FM13 – my (very early) first impressions

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.

FM13 Start Screen

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:

The squad screen

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.

 The dark skin is in complete contrast to the non-match day screens and begs the question – why are they so different?

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:

Maximised screen

Minimised screen

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:

Staff responsibilities page

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.

Training

Arrgghhh!! Awful. Not sure why, again, they’ve messed with a working formula.

Standard training screen

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.

Financial Projection Screen

This gets an 8/10 for me.

Conclusion

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…

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23 responses to “FM13 – my (very early) first impressions

  1. I agree with pretty much all of this.

    The skin sucks as a whole, it’s too fiddly, even if they magnified all the ribbon menus it would be an improvement. The dark tone behind the players is maddening and completely stupid, cannot understand it.

    The entire match day experience, skin and all, is fantastic, massive improvement over last year.

    I can’t understand why they’ve ditched training too, that seems stupid.

    Tiny little things are my favourite improvements, for example, in international management, at half time in a friendly, little green boxes appear next to players who have club instructions, great feature, no more pissing off Sir Alex.

    A few of these decisions feel very un SI, they usually deliver a quality experience with no real aspect that you can say “why the f*** did they do that?”

    But maybe it’s because it’s the beta, although with only two weeks left that’s a bit of a weak excuse for them….

    • Thanks, didn’t know that about the international management. Good wee addition that and much needed.

      The ditching of sliders is a worrying trend for me as it seems a lot more “console” for want of a better term. Maybe I’m in the minority though.

      • That’s probably a valid point actually. The way everything is designed now I feel more comfortable trying to use only the keyboard shortcuts. It’s impossible though. But trying to get more successful on consoles is probably something SI are trying to do.

  2. Shrew,

    I’ve historically waited until after Christmas before purchasing each new FM release, but this year I’ve been considering buying early. In the game’s current state would you recommend I move forward early, or are the issues with the match engine glaring enough for me to hold off until official release or thereafter?

    I ask only because I am still enjoying my last FM12 save enough that I’m still on the fence. I’m not asking you to make my decision for me, just hoping for an honest assessment.

    Thanks in advance!

    • I honestly wouldn’t bother with the beta just now if you are enjoying your current save unless you simply want a look and can go back to FM12.

      I think the game will be worth getting on release day because it’ll have been through the most stringent testing it’s ever had with the number of beta users this time round.

      I know my post above sounds mostly negative but I’m already coming round to the game a little more and there’s no doubting that FM is still a fantastic game – it’s just the we expect so much from each release and inevitably feel let down, harshly so perhaps.

      Hope that helps.

      • Thanks, that’s pretty much what I figured; and it wasn’t your post that gave me this negative impression but rather the overall consensus over at The Dugout. For now I’ll hold off, but if the new additions continue to interest me I’ll load up Steam and away!

  3. A friend asked me yesterday how I thought the new FM is compared to the old one. I told him that you can feel it’s still in beta.

    The points in this article hits the nail on the head, as we say here in Denmark.
    The lack of a dark skin is also one of the main things that annoys me. Or rather, the mix of blinding bright skin and pure lovely dark skin.

    There are also small things bugging me. And it’s another thing where a slider would be appreciated. Especially when it was present in FM12 and the feature is completely missing in FM13. When a player is complaining about his training workload is being too much, one could, with a slider, reduce the workload in FM12. I can’t find anything that looks like it in FM13. And as you mention here, the lack of options to create my own schedules. It’s just sad.

    The match engine seems to be bugged aswell. I often see the ball continue through the net or bounce off it and continue out of the field. Or a player that gets knocked down, but some animation later, he’s magically appearing at the loose ball.

    I’ve also experienced options in press conferences missing until hovering over them.

    Small things that annoy me and makes a bad impression of the whole game.

    • Thanks for the feedback.

      I agree that it is generally “small things” as you state in the last sentence but, like you say, it’s small things which they’ve removed which are irritating rather than small things which you think should be added.

      I do think they’ll fix the more obvious match engine bugs before release day but the skin is a real issue. Although we can just download a custom one, the attitude which has been displayed towards people complaining on the main forums has irked me a little. Fair enough some people are overly vociferous in their complaints but you’d think that they’d realise it is a genuine problem with the volume of people taking the time to post about it. Rather than just tell them to “turn their brightness” down, I’d like to get a genuine answer which is probably something like – “we are prioritising the match engine and interface bugs which could potentially ruin the game. Whilst we appreciate the interface isn’t to everyone’s liking, experience tells us that the community will come up with their own improvements anyway which leaves us to concentrate on the recoding that the community can’t (or rather shouldn’t) be able to influence.” How hard is that?

  4. Is also missing on staff profile negotiation skills attributes, because one of the roles that I always give to a director of football is to find a club for the transfer listed or loan listed players.
    There are serious translation problems, I’am playing with my country language and there are lot’s of situations where appears some situations written on English.
    I also have a problems with the match day assistant manager reactions, the club where I start don’t have an assistant manager, after hiring I define a staff member to be my tactics adviser and during match the manager reactions still empty or not available. I don’t know if I’am missing something on staff roles, but seems a bug.

  5. excellent read, i agree with pretty much all of it. Saying that, I’m still enjoying it so far, as you’d be able to tell if you looked at my blog. Anyway, keep up the good work. Fully agree in particular with the skin, and training. The skin is repulsive!

  6. Hi, a good read.

    I too am a vet from the CM days, I feel for the kids who didn’t experience what we did i.e. the true magic of football manager. I have been playing this game for 11 years now and a think this year will be the last time. Allow me to explain.

    Slowly the amount of hours I have put into the games has diminished; according to steam I put 548 hours into FM 09, yet only 202 in FM 12. I think the main reason for this is SI moving away from the one dimension of FM that set it apart from any other simulation and gave unique beauty i.e. the manner in which everyone of the millions of FM players around the world played the game in there own distinctive style, using their own initiative in order to facilitate success. The introduction of ‘ player roles’ was a major step back with this in mind. I always enjoyed creating my ‘own’ target man or deep lying play-maker. As such part of the thrill of the game was that it didn’t do it for you, you did it yourself. There was no guide, your knowledge of football was the casual factor in determined whether you won or lost a match; and not your ability to read instructions. With the current incarnation SI have implemented reforms which have added to my disenchantment, the main culprit being the new training system. As the author and contributors have mentioned this severally dumb’s down the simulation while removing the magic of FM as again the onus is taken away from individuality and toward genericism.

    On the topic of genericism, the ’3D’ match engine. Its an abomination, it always has been and it always will. Back in time when this creature didn’t exist I would fantasize about how brilliant it would be to actually see Kim Kallstorm smash that 30 yarder in. In doing so I wouldsee it, clear as day, within my imagination. SI stop attempting to compete with my imagination. You can’t.

    The fact SI are trying to develop 3D technology shows how out of touch they have become with why we all started playing their game in the first place.

    Football manager used to be about creativity, imagination and knowledge. Now its about stringent compliance, aesthetics and simplistic observation.

    • Thanks for the thorough feedback, Rags.

      I don’t agree with you on some points though – I love how in-depth the game is now and I really like the 3D engine although I absolutely agree with you that there was a certain magic in the imagination that was required by the text commentary. As ridiculous as it was, I would celebrate the “Goal for Aberdeen!” commentary and then go mental when the “A screamer from 30 yards!” text came up. Have that!! What a beauty!! How did I know? Stupid really but fantastic as well.

      I agree with the generalisation that has come from the TC and, for me, it’s removed a lot of the thought that has gone into people’s tactics. You see a lot of “mate, poacher is da best setting. Omg Hernandez on poacher with run onto ball TM setting = 512 goals. Lol.” Not really what I’m looking for when discussing the part of the game I enjoy the most – tactics.

      Thanks again though for the comments. Nice to find out that some fellow old-timers (although I’m considerably older-timer than you unfortunately) are reading the blog.

      • I completely disagree on the player roles. The kind of people you’re talking about would previously just have downloaded a ‘super tactic’ from the forums anyway. At least now some are having a go at thinking about the game and their own tactics. The terms used in the game are even transfering into everyday football discussion for casual supporters and I think this is can only be a good thing for football not just the game. The advanced sliders are still there if you want to use them.

    • In reply to Michael above – my problem with the roles is that they are someone else’s interpretation of the sliders, not mine. Yes, the advanced sliders are still there for tactics, which is great, but the new training interface has removed them completely and I’m not left with having to accept someone else’s interpretation of how the sliders should be implemented which I really dislike.

      I do agree that the introduction of roles has been helpful to those gamers who didn’t understand the sliders or didn’t want to get that involved with the tactics but it’s only a matter of time until tactics goes the same way as training and the sliders are no longer available in any shape or form.

  7. Hi Naldo,

    Thanks for replying. At the end of the day FM 13 will still be great and I’m sure I’ll spend 100 hours playing it (at least). Just a few issues I have with the direction of development. When I think of all the time I have spent playing the game over the years, it’s unfair to moan too much I suppose.

  8. Great little blog…Remember my first FM experience, would have been about 97. Maradonna was still playable I think. I never owned the game as parents never had a PC however we definitely had one for the 99/00 game (may have been 98/99 not sure)…Simon Davies was the youngster every one wanted and Vinny Jones and Barry Horne were still must buys on free transfers if you were in the lower leagues… I am preying that the glitches in this BETA for 2013 are fixed, I personally think the games have got better and better (aside from the player roles on which i totally agree with Rag) ..and agree also on the screen layouts…looks like they have copied FIFA on the classic modes, very shabby and not very unique

  9. Pingback: FM13 – second impressions | FM Veteran

  10. So I got the game recently and I have to say I’m completely disappointed with the player intelligence and ball movement on the pitch. They just keep bumping into each other like colt soccer juveniles. And the way the ball bumps and rolls is so unrealistic. For some reason I just can’t seem to apply the patches that reportedly solve some of these issues. Seriously considering simply reverting to FM12. The game-play is such a bone killer for me.

  11. Pingback: Football Manager 2014 lookahead… | FM Veteran

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