Download Football Manager Live
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP