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The core of the game remains true to the initial concept, giving gamers the vast database of players from around the world to fight over, then letting them pit their chosen teams against each other in the excellent match engine taken, like the database, from the always reliable Football Manager. The fantasy element takes after the original Fantasy Football, where managers bid against each other for players - well, for Alan Shearer, when he was in his pomp - rather than the now more prevalent Sun DreamTeam approach, where every team could, in theory, feature the same 11 players.
The dynamics of how such a game world will work has evolved as the beta testing has gone on. “We needed some kind of organised competitions in the game,” explains Ov, “and also noticed that groups of people were playing at different times. So it was important to give people the chance to play competition matches at a time that suited them, so the federations were born.”
These function in the same way as national football associations do in real world football, running a league structure and arranging cup competitions for its members, as well as local rules regarding player loans, deadlines by which matches must be completed and prize money. “A full federation with highly regarded teams will get more media money (which becomes prize money) than a federation with lesser teams,” says Ov, “so we’ve tried to mirror real life in the way they are set up.” In the game world that we’ve tested, there are also inter-federation competitions, pitting the top-placed sides of each league against each other in a kind of pseudo Champions League, UEFA Cup and Intertoto Cup campaigns.
The alpha and early beta of FML succeeding in mirroring real life football in another way that SI hadn’t exactly foreseen - money was ruining it. “It was possible for teams to have earned millions in cash after just a couple of seasons,” expands Miles, “and it was becoming far too easy for those teams to get all the best players, and afford huge wage bills. This meant that those users were getting a bit bored, and the lower users were finding it too hard, so were losing interest.”
And so this has led to a financial system where all teams start with a set budget to buy players with, and their initial squad can’t have a wage bill of more than £100k. “You are now starting off as a Championship quality team,” explains Miles. “No longer are you able to sign Ibrahimovic or Berbatov to play alongside a bunch of 15-year-olds. It’s now more about the long-term play, and improving steadily.”