Fixing potential ability, by changing from the word "potential" and using real development.
Potential ability is inherently flawed in that it’s exactly that, a players’ potential. Irrespective of anything else that happens to the player in the game, this it the value that ultimately defines them, defines how he could possibly turn out, and his worth to whatever team he is in. I understand that people view this as the “most realistic” solution, in that a player has a maximum potential in real life, that he cannot exceed regardless of how hard he works and how much he practices. And that’s true, so it’s pointless debating it - that’s where the problem lies; it shouldn’t be called “potential”. Your potential defines you in pretty much every aspect of life. However, potential is impossible to predict. Football Manager is first and foremost football management simulation game. So it occurred to me that something needed to be done to change the way it works, for the progression of the series if nothing else, and to get even closer to realism. The first thing I thought of whilst on the thinking throne, immersing myself in the details on the back of a Tresemme shampoo bottle, was that it would be more realistic to completely remove the concept of PA in the game, putting every bit of change in a player's stats down to experience, training and personal development. This would mean every single player in the game, given the time, could improve equally as much as everybody else. However, this isn't realistic. It would result in people buying players from Hungarian 8th tier clubs because they have stats in the right areas for FM, and developing them into world beaters. The players that everybody knows are going to become top players in real life would not develop as much, simply down to them being left at their clubs stagnating in favour of buying cheaper players and improving them to a much higher level. In that system, it's cheaper and easier to do it that way. So **** that.
Now, the second thing i thought of, and this is what i'm going to ramble on about and try to explain to you now, is that SI stick with a PA system, in a sense - but a variable system which changes depending on a player's development. It would mean better players are still capable of becoming better players, given they do the right things. The "right things" being training, playing, and not having career slowing injuries. Basically anything that doesn't model itself after Ben Foster or Tomasz Kusczack's career. So my proposal is to get rid of the old system in favour of a system that varies throughout the game for every player, and change the way Current Ability works too.
Current FM Mechanics
At the moment the way it works is that a player is born with a PA. If this player plays enough games in a team with the right facilities (I’m not saying top facilities, a player with League 2 potential doesn’t need to be playing for Barca to achieve his potential), good coaches, and playing with/against better players, then he will work steadily towards and even achieve his PA. Conversely however, a player's CA will not reach their PA for many reasons. They could be left rotting in a youth team, rarely play games for their club, have an injury which delays their development or simply be the fact that they weren’t by a club which could help them reach their potential at the right time, with better training, coaches, and better competition. At the moment this hinders a players’ development in a way which will make it impossible for them to reach their potential, but regardless, according to the game, that’s their potential. To give an example, and I’m sure there are lots of different players applicable, and probably even more fitting ones, I’m going to use Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I’m using him because he was the first name i thought of, and as of writing these last two sentences I’m thinking I can apply his story to show both sides of my point. Assume while at Malmo, he was “born” (in FM terms, think of him as a newgen or something) with a CA of 90, and a PA of 135 (it’s massively unrealistic for people to expect a young player playing at a team in the Swedish league to have abilities up there with the best in the world) at 18 years old. He then moved to Ajax, where his development was sped up drastically thanks to the famed Ajax youth academy, facilities, coaches, and players all playing a big part in his development. Over the course of his time in Ajax he developed into one of the most technically gifted players in the world. Obviously, his PA should have changed. In FM however, it wouldn’t have. He would have reached his maximum potential very quickly, and he’d be stuck as good as he could get, unable to improve further. [i’m going to gnore the rest of his history and his real life development for now, this is probably enough to get the point across.]
The other side of the coin however, would be for a young Zlatan back at Malmo to be rated with a CA of 90, and a PA of 180 (assuming the FM people recognised a little (big) Swedish guy had the ability to become one of the best players in the world). In this story, young Zlatan has a good first season, banging in a lot of goals in the league all whilst blindfolded. Loads of bids start coming in for the new superstar, but his club refuse to sell, instead believing he can lead them to becoming the best club on the planet. [One missed opportunity to enhance his development and abilities as a player, by going training at a Ajax with their youth/training setup and everything they have to offer] The start of next season, Zlatan gets injured for 8 months of it. He never regains his form, and his development is massively slowed. He stays in Malmo for a few years, with their not-so-good coaches, their not-so-good facilities, and playing with players far poorer than his potential. A few seasons later, Inter Milan buy Zlatan from Malmo, when he’s 24 because his potential ability is high enough for a team of their calibre. Throughout all of this, his CA would have changed little, thanks to poorer development opportunities, but his PA would still be amongst the highest in the world. Obviously being 24 and having not developed well at his previous club, it's going to be nigh on impossible for him to achieve his potential - given that he will typically start to deteriorate when he hits 30-ish anyway.
My solution would be to completely remove Potential Ability from the game. Well, in name anyway. For now, let’s say everybody has a Maximum Ability Value (or whatever you want to call it - just not potential ability). This MAV will always be a variable value in the editor, defined each time you start a game, and then something which changes dynamically within the game, depending on the original MAV. It would work in the same way a negative value works a the moment in FM. According to forum threads, as of now, a -10 value will give a person a potential ability of between 170-200, and a -9 will be between 150-180. Both being decided each time a new game is created. What i propose however is to simply increase the maximum ability to 400 (for more precision basically), and give EVERY player an MAV value of between 0 and -20; as an example, 20 would give an MAV of between 400 and 380. The way this changes from the current system of PA however, is that it changes. Every player under this system would have his MAV value change depending on his career and how your game goes for that individual, whether he gets the transfer at the right time or is left ignored and never given his shot to play. Of course, when the game is created every player is given a specific integer for his MAV within the parameters of his MAV in the database. Let’s call this Actual Maximum Ability. This number is constantly changing depending on the circumstances in the game. The difference though is this, the players’ MAV range can change by a value of 2, in either direction of the initial MAV it is tied to. Now back to Zlatan; - Zlatan at Malmo, MAV in the editor gives him a value of -17. This means his AMA (Actual Max Ability) will lie somewhere between 340 and 320, at that moment. Now, depending on the course of his career, his MAV could increase (lower) to -19, or fall (increase) to -15. So in reality, depending on how you manage him, or how the game goes if it’s down to the CPU, he could finish his career with a current ability of anything between 380 and 280. Obviously this is a large difference, and so it’s more realistic as to how players develop/fail to develop as expected in the real world.
So, if Zlatan had the perfect career, started at Ajax at the right time, his MAV would increase as the facilities, coaches, players, and competition also increased, aiding his development. His MAV would change as the circumstances do, and so after a while at Ajax his AMA could be in the range of -18’s, rather than the initial -17. And so on and so forth. If he gets an injury, and slows his development, or goes to a big team and gets left in reserves for 2 seasons, his MAV could drop and his AMA would be into the -16 range. By the end of his career, after just not having his chance to shine, he could be playing for Real Betis reserves with an AMA right at the lower end of the -15 MAV range.
Bear in mind that i've not actually done any maths whatsoever, to show any specific change. This is just to explain the basic concept behind the model. If it's any easier, think of the given MAV per player as x, and the AMA given as y. The MAV value could deviate by 2 in either direction, so by the end of the game a player's AMA could be in the range of values decided by (x-2), (x+2), or anything in between. The change makes every development in the game important, and actually matter.
With this system, it would mean that one way or another, a person’s current ability will eventually MEET, so to speak, with his Actual Maximum Ability. It would be down to you or the CPU to decide whether you raise his initial MAV and spend longer developing a player into the monster he could become, depending on how your game goes. It would also change how Current Ability works, in that eventually, a player’s CA will match his Actual Maximum Ability, whether that is as low down on the spectrum as the player could possibly have developed, or higher than initially expected down to good management, and decent loan placements to enhance his MAV. It would probably need a complete revamp of Current Ability, as it wouldn’t work in the same way as it does now. It would be worth looking at CA as simply an indicator of a player’s development, and how far away from his AMA he is.
With the MAV and AMA system, it would mean more people looking at the players’ stats, and imagining what they could become with proper training, and proper development. As CA and PA wouldn’t matter so to speak, only how they are developed within the game. The MAV value is far less deciding of a player's game career than the current PA system. If a player has stats in the “right places” at the moment, he will always be crippled by a low CA and low PA, and be unable to be effective at the higher levels. It still gives players limits, so you can’t train everybody into Batistuta, but also gives a manager more of a say and more input over who becomes what in the game.
Essentially, if you stop dealing with CA as CA and having it only as an indicator of development in relation to the players AMA, and simply deal with the player's stats, it’s like someone saying “here is how good he is now, it’s up to you how much he improves” with only a rough guideline, the rest is down to you. It would lead to a lot more people “taking a punt” on a few lesser known players, and believing they can turn them into something bigger, much like managers do in real life.
Every game would be different following this model, and as far as I'm concerned that would enhance the game tenfold, and increase the immersion/satisfaction level. If anybody's bothered to read any of this rambling, well done. It was probably a struggle.
http://therainbowflick.blogspot.com/ <- I got it from here.