Dave C

AI Squad Management - 10 year analysis

84 posts in this topic

Go down the leagues, some don't even have enough for a starting XI and subs. How anyone can possibly defend this is beyond me.

^^This^^

I stumbled across a Reading team who had 5 players for a couple of seasons, they had failed to offloaded their higher earners after a couple of successive relegations which meant they could not afford to offer contracts to the bulk of their squad.

Currently L2 York have 13 senior players (2 are keepers), L1 Bournemouth have 16 (3 GK's), PL Man City & Newcastle have 19 (3 GK's)

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Nope, Large DB, all players retained from active countries, all players from major nations, and about 15 leagues across 6 countries. The problem is the AI, plain and simple. It needs fixing, and it's being ignored year after year.

Incidentally, since I've provided the actual numbers, can you tell me how I possible exaggerated anything? I'm not some teenage ranter complaining that my super team doesn't win. I've been a researcher and tester for this game, for many years. I know how to look at these trends and identify problems. I quit testing precisely because I was frustrated at stuff like this being ignored.

I understand your frustration and I'm with you there. I quit beta testing every once in a while when I get fed-up with some improtant issues being constantly ignored. So, I assure you I have no intention to defend SI here, and I think I have been one of the biggest criticisers in these forums the last few years.

My comment on exaggeration just came out wrong. It wasn't directed towards this post actually. It sounded like that though, simply because I realized i closed the paranthesis 1 word too early. My mistake. So, although this thread is definitely not one of them, sometimes I see threads where people do exaggerate the shortcomings of the game.

Going back to the subject now: Yes, I agree with you guys. There should be at least a minimum squad size enforced in the game, as a temporary workaround until SI fixes this properly. so that AI managers will fill their squad with some lesser players from the free transfer list. It is ridiculous for a professional team to have less than ~25 senior players in the roster.

For the time being, I just want to know if this happens with many teams, or are those ones with the extremely small squad are seldom? I can live with it and continue my career game that I started with enthutiasm if 1 out of 10 team has these issues. I never use FMRTE, exploiting super tactics, player search, etc. so the game provides eough challange for me and therefore it is still entertaining.

I wish AI squad building will be improved significantly for FM2013, but I'm pretty sure SI is busy trying to come up with some bells and whistles to implement into the new version, as we speak, rather then first improving the current features. Some of those features won't be functioning on the game release day, and patches will follow in an attempt to fix those. In the meantime transfer AI and squad building AI will be ignored because 'it is not a priority'. This has been the story the past 5? years, and SI still has to prove me wrong about my expectations for the new versions.

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You can only assume it hasnt been fixed in these few years as a solution has not been thought of, i doubt they are ignoring the issue.

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You can only assume it hasnt been fixed in these few years as a solution has not been thought of, i doubt they are ignoring the issue.

I disagree. They are a small company and therefore they have limited manpower, as they always claim. With the limited resources, it becomes a question of what they will see as priority. They are a business, and their first priority every year is to get the new version out at more or less the same time of the year. To be able to sell the game to majority, they feel like the game has to offer new features, changes from the last version. So, coming up with those new features and implementing them into the game is their priority. The transfer system in the game is a working feature. It is not working perfectly, but it is working, enough to kepp the game enjoyable, therefore enough to sell the game. They will start using their resources on improving the already existing features only after the addition of the new features. Until then it doesn't become a priority.

People may not realize but this is a very advanced game, which shows me how capable the coders in SI are. The only reason the transfer AI in the game not improving drastically, is that it needs a major overhaul (like throwing away the reputation system), and SI simply does not feel ready to use their limited resources on this yet. I am pretty sure they will fix it at some point, but they will do it when they decide to do it.

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^^This^^

I stumbled across a Reading team who had 5 players for a couple of seasons, they had failed to offloaded their higher earners after a couple of successive relegations which meant they could not afford to offer contracts to the bulk of their squad.

Currently L2 York have 13 senior players (2 are keepers), L1 Bournemouth have 16 (3 GK's), PL Man City & Newcastle have 19 (3 GK's)

This I have noticed as well- teams that have suffered relegations, but retain players on ridiculous wages. Results in 5-8 first teamers and the rest youth, and it's a vicious trap that sends them spiralling down even further. The fix seems to to be some code that will direct the AI, if they fail to return right back to the league they relegated from, to push off the high earners, or at least not resign them when the contracts are up.

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It's been a while since I played a save for longer than 4-5 seasons. It's difficult to retain the motivation to pursue any kind of long-term save with this ongoing issue. Out of curiosity, Dave C, does your annual research find the AI Squad Management issue to be gradually getting worse somehow? I could have sworn that AI squads seemed to fare significantly better as the seasons went on in FM 05/06/07 compared with the last few versions.

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It's been a while since I played a save for longer than 4-5 seasons. It's difficult to retain the motivation to pursue any kind of long-term save with this ongoing issue. Out of curiosity, Dave C, does your annual research find the AI Squad Management issue to be gradually getting worse somehow? I could have sworn that AI squads seemed to fare significantly better as the seasons went on in FM 05/06/07 compared with the last few versions.

I could have sworn it was better in CM 01/02 even. Back then the input that was used by transfer AI was a lot more simple though. More tools got added into the game, more difficuly it became to manage the AI transfers. There are more parameters now I guess. Hence SI needs to really focus on this finally in a new version, rather than adding stuff like agents to make the matter more complicated.

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Yeah, layers of new code added on to outdated base mechanics have made it crumble. Both the transfer market and general AI squad building were more basic in the older versions but at least they worked to a degree. Now the same AI has to deal with agents and negotiate contracts that can involve several financially devastating clauses. It can't really cope.

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Yeah, layers of new code added on to outdated base mechanics have made it crumble. Both the transfer market and general AI squad building were more basic in the older versions but at least they worked to a degree. Now the same AI has to deal with agents and negotiate contracts that can involve several financially devastating clauses. It can't really cope.

This is something that I also agree with, for me the AI has been left behind by the sheer complexity of the game & now it has reached the point where its decisions are based purely on the reputation system which is also an outdated & increasingly flawed system.

My biggest fear is that if the new match engine gets to see the light of day it will only advance the problem further as it will no doubt be a more complex beast so that we can have a much more realistic match experience but on the flip side the AI will not be capable of using all the extra aspects presented which in turns makes the game less challenging.

The questions faced by SI when decided where best to focus their resources is what type of players makes up the largest proportion of the consumer base?

If most players only do 3-5 season saves before starting over then spending additional time on reworking the AI to provide a tougher long-term challenge might not be a worthwhile expense.

Is the above true because people get bored by the easiness as squads fail to improve & go back to the beginning to rediscover the challenge of competing against current squad?

How much do the long-term/career (25+ season) players drive this game forward & add to/maintain its reputation?

My hope is that with SI hiring an internal marketing & PR team they are being given much more autonomy by Sega which could ease the commercial pressures placed on them, however the fear is that all the extra income from the anti-piracy measures has been allocated to the marketing & PR budget, with little additional investment in the development process.

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Thing is, Dynamic League League reputation was obviously introduced with long-term saves in mind. However, for anyone who plays a save long enough for DLR to come into effect, they happen to reach a point in the game where they need only take a glance at a few AI squads to see a blatant issue which far eclipses the shortcomings of the old static reputation. There's much that can be speculated from this. SI, to their credit, surely do want to cater for long-term save players, or else something as trivial and superficial (in comparison) as DLR would never have been looked at in the first place, especially considering how incredibly complex it must have been to implement. So, is it plausible that AI squad management is simply an insurmountable problem? I find it hard to believe that it would be low on the priority scale considering how glaringly obvious an issue it is, as well as how much of a bearing it has on medium to long-term saves. Nevertheless, the situation would almost seem like a sports car being increasingly unstable at high speeds, yet the manufacturers still strive to improve the car's acceleration, all the while introducing a series of flashy new additions to the car's interior which will hopefully be suitably distracting.

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The situation would almost seem like a sports car being increasingly unstable at high speeds, yet the manufacturers still strive to improve the car's acceleration, all the while introducing a series of flashy new additions to the car's interior which will hopefully be suitably distracting.

Excellent analogy mate :)

This is exactly what SI has been doing the past few years, not sure if they are aware or not, by adding so many new features and not improving the game's essential features nearly enough.

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I forgot about it as it seems to have very little influence in my game but he point about DLR is a good one, the car analogy isn't.

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The thing is, it isn't a uniform disaster. Some AI squads do quite well, and most seem at least okay. We tend to remember the egregious problems because they are so noticeable. To say SI doesn't build for the long-term saves is a bit unfair, I think. They test the games to many years out and the intent is to keep the game world stable over the long haul. It just doesn't work out in all situations. The squad-building AI needs work, simple as, but I don't think it has a thing to do with SI not caring about long term gamers.

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The thing is, it isn't a uniform disaster. Some AI squads do quite well, and most seem at least okay. We tend to remember the egregious problems because they are so noticeable. To say SI doesn't build for the long-term saves is a bit unfair, I think. They test the games to many years out and the intent is to keep the game world stable over the long haul. It just doesn't work out in all situations. The squad-building AI needs work, simple as, but I don't think it has a thing to do with SI not caring about long term gamers.

I am sure they do care about long term gamer too. But it is not their priority. This is very visible from the fact that at every version they introduce many new features, that's the priority, then they release the game, which is an unfinished product most of the time, and then they start working on fixing the obvious bugs, which there are plenty, and typically only after the second patch they work on improving the existing features, for a month or two, and then we get the dreadfull announcement, saying 'this will be something to look at in the next versions of the game'. It is always the same.

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Going back to the subject now: Yes, I agree with you guys. There should be at least a minimum squad size enforced in the game, as a temporary workaround until SI fixes this properly. so that AI managers will fill their squad with some lesser players from the free transfer list. It is ridiculous for a professional team to have less than ~25 senior players in the roster.

The problem is, an enforced minimum squad size would create another problem. The issue, I think, is that a combination of contract clauses, big wage rises in new contracts, and difficulty shifting the highest paid players, means teams cannot afford as many players as they need. They get stuck with half-a-dozen "Key Players" who get 80% of the wage budget. Force sides to sign players anyway, we'll just setup a pattern of collapsing teams.

For the time being, I just want to know if this happens with many teams, or are those ones with the extremely small squad are seldom? I can live with it and continue my career game that I started with enthutiasm if 1 out of 10 team has these issues. I never use FMRTE, exploiting super tactics, player search, etc. so the game provides eough challange for me and therefore it is still entertaining.

It's pretty common, especially at smaller sides. It's not isolated.

I still like the game, it just frustrates me. Makes it no real challenge to turn a side around, because you go in and fix all the stuff the AI doesn't.

I wish AI squad building will be improved significantly for FM2013, but I'm pretty sure SI is busy trying to come up with some bells and whistles to implement into the new version, as we speak, rather then first improving the current features. Some of those features won't be functioning on the game release day, and patches will follow in an attempt to fix those. In the meantime transfer AI and squad building AI will be ignored because 'it is not a priority'. This has been the story the past 5? years, and SI still has to prove me wrong about my expectations for the new versions.

Yes, reluctantly that's the conclusion I reached too.

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It's been a while since I played a save for longer than 4-5 seasons. It's difficult to retain the motivation to pursue any kind of long-term save with this ongoing issue. Out of curiosity, Dave C, does your annual research find the AI Squad Management issue to be gradually getting worse somehow? I could have sworn that AI squads seemed to fare significantly better as the seasons went on in FM 05/06/07 compared with the last few versions.

It's roughly the same every year, maybe a slight decline. Usually, somewhere along the line a patch seems to improve it slightly. Then it gets bad again.

It's as bad in the most recent version of FM12 as it's ever been.

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I still like the game, it just frustrates me. Makes it no real challenge to turn a side around, because you go in and fix all the stuff the AI doesn't.

There is a challenge in keeping your job whilst you try to sort out the crap job the previous manager has done. Especially if you take over a top club which has basically managed to maintain it's results only due to having a high reputation and being in a league that isn't properly simulated. If you make it through the first season, or have a massive transfer budget, then managing anywhere is unfortunately pretty easy.

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I am sure they do care about long term gamer too. But it is not their priority. This is very visible from the fact that at every version they introduce many new features, that's the priority, then they release the game, which is an unfinished product most of the time, and then they start working on fixing the obvious bugs, which there are plenty, and typically only after the second patch they work on improving the existing features, for a month or two, and then we get the dreadfull announcement, saying 'this will be something to look at in the next versions of the game'. It is always the same.

Not really surprising ... they need new visible features to be introduced every year to justify all the gamers buying yet another version. If all they did was update the database, fix all the non-visible problems (of which there are many) and slightly fix the UI, not many would buy it at full price. And the lack of proper development cycle between that last patch and the next version, means that there will be no "major leaps" in gameplay.

I still advocate that new major features are only introduced every two years, and the other year it is a data update with fixes to existing problems and ironing out issues in gameplay that only become apparent after longer game time. But that won't happen as it is bad for the bottom line. They would not sell many "update" versions at full price.

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I would pay TWICE the usual price for a version of FM that doesn't allow us to overachieve in every single season due to glaring AI squad-building and management flaws...

Or for a version of FM where I can't sign the likes of Peter Cech on a free transfer in the third season, at a club with almost no tradition (ie. reputation) in the top-flight, just because AI clubs aren't smart enough to see a bargain...

Let's be honest, the biggest share of SI's market consists of die-hard, long-time and fidelized customers... Do they (we...) really need flashy new features to be convinced to shell out 30 quids (or 50 euros...) every year?

FM is hardly an appealing game to "outsiders"... even many avid football fans will steer clear of it due to the overwhelming complexity of a football managing game and they'll gladly stick with FIFA/PES instead.

So I don't really get the need of striving to add new superflous and often frivolous features while the very key aspect of the game are either painfully showing their age or are just not working.

It's not as if the "general public" will suddenly realize football managing is cool because FM13 has interactive fan days and training camps...

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I would pay TWICE the usual price for a version of FM that doesn't allow us to overachieve in every single season due to glaring AI squad-building and management flaws...

Or for a version of FM where I can't sign the likes of Peter Cech on a free transfer in the third season, at a club with almost no tradition (ie. reputation) in the top-flight, just because AI clubs aren't smart enough to see a bargain...

Let's be honest, the biggest share of SI's market consists of die-hard, long-time and fidelized customers... Do they (we...) really need flashy new features to be convinced to shell out 30 quids (or 50 euros...) every year?

FM is hardly an appealing game to "outsiders"... even many avid football fans will steer clear of it due to the overwhelming complexity of a football managing game and they'll gladly stick with FIFA/PES instead.

So I don't really get the need of striving to add new superflous and often frivolous features while the very key aspect of the game are either painfully showing their age or are just not working.

It's not as if the "general public" will suddenly realize football managing is cool because FM13 has interactive fan days and training camps...

We don't know that the biggest share market is all about us long term gamers who aren't fussed, and even if it was they cannot make it all about us. As for the flashy new features, there were plenty of complaints on this forum that there weren't enough new features in the game, so its a lose-lose situation for them between those who want more, and those of us (I put myself in this group) who want less, and are more interested in fixing and working on what's already there. Even then, new features are a selling point to many, so whether some of us like it or not, they are very much valid and part of the commercial process.

My biggest worry isn't that the are issues in the AI, but whether these issues are actually fixable. Because it is getting seriously left behind.

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The game desperately needs to get back to basics. Too many variables were added before the underlying, core system had been properly balanced, and, at this point, trying to patch all these bugs on a one-by-one basis is like trying to destroy an ant colony by stepping on it. Even the database (the one thing that should be relatively easy to maintain from version to version) is an incoherent mess at this point and desperately needs someone to go in and clean it up with actual gameplay in mind.

This also wouldn't scare off casual players. The "new features every year" approach is actually a strategy aimed at hardcore players and it's a trap that other developers have been consciously avoiding in efforts to revitalize sales. In recent years, EA Sports has implemented a strategy of simplification for several of its key franchises that emphasizes removing unnecessary, obtrusive features and marketing the redesigned games as being simpler and more fluid. This occurred in response to declining sales figures largely attributed to bloated, broken games that were too complex to draw in new players. The result has been rapidly recovering sales figures and, in the case of EA's golf franchise, record-setting sales.

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What I have noticed is that the strongest teams are still strong. The weaker teams are now weaker, so there is a bigger gap between the strong teams and the rest, which means the top teams (mine incl.) will take a lot of points. My team takes a lot of points, so I don't see why the top 2 or 3 or 4 AI teams shouldn't, as well. They build more for experience, mental attributes, and reputation, while I build more for youth, physicality, determination, in other characteristics I aim to avoid glaring weaknesses.

I just had a 17 game winning streak in La Liga with Sevilla, drew with Valencia (also a top team) and am only top by 2 points, above Real Madrid. Simultaneously in Italy, I am managing Juventus and have done quite well, 15 wins 1 draw and 3 defeats (due to complacency, and possibly playing too many youngsters), but am 2 points off the top, AC Milan, who have gotten a really generous schedule, and made the most of it. This is in 2036. So yeah, the weak teams are weaker relative to when the game started, but the top teams have strengthened alongside my squad(s).

The thing is, it isn't a uniform disaster. Some AI squads do quite well, and most seem at least okay. We tend to remember the egregious problems because they are so noticeable. To say SI doesn't build for the long-term saves is a bit unfair, I think. They test the games to many years out and the intent is to keep the game world stable over the long haul. It just doesn't work out in all situations. The squad-building AI needs work, simple as, but I don't think it has a thing to do with SI not caring about long term gamers.

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I would pay TWICE the usual price for a version of FM that doesn't allow us to overachieve in every single season due to glaring AI squad-building and management flaws...

Or for a version of FM where I can't sign the likes of Peter Cech on a free transfer in the third season, at a club with almost no tradition (ie. reputation) in the top-flight, just because AI clubs aren't smart enough to see a bargain...

Let's be honest, the biggest share of SI's market consists of die-hard, long-time and fidelized customers... Do they (we...) really need flashy new features to be convinced to shell out 30 quids (or 50 euros...) every year?

FM is hardly an appealing game to "outsiders"... even many avid football fans will steer clear of it due to the overwhelming complexity of a football managing game and they'll gladly stick with FIFA/PES instead.

So I don't really get the need of striving to add new superflous and often frivolous features while the very key aspect of the game are either painfully showing their age or are just not working.

It's not as if the "general public" will suddenly realize football managing is cool because FM13 has interactive fan days and training camps...

Would have to agree strongly with the sentiments here, especially the part in bold. AI squad management would be presumably extremely difficult to fix entirly, but if it's been this bad for several year and shown no improvement, surely this means attempts haven't been made to address it as yet? It's difficult to speculate about what is and isn't accurate with regards to SI's market because we couldn't possible know the stats and facts, but it would seem likely by this point that every football fan who knows about FIFA/PES also knows about Football Manager. With that in mind, should there be a bit less emphasis on new features and more attention given to the game's long-term problems? We all have friends who are football fans, and I'm sure some of us have failed miserably to get some friends interested in the game. Are new features ever going to get those people to want to play the game? No, it would seem more likely that we'll stop playing than of them starting to. Obviously a balance needs to be struck between attracting new customers and hanging on to long-term ones. The gradual increase in sales would suggest that SI have been shrewd in that regard, but there will come a point eventually where more long-term players become disillusioned with issues as the AI's limitations and the general issues with game difficulty. There was that poll on here not too long about difficulty where something like 65% said that they were content with the game's level of difficulty and didn't want it to be more challenging. You have to wonder though, if the AI continues to be left behind and more people get bored of constantly overachieving, might that same poll be closer to 50/50 a couple of years from now? Should SI wait until that point before acting, or will they have already lost a chunk of long-term customers? Hopefully not, but time will tell.

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Squad building/management isnt an easy thing to fix though, it's a deep-rooted thing and there's no one single thing that can magically make it better.

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Squad building/management isnt an easy thing to fix though, it's a deep-rooted thing and there's no one single thing that can magically make it better.

if you think about it longer, cant be that "complicated", the way i see how it works atm, the AI just checks his own club reputation, goes to the transfermarkt, and pretty much picks players with a good reputation and buys them, sometimes even little random, the problem is the AI doesnt seem to care that the position the player hes about to purchase is pretty good stuffed already, and he "should" be looking to improve his weak spots in the team... thats just not what hes doing

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Dave, any chance you could do a survey of this sort for the players' ages. In my experience the smallness of the squads is compounded by a reliance on ageing players and a lack of rotation to give younger players the playing time they need to boost their CA to the level where they can contribute properly (or their reputation to the level where they get selected).

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It is not just AI squad building but also lack of AI using the tools in the game that are available to us. One of the most annoying things (imo) right now, which is another factor that makes the game too easy, started happening after the introduction of agents. Every once in a while the agents offer me some hidden gems, like an 18 years old player from Bolivia, who is a 4-5* PA player for my team. There are a few very serious flaws here:

1- Most of these players are for free, because their local club has released them. Why can his former team not see his PA??? When I go check on that team's roster, all I see is a lot of grey players, and 1-2 high potential newgens, who for sure will be also available for free when their initial contract will run out, because that's exactly what happened with the player that is being offered to me.

2- I am managing a small team in Turkey, what are the chances of agents coming all the way from Bolivia and offer a local gem to me, to a small Turkish club? I shouldn't be even aware of this player's existence, unless I send scouts to Bolivia. Agents make it too easy for us to become aware of such gems.

3- Now the most important one: Agents make it too easy ONLY FOR US. How do I know? Because most of the time when a hidden gem is offered to me for free, there is no any other single AI controlled team that is interested in this player. Why? Did the agent offer that player only and only to me? If yes, why? How is that realistic? If he offered it to all the teams in Europe, why are none of them interested? Can they not see his PA? If it is purely dependent on the reputation, are there no clubs in all the divisions of all the leagues in Europe who have a matching reputation? Impossible. So this means, either AI has absolutely no clue of bargains (high PA newgens being available for free), or a bug in the game causes these offers to be made only to human managers. Either way it is a game breaker. The agents feature doesn't work, so SI never should have included it, until they get it to work properly. Feature like this one have a significant effect to the whole gameplay, they should be implemented only if it works correctly. SI includes it in the game nonetheless, because all they care about is to be able to say 'we have such and such new features' when they announce the new version. Hence every new version has a few new features that don't work, and acutally make the game worse than it is without them.

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For the first time, I've noticed messages about players being unhappy as they feel the squad needs thinning. Checking the sides in question, both have less than 30 players between first and reserve squads. So there's an issue that FM doesn't even seem to see squad depth as a good thing.

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For the first time, I've noticed messages about players being unhappy as they feel the squad needs thinning. Checking the sides in question, both have less than 30 players between first and reserve squads. So there's an issue that FM doesn't even seem to see squad depth as a good thing.

I actually see this as a good thing because this will prevent the human managers from having a very deep roster to a certain degree and hence an unfair advantage over AI controlled teams. And if you think about it, this may be even somewhat realistic too. Right now I have 24 players in my 1st team, and around 10 in my reserve team. Out of the 24, I would say only 15 of them get regular playing time. Another 5 get very limited PT, and the rest almost never play, unless the squad is hit by long term injuries. So, these few guys (who almost never play in the first team) are 'always available for reserve team', and there is another 5 from first team who are 'available for reserve team until they are match fit'. This set-up gives me 6-7 players on average who fill the starting 11 of the reserve team. Therefore, only 4-5 players in my reserve team roster gets significant playing time in the reserve league. So, if I go ahead and reduce my roster from 34 to 28-30 everybody would get some playing time. Considering that there are always 2-3 players in the U18 team that are good enough to play in the reserves, I may even reduce this number to 25-27 easily.

I know some people like to have very deep rosters in the game, and in real life also some teams have 40+ players, in the game AI controlled teams tend to keep smaller rosters, and if your players become unhappy when you have a deep roster (because they are worried about not getting enough playing time), this will at least help to keep things balanced between human managed teams and AI controlled teams. So, not a bad thing necessarily.

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I actually see this as a good thing because this will prevent the human managers from having a very deep roster to a certain degree and hence an unfair advantage over AI controlled teams. And if you think about it, this may be even somewhat realistic too. Right now I have 24 players in my 1st team, and around 10 in my reserve team. Out of the 24, I would say only 15 of them get regular playing time. Another 5 get very limited PT, and the rest almost never play, unless the squad is hit by long term injuries. So, these few guys (who almost never play in the first team) are 'always available for reserve team', and there is another 5 from first team who are 'available for reserve team until they are match fit'. This set-up gives me 6-7 players on average who fill the starting 11 of the reserve team. Therefore, only 4-5 players in my reserve team roster gets significant playing time in the reserve league. So, if I go ahead and reduce my roster from 34 to 28-30 everybody would get some playing time. Considering that there are always 2-3 players in the U18 team that are good enough to play in the reserves, I may even reduce this number to 25-27 easily.

I know some people like to have very deep rosters in the game, and in real life also some teams have 40+ players, in the game AI controlled teams tend to keep smaller rosters, and if your players become unhappy when you have a deep roster (because they are worried about not getting enough playing time), this will at least help to keep things balanced between human managed teams and AI controlled teams. So, not a bad thing necessarily.

I don't agree that it's there to balance things out; I have probably the biggest squad in the PL now, I've heard nothing. I've only seen it at AI teams that have what I consider an inadequate number in the first place.

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The issue seems to me (without any data to support my theory I should add, this is purely observational!) that AI teams sign players based on their CA and/or reputation, rather than necessarily a need for that player within their squad. Plenty of times in longer term games I've seen, for example, a team sign a high quality striker when they already have 5 strikers, so they never play the guy they've just signed for 20m, before selling him 3 seasons on for 2.5m having played 4 games. It seems the AI spots a player who is available for below their market value, has a lot of room for improvement (i.e. CA>PA difference) or is on a free, and signs them whether they need the player or not. Almost as if the AI can only truly assess a player's worth to the squad once he's signed, rather than scouting and making that decision before making a bid. Teams like Man City and Barca do that a lot in my games; I once had a game where City signed 10 attacking midfielders/wingers, and then played a 451 formation so only two could ever be selected. From memory the cheapest player in those ten was about 14m. Now we can joke about City doing that IRL, but the reality is that if you're going to be playing two wingers, the most you'd really need is 4, perhaps 5 tops. To sign 10 just because the players are available is ridiculous. That's why human teams are easy to convert into dominant sides with stronger squads; the AI will either over-fill positions or not address it's weaknesses, whereas we can pick up the players the AI has ruined on the cheap and build more balanced squads.

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There is a real preference for 27 y.o. + players in AI squads, but seeing as that is when players are at their peak, I don't see a real problem with it. I think the wages are very high for those players, a lot of the time, esp. if you sign them once they are already established stars. Hence, the overall wage budget can only handle so many players at their peak.

I have watched my opposition in La Liga and Serie A rebuild now for many seasons (into 2036, managing two clubs for the last 12 years, so that is what, 36 game years), and it never goes quite as badly for them when they need to replace a star as I would have hoped :)

Like Inter, they had a dominant fullback for the last 10 years, but he is now 33. Well, they go and buy a 26 year old, top notch (maybe 10% worse than previous world class fullback) fullback from Russia for something like $26m. If they get 5 years out of him, then thats quite good business, as they spent no time developing the player whatsoever. But I myself try to pursue that strategy as little as possible, because of the budget implications. I can pay a 26 year old MUCH less if I had him on contract since 22 or 23, than if I just bought him.

Dave, any chance you could do a survey of this sort for the players' ages. In my experience the smallness of the squads is compounded by a reliance on ageing players and a lack of rotation to give younger players the playing time they need to boost their CA to the level where they can contribute properly (or their reputation to the level where they get selected).

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I don't agree that it's there to balance things out; I have probably the biggest squad in the PL now, I've heard nothing. I've only seen it at AI teams that have what I consider an inadequate number in the first place.

I didn't say SI implemented it to balance things out. I said it could work that way, but from what you are saying now it is not what I thought it was.

I've never seen it myself, but does it happen to the teams who get relegated and still have their best players under high wages contracts? If so, maybe the problem is that those teams budgets are less than what they are paying to their already undersized squad, and maybe the players are nervous about their contracts being terminated, it's just that the warning message the game creates doesn't reflect the problem correctly. Definitely an issue, but hopefully happening with only small number of teams that already have budget issues and get relegated on top of that and it gets worse for them.

For whatever is worth, I'm entering 4th season now, I have 5 biggest leagues and Turkish league active, almost all the other leagues are 'view only', so far I haven't seen a major problem. In Turkish league all the teams remain competitive so far, and they make good transfers. Not quite as logical as mine, but close. As I said before, the thing that bother me most is those rare gems that are offered to me by their agents, from inactive countries like Bolivia, Panama, etc. It almost looks like their agents hide these players from everybody else and offer them to me only. I just refuse to sign them to avoid an unfair advantage over AI. It is so tempting, because they are for free, but I managed to resist so far :)

I got curious and investigated a little bit. The game creates a few high PA players from odd countries every season, and their original clubs just release them at the end of their initial contracts, so they are out there to be signed for free, however no AI team notices them for a long time, sometimes for more than a season. Probably something with their reputation is completely messed up, that should be the reason nobody cares about them, since the whole AI transfer system is based on reputation. Eventually somebody picks them up (although not playing for any club, they keep playing for their U21 national team, so their reputation slowly grows I think and eventually they become noticed by AI teams) but if I only wanted I could create a team for free with these super talents from odd countries.

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