FM-Britain взяли интервью у главного в СИ. Почитать интересно, рекомендую фанатам FM.
Заодно и в английском попрактикуетесь :)
Recently, FM-Britain got the chance to talk to Miles Jacobson, Studio Director of Sports Interactive. Miles kindly agreed to take part in a Q&A session exclusively for the site, presented below.
FM-B: For those that don’t know, can you describe briefly how you made the journey from SI fan to Managing Director (or Studio Director as you’re now titled)?
MJ: I first got involved as a beta tester on CM2 through Domark, who were the publisher at the time, and used to do unofficial data updates for the game using Boah’s editor, then got asked to look after the UK research for SI, and got to know Ov & Paul over the space of a couple of years. They didn’t enjoy doing the business/marketing/PR side of things, so asked me to get involved with that, which I did in my spare time away from my “proper” job. When Ov left to go travelling, with Paul based in Sweden, they asked me to become Managing Director of the studio, which I did alongside the other businesses that I was running at the time, eventually moving those businesses into SI’s offices as SI got busier, and when SI got really busy, I dropped the other companies and became full time. It all happened very organically, as everything else at SI has over the years.
FM-B: What is your typical day like (if there is such a thing)?
MJ: The only thing typical about my working days are that they start when I wake up, and ends when I go to sleep! I am in a lot of meetings, on the phone a lot, get a few hundred emails a day, lots of documents to read, lots of interviews to do (written and spoken) and spend lots of time in the evenings playing our games. It doesn’t ever stop, but I wouldn’t want it to! The only constant has been the podcast on Thursday evenings, but that’s taking a bit of a hiatus, like Lost, for a few weeks.
FM-B: What difference has SEGA made to SI as a company and to you personally?
MJ: Since we’ve been purchased, it’s meant not having to worry about the financial and legal side of things as much, as there are people there to look after that side of things for us. Beyond that, nothings changed really – we still have a very similar relationship with them.
FM-B: SI’s products are incredibly addictive, to the point where even those who say they hate it and will never buy it again seem unable to leave the game alone. What do you attribute this addictiveness to?
MJ: I’m not a big fan of that word, as it implies a chemical reaction in the brain, which the game doesn’t do unless somehow we’ve magically managed to change the brains pattern or something! It’s typical human behaviour to think that they could do a job better than someone else, so with our games, we give the people the chance to see if they really can, albeit it without the pressures of doing the real job.
As for those that say they hate it, and still buy it and play it, there’s a very thin line between love and hate….
FM-B: On average, how many ideas first proposed in the forums get into the game?
MJ: There’s no average. All feature ideas are treated the same – many that people might think were first proposed in the forums were already ideas too, so it’s kind of impossible to say, and I don’t like making things up.
FM-B: What, in your opinion, was the best forum proposed addition?
MJ: There have been too many to single one out and they all blur into one anyway – it doesn’t matter to us where the idea comes from, and we don’t know this info when we’re having our feature meetings, as otherwise it might bias people to vote for things based on the person nominating.
FM-B: Is there any way you can tune the anti-match engine brigade’s mindset into one that can appreciate the direction FM is going or have you given up trying?
MJ: It’s impossible to please all people, all of the time. If people don’t enjoy the game, they won’t buy it, and we’ll all find something else to do with our lives. But it seems that there are a million odd people a year who do enjoy it enough to buy it, so we must be doing something right to keep those people playing the series. We have to appeal to the maximum amount of people possible with our games, whilst keeping it as realistic as possible.
FM-B: Is there anything explicit you would add to FM documentation that would better enable the users to see how SI believes the game should be played?
MJ: I think that most at SI wouldn’t agree how the game should be played! We all play in our own way, and that’s the beauty of the game – there is no one way to play it. Some of the arguments about the features in game and how they should work, or how people play the game, are very long, and often hilarious. It’s a shame in a way that we could never publish them, as they’re fascinating.
FM-B: wwfan thinks that the combined FM/FML engine will hugely improve its overall development, which runs contrary to the general forum feeling that SI is taking its eyes off the ball. Do you agree and why?
MJ: Yes, and it’s something I’ve said often to those complaining in the forums about our new approach. Working on the different titles, and different platforms, with separate teams, has helped all of the projects that we’ve been working on, as you get more experience in different areas, and the different optimisations by the different teams have also helped all projects. Information flows pretty freely between each of the teams, and all of our games can be used to “test” certain features to see how they go down, which is very useful if we’re not sure on something. You’ll see this happening between all of our football titles moving forward, and even things like Facegen were in OOTP baseball before making its appearance in FM.
In the match engines case, we’ve had thousands of people testing the match engine in different environments to usual, which has definitely helped with its tuning.
FM-B: wwfan also doesn’t enjoy FML that much as yet, partly because he is focused on testing, not winning, but also because he feels people win via exploiting engine holes rather than through tactical realism, whereas beating the AI is more logical. He does however feel that each build is going in the right direction and the game is getting more and more playable. Do you feel it is an issue and will FML ever be able to resolve that problem?
MJ: I think that if people take time, any formation can be beaten. A lot of people in FML are rushing into games, rather than analysing and taking action, as a real manager would do. That said, I know that a lot of people in the team also don’t spend their time doing that stuff and, well, let’s just say that some stuff is being worked on…
Now that tactics skills are in FML this has also changed things quite a bit. Those that want to spend time tweaking every bit of the tactics side of things will be losing out in other areas, as in the time it takes to get all the tactics skills you could have much better scouting capabilities, or be earning more money each day, or better coaching stats, or be a better physio etc. It’s added another element, which is coming into play in the latter gameworlds.
FM-B: Regarding the increasing complexities of the game, many claim it is now too in-depth for the casual gamer, or too difficult and involving to be entertaining. This has led to calls for the introduction of difficulty levels or a separate FM-Lite product. Is this ever likely to happen? If not difficulty levels as such, how do you see this ‘criticism’ being addressed?
MJ: FM is not aimed at the casual gamer. It’s aimed at people who want to become a Football Manager, virtually. We release a less in-depth game called Football Manager Handheld for the PSP, which is aimed at the casual gamer, and Football Manager Live is a game which is aimed at a more casual user.
There are already hundreds of difficulty levels in the game via the choice of team that you manage. If you are talking more about turning features off inside the game, everything is intertwined, so that’s not possible, but the assistant manager can look after a lot of stuff for you, like team talks, reserve team, youth team, arranging and managing in friendlies.
FM-B: The oft requested youth team manager/reserve team coach/football director variants – Can we put the issue to bed, they’re never going to happen are they?
MJ: Highly unlikely and certainly not being planned at present. You can manage the youth team and reserve team if you want to anyway, but separate games with those indices wouldn’t sell, and trying to make those modes “fun” would take years, and make the game unrealistic.
FM-B: More African nations are featured in the next release, something which the community has been asking for over the last couple of years. Is this in direct response to the ‘pestering’ or was it always SI’s intention to develop these leagues? Are we likely to see any other nations join the FM roster in the next couple of years?
MJ: We are not planning on adding any new playable leagues to the game now, or for the foreseeable future. We will always try and strive to improve our research each year, but that doesn’t mean adding new leagues! There are many in the office who would argue for less leagues, although that’s not going to happen either unless we have to pull some for licensing reasons.
FM-B: Skins. FM07′s was reasonably well received, though not necessarily loved. FM08′s was criticised quite heavily initially, largely due to its brightness. Is there a reason why the game now ships with just the one skin whereas in the past there were usually a couple of choices? Would it be possible in future to offer an alternative (for example, I think there may have been less criticism this year if, alongside the white version, there had been a charcoal/black version of the same skin – essentially a simple re-colour)?
MJ: According to our usability testing, the skin has gone down really well.
Whenever there is a new look to the game, we always get the same – lots of people complain, because they are used to the older skin. There is always a reason if we decide to update, and doing 2 skins a year would be impractical, particularly when we are so pleased with the look.
We make the game fully skinnable, and this is done so that if someone doesn’t like it, they can change it, but we have no plans on releasing 2 wildly different skins per year.
FM-B: Removing your MD hat for the moment, and for a moment pretending that you don’t know what the coders/designers have planned, as a fan what is your personal wish list of features you’d like to see in the game?
MJ: I could tell you, but I’d have to shoot you. The hat never comes off…
FM-B: If you could reinstate one feature from a past release what would it be and why?
MJ: Anything that we’ve ever had to drop for legal reasons, whether in game already, or in development.
FM-B: If you were offered the option of developing ANY new feature what would it be and why?
MJ: A holographic match of real players beamed onto your living room table. If only the technology, and the licenses, were available!
FM-B: Who is the SI FM ‘champion’?
MJ: FML is the best test of this, so me and Rob are vying for that title in the GW2 beta, although Graeme Kelly & Marc Duffy would argue it’s them. Kev normally wins the network game, but he cheats in ways not even imaginable to the outside world.
FM-B: Are you ever tempted to use ‘insider’ knowledge when playing, e.g. this year’s wonderkids or match engine weaknesses?
MJ: I have a pretty good player knowledge anyway, although it’s very much enhanced by my work! Match engine wise, I tend to play football tactics, and have used the same 2 for the last 3 FM’s. This has changed recently with FML, as the default tactics in there are much better than in our previous FM games, so I’m experimenting with them a bit at the moment.
FM-B: An old chestnut, for the sake of completeness… Can you see the game adopting a 3D match engine in the short to middle term? If not, why not? What are the technical difficulties to be overcome?
MJ: When it’s technically possible to make a 3d match engine the way that we want to do it, and not have to do a cut down version, then we’ll look at it. Until then, it’s a moot point.
FM-B: FM-Britain is planning to produce more GetSacked podcasts featuring FML content. If you were doing such a programme, what would you include?
MJ: Well, seeing as we also do a podcast, and have avoided it just being about the games, that should tell you that we think it’ll be very hard to do! All teams are different, all playing ways are different so to do a podcast that’ll help people play the game is going to be very hard indeed. Probably blogs about teams and interviews with the managers of those teams would be a good starting point though, but that might be something we’re planning to do when the podcast returns for a second season.
FM-B: Apart from a nicer atmosphere all round, what type of things do you think would invigorate the community scene? What type of articles, etc. would you like to see more of?
MJ: More hints and tips for users, more skins, more tools. The main problem with the community at the moment, particularly that on our site, is the amount of misinformation and conspiracy theories that get spread around, so it’s more a problem with that, plus stopping the destructive criticism and anti-social behaviour, that will get the scene better again. You guys have done a pretty good job on your forums to stop that, and we will be putting in a new plan later in the year, as our forums are pretty horrible at the moment.
FM-B: Considering the game’s aim to be the most realistic simulation of football management, what is your take on the LLM way of playing the game? Purists or Puritans? Although I think things have improved recently (do you agree?), do you think that poor ‘marketing/PR’ on the part of LLM may be the root of some of the problems we see or something deeper?
MJ: Anyone can play the game anyway they want to, as long as they don’t force those ideals onto others who aren’t interested. LLM is very much a tiny niche of the audience of the game.
FM-B: In the past SI have produced a Baseball management sim (OOTPB) and a Hockey management sim (EHM), both have been shelved as SI has returned to its ‘core’ business of Football related products. Do you foresee any future ventures into other sports? Were the rumours of a Formula 1 management game purely rumours?
MJ: There are no plans at the moment to go back into other sports. The F1 rumours were very much purely rumours – I can’t see Sony letting go of the exclusive rights to F1, and if they do, we couldn’t afford the license anyway.
FM-B: What games do you play not made by SI?
MJ: At the moment, I’m playing a lot of casual stuff, like Peggle and Desktop Tower Defence, alongside Singstar, Rock Band, and other “party” games. I loved the last Command & Conquer game, although hit a brick wall of difficulty with it, enjoyed the latest Ratchet & Clank game, Sega Superstars Tennis is a really good laugh, but I don’t get enough time as I’d like at the moment, so tend to play most games on the PSP & DS whilst travelling. And Pro Evo, of course.
I spend time watching others play games too – when friends stay over at mine, I’ll often load up an FPS that I wouldn’t normally play to watch it like a film. I’m not really into shooting things, but some of the tech those guys use is amazing.
FM-B: What other games developers do you admire?
MJ: There are so many…. Off the top of my head, Bioware, 3d Realms, Sonic Team, Edge of Reality, Team 17, Media Molecule, Rare, Rockstar, Irrational, Konami Tokyo, Valve, Blizzard, Nintendo, Creative Assembly, the Sega Japan sports teams, Sumo, Sony London, Harmonix, Ninja Bee, Ninja Theory. I could likely go on for hours…
FM-B: Is there anything you’d like to say to our readership in particular and/or the community in general?
MJ: Just thank you to those who continue to give us constructive criticism as part of the community, and who continue to enjoy the games that we make.
FM-Britain would like to thank Miles for taking the time to answer our questions.