One topic that's come up for discussion a couple of times already today is that of signing players, be it at game launch (how will I compete if the early sign-ups hoard all the stars?) or via dodgy dealings (how will I compete if everyone else is cheating?). So let's have a chat about that.
The Transfer System in FML
First we need to understand the transfer system; I guess maybe not all that read this will be familiar with it.
FML's transfer system lies somewhere between eBay (or any other web auction site, of course), fantasy football and reality. Essentially, each player has two demands - one is for his daily wage, and one is his acquisition fee; the fee that a user must pay the bank to sign a free agent. Once a player is signed, he can be wheeled and dealed in the transfer market, sold to private bids etc. for however much someone is willing to pay...
The Initial Squad
Once a user gets into the game, if they want to sign a free agent, they will have to (a) start a 24-hour wage auction, which if they win they then (b) pay his acquisition fee to the bank. Simple. However, at startup, they can sign any free agent immediately for the acquisition fee. So, what stops early birds hoarding all the best players?
Initially, you're only given £500,000, and allowed to spend £100k maximum on wages. This is not a lot of money - last time, I got Tim Howard in goal, and a load of other players best described as 'promising'. Or terrible, one of the two. Anyway, the acquisition fee and wage demands of anyone half decent are pretty high, and make the initial squad quality pretty limited. Furthermore, with the recent addition of the skills system, users can no longer see all of the players in the gameworld. Finally, not all players are released into the world straight away; many are held back for new users who join later - every new user sees 25 players released into the gameworld.
All of this means that it doesn't matter when you join up - there will always be players to sign, and some of them will always be decent. Months of tests have also shown that it is perfectly possible to come into a world late and be successful.
So what about all them dodgy, scheming cheats then? One of the key roles of the beta test has been to hunt all the possible exploits in the game, and eliminate as many as possible. The result is a pretty rigid transfer system - the loan system in particular is mildly bizarre, to say the least, but it is satisfactorily functional, does its job, and is designed to limit exploitation.
There have been dodgy dealings, of course, but these invariably get rooted out. As a moderator, one of my jobs is to check transfer dealings - e.g. compare player acquisition fees to their transfer fee, and so on. We have tools at our disposal for this, and can request chat logs if needed. However, our biggest weapon is the user - practically all the players are shortlisted by someone somewhere, and they get a news item after any deal goes through on one of their listed targets. Users certainly when something stinks, and let the mods (and sadly, usually everyone else) know straight away. The mods then have the power to investigate and, if necessary, punish users. It's something SI seem to take incredibly seriously, and for my part, I'm pretty confident that cheats never prosper in FML.