The Boss Speaks - Miles Jacobson on FM 2006

Sports Interactive's MD gives us a behind-the-scenes insight into the future of the world's greatest footie management sim

With the smoking fag end of the season comes the beginning of all-new football management dreams. Will Norwich defy the odds and stay in the Premiership? Can Nottingham Forest ever bring back the glory days now League One obscurity beckons? Will Brentford make it into the Championship?

Will we ever be able to drag ourselves away from Sports Interactive and Sega's stunning Football Management series? No chance, especially since the new and improved 2006 version of Football Manager on PC will be joined by a PSP port.

Forget reaching the heady heights of the Premiership or winning the Champions League final - a PSP version of Football Manager is all our footie management dreams come true at once. You can read more about it here.

PC Version

And the new PC version looks like it has enough intelligent new features to address the few criticisms levelled at FM2005 while also pushing the series forward. Catch up on the new additions here

To celebrate FM2006's continued reign at the top of the league we cracked open the red wine with Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson and talked tactics.

The idea of a portable Football Manager game is a dream come true for many fans, so let's talk about that first. How pleased are you to be able to bring the game to PSP?

Miles Jacobson: As fans of the game ourselves, we're obviously delighted! The PSP is a great machine, and one that's already given me days of pleasure, so to know that I'm going to be able to play FM on it is exciting enough, let alone knowing that there'll be loads of others doing the same.

People will immediately think the PSP version will not be as in-depth as the PC version. What sacrifices have you had to make?

Miles Jacobson: Obviously the PSP has a lot less memory than most PC's, but we haven't approached this as a straight port of the PC or Mac version of the game. The handheld gaming experience is different to that of a home computer one, so the game is being made and designed with that in mind, and ensuring that the football world is accurately modelled.

Have you had change the way the game works significantly, or are players still free to choose whatever team they want and create their own FM experience?

Miles Jacobson: Players will still be able to choose from a number of leagues, but we're not sure how many as yet - that depends a lot on the coding of the rest of the game, and how much time is left, but there will be at least 6 countries leagues playable.

PC Version

How in-depth will the training and tactics components of the PSP version be?

Miles Jacobson: Tactics will be similar to FM. Training is likely to be handled automatically by your assistant manager, although this could change before release.

How will the match engine work? Will there be a 2D pitch?

Miles Jacobson: No. A decision was made a few months ago by the Handheld team that it was best to have the old school radio style commentary rather than a 2d match due to the memory restraints.

The strength, size and accuracy of your player database has always been a vital part of the FM experience. How much have you had to cut it back?

Miles Jacobson: Not at all. It will be displayed differently on the screen, but all the data will be present.

Will the game look significantly different to the PC version? Will there be a new interface to suit the PSP controls?

Miles Jacobson: Yes, and yes! From the initial screenshots you'll be able to see some of the changes that have been made, but the game is not a port. It's a Sports Interactive game, and a Football Manager game, but it's a new experience and designed specifically for that experience.

Are you planning to offer downloadable content?

Miles Jacobson: We can't give away everything now, so we'll talk about that kind of stuff closer to release.

Are you planning to use the PSP's wireless multiplayer compatibilities, or even online gaming?

Miles Jacobson: Heh - you ask good questions! See my answer above...

What particular problems has PSP development thrown up for the FM series?

Miles Jacobson: Because we approached it as a PSP game, there haven't been too many issues really, apart from the team having to get used to the new kit and new systems. As we haven't worked on a Sony system before, it does take a bit of time to get used to and convert platform layers and stuff, but it's looking pretty damn solid now.

PC Version

PC Version:

Okay, let's move to the PC version. Going into FM2006 on PC, what was the main enhancement you wanted to implement?

Miles Jacobson: I think the list of new features that we've announced today shows the kind of direction the game is going in - obviously there are more new features to announce later on, and every area of the game has been enhanced. One of our biggest driving forces is that we're never totally happy with our games...

It seems you're putting a great deal of emphasis on player interaction. Is this something you've wanted to do for a long time?

Miles Jacobson: Yes, and it's something that the community have wanted for ages too! Man management is a very important part of managing a team, and it's certainly something that will continue growing within the game across the next few iterations at least.

Half-time team talks sounds like a great new feature. How will you interaction with the players influence their performance?

Miles Jacobson: That depends on the players personality. Some get pepped up from being shouted at, others play worse, so you have to be careful what you say to whom and when.

FM2005 introduced manager mindgames, a feature that some critics labelled superfluous. What have you done in 2006 to improve it?

Miles Jacobson: It has been worked on, as has every area of the game, but if the critics really thought the feature was superfluous, they wouldn't have got the most out of the game, which is a shame.

In what ways will negotiating you manager contract affect the game?

Miles Jacobson: Obviously there are the normal morale issues - players want stability, so contract negotiations can effect players moods. You can also use it to attempt to increase your wage & transfer budgets amongst other things, but you'll notice all sorts of extra media items appearing during negotiations. It's a lot of fun, and the stubborness of your character might play a major part in it!

PC Version

It seems that you're adding much more personality to the game world. What does this add to the experience?

Miles Jacobson: We've always been trying to create a football universe, rather than just be a bog standard football game, and with any universe, personality is a big part of it. We just want people to get engrossed in the world, as it gives for a much better gameplay experience.

The training interface has been improved. Can you tell us more about how it will work?

Miles Jacobson: It's now very easy to use, with coaches having a larger bearing on player improvements, but the ability to set training schedules by a series of slide bars for different elements that you're trying to improve. This means that it's quick and easy to set up your own training schemes, or you can use those recommended by the coaches.

What changes will you be making to the match engine? Will it remain 2D?

Miles Jacobson: The match engine will be improved, as will every other part of the game. I see no reason why we should move away from having the best representation of a game of any football game, so the 2d will stay.

Are you planning any connectivity between the PSP and PC versions?

Miles Jacobson: Not at the moment....

FM2005 introduced official team and league licenses for the first time. What are your plans with this in mind for FM2006?

Miles Jacobson: To attempt to renew all licenses, and get as many others as make sense on a commercial and gameplay level.

Football Manager 2006 will be available for PC and PSP in November.