This is something of a first for this blog, a guest post. The author is Nick Davies who as of today is the proud owner of a brand new Football Manager forum having previously been an integral part of The Dugout. The new forum can be found at http://www.footballmanagernow.co.uk/ and is very much worth a look, you’ll find my and my writing there too.

If you’re anything like me, you await the new version of Football Manager with a mix of excitement and apprehension! Have they brought in the changes the game was crying out for, or have they changed something that didn’t need to be changed? The imminent arrival of FM15 has been no different.

Luckily for us, or perhaps SI, we have a beta version to whet the appetite. As such, it’s important to remember that it is just a beta and maybe things will change even further when the full game is released. If not straight away, then after the patching process.
For me, it’s always the smaller changes implemented by SI that I really appreciate. Imagine my horror then when I see the first, big change:

The New Side Menu

So they have completely changed the user interface and introduced a side menu. Imagine my even greater shock when I realise that as far as SI ideas go, it’s not half bad. There’s no bones about it, the side menu will take some getting used to and I still find my cursor automatically starting to move to the top of the screen only to be jarred to the side swiftly. I like the simplicity of the new menu and the fact that they introduced a ‘one-click-finds-all’ way of thinking. As has been documented already, the headlines page is too bright, but when viewed less regularly, I find it far more acceptable. Thankfully we can tone down the regularity with which we see it.

Scouting

My initial thought is that the page is very squashed. And I say that as someone who plays FM on a 24″ monitor. It’s basically the old player search screen and a condensed version of the scouting screen amalgamated together.

I understand the need for less clicking, but any more than four options selected in the search criteria and I’m having to scroll down those options anyway. So much for less clicking and it being more manageable.

When you drill into the actual scouting process it’s much more user friendly and SI have done a good job in making it more customisable with the added option to send your scout(s) looking for either a ‘first team player’ or a ‘backup player’ etc.  The addition of them choosing a position for that player, followed by a role, is also a welcome one, although admittedly not for everyone.

Scouting might take a bit longer to set up now, but the fact it’s more customisable makes up for that.

Also, somewhat linked to scouting, is the lovely little reminder you get that a league you have subscribed to is starting. You get an option to scout that league, which is a Godsend for those of us with squiffy memories!

Scout Reports

Lets be honest, they didn’t need changing. Do they contain any information that we couldn’t see from the FM14 version? Not that I’ve noticed, but I find them far easier to gauge a player at a glance. Straight away you can see if the pros outweigh the cons in the first half a second’s viewing. I like the bullet-point style

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Match-day Features

Lets be honest, the match-day experience is a massive part in the way most players view the game. If you’re one of those players that only use commentary only, you’ll miss all of what I’m about to explain I like. For me, this could be the difference between me using 2D or 3D this year.

Stewards. Yes,  the addition of stewards at games has got me genuinely excited and I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t what it is. The way they stand there in their orange jackets with their arms folded behind their backs probably. The introduction of team colours in the stands gives the match some personality, as do the flags and jumbo screens. It feels far more immersive than ever before. Crowds seem to react to the action now rather than just being cardboard cut-outs at a football game. I don’t play with sound on (my missus would leave me) but I imagine if did, it’d push me over the edge of excitement!

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But all good things must come to an end and there are thing about FM15 that I don’t like. I know, how can a guy that likes the addition of stewards at games dislike anything, right? Wrong.

The Tactics Screen

No. Just no.

I’m not sure who thought of the idea or of the justification behind it but it doesn’t work and I hope SI see the error of their ways and change it sooner rather than later.
The removal of the roles and duty from the tactics screen is one of the biggest SI faux pas’ of the last decade. And I lived through the debacle that was CM4. Was that a decade ago? Probably longer. It’s far less manageable having them shifted over to the left and I’m not a fan of being able to see your squad until you sign them a position.

The whole idea of clicking the blank space to add a player is terrible, but even more so when the pop up box it opens doesn’t even listed players in order of position for you. It’s far easier to drag and drop, but takes far longer than the old way of right clicking on a player to fill a position. 

One good re-addition is the ability to click on a player on the tactics pitch to bring up his instructions. That’s good and that can stay.

Press Conferences

I expected a lot from these this year and have been left disappointed thus far. The initial meeting with the chairman and your assistant is exactly the same, thus not giving us any extra rapport with the man at the very top of the club. Chairman have needed more personality for years and this ‘welcome meeting’ would have been an excellent place to start.

Press conferences in general look very much the same. I’ve had a few different question so far, but most of them are the same but worded differently. I understand that it’d be very easy to make press conferences ‘too much’ and inundate the player with questions, but I’d like to see them be made more intelligent and react to what’s happening in-game.

The addition of interviews in the tunnel is nice, but again, the questions need to be made more intelligent with relative answers.

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Training

I’m big on my training and have never liked the change from the sliders. I’ve learnt to accept the change and the fact the sliders are never coming back. What I did expect to see though, was an evolution of the current way of doing things. I am left disappointed.
In individual training you can now set it based on ‘support’ or ‘attack’ duty should you wish to. The whole thing just feels like a bit of overkill to me. Again it takes longer, with too much clicking.

That said, I do like the fact we can now click on the ‘Squad Training Happiness’ graph and see who is unhappy and why.

Set Piece Creator

I feel like I’ve spoken until I’m blue in the face about this thing. It’s largely pointless and far too simplistic. I was hoping the additions of Prozone and the motion capture stuff would have seen a real revamp in set pieces, but nothing has changed since it’s introduction. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s EXACTLY the same.

It’d be amazing to be able to configure set piece routines instead of the wildly broad ‘near post’, ‘far post’ options. Being able to configure individual player runs would be pretty sweet and add a whole new dimension to the game.

As it is, I can leave set pieces alone, set a taker and still watch 8-12 goals be scored from corners and freekicks each season.

Conclusion

There are a number of ‘features’ that have been added in order to impress people with the ‘FM15 with 1,000 new features’ talk we have to endure pre-release, but there are also some good ones. There are clearly issues with the game to iron out, but the base is most definitely there for the best version of Football Manager ever.

There is plenty I haven’t experienced yet and I’m sure I’ll unlock some more pros and cons along the way.

The big flaws are the lack of movement on the set piece front and the tactics screen. The new scout reports are great and the match-day experience is the best it’s ever been.

Will I be getting the new game? Of course. But SI could have released FM14 with a data update and I’d still have bought it. Me and half a million others, I imagine.

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