First of all, a disclaimer – yes I know this is beta and a lot of people will look at my criticisms and say “calm down, they’ll fix that for the main game”. However, I still think my criticisms are valid for a number of reasons:
- there are problems where the game seems to have regressed significantly from FM12. I really don’t know how this happens, surely even FM13 beta should be building on the foundations of previous games
- some of the problems are so obvious that I’m dumbstruck that they haven’t been seen in pre-beta testing. For me, this means one of two things: a. no pre-beta testing was done or b. it was done and there were other issues which have been “corrected” but had a knock-on effect to create the current issues. Which brings me on to my third point…
- if the latter is true then two weeks is a very short time to not only fix the current issues but also to test the subsequent beta / release code and ensure that there aren’t any unwanted side effects. How effectively will the problems be rectified? SI have a fairly good record in correcting in-game bugs but at lot of players have argued that each release isn’t “stable” until the 3rd post-winter-window patch
- lastly, some of my first impressions are with things which clearly aren’t bugs but are items which have been deliberately input by SI, be that new features or amendments to existing ones.
Anyway, for those reasons, I think that a “very early impressions” post is valid although I will obviously be reserving full judgement until full release. Here’s what I think so far…
What you can carry over from FM12
Let’s start with some good news – you can import your FM12 tactics and graphics straight into FM13. The tactics may not be as effective – particularly exploitative tactics – so beware.
The new interface
As with every FM (and every annually released game), SI have implemented a new user interface for FM13. I have no idea why they insist on doing so because, from what I’ve seen around the community, the default dark skin for FM12 was the most popular since I’ve been playing the game.
Of course, SI want you to feel like it’s an entirely new game and not just FM12 with a new database and a few new additions so a new skin makes you think “hey, this it totally different”. I really don’t think it was necessary here though and the FM12 skin with alterations to the menus and tabbing options to include the new features would have been perfectly sufficient.
The start screen actually gave me some real hope for the skin, despite the blog videos which were released. It’s lovely really. Sensibly dark… a theme which is abandoned as soon as you press “Start New Game”.
The default skin – which will be the only option available with the game – is absolutely horrendous. It’s blocky and either jam packed with too many widgets or contains large empty spaces. It’s garishly bright outside of the match day experience and most, if not all, of the action buttons have moved from their convenient FM12 locations to far flung reaches of your screen. Let’s look at one of the worst examples:
First thing to note is that none of those players are actually selected. My gut feel here is that someone noted that the blinding white background was too disturbing on the squad screen so someone came along and suggested that they just make it grey. Well it looks awful.
Not just that, there are masses of empty space where the old tabs used to be for switching to your tactics, fixtures, etc. Now they’ve been moved to the top right and the buttons have been shrunk.
For me, the skin isn’t usually a massive problem though – I’ll simply download a better one within days of full release but what has irked me is that the FM12 dark skin was fantastic. Why mess with it?
That isn’t to say that the interface is bad throughout. For example, the match preview screen (below) is very nice and is much more in line with what I would want to see from the skin as a whole.
There’s also a nice touch for the processing gaps, i.e. where you’ve pressed Continue and are waiting for the game to calculate the world actions. Now, you get a drop down from the top of the screen showing a calendar lookahead and a window in the centre which shows the usual nonsense “hints and tips” as well as results and news.
It’s a nice touch and uses up some free space in an efficient manner. It also provides my brain with a brief respite from the 200000 lumen torture of the live pages.
So, being frank, the skin is a massive fail. If I was unable to download a community created skin then it would seriously make me consider asking for a refund… for the brief respite of matchday preview and the processing screens it gets 2/10
Match Engine / Match-Day
Despite this being the crux of the game, I’m not going to spend a great deal of time discussing the problems with the actual tactical engine. There are obvious MASSIVE fails in the number of goals from back-post crosses, the ridiculous standard of defending and goalkeeping plus issues such as the ball going through the net. However, these are clearly beta specific so shouldn’t, and I stress SHOULDN’T, be in the main game. If you want to read about them, see the official SI forum.
There are quite a few things that will be in the main game, however – primarily the match day graphics and interface.
Firstly, the playing graphics. They are much improved. The players move more smoothly and realistically, with goalkeeper movements (including proper dives and saving with their feet) being amongst the primary improvements. Here’s an example of the improved graphics engine.
There are also changes to the peripheral graphics. Most noticeably, you have the option to watch the “TV View” minimised or maximised. Comme ca:
Notice the top bar along the top. It’s a nice little touch, although when you select the minimised screen you get a rolling dropdown when you move your mouse towards the top. This is very annoying if you’ve placed widgets in these areas.
This is another potential beta problem which has been reported and hopefully will be fixed for the full game.
The new camera angles are fairly nice too although, to be honest, I can’t find any instructions on how to use the new zoom in / zoom out feature so I’m afraid I can’t pass on any details about that.
Another small change is that you no longer get the ball, whistle or flag graphic in the middle of the screen for a goal, foul or offside in game. Instead, this appears as one of the irritating pop-ups in the top right of your viewable “TV” screen. I preferred the old style but this is just a matter of taste, I guess.
There are some nice features. In between highlights, you get a pop-up box like this:
You can use the dropdown in the top-right of this box to change it to match stats or any number of other options which pick your fancy. For me, it’s a little unnecessary as I tend to have a series of minimised widgets on screen but it could be very handy for some.
Also, throughout the matchday experience the background picture is, in fact, a moving view of the stadium at which you are playing (the FM version, not real life). It goes through a series of wide angles or along the stands. Again, completely unnecessary but a nice little touch.
So, without delving into the actual tactical engine and the current problems, I think that’s about it for the matchday experience. As I said above, there really isn’t that much difference from FM12 – it just looks a bit different.
Tactical engine (in current form) – 0/10 unplayable
Graphical engine and appearance – 7/10
Director of Football / other new staff
One of the most well-received new features from the blogs was the announcement that a new “Director of Football” position would be implemented in FM13. The old “team policy” page has now become “staff responsibilities”. As well as all the old previous features such as being able to get your assistant to take control of friendlies, team talks and press conferences; you can now set different members of staff to carry out a raft of tasks:
Really quite handy for those FMers who just want to fire through the games without doing too much else.
You can also instruct your Director of Football to handle negotiations for specific players for you by assigning the to either your “Transfer Targets” list or “Unwanted List”. This is something I have had no success with whatsoever so far but it seems to be a nice addition and I haven’t heard too many complaints from other so far.
The good thing with the Transfer Targets list (above) is that you can limit your DoF somewhat: by setting a maximum offer and the proposed squad status. Unfortunately, you don’t appear to be able to do the same for the overall “find transfer targets” option from the staff responsibilities page. To me, it would be nice to be able to say to your DoF – “I need a young quick striker but he has to be an EU national as we’re over our limit already. Go find me one.” Yes, you can decide to have the last say on confirming transfers but I think being able to give your DoF search parameters would be better and more realistic. This is, of course, assuming that there isn’t an option there that I’m just missing!!
Staff changes then… 5/10. Too early to tell how effective they are but seem to be an interesting addition.
Arrgghhh!! Awful. Not sure why, again, they’ve messed with a working formula.
Basically, you can no longer create your own schedules. Instead, just like the Tactical Creator, you are forced to let the AI decide how much “more” is and, crucially for me, what categories are reduced when you decide to focus on a particular area.
For example, in previous years I have had some pre-season training schedules where I’ve ramped up the physical training for 3 weeks then I’ve slowly dropped it over the season down to just a couple of clicks in the last few weeks. I can no longer do this, effective or not, because I can only choose to increase focus on a certain area. If I decide to focus on defending, who knows what other areas are being reduced to compensate?
It seems to me that it’s been “dumbed down” quite significantly and this is something that I really don’t like. I liked the old slider system but, as with tactics, SI seem to be trying to move away from sliders and force people to use the default dropdowns.
There are good additions such as being able to set individual training focuses to a specific role. However, this is again decided for you – i.e. the AI decides what settings are best suited for a ball-playing defender. It’s not for me and I don’t really understand why it’s been done. If anything, it’s probably a little more labour intensive as you set weekly focus areas for your team’s training. For people who aren’t interested in training, just let them assign a staff member to handle it. For those who are, why make it a dumbed-down, more labour intensive version?
Training – 3/10
Finances – Projection
This is just a small addition but one I like so I thought I’d highlight it. There is now a 5th tab on the finances screen – “Projection”. This shows your anticipated salary two years out and expected balance over that period. It’s a little basic but it’s a welcome addition.
This gets an 8/10 for me.
I’m aware that I’ve been rabbiting on a bit so I’ll bring this to a close. I’m also aware that the above seems very negative and while my first impressions are largely on the “anti” side, this is always true. I’m a old bugger so change never sits well with me and I usually get used to the game sooner rather than later and settle in just in time for the next instalment and get cranky again.
Also, it’s still a fantastic game and easily the best one I’ve ever played, hence why I spend so much time playing it – much to the annoyance of Mrs Naldo.
However, I really, REALLY dislike the new skin and training amendments. The former isn’t much of a problem as I’ll soon download one from the community sources and I’ll probably soon get used to ignoring the latter. There are serious issues with the current match-engine, to the point where I recently mentioned to someone that I find it borderline unplayable. However, this is just the beta version and the issues are being reported ad nauseam on the official forums so we can only hope that they are sorted in time for official release and the inevitable patch that accompanies it.
The improved in-match graphics are really very nice and make for a more realistic and immersive match experience. I’m sure I’ll get used to the new match interface although the new notifications are pretty irritating (although customisable it should be noted).
All in all, it’s early days and it shows. There is the same old fantastic football management sim in there though and we can only hope that the new ploy of releasing beta to get the community to test the game pays dividends with an effective and comprehensive release-day patch.
So those are my thoughts at this very early stage. Do you agree? Are there other new features which I haven’t highlighted which you really like or hate? Do you actually love the new skin? Am I too harsh or have I undersold the problems? I’d love to hear what you think…