Football Manager 2019 Match Engine Improvements
By Nic Madden - Associate Producer, Match AI
There have been a number of major changes through all areas of this season's Football Manager, but the most significant two – in terms of what feeds directly into the match engine – are the revamp of training and the introduction of new tactical styles. Both of these have had a significant impact on what happens on match day and, consequently on how the match engine operates.
It's fair to say that the tactics overhaul has had the most obvious impact on what happens on the pitch, but the new training system also has an affect (although it's not quite as instantly recognisable). In short, a properly implemented training regime will improve the success of a manager's primary tactic. There are also other, smaller changes which shrewd match engine watchers will notice – for example, a striker will now noticeably defend behind the ball, depending on your line of engagement instruction (which hasn't always been the case in the past).
The manager’s choice of primary tactic – either selected from the list of pre-set tactical styles or something custom built – will dictate the team’s style of play come match day. We’ve worked closely with the tactics team to ensure that this style of play will be more visible in the match engine than it’s ever been before – in other words, a change of tactics will now result in a more visible difference than has previously been the case.
A good example of this would be if you decided to play out of defence. This now results in your full-backs and centre-backs splitting a lot wider and your players playing more short passes in their own half. Of course you’ll also notice the opposition’s reaction more keenly, as the results of the 'prevent short goalkeeper distribution' instruction are also more lifelike than in previous games.
I should stress that this is much more than just a visible change – in previous versions of FM the instruction to 'retain possession' wouldn't necessarily work if the team wasn't set up correctly to deliver this. Now, rather than just selecting 'retain possession', the same effect is delivered by choosing a formation and tactical style designed to produce that result.
Closing down – or pressing as it’s known these days – is another tactical change which is now more evident in the match engine. The addition of the new ‘line of engagement’ instruction allows you to tell your team when to start pressing the opposition when they have the ball, while the pressing intensity instructions allows you to set how hard your players will press. These two instructions, combined with your team’s defensive line and the new transitional instructions, allow you to create a distinct pressing system, something that was not easily achievable or well visualised in previous games.
Moving from team play to individual, the changes that have been implemented in some of the player roles are also now evident in the match engine. The old sweeper role – which is no longer really used in modern football – is gone and, as a result, you’ll now see the covering defender take up those duties.
Away from the changes facilitated by the improvements to training and tactics, we’ve also made some significant improvements to the way the AI managers behave. Essentially, we’ve reworked everything under the hood to make sure that human and AI managers have exactly the same options and power to change the on-field action. We’ve made the AI managers less rigid in their approach so they can now use more combinations of formations, instructions and player roles and we’ve also increased the number of tactical tendencies that AI managers are likely to use.
There are a number of other improvements too, some of which will be easy to spot and some of which are more hidden. One of the most noticeable is the improvement to ball physics. The ball now swerves and curves more realistically than before, which will be instantly noticeable in more realistic crosses, free kicks and shots.
The referees too, have been reworked from scratch to make their actions more realistic and lifelike – which is particularly important with the introduction of VAR and goal-line technology this year.
It’s not, strictly, speaking part of the match engine, but we have added and replaced more than 500 animations this year, changed the speed in which animations are played and improved the blending – all of which combine to make the on field action noticeably smoother.
As always, we’ve also responded to the extensive user feedback we received from last year which has resulted in more back passes and improved long-range shooting, in addition to a host of other changes.
Those are just a few of the new additions and changes that you can expect to see in the match engine this year but, as ever, we want you to discover some of the finer details for yourselves when you’ve got your hands on FM19. Be sure to keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more in-depth insights into the improvements in other areas of Football Manager.
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