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The football season resumes as Codemasters talks to TVG on the return of LMA Manager...
The football season has begun - did it ever end - and a new season brings out all the aspirations for supporters that their team will finally win their league or improve on last season. Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool can look forward to a good season but the likes of Crewe, Reading and all the other teams that make up the league â?“ including non league will just hope. LMA, freshly updated with new additions, will to the die hard fans be the closest they can come to real success.
TVGâ??s Millwall fanatic (who are surely lining up for relegation) spoke with John Jennings, Producer of LMA Manager 2006.
What kind of new additions/changes have you made for LMA 2006 from the previous games and how would you counter a comment of, why not release a data disc for owners of the game at half the price?
LMA Manager 2006 is the biggest revision in the seriesâ?? history. Weâ??ve added a completely new transfer market system, added training matches to the game, reworked the entire interface, added more playable leagues, a â??create your managerâ?? appearance editor, implemented a new 3D-engine for the 3D match, and significantly enhanced the gameâ??s media section through the addition of News Stories and News Flashes. Those are just the â??bigâ?? changes; there are also dozens of smaller updates, such as more ratings for each player. This is no simple â??stats updateâ??. Some of the team were working on prototyping LMA 2006 whilst we were developing LMA 2005, so itâ??s taken a lot of effort.
Regarding a datadisc, LMA 2005 did feature the online capacity to allow you to download a mid-season stats update to keep your game up to date. LMA 2006 will have that too. Looking between LMA 2005 and LMA 2006 though; the data our research department is gathering for each club (player stats, stadium details, team tactics, player appearance data for the new 3D engine) is so different to that from LMA 2005 itâ??s just not compatible and not practical for our research team to keep two separate databases up to date.
What kind of feedback and focus do you pay to the rival games/competition and also from feedback you get from fans of LMA? What consideration from fans have you worked on for 2006?
Of course we always look at other games, but LMA has always set out to offer a different style of game from Champ Manager and Football Manager. The long term aim of LMA is to move away from stats to reach the day where you can make all your decisions from what you see when you watch your team playing and training, and from what your staff tell you in reports; not from looking at pages of numbers.
We have a huge online community at www.lmaforum.com that myself and others in the dev team are active moderators on. Weâ??re always listening to suggestions, and many of them do make it into the game. LMA 2006 sees the return of live spoken cup-draws due to pressure from fans of the game. We took these out in LMA 2004 and there was an uproar, so we do bow to pressure and admit when we make mistakes!
What significance do you feel license and player/team endorsement plays in making a success of a title and do you feel that once people have a perception of a market leader within the genre it is hard to change their perceptions?
Famous players on a box can certainly help to attract the casual gamer I agree. However, this is something I feel is more important for football action games, less so for football management games whose fans, on the whole, are far more hardcore and committed to gaming. Historically, you donâ??t tend to see too many licenses attached to football management games. As it goes though, having the endorsement of the League Managers Association has done a great deal to add to the credibility of LMA as a management game. Itâ??s something that fans of football management will identify with more readily than having the latest Robbie Williams video on the FMV.
"We're not currently developing LMA 2006 on PSP, but it's certainly an interesting format that would be fun to develop forâ?¦"
If you had to pinpoint two facets/features that make LMA both innovative and appealing what would they be?
Firstly, the control interface. LMA was designed from day one to play on a console, rather than ported from a PCâ??s mouse and keyboard interface. It makes good use of a controller pad to let you whiz around the game quickly.
Secondly, the continued use of feedback in a form a gamer can actually relate to. Seeing your players in a 3D match and reading a full written scout report is far more intuitive than looking at a page full of numbers and stats. Itâ??s also closer to what a real manager sees.
You have recently announced that the game will also be developed for PC and 360 as well as for PS2 and Xbox; what about PSP?
Console was the driving format for LMA so it makes natural sense for us to start developing for Xbox 360 so we can keep at the top of the console market for management games. With moving to PC, we felt there was a market out there among PC gamers who are â??turned offâ?? by the stats-heavy, text-based, management games available to them. It comes down to LMAâ??s different approach of predominantly using â??visual feedbackâ?? rather than pages of stats as the primary feedback method. Weâ??ll wait and see how itâ??s received.
Weâ??re not currently developing LMA 2006 on PSP, but itâ??s certainly an interesting format that would be fun to develop for.
To continue from the last question; LMA 2006 on the PC and 360 will offer more to the fans, please expand on this?
Itâ??s the extra memory, storage capacity and processing power on PC and Xbox 360 that allow us to develop the existing console versions further. Weâ??ve got to the point with LMA 2006 where weâ??ve pretty much run out of available memory on PS2 and Xbox. PC and Xbox 360 will allow us to store more teams, so the footballing world is bigger. Where weâ??ve had to make compromises such as resetting player history (such as goals scored, matches played) each new game season on PS2 youâ??ll be able to keep that going over the full lifespan of the game so you can see how a player was performing five or 10 seasons ago. Weâ??ll also have the capacity to generate 3D-match highlights of all games in your division to watch in a â??match of the dayâ?? style, this would take an awfully long time on a PS2 to do. Additionally, you can store all of the match reports and scout reports you receive throughout your career. Try to save this on a PS2 and youâ??d need a full pocket of memory cards to make a save-game. Itâ??s all about relaxing the reins we held on the PS2 version, allowing us to expand into the new formats, rather than cutting back the PC version to fit it onto a PS2.
Could you tell us a few facts about each of these important features within the game - the new database engine, the transfer section and the 3D match section?
Each player has more stats now. Weâ??ve added shot accuracy, shot power, weight and strength. Weâ??ve also added hidden stats of work rate, flair, injury â??pronenessâ?? and match morale. These are expressed through your players performance in a match, what your scouts and trainers are telling you in reports and emails from the player himself, rather than seeing them as visible â??numbersâ??.
The transfer system is brand new. At the heart it is new AI that determines how clubs react to your bids and how players will view your club as a career prospect. To influence this you have a whole slew of new contract clauses (transfers in advance, player swap deals, sell-on fees, man of the match and appearance bonuses, promotion and relegation clauses) to tempt clubs and players. CPU managers also have stats that determine how cleverly theyâ??ll play the transfer market themselves, and if they can tell a carthorse from a wonder-child.
In the 3D match we have a completely new rendering engine with all new animations. Weâ??ve also redeveloped the AI to take into account the new hidden stats I mentioned before, a new player-movement system and all new stadiums. Plus weâ??ve added training matches so you can try out new tactics against your reserves without embarrassing yourself in a competitive match.
Are you already considering ideas for LMA 2007 and what do you foresee potentially for future projects?
Yes, online plans figure heavily, plus a greater chance to move away from the reliance of pages of stats. Any more would give the game away really, sorry.
What online features will there be in LMA 2006?
In LMA 2006 PS2 and Xbox versions, users will have the ability to download a mid-season stats update after the January transfer window closes. The Xbox version also allows Live users to share their favourite tactics, formations, squad line-ups and manager appearance with each other. The PC version opens up the possibility for users to share even more, allowing customisation of club badges, etc.
Can you tell us a little about the â??Dream-Teamâ? mode
Yes, LMA Manager 2006 features a game mode called â??Fantasy Modeâ?? where youâ??re given a budget to create your very own squad, playing strip and stadium. Itâ??s a very fun game mode.
What kind of team/personnel do you have ongoing from game to game to ensure all the facts pertaining to players, teams, appearances, etc? (Is this internal or external?)
Itâ??s a huge effort, using both internal and external resources. We have a full time research department in house. There are five core researchers all year round, plus a team of four programmers to work on the database. We then ramp up to 25 researchers in-house as soon as the transfer market opens. We then have a huge network around the world contributing local knowledge throughout the year. About 400 people in total contribute to making sure the game data is as accurate as possible.
TVG would like to thank John Jennings and the LMA team for taking the time to answer our questions. LMA Manger 2006 is scheduled for release