Another football season's well under way in Europe and that means another round of football management titles, too. One of the oldest names in the genre, Championship Manager, had a change of developers a couple of years ago, but after a tough start Beautfiful Games Studio is confident that it's capable of taking on all comers now.
Luke Didd, producer for the Championship Manager 2007 title, took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
GameSpot UK: What are the most important improvements in the new game?
Luke Didd: We have made changes to everything since the release of CM2006. The most important improvements have been the inclusion of ProZone, the addition of team talks before, during, and after the match, a vastly improved look for the interface, updates to the navigation, including a customisable sidebar and a massively improved match engine. In addition, we have added the ability to manage both national and Conference North and South teams, improved player happiness and talks, transfers--with possible board vetos--and much more.
GSUK: The demo has been out for a couple of weeks now; what feedback have you received from the community?
LD: The feedback has been really positive on the whole, as you can see on the Web site. We have had more than 70,000 completed downloads, which is fantastic. Of those people who have posted a comment on the forums, the most popular features have been ProZone and team talks, while the marked improvement to the overall quality of the game has also been noted.
GSUK: What does the new game concentrate on in terms of management skills? Has there been any particular focus on tactics or training?
LD: The addition of ProZone has made using training and tactics even more important. From using the ProZone match analysis tool, you may notice that your midfielder keeps giving possession of the ball away in the middle of the park. Now there are a few ways to improve this, including setting up a training regime to improve his passing, or adjusting the player tactical flags so that the player uses a passing style which is more suited to him. We have ensured that training and tactical flags are having the desired effect on players.
In addition to the training and tactics, we have really enhanced the player happiness and talks section on the game. Each player can have 20 happiness events or niggles at any given time. There are also in the region of 30 different events which can change a player's happiness at his club. These range from improving the training facilities to not playing enough games in the first team. Each unhappiness event has talk options which users can use, and when using these options each player will give a response ensuring the user knows how the player has responded.
GSUK: Have there been any concessions for novice players in the new version of Championship Manager?
LD: CM2007 has an in-game help which offers users help on everything from picking their team and selecting tactics to customisation of the front end by using the sidebar shortcuts. We have also attempted to make the game more appealing to newcomers by working on four new looks--skins--and ensuring the game is generally easier to get around.
GSUK: Do you keep an eye on the other football management games on the market? Are there any in particular that you admire?
LD: It would be foolish for any developer to not consider the competition, whether developing a first-person shooter or a football management sim. We keep tracks on all competitor successes and failings, from Premier Manager to Football Manager. I respect and admire everyone who is attempting to develop football management games. This is a genre where the fans are not so forgiving, so if you get something wrong you can be sure that they'll tell you about it.
GSUK: A big thing for the genre at the moment is the match engine. Does Championship Manager ever intend to develop a full 3D match engine, along the lines of LMA Manager?
LD: I'm sure that in the future a 3D match engine will become an essential feature for all management simulations including Championship Manager. Do we intend to develop a 3D engine? At the moment our focus is on producing a match engine that plays the most realistic game of football on the market. We are confident that we are closer than ever to achieving this goal.
GSUK: Can you tell us a little bit about the integration of the ProZone tools into Championship Manager?
LD: With Championship Manager we are constantly reviewing and analysing what is happening in the world of football. We became aware of ProZone a couple of years ago and decided that this would be a very useful tool for CM players to be able to garner valuable tactical information. It also adds to the realism of CM--being able to use a tool as used by today's top managers. We began developing something that would give players an 'under the bonnet' revelation of everything that was happening in the game. At the same time we began speaking to ProZone, who assisted us on exactly how certain elements work, and this relationship and tool will be further expanded for future versions.
GSUK: The series' Sugar Daddy mode is set to return this year--are there any other new features like this that you can talk about?
LD: This year our focus was to add features to the game which ensure gamers have access to even more of the aspects of a modern football manager. These are ProZone and team talks, as well as adding more depth to the experience with Conference North and South, and the enhancements made to the player talks and promises. The less hardcore fans have been treated to a more attractive and user-friendly navigation system, with the customisable sidebar. In addition we've also added international management, which is available at game startup, although not choosing this option will allow the user to earn the right to manage their nation.
GSUK: Thanks for your time.