New Gameplay Features

FM20 Match Engine Improvements

As part of our announcement of the headline features for FM20 last month we showed you a glimpse of what you can expect to see from the match graphics when the game releases on November 19th.  In this blog we’re going to showcase some of the improvements to the AI and new animations as well as overall changes to the wider match experience.

FM20 Match Engine Improvements

Let’s start by taking a look at one of the most noticeable changes that you’ll see during matches in FM20 – attacking movement.

The match team have watched and analysed hundreds of matches over the course of the development cycle for FM20 and drawn on their own coaching experience as well as the expertise of our contacts within the football industry to fine-tune attacking movement and ensure that FM20 accurately replicates the variety in attacking play that we see week in, week out.

Players will now make more intelligent and realistic off-the-ball runs during attacking phases of play and these are contextualised to their position and selected player roles. For example, you might see a deep-lying forward looking to drop deep and receive the ball but if that’s not possible they will get into positions that will hurt the opposition’s defence.

The type of movement that a player makes is entirely contextual too. Some players will choose to come for the ball and offer support against a high press whereas others may try to overlap in the centre of the pitch against a compressed midfield unit. You’ll even notice some strikers who will initially move offside then check back onside as the ball is played. Wide players will look to make more outside to in runs if the situation allows particularly if you select the Inverted Winger role which is now available for both the AMR and AML positions.

Decision-making in the final third has improved as a result of the changes to attacking movement as well. In particular, players will now look to shift the ball onto their stronger foot for a shot or cross which means that they will look to open up a better crossing angle or shooting angle to give the defender less of a chance to get a block or tackle in.

The changes to attacking movement are influenced by your own instructions as well as the opposition’s. The directness and tempo of both teams determines what type of off-the-ball runs and attacking moves that are made by the players on the pitch.

The added variety to the type of off-the-ball movements that players make in FM20 will make each style of play feel more unique and will require you to think of new ways to stop opposition attackers running riot against your defence.

A screenshot of the match engine in Football Manager 2020

As a result of improving the attacking movement and the AI associated with that, we’ve worked extensively on improving the defensive side of the game for FM20 as well.

Defenders are able to make more intelligent decisions now in order to track the more advanced attacking runs that players are capable of making in the game. They will make quick and clever decisions on whether to stick with a player, move towards the ball or look for an off-the-ball runner. As with the decision-making around attacking movement, this is all situational and varies depending on position and player role.

As part of the overhaul to the defensive positioning mechanics in FM20, the entirety of the marking code in the game has been rewritten. Because of this, you’ll notice defenders are more aware of the players and space around them and are more adept at identifying threats. Defenders also read the game better, making more context-based decisions as a result and one area where this is particularly noticeable is when you’re being counter-attacked. For example, you’ll see defensive players that are more willing to make tactical fouls during counter-attacking phases to avoid being caught out during the transition.

We know that many of you are eager to see improvements to goalkeepers and for FM20 there are a range of new animations and AI enhancements that make ‘keepers look and act better than ever before. For instance, you’ll find that goalkeepers now parry the ball in a more natural way and will look to turn the ball around the post more often as opposed to parrying the ball back out into the penalty area. This is alongside a whole range of new save and catching animations that will ensure that ‘keepers react more realistically to the action that is unfolding around them. There are even new animations for when a ‘keeper realises he’s not going to be able to make a save.

We’ve also tweaked goalkeeper positioning for FM20. During open play, goalkeepers will be more reactive with where they position themselves and adjust the angle and area of the goal that they cover depending on the situation that they’re facing. One area where this improved positioning is particularly noticeable is during set-pieces and, as a result, you’ll notice fewer instances of goal-line technology being used from free-kicks in competitions that use that technology.

A screenshot of the match engine in Football Manager 2020

Goalkeeper distribution has also been improved for FM20. Goalkeepers will be more astute with their distribution from goal-kicks and will look for the most sensible distribution option depending on your tactical setup. We’ve also added in the new rule for defenders being allowed within the penalty area from goal-kicks and the various new distribution options available because of this. Additionally, we’ve made changes to the positioning of players for the ‘prevent goalkeeper distribution’ instruction.

In addition to the new goalkeeper animations, we’ve also cleaned up all of the existing animations in order to work with the new player models. You’ll notice various new motion-captured animations as well, particularly when players are controlling the ball and dribbling.

Player traits have been reworked this year so that they work in a more realistic way than before and there’s a new player trait for goalkeepers of ‘Plays ball with feet’.

A screenshot of the match engine in Football Manager 2020

It’s not just on the pitch where we’ve made improvements to the match experience for FM20. This year we’ve increased the level of text-only highlights to provide more context to the flow of the match which will help you make more informed in-match decisions. Because of this, there’s a new match setting this year that allows you to control the game speed during these text-only highlights.

These are just a few of the new additions to the match experience in FM20, we’ve left several more for you to discover yourselves as you progress through your career. We’ll be releasing a match engine video prior to the release of FM20 and you can catch your first look at the match in action from our FM20 livestream.