When the idea of Football Manager Live was first mooted and the initial details became available, people were firmly split into two camps. There were those who were disappointed that real football teams wouldn’t be included, and that FML wasn’t setting itself out to be an online version of its parent. Others were just happy to be able to play Football Manager against a world full of humans, testing their skills against people for the first time.
Football Manager (and Championship Manager before it) has had an online option for a long time now, but this was restricted to a handful of players at most (apart from ultra-organised clan games) because players had a tendency to spend hours scouring the market, making everyone else wait. Sports Interactive have had to make significant changes to the way FM works in order to make it playable in the online arena, although anyone familiar with the offline version will be instantly at home. At least, they will be until they come across one of the most fundamental changes. For one, instead of just creating a manager, you’ll be putting together an entire club, right down to naming the stadium.
Many people have been disappointed with this decision, even going so far as to name their club after a real-world counterpart, but it gives you a great sense of connection to your creation. It’s your club, and the squad you assemble becomes far more personal than a preset collection of players you had no control in selecting. This allows you to construct a squad based entirely on how you like to play the game, fitting players into your tactics, rather than the other way around. This works well, but it has its drawbacks. You can pick who you want from real-world footballers (made-up players will appear as the game worlds grow older), but you’re also competing with thousands of other managers.
To stop other gamers picking all the best players before you even get there, you’ll start off with a small budget of £500,000 to assemble a squad. Money in FML doesn’t work the same as it does in offline FM: there won’t be any massive signings, at least, not until the game world you’re in has developed over a number of seasons (you can join a number of different worlds). This means most of the biggest names will be tantalisingly unavailable for a long time: at the time of writing, the likes of Kaka and Messi were still homeless.
What you’ll end up with is a team of average-to-poor players, with a couple of stars thrown in. Your initial selection could prove vital in giving yourself a headstart over your opponents, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. As we know from FM, tactical skill can make up for the deficiencies of a weak squad. Because everyone will have a similar mix of players from the start, you shouldn’t feel as if you have no chance to win any matches against other starter teams. However, this means that luck seems to be a bigger factor than perhaps it should be. As most people will have teams of almost equal ability, it’s very difficult to get a consistent run of results going.
This leads to the unavoidable scourge of MMOs: those who devote the most time dominate very quickly. SI have attempted to counter this by creating various different official competitions for people who play more, less or at different times of the day. Good idea in theory, but people have already begun to abuse this. It’s the way of things that unscrupulous individuals will try to win at all costs, entering casual competitions in order to dominate more easily, earn more money and buy the best players. Good tactics and solid player acquisition can help you beat these players, and there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing your opponent is chewing furniture in frustration at having lost to a much lower ranked opponent.