#FM13 – The TC Debate

Let me see if my memory is still good. The tactical creator was first introduced to the game via FMLive in 2008, it was a means to convey fundamental football concepts to the match engine and to allow managers to make quick adjustments without having to fiddle around with the sliders much. Back then, we had quite the number playing the game, and human players playing against each other needed an effective way of adapting to changes in a game, thus the TC was born.

The desktop version of Football Manager adopted the TC as well, and over the years, it has slowly grown, in the form of shouts and roles. 

The TC was released to make the game more realistic, you don’t really expect a manager in real life to tell a forward he is supposed to operate with 15 clicks of creative freedom and 18 clicks of mentality. I have, over the years, tried to explain the concepts of mentality to many people on the SI forums, and its not easy. I remember telling everyone that they should just ignore the numbers and remember 5 broad settings. Ultra defensive, defensive, standard, attacking and Ultra Attacking. Even then that proved difficult.  For anyone playing the game in 2004, the sliders made sense, at least it did to some. The reason why so many people enjoyed the game was simple – downloadable tactics, but to quite a few including myself, the game was too predictable and hardly immersive. I reached a point where all i did was buy the right players, set up me tactic, go on holiday, come back from my break to see my team crowned multiple winners again. Was the game realistic? No.

Being on every beta allowed me to have deep debates with quite a few people, I wanted the game to be much harder, but then when it hit the shelves, many struggled to score. So the challenge was definitely not making the engine harder, but by making the game more approachable. Not many people could understand how one slider interacted with another, and even when I returned to the forums after a 4 year gap, people who claimed to know the engine would explain it wrongly. The fact is no documentation in the world will ever explain the interrelationship between the sliders and real football accurately. There are so many variables at play, and explaining their relationship is going to take more than a post on a blog, it will take an encyclopaedic effort. 

Sliders do nothing more than muddy the relationship, push one slider up and you got to think of the knock on effects to other sliders, and then you have to start observing for the full 90 minutes, change players to see how attributes affect them and finally start looking at other sides..man the time you spend understanding sliders will be so much that its gonna seem like a huge waste of time when a new patch hits. Cos everytime the patch hits, you gotta start analysing again.

Sliders are good for people who know what they are doing, it allows people like me to customize settings, create my lil maradonas or my christianos and messis. It allows me to make some really good systems of play, and I can do that now via the Tactical Creator to some extent. The problem is I can’t do everything, but should I be able to? Lets analyse the situation:

1. Prior to the TC, we had little or no control over training. All we could do was make some cookie cutter builds void of control over their player preferred moves. This meant that we needed the intricate control of the sliders to make a player run somewhere we wanted and come back to defend as well.

Now we have a better training module, you have ppms you can train, such as “get forward whenever possible. plays killer balls, place shot into corner. What this allows us to do now is to create systems of play where our players still do what we want them to do but this time, that little pixel will decide when to do it on the pitch, instead of mindlessly moving to that “X’ spot we could set up through sliders. That in itself makes the game a lot more challenging and more realistic. Now we need to train players or tutor them and if they have the right temperament they will start doing that on the pitch. In FM13 its immediately noticeable the difference ppms now have. Its not a minor change, its a huge change. It makes the game a lot more satisfying and rewarding in the long term as well.

2. Prior to the TC, whenever people wanted to go for the jugular there would be two main options: Either they would modify or ‘tweak” their tactic or they would just use another tactic. Tweaking tactics isn’t just about moving your defensive line up or width settings up, there were some other minor changes you would have needed to make. The best players always had a tactic that had just the right passing settings, and they would understand that changing the dline or the width settings would affect how the ball would move around. Yeah but that wasn’t the majority of players. Quite a few players would just swap tactics. Tweaking tactics was something many avoided, simply because it was beyond them, twas hard.

Now we have the tactical creator with its settings, if you see any manager along the touchlines you will see some of them gesturing. You can do that now on the tactical creator.With a combination of shouts and roles, you can change the way your side plays without fiddling too much. However there is one important caveat. I will not support a pure TC  if we do not have control over individual player instructions. You can take away my sliders I wont miss them, but take away my player specific instructions and I will ball my eyes out.

Only the other day I was playing Manchester City, my stafford rangers side only in their 4th season in the premiership were just 4 points behind them and entertaining them at home. It was a tough ask, they came with their infamous narrow 4231 and I was in two minds, so we started the game narrow and control, cos I knew sitting back for 90 minutes would sink me faster than the Titanic hit by 10 icebergs. I immediately set off to tell my wingforwards to man mark their fullbacks and I told my MCs to close down their MCs. I also pulled my lone forward back and told him to play in a false 9 position. My diamond midfield now ruled over City’s threesome, and soon we were giving as good as we got. City lost that match. Could I have done it purely off TC, without player instructions? No. Could I have done that without modifying my closing down instructions, no.

At the present moment, the Tactical Creator is a really good start. I use it all the time, preferring to opt for the rigid framework, not because of any mythical notion that if you wanted your whole team to defend and attack you go fluid…bla bla bla, No I use rigid cos it makes sense. I have used a rigid framework since 1998. However I made changes to closing down, simply because there are settings on the TC that I needed, but aren’ there yet, and as long as people like me modify it, there will always be a need for the sliders, but in its current form? No.

I do believe that the custom tactical creator has seen its last days and it should be put to pasture, in fact I would be more than happy to have just 5 slider settings or  3 in the case of creative freedom. Remove the sliders but give me the option to tell my player what to do, and let him interpret that via his ppms, attributes and his personality.




One comment

  1. This is a really nice discussion of the TC, and a debate that is well worth having though it comes up rarely in its proper form. I do think it is a step in the right direction – it has definitely pushed me into understanding more and more – and it’s definitely superior to the old system which was just mental. It used to be plug and play tactics everywhere and the level of tactical awareness was probably lower than it is now.

    Your suggestion of a more vague system is, I think, a good one. The key worry for me though is whether SI would be able to code a match engine that only uses 3 or 5 values for each instruction, or whether it would be a case of 20 values behind the hood that would be masked to us users. If it was the latter it would be terrible but if it was done properly we would be playing a supremely realistic Football Manager game.

Leave a Reply