Du Malone writes: Gaffer Graemo has announced an upcoming episode of his FM podcast, ‘The Technical Area’, devoted to the question, ‘Attribute masking — yes or no?’

I won’t contribute to that debate here. For one thing, I suspect it comes down to personal preference (mine is ‘No’); for another, I’d like to hear what he has to say on the matter.

The point of this post is rather to discuss a tangent of that debate.

Suppose that, in the real world, you ran a scouting operation and used some form of attribute model like FM’s. You’d be faced with two types of unknowns:

  1. you would lack values for some attributes;
  2. you would lack certainty about the validity of the attribute values you have.

For example, a scout might attribute to a player a score of 6 for bravery. But how accurate is that assessment? It might well be that another scout would attribute a different value — 9, say. These things are, after all, based on fallible perception.

But in FM, so far as I can see, the only uncertainty is of the type 1 variety. Over the course of successive observations, scouts gradually fill in the blanks. Presumably better scouts do so more quickly.

But the attributes don’t wobble around. They might change as the result of player development. But they don’t see to change according to perception. You don’t get a scout saying, ‘I know Fred gave him 6 for concentration, but I think that should be 9’.

This means, surely, that though masking attributes might be more realistic (a point I don’t deny, despite my preference for unmasked), the overall system still isn’t that realistic.

This points to a larger issue in FM (one that I’ve touched on before, in relation to match ratings). FM constitutes an uneasy mix of paradigms. For the most part, it posits a postmodernist world (it’s my blog, I’ll be pretentious if I wish to): the truth is uncertain, accounts are unreliable. Star ratings, for example, are only the expression of staff members’ opinions. But in places, we move into a positivist world: match ratings seem incontrovertible (presumably!).

I suggest that in practice this proves confusing: fewer FMers would take star ratings to be objective if there weren’t examples of objective ratings present in the game.

Perhaps a more consistent approach would be for attribute scores to vary according to the scout.

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