I understand that there are many kinds of threads like these that have already been posted but this is quite a lengthy post and I wanted to get peoples reaction, whether it was for and against. I would first like to point out that I have bought every Football Manager game there has been and many of the Championship Manager games, going back to 01/02, and have loved them all. I know the people at SI do a great job and work extremely hard and Sports Interactive are on of the few genuine companies out there who I have great respect for and one of the few where I actually pre-order the games. I would also like to add that this is not a rant or anything like that, just an analysis of my thoughts and feelings of a game I love and if anyone wants to add something please keep it respectful without arguing . However it must be said that I feel a growing disappointment with each new game that comes out.
First of all I would like to discuss the most recent edition of Football Manager, FM12 as an example of my points. I believe that FM12 is the best version of Football Manager ever released. It was a great game which I have played a lot (too much) and have rarely had problems. However I was recently looked at the announcement for FM12 and realised how little had changed and how small the improvement of these features had added to the game. When you first see the announcement everybody is excited for the new version at the prospect of the features, however once you've played the game for a while you realise how much smaller the features are in reality.
The main improvements with FM12 were transfer and contracts, scouting, 3D match engine, tone, add/remove leagues, tone and the tutorial according to the announcement. I personally look at these improvements and after many hours of FM12 realise how little they impacted the game.
The transfer and contract improvements resulted the user being able to "lock in" certain conditions to get a better deal or because of financial constraints. I will admit this feature was handy but to be called a main feature on the official announcement is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. I'm sure that there was work behind the scenes to create a more realistic result for the user but with continuing problems such as the 48 month transfer method (although now sorter in FM13 I believe) and poor AI squad building with regards to transfers, this hardly scratches the surface with improving the transfers and contracts
The 3D match improvements are a yearly upgrade of a very important part of FM. However me, along with many other users, are always disappointed with the end result. Whilst the improvements are always handy and noticing a new animation is quite nice, it never seems enough. I understand that FM will never look like FIFA but I don't want that and realise it will never happen. The 3D match engine was introduced in FM 2008, around four years ago and I don't feel that the presentation has changed that much. Although hard to find a good quality video, have a look at FM2008's match engine compared to the new FM13 videos. The level of improvement disappoints me a little as I feel that for such a core part of the game no big enhancements are present, just little tweaks. I do recognise that the number of people working at SI is very small compared to other big AA companies but there just isn't enough to justify four years of work. We haven't had proper blogs on the new match engine so my comments are a little premature but I am working off of what I have seen so far, although the same tweaks seem to be apparent. The new engine is a result of two years of work but focusses on ball physics. I can't say that this was on my first list of priorities with regards to the match engine but I am being a little harsh here as no blogs have been released yet with information about this so I hope I am pleasantly surprised.
Some other "main features" were the tone system and scouting improvements. For a start I'm not even sure where the improvements are to the scouting. Sure the report screen is more detailed but apart from looking at the stars and personality I don't use any more of that screen. The tone system was nice but it falls into another trap of repetition (same with press conferences). I find myself only using a couple of options that I know will work and will use the same ones forever as there is no need to do anything else. Just to add, adding the tone system to press conferences in FM13 is not a new feature SI, it's doing something you should have done in the last game and will probably be the least used new "feature" due to the fact that press conferences are boring and repetitive and are very easy to leave to my assistant.
Now the big feature that I and a lot of people were excited about last year was the ability to add and remove leagues after we had created a new game. I was very excited about this, even though I am lucky and have a very nice computer that is more than capable of running many leagues. However what we got was less than satisfactory. For a start the feature was buggy. I have seen many people complain about large amounts of players being added after adding leagues leaving the game very slow to run, corrupted saves after adding certain leagues (see my history as I had this problem) which left me scared to use this feature as I didn't want my save to end. Now I am sure that other people have used this with success but the fact that these problems left me unsure to use this feature is unacceptable. Also, it's hard to know which nation to add when you don't get job offers from countries that were not loaded. Why should I load up Spain if I don't know that I will get a job over there.
After dissecting the main features for FM12 I fail to see where the main improvement with the game is. The UI? The community creates much better versions than SI ever had. Better player search? This was made even worse by the fact that if I wanted to search for a player that was English, under 18 with a value over £1m, I had to wait for the search to load all the players one filter at a time leaving me waiting from the list to load before I could select another filter. Team meetings? Top of the league with a good run and you want to congratulate your players with a team meeting feels like a spin of a roulette wheel, never knowing if you're going to get a positive reaction. Looking over the features of FM11, 10, 09 ,08 and so on, the same thing is apparent. For such a long time the game has coasted along without huge improvements since the 3D match engine was introduced and I think it's about time Football Manager got a good shake up. However I don't see this happening in the near future. And why would SI want to do this. The game is always selling very, very well and a shake up could spoil this.
I've always though of Football Manager as a small game. I think this is down to the fact that it receives very little media attention and has quite a tight knit community on these forums and various other fan-sites. It's also not a very "cool" game and is often associated with sitting in your room for hours without social interaction (and in my case true), but it is far from small. SEGA don't post the sales figures so I could never put a number on it but the steam stats for today have put FM12 around fifth with the most peak players. It had around more than double the amount of peak players than The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. With such a fan base I would have hoped that the game would have advanced more over the years. However I can hardly single out SI. I do understand that they are churning out games every year and even FIFA and all the people working on that hardly makes much improvement each year. I think that it is more of a genre thing, sports games have a habit of tweaking rather than evolving which is understandable, although it is apparent in other genres such as the FPS genre (Call of Duty). A lot of people suggest taking a year out and I do agree this would a good idea. But for SI and SEGA this would not make financial sense as they keep selling the games every year.
Looking at the forums, people always wait until the January transfer window to buy the game so that the bugs are sorted and this should not be the case. All customers should want to buy the game straight away knowing that they will be getting a great game rather than waiting for that inevitable patch and getting the game for a much cheaper price, hurting the developer in the first place. Bugs have had a long history with Football Manager however FM12 was a great improvement in that regards, however with the lack of huge changes in the game should we be surprised? Might be being a little cynical now.
I love SI and the work they do but I can't help but feel that without a proper competitor the game will continue to coast along. PES is very important for FIFA as at any moment PES could become much better (which is what it is trending to at the moment) and FIFA would have to step up their game. Now that Champ Man has gone who else is there? Fifa Manager? .
I would like to apologise for the great wall of text and if you are reading this thanks for taking the time to read it! I do hope that FM13 is going to really stand out but I feel that it won't. I know that I would struggle to tell anyone many features of FM10 or FM11 even though I played them both religiously. Looking at the features of 13 I get the same feeling. The classic mode, while is a very handy feature for a lot of people out there, doesn't appeal to me as I like the deepness and immersion of the full game. Not sure what to make of the training as no video has been released but I quite liked the old sliders, not sure what to make of it just yet but wasn't sure if it needed tweaking. However the network side of improvements does look awesome and I hope the match engine surprises me!
But because of the fact that the game could never possibly get worse because SI never take things out or make drastic changes, the game always gets better, if only gradually. Therefore I always buy the game because even though the improvements are small, I could never go back to an old game as I know I could be playing something newer. It has one of the best money to game play ratios in the business and I can hardly complain with what I get for £19.95. Have I pre-ordered FM13? Yep. Will I at some point stop typing? Yep ! Will I enjoy and play FM13? Yes because it is still the same game I know and love, but I can't help but feel that I'm playing the same game I was playing five years ago.
Am I being harsh/fair/crazy!?