Thursday, 24 April 2008

New Living Logo!

Well, you've seen the end of the logo sequence but have you seen the whole thing?

FML has a snazzy new living logo - which you can find here. I know the funny looking guy who appears second is a certain Mr Richard Tebbutt, who is formerly of GW2 and now a mod on GW6. I saw Chris Holman on there too, who many of you will know as a GW2 mod.

I put a picture in, so I may be on there as well - not noticed myself yet, but I'm sure some of you will recognise my trademark bright red T-shirt if it is there!

Tactic Skills - my verdict so far...

So the update landed yesterday, and I've been messing about with the new tactics skills - I've detailed these in a previous blog, and here's a picture for 'Tactics 4' to show a bit more about what the story is:

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Now I have to say, it's been controversial, but not nearly as bad as I expected - a lot of people see the positive side to it.

For me, I think they've got serious potential - I used the setup assistant to become a 'blackboard manager', which meant I got Tactics 1, 2 and 3, and 4 other tactics skills straight off... which gave me most of the basic functionality. This level of ability gives me 7 notches on the instruction sliders, which is all I ever wanted anyway - while people who feel the need for more can train their skills up for each slider quite quickly to get 11, 15 or 20 notches (I think). So I get what I want, they can get what they want - genius!

As I've said before, the skills are all about team specialisation - so if you want to be a tactical whizz, fine - but you'll have to spend a wee bit of time getting the skills first, just like I will for my youth academy...

As for the tactic skills, well I'm giving them some time to settle in, and I'll give full feedback in good time - maybe some more skills should come with Tactics 1 (that unlocks the team instructions sliders, maybe it should unlock set piece takers too?), maybe some could be combined... but all in all, great so far for me.

One other new feature that stuck out for me is the new activity stuff. This can be a bit of fun, but also can be helpful for identifying when an opponent is likely to be online:

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One thing is for sure - I need to get out more!

Monday, 21 April 2008

The financial lowdown...

I've found out more info on the new finance system in FML, with regards to how it handles debt - I'll hand over to Ov Collyer, and quote what he said...

Ok, here is how it works with the recent changes.

- every club now has an overdraft facility (OD) that starts at -100k and after 7 days of signing-up, starts rising at the rate of -25k a day up to a maximum of -1M. NB it will only rise (at midnight) if the club is within their current overdraft limit. A team restarting has their OD reset to -100k.

- interest is now paid on all debts, whether you are within your overdraft limit or not and interest (both credit and debt) is now factored into your financial projection, which it wasn't before.

- the bank will veto you if, at any time in the next 28 days, you will exceed your allowed overdraft. This is different from previously where it would compare your balance *after* 28 days and check if it was better than -100k. This old method meant that a newcomer could go into significant debt (almost -2M) rightaway, which isn't sensible.

- the transfer budget displayed is now basically showing 50% of the amount you can spend before your bank will veto. This is to encourage prudence - you can still spend up to your veto limit but the risk is that if you do you will effectively be making a loss, so it's more sensible to encourage a little bit of cautiousness and the transfer budget simply halves the amount.

- you will only go into administration or receivership if you are -2M in debt AND your projected cash (after 28 days) is also worse than -2M.
So hopefully that will help us all out when the time comes on Wednesday...

  • FAQs
So the projection won't be important any more?
That's not correct - it will look for the minimum level over the 28 days now, not just the final figure.

How will this affect existant managers?
Anyone who has been in the game long enough will have the maximum -1M OD limit.

Another down-and-up season for the Blades...

It was the same old story for the Frecheville Blades this season - a disappointing first half of the season raised the spectre of relegation firmly in the minds of fans, only to be followed by what can only be described as title form in the second half lifting the team into mid-table obscurity. Just like last season.

A big part of the revival was down to the shift to a 3-5-2 formation, and the signing of some key new players - young midfield sensation Jose Barrera has come in for a massive £3M to give some more quality alongside Tim Borowski, while two free agents have really shored things up. Du Wei has given some aerial prowess at the back which had been missing for a long time, while Foster Amadi's amazing goal haul really helped out - something like 14 in 17 at the end there while covering for the injured Jimmy Briand.

Anyway, here's the final table:

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An improvement on last season for sure, and I only just miss out on UFFA football next season - though maybe if someone has been inactive I might scrape a place... The problem is still up front - goals still too hard to come by for the Blades.

Big changes afoot!

Cluster 2 (gameworlds 4, 5 and 7) will be seeing some big changes in the FML universe this week:

  • It's update week
We'll be getting the latest FML code, hopefully on Wednesday - at this stage, we're getting closer to retail so there won't be too many 'wacky' changes or massive new features, but SI have been busily beavering away at solving lag/freeze issues, so hopefully that will improve an experience that is already pretty good in my opinion.

  • Tactics Skills
This will be the contentious issue of the week - I've discussed these in the last post I made, but this is the week we get to get hands-on. We have to remember that a new user coming in to a new gameworld, such as at retail, probably won't blink an eyelid at having to learn skills for tactics. I for one am looking forward to improved default tactics!

  • Injuries
It's long been a bugbear of mine that we do not see anywhere near enough injuries in FML - typically there have been about 0.5% of attached players out injured at any given time, which means teams can get away with running 16 man squads and avoiding games when 1 player is out injured. The update will raise this to around 4%, which is a much healthier figure - still low for real life, but should bring something of a challenge. I've heard rumours that the number of training injuries will be lowered in the near future, so most injuries should be in-game ones that stick. The likelihood of an injury sticking changes with activity, so casual and hardcore players should see similar rates - neither will be advantaged or disadvantages, like now.

  • Finances
We'll also be seeing some big changes in how the game handles debt. Many of the batch of managers added last week really struggled with the finances, and got themselves into debt - often having to restart having just bought their favourite player in real life, even though they couldn't afford him. Once I've figured out what the deal is, I'll post back here.

  • Cluster revamp
The fundamentals of how FML clusters are arranged and the overall architechture are being revamped. The bottom line for Cluster 2 is that our hardware is going to be moved into the Cluster 1 enclosure.

The knock on is that we'll be getting code weekly like Cluster 1 (and in some cases more than once per week). This is not expected to lead to any slowdown for users.

  • Forums
The FML forums will also be getting a new skin and there will be snazzy new logos coming which will wow you all, I'm sure. I've seen the work-in-progress new skin, and it's very nice indeed.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Tactics Skills...

Well, the cluster 1 gameworlds (2,3 and 6) have been in mild uproar this after SI decided to trial a new system, whereby managers have to learn skills in order to unlock certain tactical options. So to be able to import a tactic from FM would require you to learn all five levels of the overall 'Tactic' skill - I've heard that takes around a month.

I can see where they are coming from - such an action levels the playing field early on in the life of a gameworld. While people are still finding their feet, being limited to use of new and improved default tactics takes away some of the complexity, and the likelihood of being thumped by some idiot playing some uber-exploit tactic.

It also adds to the team specialisation part - you want to be a tactical wizard? Fine, great... but you have to learn the ropes, just like the wannabe scouts and coaches.

However, adding the skills in to already-established gameworlds - taking the manager's toys away, temporarily - was always going to be controversial. A lot of noise was made at first, and as time has gone on, people are starting to see the light and the sense behind the idea. For me, safe in my cluster 2 world with all my nice options? I think it's potentially a great idea for a new world...

Friday, 11 April 2008


Starting off in FML comes as quite a surprise to some FM players - instant success is no longer almost guaranteed, no matter how badly you crave it. I saw this post by FML creator/god Ov Collyer on the forums, and I thought I should share it...

"[FML] is not FM, you cannot expect to achieve success right away - if you did, this would undermine the efforts of those who have built their squad gradually and make the game farcical.

That may be a turn-off for some people, but I suppose the aim of FML is not simply to succeed, it's as much about participating in a virtual world, exchanging banter with other managers, having a say in the running of your Football Association (or even running one!), and, as we evolve the game in the future about building up your club off the pitch too.

Whereas in FM we've stuck to a fairly narrow focus established back in the early days - you are a football manager, and we try and simulate that as best we can - with FML we can throw off these shackles and let you do all manner of things like build stadiums, statues of your legendary players, and all manner of other things we've got lined up post release.

If you only get enjoyment from FM when taking on one of the big teams and using their unlimited pockets to sign the best players in the World then you'll need to take a different approach in FML because it is a different game." - Ov Collyer
Wise words indeed.

Thursday, 10 April 2008


The hot topic of the moment in FML is discipline, and how it should be enforced in an environment where people are paying for the pleasure of playing.

The system we've got at the moment is a series of procedures that we should follow: a quiet word, an official warning, yellow cards and red cards - a red card is a short ban from the game. This works quite well in beta, as naughty users enter into the chain of punishments at various stages depending on the nature and severity of what they've done wrong.

The best tool of course is the game itself - most things that people might do 'wrong' have been coded out. The main problem we see these days is with the in-game chatrooms - 'The Lobby' is intended as a room for general chat, but in GW4 it has become a mildly intimidating place for most people, ignored by most due to a small number of users 'dominating' it. How to police something like this?

The first point is evidence - we can get access to chat logs, but it's quicker and easier if a user sends us a copy of anything dodgy. Abuse is not tolerated, and the punishment varies - if we can prove a user has been racist or xenophobic, they can be removed from the beta straight away. As a mod, I have no economic interest, so I'd be happy to request account deactivation come retail also, though the decision would be escalated then to a 'supermod' at SI/Sega admin.

The difficulties really are with offences under the label 'undermining a mod' - these are the people who can make a mod's life miserable. Constant backchat, personal abuse, unfair criticism - it's all in a day's work. The mod manual lists this as Medium (first instance) to High Severity (second instance) - persistent is a banning offence, so for Medium I'd be looking at an official warning or yellow card. Offenders immediately plead innocence, maybe that it was just a joke and subsequently any punishment from the mod suddenly looks heavy-handed.

I fear that we will be getting to study this in the beta test a bit more closely yet.

Friday, 4 April 2008

New blogs

The FML community is really getting going, and there are some great new blogs about - check out these guys: Nevermore FC, technosportivo, Monkeys Rovers and Penguin Warriors.

Great to see so many blogs up and running, though mine is the oldest and obviously therefore the best!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Solid start to season

The Football Associations got underway in GW4 on Monday night, with things much easier to organise than ever before. The extra 24 hours of peace and quiet for organisation, added to all the new mods made it much simpler than ever before.

One new feature is the requirement for all FA competitions to be approved by a second moderator, and this has proved valuable - a number of errors were picked up, and sorted prior to launch. Some still slipped through, but that was inevitable with such a massive shift in user numbers and consequently FA league and cup structures - they aren't catastrophic problems, and can be sorted for next season.

The other big scandal of the week has been player aging - a bug has prevented players aging over the past couple of seasons, and it was finally time for them to catch up to the correct age, so SI made the change, and it caused a few angry heads in GW4, since our FAs had just kicked off, and some teams now found themselves in U21 leagues with squads that contained players who were 22 or 23. People have to remember though - it's a beta test, and that's another bug fixed - and something that won't happen in retail. Also, GW4 doesn't exist in isolation - the bug was fixed just after our fed season launch, but it's still off-season in a number of other gameworlds - GW7 in particular. So while it's meant a few short-term ballaches for us, it's for the greater good.

The final mention for 'solid start' is for my Blades side - I've made a decent start, losing 3-1 in a close game to James Aspey's giants Hackney Rovers, ranked 8th in the world, and picking up decent wins over a couple of other top sides - when I logged off last night, I was 3rd in the DFA Premiership. It'll never last.

One of the wins was over a manager who's been grumbling on about the match engine for a few days - playing against him, I was able to discover that he's playing some particularly daft and unrealistic tactics. Go figure...