Hi guys, I've been lucky enough to be in the Football Manager Live beta for a while now - DagsJT just asked if I could post a short review in the chatbox. Thinking that I couldn't, I just asked in the main lobby chatroom in-game, and apparently it's perfectly alright, including screenshots! So seeing as it's allowed, here's a little taster for you. Please use this thread as the FML thread when the game is released etc... ------------------------------ Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes First thing's first - this isn't FM as we know it. You don't pick a real club (such as Man United), and you're not put in a real league as such (so you're not in an "English" league, you're just in a league, meaning different rules and competitions than you might expect). I was quite disappointed when I realised this, but Ov Collyer explained to me on the SI Forums that there have to be some differences and some unrealistic elements for things to work well in a "massively multiplayer" format. There's a setup assistant when you start, which helps you get to grips with the important things quite quickly. You create yourself, with your name, birthday, the area you live in, the team you support and a picture (not everything is compulsory but it adds to the experience), and once you've done that you move onto your club. You create a club from scratch - they start off with no players whatsoever, so you need to sign some up yourself. You give them a name (and then put "FC" on the end because everyone else has :roll, a stadium name, a badge (if you have one), home and away kits etc. - but of course, the most important bit is player acquisition. Again, it's so different from FM that it takes some getting used to, but basically... Every player has an acquisition fee, which you must pay even if you're getting the player on a "free transfer". I presume the reason behind this is so that clubs don't snap up every player available on the market at little cost to themselves - there are already clubs hoarding 100+ players, but only the mega-rich clubs can afford to do that. When you start off for the first time, you're given £500k. You pick the players that are available and once you've reserved them and paid the fees for them, that's it, they're yours (and you're left with around £10k if you picked a decent team). But in the middle of a season, say Joe Bloggs isn't attached to a club and you want him, offering him a contract starts a bidding war. You offer whatever wage you feel is the most you can offer, and then other clubs have 24hrs to better that. At the end of that period, the club that's offered the most wins him, and must then pay the acquisition fee. Transfer values for contracted players aren't as high as the real-world values would be - £3m-£5m is only usually paid for the very best players. I'm led to believe £11m is the record so far, for a 29-year-old Wayne Rooney, but this was an absolute one-off. Wages are also less than real-world values - the average wage for a real Tranmere player is about £2,000 a week, I have a couple of Brazilians who could play for a bottom-half Premier League/top-half Championship side on £1,250-£1,500. But again, there is another difference - wages aren't paid "per week", they're paid per real-time day. In FML, it's common to equate one day to about a week of "real time" - it's not an exact science, purposefully so because different people play for different lengths of time, and because in different FAs (see below) some seasons last longer than others. In the FA I play in, one league season lasts for twenty days. In another, two whole seasons are played out in the same time-frame. So you could say that one day of my season would be about two weeks of a real year (making a season ten months long), whereas in the other FA one day would be about four weeks of a real year. So features like wages, ages and injuries are moulded around these new timescales - for example, players all age by one year after each season finishes, and a player of mine who has recently torn his hamstring will be unavailable for selection for about five days. When you can play 3-4 games in a day or more, that's a lot of games to wait for his recovery. When you start the game, there's several gameworlds to choose from. At the moment there are six, although this will probably change once the game is released. Each gameworld is seperate from the others, meaning that each world has its own Rooney, without duplicate. Once you join a gameworld and you set up your club, you must choose an FA to join. All of the FAs are for different amounts of playtime - there are FAs for occasional players, regular players and "I have quit my job to play this game" players. Each have schedule guidelines, which are when most players are online, and each have seperate league structures, competitions and rules. I was looking for an English style structure, with a 20-team top flight losing 3 teams to relegation, a 24-team league below that with two automatic promotions, one promotion through the playoffs and three relegations, etc... There was one FA that copied the English structure perfectly, and that I was happy to sign up to - only to discover that the rules were altered so that you played each team four times instead of twice. I found another that was similar, but as mentioned previously, they played two seasons in around three weeks. Thankfully there is an FA that is reasonably similar to the real English structure, with the only difference being three or four cup competitions and an unlimited-team bottom league (at the moment there's 30 teams in there), and the only downside being slightly earlier hours than I would have liked. You have to make some sacrifices over what you want, but I've been told by Ov Collyer that they're constantly evolving FAs thanks to the feedback and when the full game is released there will be a lot more FAs available than there are now. World XI When the gameworlds start from scratch, every player will be unattached, and so there will be a lot of choice. Being English and a big fan of all our leagues, I was looking forward to setting up an English club - the game asks where your club will be based, so it's perfectly reasonable to expect a very English line-up. There is an auto-picker - however, it's not advisable to use it if you want to pick the best players available and the ones that suit your style, because the auto-picker is not programmed to pick the best players (otherwise it would make things too easy), and it will pick, amongst others, average players of your nationality and players who have played for the team you support. It also asks for an amount of players to look for, meaning you can spread the budget thinly or you can blow it all on a few players - but there is no "include an U21 squad" option, and you will need to purchase some (they're not required to play the game but having young talent vastly increases your chances of success - if you train young players up to become stars, your club can gain much-needed cash and reputation). When I picked my players, I was disappointed to see that when I looked through the final squads (senior and U21), every single player within each squad was from a different country. After the realism of FM I was expecting more, but again it comes back to Ov saying that you cannot expect from FML the things you would expect from FM. It's not neccessarily a bad thing, and it's certainly better than settling for the auto-picker's players. I'd never win a game with the English players that were left over. But it is a culture-shock, certainly. The points I've raised so far may make you think it sounds like some things are missing or poorly implemented, but they genuinely aren't. It's just a new way of doing things, for a totally new style of play. It doesn't take long to understand why the game is the way it is, and after a few days of interacting with real people rather than robots, it makes going back to the normal FM feel sterile and old-fashioned. The game features chatrooms (where you can find a general lobby, a transfer market that's always buzzing with activity, a tactical discussion room where you can ask the virtual Alex Ferguson's why your team can't score to save their lives, and a chatroom for your FA), newspapers (listing the manager's actual reactions to results and other news items, as well as the latest results and transfers), a personal email service (where you can send and receive messages directly) and an inbox (where you can choose to receive several kinds of mailing lists - a common example is the transfer mailing list, where clubs will list the players they are looking to sell or loan out, with descriptions of them to try and entice you into making an offer). To interact with all of the above, on a daily basis, is genuinely thrilling. To be a part of a vibrant and real world where everything that's happening is affecting a club somewhere, is a fantastic experience - nothing is scripted, it's all real. When you read that a team is enduring an injury crisis, someone has made an eleventh-hour bid for Kaka, or the manager of Super Noodles FC claims that "we should all give more respect to referees but that referee was a complete tit", it's like reading the back of an actual newspaper. The game is different from the FM we know and love, but it's as realistic as a game like this can be - and it's beautifully put together by a team that knows exactly what they're doing. Serious Skillz Shortly after setting everything up and noticing the absence of backroom staff and training, you notice one of the game's best features. In FM you would have ratings for each part of your game that would change dynamically every few months - tactical knowledge, man management, etc... Well in FML, you're given nothing for free. You have to go back to school. Each part of the game, apart from the absolute basics, requires the learning of a skill. To learn a skill, you simply go to the skills page and select what you want to learn. There are hundreds of things to unlock, in several categories - coaching, tactics, and learning to name but a few. Some examples; coaching skills mean that your players are coached better and improve their attributes as well as their work rate allows them to. There are levels for 5% increases, 10% increases etc., and there are skills for increases in specific player positions (so you can concentrate on becoming a good goalkeeping coach, if that's what you want to do, or you can become a Jack of all trades, master of none). Tactics skills unlock more notches on the sliders, more team instructions, more player instructions, opposition player instructions etc., learning skills allow you to learn the rest of the skills more quickly - and this really is just scratching the surface. Depending on the skill chosen, and the level of each skill you learn (some skills have five levels of competence, from beginners level to advanced), you can be waiting between 19 minutes and over a week for the skill levels to be completed. To learn a skill you simply drag the one you're after into your "currently learning" box - you can only learn one at a time, so it becomes very important to choose the right skills. I started off learning lots of tactical skills before I realised, the default tactics are good enough to keep the players playing - you can choose to keep things simple, which actually helps, and so all I really needed to learn at the start tactically was the basics, counter-attacking and marking instructions. The players need coaching and you need your scouting abilites to be able to see more players in the gameworld and to guage the potential of younger players. If you can see their potential more accurately than someone else, you could grab a future superstar without other managers around you realising it. This adds a whole new strategy to the game, and a new realism element as well - instead of starting off with average ratings for all areas of your knowledge, you have to go off to a virtual Lilleshall and get your coaching badges.