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FM 2013 match engine (ME) discussioin

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I would like to give some feedback on this year’s iteration of the game, with a large emphasis on the match engine. I have not yet played the game extensively, having bought it a few days ago, but have vast experience when it comes to the series, having played the CM and FM games for over 15 years. I intend this as constructive criticism, and if a note of bitterness emerges from my text here and there, please disregard it.

In my opinion, this year’s ME has been the weakest ever since the introduction of 3D. And by weak I am in no way referring to the way it looks, the stands, the pitch, the nets, the player’s motions – all those visual things are completely irrelevant to me, and I think to a great majority of loyal FM fans. What we want, instead – is a realistic and complex simulation of things going on down on the pitch.

If FM is to be called a simulation, it needs to provide an immersive and realistic feel of the actual football mach. Things happening off the pitch should just provide context, and most of them are working pretty good as things stand – the largest emphasis should be on match day. For some reason, in recent years a lot of time, attention and (I presume) money has been spent on developing all sorts of marginal content like set-pieces creator, squad registration, press conferences, agents, adding/removing leagues and so on. While all of these might add something to the game, they draw the developer’s attention and resources from what should be of the primary importance – a really good match engine.

ME analysis

What does a good match engine mean, in my opinion? Here is my list:

1) Realism – the ME should provide realistic feel in terms of everything from individual players’ movement and ball handling to the performance of the team as a whole. Each player should respond to the changing conditions on the pitch as best as he can according to his mental, physical and technical attributes as well as current physical and mental condition. Players should make mistakes, provide beautiful pieces of football art as well as completely loose control sometimes.

2) Responsiveness – the ME should be able to interpret the input from managers in terms of team and individual instructions and translate that input into actual state of affairs on the pitch. The translation should not always be a 100% correct - individual players still have a mind of their own, and the quality of the transition from paper to pitch should depend on things like manager reputation, player’s mental state, current result, level of familiarity with the tactics, team cohesion and so on.

3) Variety – the ME should allow for various different types of playing football, without any of them being inherently favored. Teams from Albanian fourth tier league to Barcelona play very different types of football – even at the very top one can see a lot of diversity and flavor. A good ME should represent this and preferably tie it to the team and individual instructions provided by the manager as per 2).

In my opinion the current match engine fails on all three accounts. Let’s analyze it point by point.

1) Realism. In terms of realism the current ME is in my opinion a large step back from previous versions. Some minor things have been improved, like actually being possible to score from a free kick, but in general it feels completely unrealistic.

1.1) Players’ awareness of the ball. This is one of the problems that existed since the implementation of the 3D engine and the fact that it still hasn’t been solved makes me wonder if the developers really want this game to simulate football. I have no internal knowledge about the functioning of the ME itself, but from the surface it seems that this is correct: Only one player of each team, with the possible exception of goalkeepers, can be “active” at any one point in time. The active player is the one whose name is highlighted and is generally the one closest to the ball. All the rest are “passive” in the sense that they move in some predisposed manner and until becoming “active” generally avoid playing the ball.

This results in most glaring and ridiculous gaffes of the ME. For example, defenders clear the ball, and the opposition player closest to the ball at the time of clearing becomes active. He than runs back to get the ball, while the rest of the players from his team just stand around doing nothing, even if they would be able to get to the ball in much shorter time than the active player, if one calculated the ball’s trajectory – ridiculous! Another example, active players that go after the ball just because they are active, while there are numerous other players who are in a much better position to play the ball.

This is also a problem in defense – when players become active and try to close down the attacker, only to lose the active status to a player who is at that point closer to the ball resulting in a total headless-chicken fest. There are dozens of other examples of this happening in every FM match, and is something the developers should really be aware of by now.

1.2) Physics. The ME physics is horrible. Aside from the fact that players are skating on ice, the ball’s movement is unrealistic and completely arbitrary. Natural laws like gravity, friction and inertia seem to be completely absent. For example, a ball played from a throw most often travels across half the pitch and is lightning fast. Long balls played on the ground seem to pick up speed, or at least not loose it fast enough – like the ground is covered in oil. These kinds of balls should decelerate at a fast rate due to friction. There are numerous other examples of this, mind you.

The ball generally moves too fast and the players react to it extremely poorly resulting in a huge pinball party several times in every match

1.3) Defending. Defending is, in my opinion, the single most poorly implemented specific area of them all. There is absolutely no trace of proactive defending, with a few minor exceptions. Players defend just by being there and act like moving walls. Tackling, diving tackles and generally fighting for the ball is completely absent. In about 5% of the cases the defender will actually take the ball from the attacker, in the remaining 95% the attacker will either make a mistake or score.

Diving tackles are very rare and when they happen, they are mistimed and unnecessary, more often than not resulting in disciplinary actions against the defender. With the exception of the jumping and positioning skills and a few others included in determining the success of headers, most other defensive skills thus become pretty irrelevant. This happens just because the defenders are bystanders and bystanders can be completely useless.

Another thing about defending which is horrible this year is the movement and marking behavior of midfielders in defense. I have spent literally hours tweaking individual instructions of my DM’s and MC’s – everything from zonal/man to offensive sliders, tackling and closing down. Whatever I did – they acted in basically the same way – they stood much too far away from their opponents who have the ball, literally crowding the defensive line at the edge of the box leaving the opposition to pass the ball around the edge of the box like in handball. Ironically, the most successful midfield players in this regard proved to be AMC’s who would sometimes stand far enough away from our box to actually disrupt the opposition, but even they often crowded the line with the rest of the defenders. Nobody plays football like this.

1.4) Dribbling. Players do not dribble. And by dribbling I do not necessarily mean of sombreros, bicycles and other fancy figures employed by real life players. I’m defining dribbling as the movement or feinted movement of one’s body that put’s the defender on a wrong foot or in dis-balance allowing the attacker to get around him. This never happens. The only trace of dribbling in the game happens when the attacker is much faster than the defender and simply runs around him.

2) Responsiveness. Things under 1.3) as well as several others have prompted me to conclude that this years ME is very unresponsive with regard to manager’s input. Whatever I do, players seem to play their own game disregarding my instructions at will. This seems to be true both for individual as well as for team instructions. Some minor changes are present, but tactical inputs translate extremely poorly to the ME.

3) Variety. Every single team in the game, regardless of player quality, managerial experience and even tactical setup plays more or less the same type of football. Players would pass around, mostly after one or two touches of the ball, and most often through the middle. The defenders would act as they do (as described under 1.3)) resulting in attackers moving ever closer to the goal, and either scoring or making a mistake in terms of missed shots, or misplaced passes. Sometimes the ball will come to the wide players who will cross in the box as the defenders from wide positions are completely useless.

Things like counterattacks, total pressure, direct and long balls, dribbling, one-twos, clever uses of space and the like happen really rarely – making the ME extremely predictable and boring and uninspiring.

In conclusion.

Apart from minor pleasant surprises, when it comes to ME I can say only that this year’s edition is a complete disappointment. Considering that I view FM as a tactical football simulation with traces of team management and transfer activity – this directly translates into FM13 being a large disappointment for me.

I understand building a good ME is hard – extremely hard. Having a ME that can simulate games in a second, allow you to “watch” them in text format, watch them in 2D, watch certain highlights in 3D as well as watch the entire 90 minutes in real time is a formidable task. But the devs have had years to work on it, and the end results keeps getting more away from the ideal every year.

My advice for next year is: learn what you can from this year, and past year’s editions of ME. For the next divert all the resources away from new features, and divert them all towards building a new match engine from the ground up. Completely change the philosophy of “active” players and focus on making the ME as realistic, responsive and variable as possible. I, for one, will never spend another dime on FMs in the future if this crucial aspect of the game remains neglected.

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Nice reading I must agree about the ME is horrible, the defence are no esistent and when you are attacking they pass the ball back no dribbling or thru ball at all but when the AI got the ball they do what they want with it, very disappoint tbh.

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Phew, glad I don't need to read all this then.

but then again, if you can see these very real problems even after a short time, it is an even worse problem, isn't it? according to steam i played 75 hours, and every single point he made is perfectly true. and it doesn't even stop there, you could point out the barcelonesque passing every single team seems to be capable of, the reluctance of players to do what they are told (hug the touchline, ffs) or the inability of wingers to even try a cross, when they are marked. constant backpasses and low risk plays don't quite match with my quite advantageous instructions.

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Surely, some things can become obvious from watching just a few games in real time as I did and playing for half a season.

I've played 3 seasons and I've not really noticed what your talking about. I'm not saying the ME is perfect but the other day I scored a goal very similar to one scored in real life and that made me really smile. I've scored some really good goals, my players dribble around people and my defenders defend.

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but then again, if you can see these very real problems even after a short time, it is an even worse problem, isn't it? according to steam i played 75 hours, and every single point he made is perfectly true. and it doesn't even stop there, you could point out the barcelonesque passing every single team seems to be capable of, the reluctance of players to do what they are told (hug the touchline, ffs) or the inability of wingers to even try a cross, when they are marked. constant backpasses and low risk plays don't quite match with my quite advantageous instructions.

From my own game save i completely agree with the opposition always playing the same type of Barcelona style football. Not come up against a team so far that's played long ball football or just parked the bus and hoped for a point or 1-0 win on the counter. As i say this is just in my own experience of the game.

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