Certain franchises inspire devotion through consistent quality and, often, enough little quirks that require defending them against the unbelievers. Football Manager is one such series, demanding a lot from its players and giving so much back in return.
To the uninitiated it is still a load of text and numbers resembling a flashy spreadsheet, but to aficionados it's a window into an imaginary world where even the likes of Blyth Spartans have a chance of rising to the dizzying heights of the Premier League. Or maybe just the Blue Square Premier if things don't go quite so well.
What other series would inspire someone to dress up in a suit when they get to the FA Cup final, or to spit at the screen when they suffered a particularly scandalous reverse away to Bolton? Who in their right mind would dress up in full Liverpool kit, including shin pads, in order to manage that particular club?
Ask any dedicated fan and they'll have plenty of stories of when they did something a bit crazy, or when they went mental and started shouting at the screen. Just like this kid.
So when Sports Interactive decides to make some (for the series) radical changes, it needs to remember it's dealing with some pretty hardcore lunatics who find critical fault with every flaw and demand blood vengeance when they concede too many goals off corners.
This 2012 version stuffs enough reasonably big changes in to keep progressives happy, but also doesn't change so much that the Luddites start burning effigies of the Collyer brothers. The initial press release suggested there would be 800 new features, and while we're not disputing this number, there aren't so many that you'll be overwhelmed.
Well, you might be initially, as the core UI (user interface) has been changed enough to be immediately noticeable. The most obvious change comes in the squad screen, where things have been jigged around. There's no need to list what boxes have been shifted around, but there are a couple of points that merit further discussion, such as the new info rollovers that provide a player's attributes without having to click on them. This is something that'll be very useful for online games, where interface lag is always an unavoidable issue.
The interface shake-up is generally a success, although it'll take a while for those indoctrinated in the layout of the last couple of games to get past the changes. It's designed to be more streamlined, but you'll certainly be in a bit of a tizzy until it all just clicks.