Friday, March 26, 2010
Observing the precepts of this great work Sun Tzu and the armies he commanded prevailed for decades over their ancestral enemies. More than two millennia later, another famous general reportedly also used the principles described in the book. Napoleon is reputed to have waged his successful campaigns in Europe with Sun Tzu’s book in hand, only to fall to defeat when he failed to follow the principles of The Art of War.
Even in these modern days, the book remains the object of study by military commanders world-wide. For example, the American general Schwarzkopf may not acknowledge Sun Tzu as the inspiration behind the military operation he led during the First Gulf War; however the tactics he employed, which so emphasized surveillance, communications, mobility, and deception, appear directly drawn from The Art of War.
The Art of War has been applied to many fields well outside of the military. Much of the text is about how to fight wars without actually having to do battle: it gives tips on how to outsmart one's opponent so that physical battle is not necessary. As such, it has found application as a training guide for many competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.
The book highlights the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment. Sun Tzu thought that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment, but in a changing environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.
If this is all sounded way too abstract for your liking and you do not recognise managerial schemes in the competing plans and the changing environment does not equal a football match for you, maybe the next quote will help. Dutch manager Rinus Michels was once quoted saying something which roughly translates as: “Professional football is something like war. Whoever behaves too properly is lost.”
So if football is a bit like war, the principles of war could apply to it. And if you take a football management simulation, which is supposed to simulate actual football, surely you can use these principles here in two-fold? For starters, because the concepts can apply directly to football and secondly, because these concepts are used by all sorts of managers and generals, so why not a football (simulation) manager?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The first point is league size, which is now becoming fluent instead of static. This basically means that if teams are moved INTO an FA, the tiers are expanded if necessary to accommodate them at the correct level. Promotions and relegations will be adjusted for the following season to compensate. Alternatively, it also means that if teams are removed due to inactivity or violating AI rules, no extra teams are going up.
I can definitely see the aims of this particular rule. If you don't deserve promotion, you are not forced to punch above your weight in a higher tier, simply because the FA has to make up the numbers. It also means that FA hoppers do not get an easy ride for the first (few) season(s) because they have to start at the bottom.
It also means that in some tiers in particular FA's, problems are arising. In one particular tier, 15 out of the 20 teams in tier had to be removed due to various reasons (forced de-activation, quitting beta, not enough players, inactivity, breach of AI rules).
Normally, I would just send these teams a tier up, merging two tiers to compensate for the loss of so many teams. In this case, I am still allowed to do this, but in the future, the open numbers will be replaced by CPU teams. I'm not entirely sure a tier with 5 live teams and 15 CPU teams will be all that appealing.
Second point is the use of play-offs in some FA's. I've never been a big fan of those, since they cannot be incorporated properly into the league structure and should thus be ran during the off-season. Teams above the AI limit are not allowed to compete for promotion, which sometimes leaves us with odd play-offs.
As it happens, we are supposed to run them English style, so with a double semi-final and single final match. So what happens when we only get 3 teams? One team gets a free ride into the final, with basically less chance of injuries or suspensions? I'd be pretty pissed if I were in the play-off final with several players injured or suspended and my opponent had a fresh squad because there were no semi's for him.
Adding the play-offs into the league structure could be an answer. With seasons taking 23 days instead of 21 soon, the extra two days could be used to automatically run the play-offs in the off-season, coding them into the leagues.
The only problem with that rule is that it won't weed out AI-teams. If a team exceeds an FA's AI rule, it is denied promotion so it becomes useless to make them compete in a play-off. By hard-coding the play-offs into the leagues, we run a risk of ending up with a play-off winner who can;t go up due to AI.
These are just two sceptical notes I have when I work at getting Miller ready for the next season start coming Saturday. Here's to hoping I was too negative in my initial thoughts and everything will work out just fine.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Marcotti mentioned a book called Moneyball in his column. This book focussed on the Oakland A's, an American baseball team, and how this team managed to compete with bigger and more wealthy clubs by means of innovative statistical analysis.
The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time. The book argues that the Oakland A's' front office took advantage of more empirical gauges of player performance to field a team that could compete successfully against richer competitors in Major League Baseball.
Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A's became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.
By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately $41 million in salary, are competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spend over $200 million in payroll. Because of the team's smaller revenues, Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far.
Basically, the author claims that teams have finite resources (read: money) and are therefore forever looking for value. Value used to be assessed by evaluating traditional parameters. Most of these parameters were subjective, such as for example pace, strength and character. The author claims that one could identify value more efficiently by analysing certain previously obscure statistics.
According to Marcotti, finding a way to apply these principles to football has been something of a holy grail. The most obvious obstacle is that while baseball has easy-to-measure individual match-ups, football is a free-flowing game.
Fortunately, FM Live makes this measuring aspect a bit easier for us, since the game is all about statistics. The attributes of players are displayed in ratings between one and twenty and the game logs pretty much every statistic you would ever want to know.
This means one could apply the aforementioned principles to FM Live. Re-assessing value is becoming more and more important, since your budget is limited and there will be more teams fighting over the same players.
As a result, setting your scouting filters is getting more and more important if you want to end up with proper value for your money. In this article and several follow-up articles, I am going to describe how I set up my scouting filters. In this article, I will describe the general approach I take.
First off, let me tell you that I know what kind of players I am looking for exactly. The game offers various roles for players, even within positions on the pitch. For example, there are five or so roles you can select for your forward, but I know exactly that I only need Target Men or Trequartista's upfront.
Once you know which role or roles your players should cover, you can start by creating your own search template. The basic templates provided by SI give you a nice start to work with. However, following these templates will mean you end up with very broad and generic search results. Basically, you have to narrow the search results down further.
This can be achieved by adding extra parameters to the search. However, how do you know which parameters to add for your role? This is where a combination of common sense and being smart should be applied by a manager. Either read up on forums which attributes to use for which role or look at successful players within the GameWorld and look for common attributes in all of them.
Once you have added these parameters, you will have narrowed down the amount of players you are getting. Now look at the financial means at your disposal. If the listed players are all outside your reach, lower the standards a bit in the search parameters. Ideally, you want to end up with four or five candidates.
Now you can examine these candidates further. How have they performed in the past? What are their statistics like for pass completion or crucial errors? Look at those statistics that are crucial for the role the player should fulfill in your team.
Basically, this is a very generic approach to setting up your scouting filters. In the next few days, I will provide a number of examples of how I scout exactly for players within a specific role.
The word trequartista is derived from the Italian language, where it literally means "three quarters", as he plays 3/4 of the way up the field. This player basically has a free role and is allowed quite a bit of freedom to roam the pitch and cause mayhem for the opposing side.
Typically, your Trequartista or Treq as I lovingly call him, is the best or one of the better players on the team. The offense tends to flow through the player, as he either drops deep to collect the ball and distribute it further forward or he stays forward to be on the receiving end of a pass.
Basically, the guy is the pivotting point for your entire offensive gameplay. If the Trequartista has a good day, your team will prosper. He will score or assist seemingly for fun, like for example
Ronaldinho at Milan, Messi in many Barca matches, Totti at Roma, Diego at Juventus, Bergkamp at Arsenal and Ajax and there are many more examples.
So why do I love this player role? These players are generally a nuisance to mark, because their movement between forward and deep positions can drag defenders out of position, allowing my team to capitalise with a cutting pass. The Treq's forward movement also allows them to catch the back line off guard by arriving from deep, after setting up the attack himself most of the time.
All in all, it's a highly unpredictable role for an opponent, as you never really know what this forward is going to do exactly. Basically, the Trequartista acts as a hybrid between a traditional playmaker and a striker, making them extremely difficult to find, but very rewarding when used properly.
I tend to use the Trequartista as the second forward in a two-forward formation, where the second forward plays a set up role for the Trequartista and the wingers, who often act as inside forwards. If needed, the fullbacks provide the offensive width.
Over the past seasons, I have had a few highly successful Trequartista's in my team. Guys like Takayuki Morimoto, Lulinha and more recently Donati Signani have been instrumental in the successes I have achieved in GW Miller so far. So yeah, Treq's, I love you!
Two players - Near post flick
Two players - Challenge Keeper
Two players - Wait on the Far Post
Two players - Lurk (one of them is corner taker)
Two players - Stay BackCorners are set to penalty area.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Now, the fact of the matter is that the default corner defence many teams are using is completely inept at defending these kind of corners. As one might expect, there is an outcry on the beta forums to have this kind of corner banned/binned.
My ideas regarding the matter are bit more controversial. Bug or not, loophole or not, it's tactical ingenuity by the managers who come up with this. They are thinking outside the box in an effort to create new opportunities for themselves. Do we really want to punish people for being creative by taking away every new option they find?
Making good tactics which people cannot counter immediately is an exploit? Making people actually think about their tactics and not just going with some default system is an exploit?Surely people can ask in the Tactics Chat or on the forum how to combat this specific setup if they're too lazy to use their own mind or simply lack the know-how regarding the FML engine?
When a setup can be countered with new default settings (and this setup CAN be countered with relative ease), does this not make it just another valid choice by the manager to use it and defend against it? Not every unusual and unorthodox piece of gameplay should be branded as an exploit just because people can't figure out how to counter it in under a minute.
If you want to talk proper exploits, take the old "Challenge Goalkeeper" setup of the 1.3 engine. It's much harder to mount an effective defence against these type of corners. It didn't matter how good your set piece defence was, if the opposing team had someone who was better in the air (someone like Neretljak, Zigic or Onyewu), they would score anyway, regardless of how your defence was setup.
Loophole or not, the "Outside Area" setup adds some extra depth to the tactical aspect of FML and its set pieces. It's no longer "lump the ball into the box and hope someone manages to head it in" combined with buying some header beast like Neretljak, Zigic or Onyewu to ram the ball home. A bit of variation is not that bad...
Also, in due time, when people get acquinted with this corner strategy, they will setup their defence to counter it and it will die out anyway. It's now only effective against teams who refuse to tinker with their set piece instructions, most people who want to take the effort to counter it have managed to do so (at least, the ones I am playing...).
We shouldn't have to cater for the people who are too lazy or too casual to change things around, as this is punishing the actually active managers who try to find new ways to score goals by being creative with the options the game is giving them.
PS. for those of you interested in the actual setup both offensively and defensively, keep watching this blog the next few days
I've always been rather active with the set pieces. In real life, they are becoming formidable weapons you can use to score a goal with even though you're not really playing all that well.In FMLive, you have various routines that work pretty effectively, but if you want to change your routines mid-way during a match, you have to have them either saved in seperate tactics you can switch between or you have to manually alter the individual settings of the players involved.
I propose something different. Whenever you get a corner or a free kick within 30 yards of the opposing goal, the game times out for ten to fifteen seconds and a pop-up appears which allows you to choose between three different scenario's for the free-kick (for example "Outside Area" , "Challenge Goalkeeper" and "Far Post"). Likewise, the defending party gets three options to select a method of defence. Both parties are ofcourse unable to see each others choice until the match actually continues after this short interruption.
Naturally, you should be able to edit existing scenario's and create new ones, both for offence and defence. This gives the tacticians something nice to play with, as they can vary between their various set piece setups. You could even include this into match plans, create conditions during which a team will switch to a new set piece routine.
Ofcourse, if a team does not want to use this option, the game should just select the default set piece routine. Also, I would not like to see this option being used in AI matches unless he has a match plan that allows for these switches, as that gives you too big of an advantage over an off-line opponent. Preferably though, just use it in the actual human vs human matches, to add some extra depth to these matches.
Any thoughts on this? Please let me know in your comments.