This is the first year that you have been developing a game under the championship manager title which until now was handled by Sports Interactive. How much pressure does that add to your job given how successful the game has been in the past?
There's a lot of pressure - but then we're developing the next installment in the greatest most successful football management game series ever - so it's to be expected. And as massive CM fans - there no more pressure than what we're piling on ourselves.
Sports Interactive are now making a new franchise. Where do you think that your game will exceed their new one and how do you think the fans will react to two games being available on the market. Do you think that their will be 'fanboys' for both games or will they appreciate both for what they are?
Speed is our big thing - we're very fast in loading, saving and processing. We're also improving some areas for non - hardcore fans - but without taking out the hardcore aspects too. We've been working on making sure what's in there is as accurate as possible.
At the moment we can't really gauge the fans reactions to CM5 - because no one has seen our version yet. Our plan is to prove that we're doing this properly. Any doubters will be reassured after they see what we've delivered. We're being very true to the heritage of the Championship Manager game. It would be very stupid not to be, and I'd be very saddened personally if we cocked it up - because we all love the game as players, not just developers.
What is the big new features for the fifth iteration of this game. What in your opinion was the problem with the past games that you aim to fix?
The biggest difference is the dramatically improved loading, saving and processing times. The game is much, much quicker than previous versions of the game - and the player is constantly in the game, rather than waiting around for processing to happen. You've really got to see it to believe it.
We've also changed the way that the interface is laid out. It's still the same old CM - but much more logical, and with much more space to display all the usual info in. We've found hardcore fans prefer it - and even new users find there way around it very quickly.
Focus testing also identified Training as a weak spot on previous Champ Mans - so we've designed this to be much more flexible and user friendly. It's still as complex if you want it to be too. You can now spend just a little time in this area using professionally generated schedules from Mervyn Day (First Team Coach - Charlton Athletic) or generate your own from Light, Medium or Intensive drills. If you want you could even tweak the schedules down to a per 30 minute intervals for 7 days a week.
The new "Feeds" arrows in the tactics editor are also a great new addition - which allow you to designate players or areas for feeding the ball. The pitch is also divided up into many more squares - so the formations can be tweaked a lot more. There's also some new additions in the team and player instructions.
Overall we've developed a game that caters to everything that a CM fan wants - a fast, easily navigated game with the depth and breadth of previous champ mans.
We've seen a shift in the world of football/soccer recently in terms of the super powers with Real Madrid ending up without a trophy last season and perhaps the biggest shock of all Greece winning Euro 2004. How will Championship Manager 5 represent this change, will it be a little easier to win matches with the lesser known teams now or will the super powers still dominate in terms of the probability that a player will succeed as the manager?
It'll only be easier to win if you deduce the strengths and weaknesses of both your team and your opponents and then get your strategy right. CM5 is all about simulation - if it's possible in real life, it's possible in CM5. Employing the best back room staff and players, managing those people as individuals and as a team, then getting match day tactics right is the key to success - it's also what a manager's job is.
We've seen a few management games released such as Total Club Manager which now include 3D match engines where you as the coach can give commands on the fly. Is there any plans for this to be implemented in Championship Manager 5 and if not are there any plans for the future?
Short term we have no ambitions in this direction. Long term we'd love to do this - but only when our technology is at a level to allow it to be what we would envisage it being. Whilst we can calculate and store all the match info in memory as "numbers" - and it makes sense - displaying this information in an all singing and all dancing 3D engine is a tough job. TCM shows you can do it well - but it's not the real deal in our opinion.
Championship Manager and management games have never been the most accessible games and required a great deal of learning. Have you improved this aspect for the new CM game and do you think new players will be able to get addicted as much as the veterans of the previous titles? If so where have you made these improvements?
Indeed. We took a lot of time to do focus testing in the early weeks of development to make sure we understood what made players tick - both current and lapsed. Overwhelmingly the problem was time - and we've fixed that with the speed. You get a lot more real game time to play before your partner starts to nag J Accessibility was next on our agenda - and we've done quite a lot of work to have scalable team management, tactics and training - allowing people to dive in as shallow or deep as they'd prefer. That's everything from managing only small aspects of training, transfers or contract negotiations - through to who goes on the pitch. Everything is tweakable. We'll be emphasizing that in the manual too - to ensure people are aware of it.
One problem with management games has always been the lack of equality which is no fault of the game itself and is just a fact of soccer/football. However in the interests of having a game with wide appeal there has to be a balance so fans can still play as their favorite club and have a chance against super rich teams like Chelsea. How have you addressed this issue in the game and how much of a problem do you think it is in the overall franchise going forward? IE. Is there anyway you as a developer can curtail the fact that Chelsea has millions to spend on superstars where as someone like Fulham does not and therefore the player has a significant disadvantage in terms of gaining success.
We did discuss having a "Sugar Daddy" patch which we could sell via the CM forums and then retire ourselves :) In reality, there's nothing that we can do about this in the real world - and so in our opinion there should be nothing done in CM5. We're in the business of producing the most realistic football management simulation there is. Chelsea are not invincible though just because they've got a lot of money. The only way we could see this being addressed would be in the database, and there's too much pride in our data to go messing with it because the game is difficult. On the other hand, I'm sure there will be an editor for the database written at some point if you want to help yourself out - or hinder a rival in some way :)
Visuals have never been a major factor in management games but have you improved any aspects of the visuals of the game and overall presentation of the game such as added commentary if the player is watching a match 'live'.
We've not done a whole lot of stuff to the presentation side, except for tilting the pitch a bit to allow height of play to be seen better - and removing the left hand bar from the user interface. That's freed up a lot of space for cleaner display of information. All menus have been laid out in a very logical fashion. The game's also skinnable - so if players hate what we've done with the look they'll be able to adjust it themselves.
Will Championship Manager 5 contain a multiplayer element and if so can you elaborate upon this and if not are there any plans for this in the future?
BGS are not supporting multiplayer at this point - but there may well be plans for this in the near future. We're firmly in the camp of making sure that the single player experience was as perfect as possible before biting off even more stuff to chew on.
Finally is there anything you want to say to the fans out there who are eagerly awaiting the new game as well as those who may be undecided between the two biggest football management games of the year?
Don't discount BGS based on an "It can't be done" opinion. We have done it. And it's very fast. Get a copy and see for yourselves.