Thursday, 31 July 2008

Judging 'Judging Potential'

One of the key feature sets in FML are the Skills that managers can choose to learn. I've covered these in detail in the past, but what has caught my eye lately is the debate raging on the official forums over one particular skill - judging potential (JP).

For those not in the beta, this skill allows the manager to determine, on a 1-10 scale effectively (from 0.5 - 5 stars) how much potential a young player has; a player with 5-star potential is destined to become world class, with the right training and experience. There are 5 levels of JP skill to learn, with each increase bringing an increase in the reliablity of the shown potential.

In the early days of the beta, there were no skills - and therefore no JP skill. It was hard to tell how good any given youth was, and so teams would sign as many as they could in the hope of unearthing a star. This had two effects: the fierce competition drove up wages for youth players, and teams had massive squads - many of whom never got near a sniff of a game. I remember one FML legend who had over 400 youth players...

This was clearly madness, and then the skills arrived. By learning first some of the 'Scouting' skill (Levels 1 and 2, maybe 3 I forget), and then starting off JP, managers could see which youths had potential. Everyone caught on straight away - everyone started learning JP. What was intended as a boost for youth specialist teams became available to the masses. Teams no longer hoarded so many youths - they didn't need to sign the dross - but competition for players was (is) still fiercesome.

It was clear that JP needed nerfing to some degree, and so SI changed the setup so that you need, I think, Scouting Level 5, which takes I guess 2 (real world) months, before you can begin learning JP - much more of a specialisation. That only applies in the newer Universe 2 gameworlds, so I don't know how well it's worked out - but debate is raging as to whether further nerfing is necessary, or whether JP needs to be removed altogether.

For me, I remember what life was like without it, and I wouldn't want to return to those dark days. But I would like to see it maybe made a little less accurate. Perhaps instead of the current 5 levels, we could have a 3-Level system as follows:

Level 1 (quick to learn): +/- 2 stars
Level 2 (takes a while): +/- 1.5 stars
Level 3 (takes aaaages): +/- 1 star

Signing youth players should be a gamble, progress must not be guaranteed, and I think the current system is maybe just a little too accurate.

Also, the future planned feature of youth academies, which will be added some time after the retail launch, has to be built in here somewhere - how would these work, and fit in with the existing setup? It's going to be exciting seeing what SI have up their sleeves, but this is a key area for many people - they say you never win owt with kids, but in FML, that's not always the case...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Stress Tests

We had another Stress Test in FML tonight - the third I believe, in recent weeks. For those not in the know, these see all the users who log in bundled into one of two random gameworlds, effectively, rather than be spread over loads - the effect is that it makes the game super laggy, and shows SI where all the problems occur.

Tonight, SI were testing out three different configurations, and I managed to get online for two of them (assuming that there were 3, and that all went to plan).

Now I missed the second stress test, as I was away, but things tonight were significantly better than in the first set - and that must be good news for the eventual release date... SI are winning the war on lag - you heard it here first (or near enough :D)

I'm back...!

Well, I've had a lovely week in Cyprus on honeymoon, I've come back refreshed and relaxed, to discover I've had some good news at work, and that the blog is the featured site on the community pages of the official FML site! So I guess that means I have to do more updates!

I'm a bit miffed to discover that FML's oldest and best blog has a rating of 2.5 stars on that there official site, so I'm going to be having a big push to rectify that - what do people want to see covered?

There will be more Blades news tomorrow, when I've had a bit more time to get back into the game and figure out how the hell the Blades now only have 14 players, and how I lost Kilgallon and Bigalke on the cheap whilst away - that wasn't in the plan!

I'm actually tempted to use it as an excuse for a clearout and see what I can achieve on the cheap... I like a challenge!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Apologies once again!

Sorry, I've been neglecting FML and all of you horribly.

I'm getting married on Saturday, and the wedding has become all-consuming - it's going to be a couple more weeks before I get enough time to get into the game to play, let alone find something to write about!

The good news is that SI are really winning the war against lag, and that can only be a good thing. The changes they've made will need properly testing, but if those tests go well - well, surely that's a good thing in terms of whatever their so-far private release schedule is, right? My guess is that when it is declared ready to launch, don't expect much warning.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Maintenance Downtime...

Well, we're having to get used to the message that one or both of the two FML universes (U1 = GW2-7, U2 = GW8-12) is down for scheduled maintenance, as is the case tonight.

SI are throwing everything they've got at sorting out the remaining causes of lag and database lock. When the game launches they are aiming for 99.7% uptime, so this really is the key time in the beta to my mind. SI have deliberately made the lag as bad as possible over the past week, to make it easier to identify the causes. And one thing is for sure - they're winning the battle, and I can't think of many more battles left before release. How long this war will take is the killer question - but they're definitely getting on top.

With SI moving to new forums this week, it means it's unusually quiet from SI. We're used to getting really good feedback as to what exactly is going on, so being out in the dark is a strange experience after over a year in the beta!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Ladder enters Week 2

The Ladder idea that I came up with seems to be really taking off now - we've uncovered a couple of new little bugs, and features that would be needed to make it easier to run in the long term, but for now it's been a great success. The original Daylight Ladder is going well, and I've just appointed Marcin as an organiser to help with the end of competition turnovers.

It's also now being emulated elsewhere in GW4 - the DFA Ladder - and in other GWs as well. There really is a market for this sort of quickfire mobile competition in FML.

Week 1 of my Ladder in GW4 ended with Ash Wonders (Steve Williams, DFA!) as the Ladder Champion, as he won Level 1 on goal difference from Hiltingbury Harriers. FC Bemar and Bogazici Sultans were relegated from the top six, being replaced by Stuart Woods' Hotspurs and fellow mod Dale Honess' FC Coconuts.

The Blades started off in Level 4 in invincible form, but lost our last three to wind up missing promotion by 1 point. Level 4 again this week... Still, at least I avoided the shame of relegation to Level 5, unlike DFA organiser James Aspey's Hackney Rovers... Hehe!

In the DFA Ladder, I had a quick moment of fame as I won the inaugural match to become It. My reign was short lived, however, as I suffered a shock 4-1 home defeat to Steven Foley's Arsenal FC in the next Ladder match.

Foley was quick to gloat that this made him double It, whilst painting a big target on his arse. He's also been It in the Daylight Ladder, and has held that title for three games now... The pressure is mounting on him!

Elsewhere, it's been a good week for the Blades - a good revival in form after switching to 4-4-2 culminated in a victory over 20th ranked Philip Sinkins' FrootLoops last night, firing me into the semi-finals of a senior UFFA competition. I don't remember which one, they all have 'Super' in the title, but it's UFFA so who cares!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Another miserable start

As always, the Blades have made a truly miserable start to the season, with only 1 win and 6 points on the board from our opening 8 games.

The 3-6-1 stopped working as soon as I had competitive fixtures - I was too susceptible to attacks down the wings with long looping crosses showing up defensive flaws. And I stopped scoring, which didn't help.

So, back to the drawing board and a basic 4-4-2 for now. I still think there is mileage in the 3-6-1, but I may have to invest more than £2k per day on wing backs for it to work - and it was superb against the 4-1-2-1-2 narrow diamonds we see a lot of, so I may fall back on it from time to time...

That said, I have actually bought some new full backs - Javier Arizala returned to the club for £750k - half a million more than I sold him to Matalan United for in season 2. Arizala used to play as an attacking ML for me, and averaged 7.26 whilst scoring hatfulls, despite not actually being adept at ML... His weak passing (57% this season) will see him utilised in a more defensive role this time round, but he should still improve my all-round game.

I've also nicked a highly rated DR for around £260k, who's fitted in extremely well. Having wiped the teamsheet clean and picked based on the players' actual performances - i.e. defenders who have been tackling/heading well (75%+ success) - the Blades are now undefeated in five. We'll be hoping that form makes it back to the Premiership games as well though...