The football season is what a lot of people build their lives around, but for others Football Manager is their life. This year's game is due for release before the end of 2011 and promises to bring a host of new features and improvements. We talked to Sports Interactive studio director Miles Jacobson to get the low down on what makes FM 2012 different.
Q: Fabregas moved to Barcelona last month - a club he clearly loves. Is that kind of transfer (something that involves money as well as strong personal reasons, stretching out over many years) possible in FM?
Miles Jacobson: Yes - "favourite clubs" have been set for players for many years, which gives an influence to their decisions on whether to move or not, as well as influencing whether a player would be unhappy if a bid was turned down for him or not.
But if the club don't want to sell, then the club won't sell. And certainly won't sell for less than they want to receive for the player.
All of the contractual clauses are also possible, such as the buy back fee for Arsenal, and the minimum fee release clause for other teams.
Q: The 25-man squad rule for Premier League clubs is causing some big-name players to be released. Does FM 2012 include all the new rules and make allowances for extreme circumstances? E.g., all senior goalkeepers injured.
MJ: Yes – all of those rules were in Football Manager 2011 too. But if you have capable goalkeepers, then you do need to use them, so we live to the real rules, rather than the ones that sometimes clubs try to use by claiming a keeper is injured to try and get a better one in on loan!
Q: New Fair Play rules are coming in from the 2013/14 season, but sanctions against clubs will be based on financial statements from the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons. Is this something FM 2012 deals with or something you'll have to contend with in future iterations? Do you think it will radically alter the way people play the game?
MJ: I don't think it will alter the way people play the game, as we've had those kind of rules in for some time. The financial model does not let clubs spend to the level they may have done for a couple of seasons in real life so that clubs don't go bankrupt in the game.
We don't have things in the game such as a local council giving a club a few hundred million to get them out of trouble as has happened in some countries in real life, which is why we don't allow teams to massively overspend.
Q: We've seen clubs get into trouble in the past for fielding weak teams in games they deem to be less important than bigger matches coming up. Is that possible to simulate in a management sim?
MJ: Thankfully it's been confirmed this season that if a player has been registered for the squad and plays, then the manager can't be said to have put out a weakened team. I guess if they played just 16 year olds then it could still happen in real life, but that would be a bit silly for a manager to do, as they'd deserve a fine then!
Q: You're making more improvements to the game's 3D game engine. Do you have stats on what percentage of people view the game that way? Perhaps I'm oldschool, but Football Manager just isn't the same unless it's played overhead looking at little round blobs.
MJ: From the very limited stats that I've seen (from those who have opted in to provide them), it's very, very high. Not constantly, but certainly most often.
Q: Now the GUI adapts, is there an ideal screen resolution to play the game on?
MJ: If you are just playing the game, and not using the computer for other things at the same time, then the highest resolution available to you is the best to use. Personally, I play in a window, with the game taking up about 2/3rds of the screen, so it automatically decides on the resolution for me based on the window size.
Q: Are there any youngsters in the game who you think players should keep an eye on?
MJ: Yes – but it's far too early in the game's cycle for me to start giving out good player guides!
Q: Previous entries in the series have included tools for newcomers. What makes this year's tutorial system better?
MJ: The systems before were bolted on, and more like reading a manual. The systems now, both the how to and the tutorial system, are fully interactive – the how to system shows you how to do something, and the tutorial system shows you both how to do something, and why you might want to do it.
Q: Is there anything you wish Football Manager could offer that simply isn't possible at the moment, but might be achievable in the future?
MJ: We have long term plans with Football Manager, and current a few thousand ideas of things we want to do. The only thing that stops us is time – I hope therefore that all of them will be achievable in the future.
Q: Who do you think is going to win the Premier League this year?
MJ: It looks like the title will go to Manchester. I'll let you decide whether that's City or United.
Football Manager 2012 will be released for PC before the end this year.