LT Panel
RT Panel
Just Visiting
Saturday | October 20, 2018
Popular Review Links:
Football Manager Live Preview (PC)

Football Manager Live Preview (PC)

Football Manager Live – Preview

Back in 1992 in the days when I had a Commodore Amiga and anyone could program a game in their bedroom a football management game was released which was the first in a long series of games to strip me of any sort of social interaction. That game was Championship Manager.

Programmed by the Collier brothers (founders of Sports Interactive) its simple text based interface dropped you into the complex world of management where you could play through four league divisions with a group of randomly generated players. The interface which was basic even by 1992 standards did nothing to take away from the complete addictiveness of the game and served only to hide a fascinating and complex gameplay mechanic from those who dismissed the title based on looks alone.

Between 1993 and 2003 the game continued to evolve through several versions and seasonal updates which added features such as commentary by Clive Tyldesley and a new match engine as well as addition leagues and more importantly the addition of real players along with comprehensive statistics on each.

During this period the Championship Manager series developed a massive international following and when version 4 was released in March 2003 it became the fastest selling PC game up to that date and despite a number of bugs on release is regarded as one of the best management simulations ever. With the release of the season 03/04 update Sports Interactive completed their development of the Championship Manager franchise and moved publishers from Eidos to Sega and although games are still released under the same title they were recoded from scratch by a new development team.

Sports Interactive were able to retain the Championship Manager base code and player database when moving to Sega and used these to create the first game in the Football Manager series. Football Manager 2005 was released in November 2004 and featured a new user interface, game engine, match engine, updated database and numerous additions and enhancements to the depth of the experience such as mind games and more detailed coaching reports. Development has continued through yearly updates and additional platforms such as the PSP and Xbox 360 have received their own versions. Additionally sales have continued in the same vein as the older Championship Manager series with the 2007 version of Football Manager becoming the second fastest selling game of all time in the UK.

As the popularity of the internet has grown, like any successful game the Football Manager series has developed a strong online community but the game has always retained its single player focus, until now…

Football Manager Live – Initial set-up

Due for release later this month (October 2008) Football Manager Live is a massively multiplayer online game which uses the core Football Manager engine but tailors it for online use.

Upon signing up to the game and downloading the client (a 20mb download) we begin the process of creating our team. The game walks us through a simple set of steps to do this as well as offering options such as the ability to read the basic user guide before beginning. There are two main methods of building the initial squad; the first is to allow the game to choose the players based on criteria set by us, the manager. We are limited to a budget of £500,000 and must have a minimum of 16 players in the squad with a wage budget of no more than £100,000.

Setup Assistant

As a little hook to involve managers in the experience right from the offset the game bases the initial selection of players on the age ranges specified by the user but also tries to find players with links to the club we stated as supporting when creating our initial manager profile. So if you happen to enter Leeds United you can expect to see one or two of their players from the past or present in the initial squad. If the automatically generated set of players is not to the satisfaction of the user these can be freed up individually, or as a squad, at which point we can begin searching the extensive database for individuals who would be better suited to our team. When selecting players we have a huge amount of information on which to base our purchase with each having numerous attributes which range from 0 to 20 with the latter being the maximum rating in a particular skill. Using these we can easily tell if Wayne Rooney would be a better attacking midfielder than Accrington Stanley’s midfield dynamo, Andrew Procter.



Finally, during the initial process a player is assigned to the team on a short term trial contract and it is only when the squad has been submitted to the game that we move to seasonal contracts.

A completed squad showing senior appearance statistics.

At this point the user and their team of potential world beaters are released into an online world of up to 1000 other managers. From this stage onwards the game really takes off and we realise just how deep and involving the whole experience is.

Basic Functionality

Football Manager Live opens up in two main windows (although this can be set to one in the preferences) with one dedicated to chat rooms such as the general chat lobby or help and the second window is where we control our team.

Chat Client

Main interface showing news items

The main interface is simple to navigate with a selection of dropdown menus along the top of the client and a tab/button section below which changes depending on the screen selected in the menus. For example if we choose the “Manager” menu and then “Profile” we are taken to a breakdown of our online persona with tabs for skills, achievements and so on. If we were to choose the “Club” menu and then “Squad” we are taken to a list of our players with tabs for screens such as statistics and finances with buttons for areas like tactics and fixtures. There are also sections within the main engine where we receive daily news on our finances and rankings as well as important world events, team news from coaches and mail from other members such as transfer offers.

The Path to World Domination

So, we have our initial squad of players and we have set up the team profile to our satisfaction right down to the colour of their socks and the pattern used when cutting the grass at our home ground. What do we do next? The simple answer is get playing.

There are three main ways to play Football Manager Live. The first is friendly matches where we can use a short wizard to look for an opponent in the game world who also wants to play. The client then pairs us up with another manager and a single game takes place. These games are useful for keeping players match fit between seasons as well as trying out new tactics or signings. These games also have a small bearing on your teams overall world ranking. Next up are unofficial competitions. It is possible for any individual within the game world to create a competition, league or cup, and have other players join it. As with friendly’s these have benefits of keeping players fit and honing tactics but also allow us to play for considerable sums of game money. For example the organiser can set an entry fee of £50,000 with 50% of the total entry fee going to the winner of the competition and the rest split depending on placing. This is also an ideal place for groups of friends or colleagues to play against each other for bragging rights.

An unofficial league in progress

Finally we have official competitions which give the most points towards the teams ranking within the game world. These official competitions are the heart and soul of the Football Manager Live experience and take two forms, knock out cup games and league.

The main focus is on league football where users can choose a Football Association to join based on the times of day they expect to play. For example those who wish to play at weekends but with limited time have the Weekend Casual Association, or for those who wish to play in the evenings but prefer a higher number of games against more challenging opposition then the Xtreme Evening Football Association is more suited. Within the Associations there are leagues which have a ladder system with the top rung being the premier league and there being several lower leagues with relegation and promotion between levels.  If managers are unavailable to play scheduled games by a pre-determined date the system checks the activity of each manager and awards the most active manager with the option to play the game against an AI manager with performance penalty for the team who are controlled by the system.

An official Xtreme league with 20 teams playing each other three times, 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw.

It is in this league system where the world of finances begins to shape up. Seasons within Football Manager Live last approximately three to four weeks and at the start of each season the Associations and leagues are assigned a specific set of media money which is then split between the teams. There is an initial one off payment to each club and then the rest of the funds are distributed at the end of the season based on league position. Because of this financial system players who choose to play in more difficult associations with more work and harder opponents receive better financial rewards than casual players. This then filters through to the squad with more funds available for better players.

A breakdown of the club finances which shows the current position as well as a projection

Initially this may sound like the casual player will find it hard to progress in the game world but this is not necessarily the case as these users will be competing against teams/managers who have similar budgets to them. As the game progresses the emphasis also leans more towards managerial skills such as tactics and scouting than buying the best known players.

Skill Progression

As well as the basic management of the club users are also able to increase their managerial skills throughout the lifetime of the game. During the setup wizard we choose an initial set of skills to aim for such as Tactics. The game then suggests the skills to learn to achieve our main goal of master tactician. The incentive to build these skills is that by increasing the level of each area we unlock more configuration options in the tactics screen. Some skill progressions also offer a different type of benefit such as improving physiotherapy level which decreases the time it takes for a player to recover from injury. Each skill requires a specific number of points to unlock and these points are awarded on a time basis with no other interaction required which makes this a simple to use aspect of the game.

Tactics skill progression screen and the in game tactics tab showing items unlocked by skill progression.

Match Engine

When playing a match in Football Manager Live we first have to submit our team line-up to the “referee”. From there on we are taken to the main match screen which displays a top down view of the pitch.

The Match Engine

In the main pitch area we watch the highlights from the game with players represented by moving coloured dots which can be played at three speeds, fast being the preference of most users. Below the pitch is a bar which serves two functions, firstly it shows the balance of play on a sliding scale which indicates which team has the most possession and secondly, when a highlight is playing a text commentary of the segment is displayed in this area. Bullet points on important incidents and chat between managers takes place at the right of the screen (as with most text windows in the game, items such as player name are clickable and take us to the relevant screen such as player profile) and surrounding the pitch and chat area we have various tabs which allow us to impact the game. We can for example go into the statistics screen to view how well the teams are shaping up or the tactics and subs screen to make changes to the squad which take effect at the next break in play (Fouls, corners, throw-ins, goal kicks, goals or half time).

Match Statistics

Tactics and Subs Screen

Who wins and looses each game is essentially decided by numerous factors which are calculated by the match servers and are based on aspects such as tactics, player skills and rating for the particular game. Therefore it is possible to impact the flow of the game considerably with the changes made. Changing formation when it is clear from the highlights that your team is being over-run by their opponents or substituting players who are not performing to their normal level  all have a visible impact on how the match plays out.

Not going so well? Time for the transfer market.

No manager is perfect and in the initial squad we are as likely to get duds so the transfer market is an area where we can begin to rectify the mistakes and build a better team.

There are two main ways to search for players. The first is to use the search field in the top right of the screen to locate an individual. This makes it easy to locate players known to us in the real world, browse their profile and make a bid. In addition to this it is also possible to display a list of all available players within the game and then tailor the screen to our needs.

For example, entering the “All Players” screen and then filtering the list on “Technical” and “Midfielders” displays the technical attributes of all midfielders which we can then sort by skill. So if we wish to buy a quality defensive midfielder we can search by that position or by the tackling skill where those individuals with a level of 20 are displayed at the top of the list and then the quality descends as we move down through the pages.

Sort by skill

Sort by price

Auctions also take place within the game world and come in two forms, the first is wage auctions and these usually take place in situations where players are nearing the end of their contract. As we stated earlier, each player is signed on a seasonal basis with the maximum length of a deal being 2 seasons. It is possible to contract protect five squad members at any time which means they have their contract automatically renewed when it expires but for all other players they enter the wage auction stage where anyone can bid for the player. The team entering the highest wage signs the player and an acquisition fee is paid to the club who held his contract. This is one of the core principles that ensures a turnover of players within the game.

Transfer Auctions are initiated by managers and at any time it is possible to transfer list an individual at which point we specify a starting bid, length of auction and instant buy amount. If another manager chooses to instant buy the auction is ended for that price but if this does not happen the highest bidder signs the player at the end of the bidding process.

There are two other aspects to the signing process which are also worth noting. The first is that we are able to save players in a shortlist as we search. With so many on show it makes finding a player who we located earlier much easier with the additional benefit that if something happens to that player such as injury or a bid from another team a news update is delivered to our game inbox giving details. The second aspect is that players in each team can have auto reject and auto accept figures set. So if another manager decides they wish to buy our player when they select the option to make an offer they are told the conditions set by us. This saves any time wasting from players who think sending a bid of £500 for Kaka is reasonable.

Set automatic responses

Make a bid

Closing thoughts and overall experience
There are not many online games which can say they have been through 16 years of development but that is essentially the case with Football Manager Live. Since the creation of the original Championship Manager in 1992 each subsequent release has been an enhancement or refinement to the original core principles of the game and Football Manager Live is the latest.

Because of this constant development of the series Football Manager Live is about as well rounded an experience as we are likely to find at the launch of a mass multiplayer game. That is not to say there are no problems with the pre-release code, in the time since we began testing there we have seen our fair share of problems from players who remained contracted, even after their team was deleted to catastrophic game world crashes and extreme lag. Sports Interactive and Sega have been learning throughout the development and in recent builds it is much easier to see a near finished product and we feel happier knowing that the disaster recovery process for game worlds has been thoroughly tested and refined.

There are two areas where we have to reserve judgement on the game until we test the final code later this month and that is the lag experienced at the launch of our most recent game world and the overall balance of the match engine and how it creates results. On the lag front our last launch experience was painful as the system struggled to cope with hundreds of managers auto selecting their teams and then the subsequent releasing and signing of individuals. In the end we had to sign out of the game and return later when the servers had died down to build our squad.

In terms of balance our main concern is results which appear to be quite random on some rare occasions. A prime example occurred with our most recent team when we had gone on a 10 game unbeaten run and were fast climbing the world rankings and leagues only to be beaten by a team ranked 300 or so places below us. A team who then went on to continue losing regularly in their subsequent games. It can be argued that our team had an off day/match where as the opponents were on their top form but given the gulf in ranking and the form before and after it is occasions like this where it is hard to see where the defeat has come from and it just does not feel right.

What we are happy to report is that the Football Manager Live community is a friendly place and at the time of writing we have not experienced any negativity from other managers, a swear filter is also in place to protect younger players.

In this preview we have tried to cover the main aspects of the Football Manager Live experience but it should be clear that the scope to become completely immersed in the game is huge. There is so much depth should you have time to explore it but equally it is just as fun to play if only dipping in and out of to play league games.

In early November we will give our full opinion on the final game code and experience so remember to check back then. In the mean time the first game worlds go live at the end of October 2008 and pre-orders are open at Various payment packages are available as are payment methods such as credit card and PayPal.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

It appears you have AdBlocking activated

Unfortunately AdBlockers interfere with the shopping cart process

To continue with the payment process can we ask you to

deactivate your AdBlocking plugin

or to whitelist this site. Then refresh the page

We thank you for your understanding

Hardwareheaven respect you right to employ plugins such as AdBlocker.
We would however ask you to consider whitelisting this site
We do not allow intrusive advertising and all our sponsors supply items
relevant to the content on the site.

Hardwareheaven Webmaster