Thursday, March 13, 2008

Random thoughts about FML while in transit

I am currently writing while stuck in Lyon airport listening to the strange mixture of the Cardigans, Radiohead, and Rodrigo y Gabriella my i-pod is throwing up at me. I am flying back to London (which means I will be back in the FML timezone) for about a month and I am trying to decide whether to hijack an unsecured network at the airport so that I can play FML as my fight is not for another 2 hours (make that 4 my plane has been diverted back to Heathrow with a problem). In the end I decide against it as my French is not yet good enough to get myself out of trouble and if I say the word hijack out loud then I will probably end up in a French prison. So I am trying to put together another blog post as I think once I am back in England I will not have much time to write big long posts for a while so this is a good opportunity to get one in.
The title of the post ‘losing my favourite game’ is based on the Cardigans song which has just inspired my current blog. I think the Cardigans must be football manager players, as two of their songs in particular highlight the problems some people are finding in the transition from FM08 to FML.
In FM people like to talk about their records as managers, which teams they got promoted, e.g. how they got Oxford United to the Premier league etc. In the original version of CM I used to take over at Man Utd and systematically destroy them, selling their whole team and replacing them with a full squad of second rate goalkeepers they couldn't get rid of. I was young back then and my brothers were all Man City fans so I had no choice it was my duty. The point is in the old CM and the standalone FM games you could rewrite history the way you liked it and kind of leave out the details of how you managed to guide Man U to the bottom of the old 4th Division.
When the Cardigans play FM they probably cheat I base this assumption on the basis of their song ‘erase and rewind’ which I don’t know the words to but am sure it is about their path to FM success. It is ok getting Oxford to the Premier league, but if you reloaded your last saved game every time you lost or manipulated the finances in the data editor then this is a bit of a fake victory (like the current rise of Chelski). How you play FM is up to you but I always played the game fairly (apart from my early Man Utd years) and took the rough with the smooth. I remember playing an all night session of CM 98 when at university with a friend. I was Barcelona he was Real Madrid. I had piped my friend to the La Liga by a single point but he made the champions league final again Lazio. Having taken an early lead and looking comfortable my friend was already thinking about his victory speech. However Robberto Manchini popped up with two late goals in the last 10 mins to kill my friends dreams of European glory and ruin a days hard work and planning. Sure he could have reset the game, played the match until he got the victory he wanted, but no he took the bitter disappointment like a man. He first gave a speech of the nature ‘If you say what he said about a man like Manchini’ (Think Keegan meltdown attack on Fergie), then he calmly ejected the CD-Rom from the computer and snapped it in two and we never talked about the Manchini final again (this is the first time I have retold this story).
To me this is how real FM players take defeat, sure it can hurt, sometimes it hurts like hell when a days worth of play is pissed up the wall by the superhuman efforts of an aging Italian, but you just had to deal with it and move on (my friend did replace the CM CD-Rom the next day).
The people who shielded themselves from such cruel nights in FM by adjusting their finances and/or replaying disappointing matches, I think are the ones beginning to feel the strain in my current FML game world. These people tend to moan a lot as they are not used to baron times and lean spells. They will lose a few games and start to blame bugs in the match engine which no one else can see and they cannot provide evidence for; they will over spend by a lot and wonder why they cannot have Drogba, Gerard and Torres in their teams (as if this was possible they would have been the first to think of it). Asking why they have been put into administration.
FML is the great leveller for all who like to boast about their FM records and achievements you all start off with the same resources and how well you use them determines your place in the FML pecking order. In my opinion I think Beta testers have a slight advantage over non-Beta testers (which is why I am writing the blog so you don’t make my mistakes) in terms of transfer targets, some of the long term Beta testers know who to buy and who they can turn a quick profit on. I may be mean and post their squads in my blog at some point to try and offset this insider knowledge (if I do please don’t tell them!).
In FML everyone wants to win, everyone wants to better their team as much as they can, it is not just a generic computer AI you can out maneuver in the Transfer market or create a killer tactic against which leaves you with a passive role in the game. In FML you always have to evolve your team and tactics, because you can bet everyone else is. I don’t mean you have to play the game constantly, but you cannot just buy a few players, set one tactic and watch the victories pour in.
My striker Gomis (source of all my FML blogging frustration) is a perfect example of what I mean by evolving your team. I bought Gomis in my first days on FML, and once he got match fit he would terrify defences who could not handle his pace and general skill. But these people did not just take the defeat as one of those things and moved on to the next game, they got smart they brought in better players they evolved their teams. This resulted in the situation I have at the minute whereby my initial favourite formation playing Gomis as a lone striker is becoming less and less effective he is just not up for it against the current FML teams. I had to draft in help for Gomis (see previous posts) and develop my tactics. Even old Goran was brought in to play centre midfield, but due to the rising quality of other players, I am having to play Goran in defence in place of Jack Hobbs who is finding life difficult. For me this is one of most enjoyable parts of the game, I feel more like a football manager than I ever did playing other management games, you have 1000 football manager terminators out there, these people want to beat you, will adapt their tactics to cope with your team, will go for the players you want, you have no choice but to evolve or fall behind.
The point I am trying to make is that in FML everyone wants to win and past glories mean nothing. As Thom Yorke is now softly singing to me: If you want a quiet life with no alarms and no surprises you should probably stick to FM08. Now where is that bloody plane...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Out of hiding

Since I last posted my Federation matches had taken a turn for the better, while still in hiding from the big two in my qualification league I had played 4 games against other teams winning three, losing 1. This had pushed my team up to the brink of the qualification places for the EEFA Premier league which starts next season.

As I had previously reported that I was in federation hiding, due to the two best teams (on current results) continuously circling looking for a quick kill. Two things prompted me to end my cowardly exile, the first was the signing of another player (my eighth!): Pascal Feindouno for £600,000 yet another St Etienne player, but my biggest named player. I bought Pascal as someone I though would help support Gomis who at times appears upfront with the ball on his own, not knowing what to do. Hopefully Pascal's better footballing brain and pace would either help create more chances for Gomis or give Gomis more options. The second things which prompted my return to federation football was an e-mail from the bank manager telling me that it was time to stop buying players (see screen shot) meaning I had to work with what I have got.

Playing the top two teams in my qualification group would determine whether my recent resurgence in the qualification group would be cemented, or whether I would remain at the back of the chasing pack. I set myself the target of getting 4 points from the 2 games as this would keep my in the pack of teams chasing the top two and hoping for a place in the premier league next season (needing a top 6 finish). Although I had games in hand I knew these teams had all played the top two so bad results would put me in an impossible position.

I played just one friendly before hand not wanting to get players injured I decide to wait for my federation window and get the games out of the way.

First up was 1st placed Bayer Neverlosen I did not know that much about, they had constructed a team using a similar tactic to me, opting to bring in a few good players at the expense of not having a 'star'. Both games were close and a bit dull to be honest not a lot of chances, both teams playing variations of 4-4-2. Towards the end of the first game though things did get interesting, with me taking the lead on 79min, before Neverlosen equalized on 83mins only for my new boy Pascal to net the winner on 87mins. The defeat I felt was unfair on Neverlosen they where definitely good for a draw. I was also glad my hide like a coward tactic (which I advised another guy in my league to do as he was losing a lot, and he now seems to be getting a good team together) had worked as I felt my team now had that extra 10% which made the difference. The second game was a very forgettable 0-0 but having played the first off my two big opponents, I already had the 4 points I was hoping for, which was a good thing as next up were FC Technostars who had in their team Ronaldhino.

FC Technostars chose the alternative starting route to teams like me and Neverlosen, they opted to shell out most of their money on a star 'Ronaldhino', and then made up the rest of the team with lesser quality players (I doubt Ronaldhino was wearing his trademark smile when he turned up to his first training session!). On evidence of Technostars ranking which had improved dramatically since the buck toothed wonder had signed, it seemed like this may be a good initial tactic. I had spent most of my afternoon when I should have been working, thinking about what I was going to do about Ronaldhino, was I going to be very English and try and kick the crap out of him, or should I try to keep Technostars on the back foot which would limit Ronaldinho's effectiveness. I opted for the later and after scouting Technostars recent games I knew he liked to play a very attacking game, so I picked a team I thought would control the midfield and keep the ball off Ronaldhino's toes.

In the first game I had limited success, I managed to control the game most of the time, but on a few occasions Ronaldhino wriggled free, only for my keeper to save the day. I took the lead after 67 mins an as the lesser players in Technostars team started to tire, I was able to hold on for the win. On reflection I feel I just shaded the game and was happy with the 1-0.

The second game is perhaps a cautionary tale to people who are thinking of the star player route. The game was 0-0 and not that interesting to be honest, but the difference in terms of our teams performances was quite marked, in terms of shots on goal, possession and general performance my team played much better (Technostars keeper was man of the match). The reason why I was much better in the second game than the first was simple, Ronaldhino put in an indifferent performance which brought down the level of his team.

Players have ups and downs, and if you have a squad of ok players, then when you spot one of the players is not playing so well you can change him, if you build your team on the back of one star then you don't really have a plan B if he plays badly or more importantly gets injured. I have this dilemma with Gomis at the minute, he has just gone 4 federation games without scoring so I have the option to drop or sub him while he regains some form.

After a poor start I am starting to establish myself in my federation qualification group, the matches will probably dry up for a while as I have played most of the regulars in my group, all we can do is sit and wait for the irregulars to show up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Boring, Boring Kennington!

After the disappointment of my first round of federation games, I decided to do a Sven and scout some players while watching TV. My beloved St Etienne took on Marseille in the early evening game on Cannal +. The reason for this new transfer tactic was born out of my inability to sign a star player having missed out on both Nani and Babel in the past 24 hours. If David Moyes can do such a great job of creating a team whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, then maybe this is the tactic which could work for me. The St Etienne game was a disappointing 2-0 defeat but on the basis of a ok performance and goal by Marseille's Valbuena I decided to give him a 24 hour trial with FC Kennington (any players with wages less than 10k can be taken on trial).

I played 4 games yesterday (home and away against two teams) and although I played well in all of them, my striker Gomis was having another bad federation day scoring only 1 goal. The result of Gomis failure in front of goal was 3 0-0's and a 1-0 win. In my matches with FC London, I was just unlucky, against Corbridge Cobra's though the result was due to the tactical genuis/madness of my opposition. Before the game he told me he wanted two 0-0 and that he would get them (he was right!). The screen shot shows the formations we used, he parked the bus outside his goal and without a real star to create that bit of magic I just could not break him down.

With my Federation at the minute I am officially in hiding, this is primarily because there is a guy who has just bought Ronaldhino and he is currently murderising the opposition in our league. I am trying to sign a couple of decent players then I will go after him. This is what I call federation tactics which I will explain a little now:

When the federation season starts you are given a fixture list telling you when a particular fixture must be completed (see screen shot). If you do not play the game by that date then it goes to an AI match and the computer plays the game of your opponent. You can however play as many federation games as quickly as you like (in theory you could play the whole season in one day if everyone was online and up for it). So being able to challenge other member who are online leads to the following situation, the teams that are the strongest try to play their games as quickly as possible so they can beat the weaker teams before they improve, to get around this you can set your status to do not disturb and basically hide until you are ready face the music. This feature is very good as it stops you from being pressured into playing matches your team is not ready for.

Since my day of boring results I have been tinkering with my tactics to try and get Gomis in a better position and to assess the potential of Valbuena in the friendly games who seems to be giving me some much needed pace down the right flank. I have also sent Goran to the central defence as he was finding life in midfield a little too hectic. I am starting to have some success with my tweaked tactics, so I may have another crack at the feds tonight, but Ronaldinho and co will definitely have to wait for another. The point I am trying to make talking about federation tactics is that although the game is constant and can appear to move very quickly at times you can still have quite a good level of control about how quickly the world moves for you.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Keegan we have a problem

In France we get to watch live Premier league games on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm (uk time). I decided to watch Liverpool/Newcastle yesterday, primarily because I support Liverpool, and secondly Kevin Keegan is really car crash tv at the minute with his rabbit in the headlights look as his team usually sinks without a trace by half-time.

As that first deflected shot somehow ended up in the Newcastle goal, closely followed by a nice second, I knew Keegan was sunk, he knew it himself though he was still going to be forced to endure another 45mins from the sidelines.

As I smiled at poor old Kev I started to wonder what his life is like when he goes home, how does he manged to sleep after a game like that, when which they had played ok until the first goal and then folded. I also started to think about my first week with FC Kennington in the FML beta so far my team had played really well and won much more than it had lost, even though I did not really have a 'star player' in my team is football management really as torturous as Keegan makes it look?

As the 3rd Liverpool goal went in, and my Federation game window grew closer I decided it was time to stop watching and start my federation matches, you know show Kev how things are done. I should point out that confident football manager player are not usually words I would use to describe myself, I prefer to manage a small unnoticed team and toil away for many thankless years trying to give the team a bit of glory. So as I logged into the game knowing that according to the FML ranking system I was now the second best team in my qualification group, I was starting to believe my own hype, and thought lets give these kids a lesson in football management.

What happened next I can only describe as the curse of the Keegan.

I started off with a game against a team which was doing pretty poorly so I though I should be good enough to win (I wasn't!). In the second game I was playing an early high flyer so I did not know what to expect, as it turns out he had signed a star player (Wagner Love) who gave me a torid time and I slumped to my second defeat. I was starting to get quite deflated (more Avram Grant like than Jose Mourinho), I decided to play the guy with Wagner Love in his team again (just to get it out of the way) but somehow conspired to beat his team quite convincingly Love had a poor game and it seems under those conditions his team were a lesser force. With my fourth match against a guy living up to his team name (he had just beaten the top team who then stopped with all the banter and disappeared offline, Oh dear!) I managed to win a tight game and felt we were closely matched.

At this point I should of logged off and cut my loses for another day my team was doing ok, but my lone striker Gomis was not playing great, I should have just left the fed matches alone or played a few friendlies to see if I could sort my team out. Alas like the gambler chasing his losses I wanted to play just one more game to try and get the 1 more victory so I could claim my night was a success. Up next was a team called Toxteth Tigers, I had never played this team but their rank and run of recent results suggested I should have the upper hand. The first game starts and I go 1-0 up, playing well making chances I felt I was right to have that one more game... come full time I have lost 2-1 having 18 shots on goal to Toxteth's 3! I could not believe I had lost I was totally shocked. To deal with occasions like this on fml you can set your online status to do not disturb which means other managers cannot challenge you. This gives you time to regain your composure and perspective chill for a minute, decide that your losing streak is not going to end tonight. I on the other hand did not do this as I sat there stunned Toxteth sent my a challenge to play our second match, I could not resist the temptation to right a footballing wrong!

However by this time I was not thinking straight the panic had set in I started to make strange choices in both tactics and player selection, I was starting to feel very much like Keegan at this point. Had I walked away I would have known the way I was making choices would only lead to defeat and I really regret playing that last game last night. I lost 1-0 and played very very poorly. I now felt completely deflated (again) and the chances of my qualifying for the Premier league of my federation have probably died out.

So as I stood there last night doing the washing up replaying the games I played and the bad choices I had made I had the distinct feeling that the fml honeymoon period was over and that I would be in for a difficult federation season this was probably very much how Keegan was feeling at the same time too though I bet his hands were dry.

I should lastly point out that all the fed games were played against really great guys we had some good banter and it was all very light hearted, and if any of you ever read this I do wish you all the best of luck!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Federation time

Ok so tonight is when the federations kick off and I am really looking forward to it. The Federations seem to serve two functions (Please refer to Bladesman's blog for more detail about feds) the first is to generate money for your team as the federation gives you a daily payment, which will mean I can go shopping again! There is also prize money dependent on finishing positions. Within the Federation there is also a cup. If you can win your federations cup or main league then I think you qualify for inter-federation comps (think UEFA cup and Champions league). The second point of the federation is to help build up some nice rivalries. Playing in random friendlies or random comps is fun, but the federation is more constant, stable and therefore feels more important (which it is in terms of ranking points). So competing against a few familiar faces for the life of the Beta for me is quite an interesting concept. I must point out that once you join a federation then you do not have to stay indefinitely at the end of the season you can choose to remain or apply to join another federation (which may or may not be accepted).

Ok is I am part of the Early Evening Football Association (EEFA) and this means that I am expected to be online between the times of 5:30pm and 8:30pm to play federation matches. I think you can play fed matches at anytime, but committing yourself to being on the game at these times (though no ness everyday) means that you should be able to find your opponents.

The structure of the EEFA is like this there is a premier league and then three division 1 (1a, 1b, 1c) like a mini pyramid structure. The Premier league will have 23 teams although the bottom 6 will be relegated (meaning every season 6 teams go down and 2 teams from each of the division 1's will be promoted.

However as this is the first season of the federation in GW6 we will not enter that league structure until season 2. For now the EEFA has been spit into 4 qualification leagues with 17 teams in each. I think the leagues were seeded to make the leagues as even as possible. From what I gather your finishing position in the qualification league will determine whether you start season two in the premier league or 1 of the div 1's.

I have been drawn into qualification league 3 (screen shot 1) and here are my fellow teams (screen shot 2). I have ordered the teams by their rank so this is the in theory the best prediction I have of were the teams might finish, though because the game world is so young (week 2) the rankings should not be taken to seriously they have yet to stabilise (the end of season 1 ranks will be a truer reflection of peoples positions). So this is it I don't know any of the teams I am up against but am looking forward to the challenge, I do not intent to match reports for every game I play in the fed as it is not like having a conventional fixture list so I may end up playing 3 or 4 fed games in a day then nothing for another 2 or 3 days, I post my progress on here with a few post match screen shots though I doubt I will be posting everyday (I will try to post at least once or twice a week).

If there is anything you would like me to talk about then please comment on the blog and leave a suggestion and I will see what I can do.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pre-season panic buys!

As the start of the federation seasons draws closer, the clamour to buy players grows steadier by the day. I thought I would be immune to this but alas I cracked yesterday as I mentioned in my blog. I think my team are quite good, but lack a bit in midfield, my team creates chances well enough, but it can be a bit nail biting when the ball goes in the other direction! To counter the flair i felt I needed a Dunga, Dechamps figure who would carry the water and let my forward thinking players concentrate on scoring goals. I do not have a vast knowledge or world players or a FM08 editor to help me search for targets so I had to just trawl the in game player lists to look for a fellow who would like to come in from the fml cold.

I eventually made a wage bid on Goran Gavrancic who I now know (thanks to google) plys his trade with Dynamo Kiev. And thanks to the magic of e-mail I received word that Goran had signed for me while I was revising one of my experimental chapters (see picture 1).

The e-mail system works quite well I usually have it switched on to e-mail important things while I am offline in the gameworld. This usually consists of telling my when I have gained a skill, bought a player, or how a tournament I am involved in is progressing.

So knowing I had a new player and also knowing that new players usually arrive lacking match practice, I logged on to try and blood old Goran before lunch. I had time for one friendly at to be fair Goran played a bit like a man possessed, I bought him to stabilise the midfield, but the guy must have just watched the new Rambo film as he was battling away in enemy territory, trying to score and felling my opponent. This type of high intensity football in a player lacking match practice cannot last and as his influence wained in the second half he was rested to fight another day. The only other notable player was Gomis, I have been slagging him off since I signed him and today he seemed to want to prove his worth and actually put in a good performance. I was quite happy with this test on my new boy in the system until I discovered that the guy I played it was his first game ever on FML. (see picture 2)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pre-season training

For gameworld 6 (1000 team game world) our season has just been delayed for 1 day and will kick off on Friday. The reason for this is that we are the first game world to receive the new update, based on fixing some bugs and responding to the feedback provided by us noobs to FML.

This means pre-season will last 1 more day. In preseason you generally play as many games as you want, and there are two ways to do this. The first is to click on find opponent this takes you to a wizard but basically you play a friendly against someone else in your game world who is looking for a friendly. At the minute there are so many users that taking this route will have you playing in seconds. The second option is to either create and join a cup or tournament in which you specify the number of rounds, group stages, entry fee (although lots of these cups are free), game times etc. the second option is a lot of fun as group stages and two legged matches can be really exciting, though you have to commit yourself to be online during the specified cup times, which for me at the minute is not possible. I will leave you with 2 more screen shots the first is my results list to show you how many games I have been getting through and the second is shot of a custom tournament to show you what I mean by that