Football Manager Live is, quite simply, Football Manager... live. It's like the MMO version of the most popular football management sim around. It's also really, really good, as you'll know if you've read our review. And, finally, it's out this Friday in shops, having been in development for a whopping five years. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we sat down with Miles Jacobson, studio director at Sports Interactive, to get some more detail on the game that marks the end of our social lives.
VideoGamer.com: How does Football Manager Live differ from Football Manager?
Miles Jacobson: The most obvious difference is that with FM you manage a team that is a real team, whereas with FM Live you set up your own team but still with real players. In FM you can do everything you want to straight away. In FM Live you have to learn skills to be able to change certain tactical sides of things and to be able to buy certain players or be able to build stadiums and things like that. It's also a much more social experience because you're playing against humans, rather than playing against computer teams. There are 1000 teams in each game world. Between 80 and 100 teams in each football association inside that game world, and you have structured competitions but can also play matches at any time day or night against anyone else who's online.
We've tried to make the game fun for everyone basically. So someone who's playing for an hour a day, for a couple of days a week, will still get hopefully as much enjoyment out of the game as someone who's playing 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The other important distinction is the Football Manager universe never stops. With Football Manager when you save the game, you can go away, come back a couple of weeks later and it's at the same point. With FM Live the world carries on around you. So we've set up a good alert system for people to still be able to get emails when they're offline if they're interested in certain players. So it is a pretty different kind of game.
VideoGamer.com: FM Live has been in development for quite a while hasn't it?
MJ: About five years.
VideoGamer.com: What's taken so long?
MJ: We believe in developing games in small teams. The original FM Live team was two people. We've recently expanded to five! In a couple of months we're going to expand to six! So yeah it's a very small development team, a very tight-knit team. We've been in beta for much longer than we were expecting. We were expecting to be in beta for a year. We ended up with 18 months. That's helped shape the game in a really good way. Thankfully SEGA have a lot of faith in what we do, who were our publishers and are now our owners, they're our daddy. I don't know whether they're our mummy or our daddy?
VideoGamer.com: I don't know. They didn't give birth to you, so they're not your mummy...
MJ: No. Maybe they're our adopted parents!
VideoGamer.com: Official guardian?
MJ: Official guardian. There you go. And when we turned around to them and said we're not sure the game's ready yet, can we have more time? They said yeah.
VideoGamer.com: That seems incredible to me, given the current financial climate.
MJ: I'm sure if we didn't have Football Manager selling as well as it does then we might have had bigger problems. But we could all recognise that the game wasn't ready for launch in that time. And you know not just on the gameplay side of things but there were some issues with other areas as well. We wanted to make sure we got it right when we launched so we had the time to do that. I don't apologise for the time that we've taken to make the game because we want to get it right. I'm not a believer that putting 150 people on a game to get it done quickly is a good thing, because in the economies of the lack of communication that go on, people just not knowing what's going on on a project, is worse. Sports Interactive as a studio are shortly going to be taking on their fiftieth full time team member, and if you think we work on Football Manager on the PC and Mac, Football Manager Handheld, Football Manager Live and have an R&D team as well, and that includes all of our full-time researchers, accounts and admin people, we're still a very small development team but it's something that's worked well for us over the years and hopefully will continue to do so.
VideoGamer.com: I was down at Eidos last week and interviewed the general manager of Beautiful Game Studios. He's trying to bring Championship Manager to where it was maybe five or six years ago...
MJ: When we used to make it.
VideoGamer.com: Indeed! And he was saying some interesting things. Do you see Championship Manager as a threat? How do you view that product?
MJ: I don't see anything as a threat, in inverted commas. We are out there trying to make the best games that we can possibly make and it doesn't really matter to us what other people are doing, because we're going to carry on with our strategies, carry on with our ideas and keep going. If someone comes up with a better game and it sells more than us and we don't make money out of it any more, we lose our jobs and we don't get to have the fun that we have entertaining people any more, so it's kind of in our best interests to carry on doing the best we can possibly do.
I get a little bit frustrated by the way that, how can I put this, that there are some people out there that seem to be constantly gunning for us rather than concentrating on their own games. And not just in our genre, there's a few in other places as well. We're just a small development team based in north London who've been doing this for a while, who absolutely love what we do and have been incredibly lucky to have been able to entertain as many people as we do across the world, and that's what we're going to continue to do.