There's a feature in the new issue of the mag called Don't Make Me Play. In it, we all attempt to play a well-loved game we think we hate, but have never really given a decent chance before. Tim plays EVE Online, Craig Civ IV, Tony World of Warcraft, Graham The Witcher and Ross UT3. For me, it was Football Manager. But, not unusually, I wrote three times the maximum word-count about my tumultuous experiences. The short version is in the mag with the others, the long one is here:
The three things I hate most in this world are football, management and the year 2008. So I'm not optimistic, but I'll give this a go.
I've got coffee, the game's fully installed, and I've even patched it. I can put this off no longer. I didn't know they even had patches for football management games, by the way. What do they fix? Nerfed column-width for player names? Added SLI support for rendering graphs? Fixed an exploit where the number 7 would sometimes be considered higher than 8?
Creating my manager - this I can do. I like character creation. First name: Glorgathon, last name: Mutilator of Worlds. Favourite team: Everton. Portrait? I don't have a photo ready for this, but I'll see what I've got in My Documents. Ah yes, an animated gif Tim sent me of David Hasselhoff wearing David Hasselhoff briefs, which zooms into his crotch recursively, forever. Perfect. My nationality? God, I don't know, Belarusan. Accept. The game crashes.
After a few retries I decide it's probably having trouble handling the Hoff - many do - and the only other picture of a person I have lying around is a headshot of Valve's Robin Walker grinning from an old interview. That is now the face of Glorgathon, Mutilator of Worlds.
I take charge of famous Slovakian team Ruzomberok, surely mighty heroes of this ball-related game. On the tactics screen for my first match, I employ a classic Zerg rush: it seems my ten non-goalkeeping units can spawn anywhere on the battlefield, so I deploy them all directly outside the enemy goal, so that I can score repeatedly before they can establish a base. I cannot fail.
I fail, 8-0. The match is interminable, because it takes me fifteen minutes to figure out that the 'Game Speed' slider does nothing, while the 'Highlights' slider actually increases the speed of the game. Somehow Premorje - those dastards - discovered the opening my otherwise impervious assault, and the blue unit in my base seems incapable of intercepting missiles.
One glimmer of hope comes halfway through, when my team suddenly devastate the enemy midfielders and score spectacularly. Craig then informs me that the teams switch sides at half-time, and that it is I who have been scored on yet again. This seems needlessly confusing to me. It doesn't help that the two goalpersons appear to be on a third team of their own, the blues, whose allegiance to the oranges or blacks seems neither here nor there. Certainly the one in my goal does not have my best interests in mind.
My 'goalie' stupidly strains his groin during the match, so I fine him two weeks' wages for incompetence, which he accepts as fair and promises will motivate him in future. I decide to raise morale with one of my most disillusioned men by offering him to the other teams for a price of one million pounds - surely a magnanimous compliment. The papers run a story the next day that he his furious and disappointed. We lose our next game 10-0. It may be time to rethink the Zerg rush.