Du Malone writes: Autumn being a good time to reflect, I have been asking myself what I’ve made of FM20.

To answer this question I find myself reflecting in turn on FM19, in order to establish the context.

Foreboding

I approached FM19 with a sense of foreboding. The pre-launch marketing focused on new features, especially dynamics.

I’m never very bothered about new features. I’d be happier if Sports Interactive simply updated the database and focused more on just ironing out the wrinkles.

After all, new features often prove irrelevant if you manage in the lower leagues. There aren’t many raumdeuters in the Vanarama (or whatever it’s called now).

But I accept that, in a video-game market hungry for novelty, Sports Interactive have no choice but to major on innovation.

What prompted the foreboding was that none of the new features advertised answered to any need I’d experienced. Dynamics wasn’t really something I’d felt a lack of.

FM19

When I started playing FM19, I soon concluded that my foreboding had proved justified. I can’t say I found dynamics at all intuitive. And I baulked at the language. When somebody comes up to me and whispers that not all is well with ‘Social Group 2B’ I feel like I’ve strayed into some convention of structural sociologists.

I could see that, creeky language aside, dynamics represented an attempt to deepen the realism. And realism is generally something I value in Football Manager. But not invariably: not every move in that direction, I feel, is a good thing. For example, I never played with masked attributes: yes, it would be more realistic: but life is too short. In practice, I find there’s a balance to be struck between (a) verisimilitude and (b) ludic enjoyment.

Anyhow, I never really settled with FM19. A dalliance with Wealdstone in the English sixth tier; an experiment with creating a club, based on Macclesfield; and that was about it. I reverted to managing west country teams on earlier editions of FM.

But come the autumn of 2019 I realised I had a problem. If I didn’t manage to get a grip of FM19, I’d be unlikely to find FM20 congenial.

Decision time

I had arrived at a fork in the road. The options were either to come to terms with FM19 or to give up keeping abreast of new editions and remain forever within the confines of familiar editions (which, for me, meant FM14-FM18.)

The question wasn’t as rhetorical as it might sound. When you think of all the clubs and all the scenarios, the possibilities afforded by a few editions of FM are virtually limitless. Yet it seemed too early to be, in effect, deciding to live in retreat.

Autumn 2019

So I spent the autumn preparing myself for FM20 by playing FM19, managing clubs on the west coast of the Black Sea.

The main advantage of this was that I got to grips with team training.

I found this time-consuming. On FM I’m not the type to delegate. I play the game in order to become immersed. And I focus disproportionately on the off-the-field stuff because I feel most confident there. But training, if you’re going to capitalise on it, requires attentiveness.

I came to realise that training offers a way to solve, or at least go some way to solving, all sorts of problems — short-term, medium-term, and long-term.

I never fell in love with FM19, but after my series on brief sojourns on the Black Sea littoral, I felt ready to confront FM20.

Next up: The year of FM20.

Image credit: Black Sea autumn 1 by the_quick_nick, generously made available via Flickr under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

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