FIFA Manager has made an impressive start to 2011 with FSB’s favourite initiative “Your Feature” at the heart of Bright Future’s early success. So to get some more information on FIFA Manager 11, FIFA Manager 12, Your Feature and the battle for supremacy with the other big football manager simulations FIFASoccerBlog talk exclusively to FIFA Manager Lead Designer, Gerald Köhler.
FSB: We were very happy with our time spent on FIFA Manager 11 as our review testifies. What do you think FIFA Manager 11 did well last year?
I am very proud we have managed to start “Live Season”, which is one of the best new features but also was a tough one to implement. We have learned a lot here this year and will improve it further for next year. I also think it was a great achievement that we have made solid progress both Online and Offline. But we still have to admit that the Online Mode took a lot of resources away from the main offline game, something we will change this year. For FIFA MANAGER 12 our total focus in on the traditional way to play the game.
FSB: What areas are the studio focusing on most to improve the next installment of FIFA Manager?
The core areas are the 3D match, where we have doubled the size of the team, the finance and sponsor section, training, text mode, board, and club facilities. Another focus is on features the community has sent us and on the features winning the feature polls.
FSB: How do you find the challenge of breaking markets which have been predominantly playing Football Manager and Championship Manager?
This is indeed very challenging. In the past 30 years huge cultural gaming differences have developed. People in some countries got used to a tactical focus while in other countries such as Germany or Spain it was more about club development and finances. Because it takes such a long time to “learn” playing a management game people tend to stay with “their” games for a very long time. They only move on when they are really unhappy – and then they miss many of their old features and might still return.
FSB: What do you think FIFA Manager does differently to these games?
I would say the most important differences are the 3D match, the licenses, the “total club” approach with a deep management and financial focus, and also that our game is really designed for long-term play. In general our managers want to build up a team over a long time, maybe 20 years, e.g. in Create a Club mode. That’s why we don’t offer tactical options that keep you busy for two hours before a match. Football Manager and Championship Manager are also just a small part of the competition, there are e.g. lots of browser games as well. Some of them have a really huge number of players. Especially for Football Manager we have a lot of respect. They are doing a great job, but it’s a very different game.
FSB: The “Your Feature” initiative is something we’re very impressed with at FIFASoccerBlog. How do you feel this feature is developing so far?
Since the first poll the number of participants has doubled and now already more than 1,000 people have participated. We hope we can increase this in the coming weeks to something like 5,000 and then we can consider it a success. But already very impressing are the contributions of many people on the forum. We got so many good ideas that we can already make polls until the end of the project – but hopefully we will get even better stuff until then. We’ll also definitely implement some suggestions that would have limited chances in a poll but are very relevant for some people – like the prestige problem in long-term play in smaller countries.
FSB: If successful do you think “Your Feature” could become a main stay of the FIFA Manager development cycle?
Yes, definitely. We like this very much. And the best thing – the discussion on completed features – is just about to start. Ideally we have always one or two engineers just working on these features in the future. Personally I could even imagine to do the entire game like this – with the exception of a few strategic and surprise features. But in the long-term there is also some risk involved – the game might just grow bigger and bigger without a clear direction. So a careful pre-selection of the features is still important.
FSB: The player database in FIFA Manager is huge. How hard is it to manage the attributes of all those players to keep the game balanced and gamers happy?
It would be impossible without our editors from all over world. These are many millions of single stats – and for our database team it would be impossible to even read them. Editing them all with e.g. a team of five people would take many years, and then most of it would be already outdated. With Update 3 we have now passed 41,000 players – so a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this project. We should also not forget all the people who work on player pictures, stadium pictures etc., we now have roughly 15,000 of them and they are also a lot of work to create.
FSB: Where does the studio draw the line between hard simulation and fun in FIFA Manager and which is more important?
We always try to make our features realistic, but in some cases it makes no sense. A typical example is the matchday. We know that it’s not realistic that all those matches are played simultaneously (with the exception of the last matchdays). But it’s much better for the game. For FIFA MANAGER 12 we’ll have “fun” features, especially the new Club Facilities and the Board – and very deep and realistic features, like tactics, finances and training. For the selection it is also always an important question how many players would e.g. really use or even see a new feature. Sometimes the effort e.g. to implement a specific competition to make the game more complete and realistic is very high and very, very few people would be interested to actually play it.
FSB: What are your thoughts on social media integration? Do you have any plans to make use of it in FIFA Manager?
We have a fast growing Facebook community with now more than 20,000 people. This community is already very important for us. But at the moment we don’t want to do too much with social media in the game. Many of our users play single player and want to play single player. I’m not sure whether Facebook postings like “Gerald won the Bundesliga for the 3rd time and has now Manager Level 3.” are of interest to many of my friends. I already annoy them with Bejewelled.
FSB: Do you ever envisage a time when FIFA Manager and the console version of FIFA could become integrated, sharing perhaps player data or features?
At the moment the games are very different and e.g. the databases use completely different player attributes and competitions. But in the long-term this might happen.
A huge thanks from the whole team at FIFASoccerBlog to Gerald Kohler for taking the time out to speak to us and also to Soren who was instrumental in setting this interview up. Hopefully we’ll hear more from Bright Future and EA about FIFA Manager 12 in the not too distant future.