Mystic Greg

There’s been only one other football game on my mind this week: Football Manager Live. Just over a week ago I joined the game as a Beta tester—one of thousands, it seems—and I’ve been playing it ever since with delight. Not just enjoyment: delight.

Delight is a whole other quality of enjoyment when it comes to gaming. Delight is the mysterious X-factor that transmutes ordinariness into excellence. Delight is what I get from games like PES, Bioshock, Final Fantasy, Portal, Metal Gear Solid, and many others.

I’ve always enjoyed the Football Manager games, but FM Live takes the game to the next level. It really does make a difference watching those little circles run around the virtual 2D pitch when you know there’s another human manager watching the same action from the other team’s point of view.

FM Live is deep, but here’s the thing: it’s as deep or shallow as you want it to be.

I’ve spent three-quarters of my cumulative time logged in (about 6 hours in total all week) just tinkering with my team, my tactics, my formation, and my skills training. One of FM Live’s innovations is that you no longer spend time training your players, adjusting sliders and slotting in various coaches to various roles. All of that has been dispensed with for the online version. Instead, you train yourself. For example, you self-train your coaching skills, step by step, and each new level of the skill has a proportional effect on your players. Within coaching skills there are numerous sub-divisions: goalkeeping, defending, and so on. Each skill takes a proportionally longer time to train. Coaching level 3, for example, which I am just about to start, takes three-and-a-half days to train. That’s real time. The training continues even when you log off. You get emails informing you when the training is finished. It’s all very immersive.

You also get emails letting you know whether your bids in the transfer market have been successful or not. The #1 piece of advice I would give to any new player of FM Live, now or in the future, is: make sure you’re able to watch the end of any transfer auction. Most auctions last 24 hours. Several times I’ve placed bids for players and logged off happy that I’d have them in my team the next time I played. But then I’ll see that someone else sniped me, eBay-style, at the last moment of the auction, and did so by bidding £1 more than me. It’s frustrating and I’ve missed out on so much good talent because of it.

The competitive league season started at the end of the week. I’ve played five games so far, live against other players, and am not doing very well. My record is something like played 5, won 1, drawn 1, lost 3. I’m just below mid-table in my league of 20 teams. Most of the other players have played an equal amount of games. You have to play a certain quota of games within 4 days or so of the fixture becoming active, or the AI will play the games for you. It’s the way it has to be. And it works incredibly well.

It only takes about 10 minutes to play a game on FM Live. In an hour-long play session you can easily fulfil your live games quota for the week. Of course this depends on the other players being online as well. So far that hasn’t been a problem. Time will tell if it becomes a problem as any novelty wears off. I predict that in the future there will be a hard core of regular loggers-in, and it should be possible for them all to identify each other and set up their own regular leagues. Less committed players won’t be excluded and will have their own leagues too.

I’ll make another prediction here: FM Live will become one of the biggest MMOGs on the whole internet…

A brave prediction given that I’ve only played a Beta version for about 10 days, but I think it’s a no-brainer of a prediction. It’s based on the biggest sport on the planet, it has an existing userbase in the offline FM games, it’s accessible, immersive, flexible… what’s not to like?