Football Manager 16 (FM16) is almost upon us, we have the beta to keep us happy for a bit, so I guess its time for me to crack that open and share my thoughts. First though, an apology.
I have dabbled in the beta, but, some things in life can’t be avoided. There was an exam, I aced it 🙂 I have another…and well, along with all of that I need to play Football Manager, and get back to doing my videos. Out of the gate, the game looks really different, visually its got some new features that have grabbed my attention, and of all things a set piece creator. The tactical screen has seen some changes and I some big options to start various types of save games. It does look cool. I however, always, always zoom in on the match engine. In today’s post, I will share how I analyse the engine and hope that helps. There is a reason why I always spend so much time on the match engine. For one thing, I am looking to see the incremental changes to the match engine.
FM16 isn’t World of Warcraft. It does not do a redesign of class mechanics forcing you to head to the nearest dummy to practice your rotations and then analyse the numbers against a simulator that has done 25000 iterations of the same fight. No, FM is based on football, the rules of football hardly change, maybe an offside change here and there, but tactically the game evolves slowly. When Sports Interactive make match engines, they don’t restart the process each year, they work from the previous build. This means millions of lines of code, and that’s a lot of work. If SI were to make a drastic change to a certain mechanic then the effects will be felt across every sub module in the engine. They are not about to do that. Instead they make incremental changes, they fix what looked off from the previous build and then make enhancements. If some of the shouts don’t seem to work right, they fine tune them. If they feel that a new role is needed, they put it in. I don’t expect the game to see a flurry of new roles, in fact, I hope they don’t do that. There are too many roles as it is at the moment.
When I head into every beta, a plan is hatched in my noggin. I sit down and come up with a testing routine which breaks down the engine. I take every single mentality and work on them, testing them rigorously. I compare how different players do in the same position against the same team. I test each shout separately so that we keep some kind of logical baseline together. The goal of my testing plan is simple:
- Identify any new changes to the match engine
- Identify how roles now interact
- Assess the defensive line and closing down settings
- Evaluate how individual instructions to key positions affect how the team works together
If the testing plan throws out a bug, I report it, if I feel that certain defensive/offensive plays don’t work well, I report it. And then I jot down everything I’ve learnt and repeat the whole process again. Finally when all thats done, I do it again, and again. It sounds boring right? There is a reason why. I want to understand the match engine, see how one change here affects something there and finally get all set up for a career game when the game actually launches. By then I am off on massive winning runs. What are the things I do specifically
1. Start a game on FMT mode
I only pick up the full sim game once I am satisfied with the match engine, and I can begin work on the training modules. FMT allows you test tactics out without worrying about gelling. So each change you make should give you a specific result. If you have set the team to overlap and they don’t then you know its time to change players. If after changing players you realise it’s not happening then it’s time to look at roles and mentality. FMT is the best baseline, you do not test the engine on full sim, you just don’t have the time. PPMs and training play a part, but the part isn’t big enough for me to warrant time on full sim
2. Choose the Right Team
I can’t emphasize how important this is. In order to test effectively you need to have a balanced team. So pick a side from the top flight and choose a title contender or someone who is on the cusp. In order for you to see match engine changes, you need to make sure your players technical ability isn’t the issue. It should take you around 10 games to suss things out.
3. Choose a tactic you know
This is not the time to go around messing with tactics, pick one you know well, and make sure its a balanced tactic. Meaning you don’t use a 4231. The 4231 is not a balanced system, you pick something that can actually control two areas of the pitch well. The 4231 requires a lot more micromanagement in a beta. Once you have picked a tactic, test it on defensive through to attacking. Make slight changes to roles to see how your players do. Look for things like how your midfield returns to cover. If you find that your midfielders or fullbacks don’t, and instead go in too early to close down, look at their roles carefully. I guarantee you there is something that’s going to change their closing down. Already I am getting feedback from others who insist fullbacks aren’t closing down, but I’ve managed to make them track their targets, but in some cases I’ve noticed they are too narrow. So there is something wrong there, cos its pointing me to an exploit already. If you know your tactic well, you will spot where things are not working the way they are supposed to.
4. Make minimal shout changes
This is really important, if you start a game with anything more than 1 shout, you are doing something wrong. Start with one shout, see how that works before you make other shout changes. And if a shout doesn’t work, look at the players in question. Could their attributes be working against the shout? If you want to overlap, but your players condition is low or their acceleration is low, then these could be other reasons. Adopt a PDCA attitude when you want to make changes. Plan, Do, Check, Act, Keep a notebook handy and log everything down. Its gonna be massively helpful when you start the full game later.
5. Play at a speed you can see enough on
If you are going to choose a good speed to suss things out, then nothing less than extended. If you want to play on key and then complain things aren’t working out well, then no-one will be able to help you. Watching it on the longer highlights allows you to see the effects of all changes. It gives you time to think things through. The time you invest will be well spent
6. Report Issues
If you find that there is a massive crash or an big bug, do us all a favour and report it. We are all playing a beta and every small bit counts. Furthermore you can use the time to share your thoughts with others on the forum. More minds make for less work.
The list is quite short, there’s a lot more that I do each season. I even test the same thing out against the same team over and over again, during a beta only. Once the full game comes, I won’t have the chance, and I am dead serious about over performance then. So everything I learn now has a massive impact on how well I do later. I will be doing more posts in the next coming days about the game. I do hope that some of this information was helpful and will be handy in the long run. If you didn’t find it useful and you’ve been reading till this point – a big thanks nonetheless. Time for FM16.