Eidos' Championship Manager series is undoubtedly the greatest football management game of all time. Over the last decade it has gone from strength to strength, making armchair managers out of millions of gamers. With it now being a truly mass-market game, Eidos has put together a dream team to ensure that Championship Manager 5 continues this fine heritage. Beautiful Game Studios boasts a 30-strong squad including 18 programmers, three researchers, two producers, two designers, an artist and a community manager, all aiming to maintain the addictive qualities that make the game such a winner. With Champ Man 5 now less than a year away, the details are exclusively revealed in this sneak preview. Back of the net!
Previous versions of Champ Man have relied on the good will of fans to provide information on the players in the game. This time round the developers have taken a more specialized approach, employing the services of the Professional Football System, a long-standing agency who provide information to actual clubs and managers around the world. Established in 1999, the services of the PFS have been utilised by clubs from The Premiership, Serie A and La Liga, including no less than the mighty Real Madrid.
The PFS has a worldwide network of researchers covering over 50 leagues from as far afield as Australia, South Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe. The research team is largely made up of professionals directly involved with football, such as journalists and those working in administration at clubs. Their factual information includes such details as players' height, weight, what foot they favour, and even if they are married or single. The single largest, most detailed and, most importantly of all, most accurate information resource on professional footballers and clubs available, it's an invaluable source to clubs all over the world, and will prove priceless in CM5, the first game ever to use this data.
As well as providing hard facts, the PFS has been given strict guidelines by which to judge player attributes. These attributes will be categorised as Technical (passing, shooting etc), Physical (pace, strength...), Intelligence (positioning?) and Temperament, the latter introducing personality aspects that will affect such areas as contract negotiations, media dealings, and the relationship with the manager. There will also be a host of new stats, such as power, accuracy and feinting, all of which add to the overall impression of a player.
As an improvement on previous versions of CM, attributes will now be represented as a percentage to offer more fidelity, accuracy and flexibility. They will also be an absolute value, leaving gamers in less doubt as to a player's qualities.
It will still be possible to identify future stars though, and attributes will fluctuate through such influences as age, experience and training. There will also be hidden attributes - such as big game mentality - that will become evident through coaching. With the help of PFS, the intention is to create the most accurate database available in any football management game.
It's Training Men
Research-identified training as a weak area in previous versions of CM. Many gamers chose simply to ignore the training options, as tampering would often have a detrimental effect on the team. Wholesale changes were made for CM4, but many considered it too complicated and again it wasn't exploited to the full.
CM5 will offer a user-friendly training module, albeit still with a comparable amount of detail. Training schedules will be easier to implement, and BGS has been working closely with a respected Premiership coach who has designed optimised regimes for certain areas. For instance, if you need to improve a player's defensive qualities, a training schedule will be set, with its effectiveness bearing a direct correlation to the quality of your coach. And if training still isn't your bag, you can always leave it to your coach or assistant manager.
The Big Match
After years of following matches through text commentary, a brave new world was introduced in CM4 via the 2D overhead match engine. Generally a popular decision, CM5 will utilise a similar approach. However, the code has all been written from scratch to ensure a quicker, smoother experience. During a match, calculations will be made on-the-fly based on player attributes. So when Ryan Giggs comes up against a leaden-footed right-back, the outcome will be decided on the spot.
There will be several options for watching matches, including the full 90 minutes (as opposed to the truncated 64 minutes of CM4). Matches can also be accelerated so an entire game can be viewed in a shorter time, and the usual highlights and text-only modes will also apply.
Pitches will deteriorate accordingly, and matches will be affected by climate, which will be based on the actual conditions of where the game is being played. And for that big-match atmosphere, all-new crowd noises are being recorded.
Search For A Star
Unearthing undiscovered players is a huge part of football, and therefore of Champ Man. The scouting system in CM5 is being tweaked to enable more specific searches to be carried out. So instead of simply trawling Scandinavia, you can set your scout to look for players in a specific position, such as left-back. However, if they do happen to spot an outstanding striker on their travels, they will be sure to inform you.
More general searches can also be instigated, such as for young players or experienced pros coming to the end of their careers. Scouts will also have a professionalism rating, so for instance an unprofessional scout looking for a new keeper could unsettle the current number one by his lack of discretion.
The tactics screen has always been a success in Champ Man but BGS is making subtle improvements. As well as adding arrows for players to make runs, managers will now be able to add further arrows instructing players where to play the ball, into the channels for instance. So if the opposition is playing three at the back, you can instruct midfielders to play it wide for someone to run on to. A wide array of default formations will be available, with plenty of scope for tampering by those of a more tactical persuasion.
A big criticism of previous versions of CM is that your players often didn't appear to be following any of your prescribed tactics. A new approach to the match engine will ensure that this area will be noticeably improved.
Show Me The Money
As anybody who knows anything about football is aware, managers have no say in setting ticket prices, selling scarves or deciding how much salt to put on the chips in order to make fans thirsty so you can sell more drinks (as happens in more frivolous management games). Rest assured that CM5 will not be going down that road, and the finances will follow largely the same model as before.
You will be given a transfer budget, a wage budget and informed of expenditure, income, profit and so on. This will also effect the Board Expectation.
And for the first time we are introducing Manager Expectation. So, for example, if the board expect you to qualify for the Champions League, you could claim that you're planning to win the league, as this may increase your job security. Likewise, you can talk yourself down in order to get a more realistic expectation from the board, and hopefully some more cash.
Seal The Deal
A fully realistic transfer model is being employed, encompassing an array of factors including finances, reputation and player personalities. Buying players will be more than a case of simply offering the cash, so attempting to lure Ronaldo and Zidane from Real Madrid to Chelsea will not be a formality. You will first have to establish yourself as a decent manager with the potential to win major trophies, and the loyalty of the players in question will also prove a key factor. As of course will their wages.
Need For Speed
Sick of having to put the kettle on between matches? With no legacy code to hinder it, CM5 will provide a much faster gaming experience. The entire game is being programmed from scratch and through careful organisation of the code, one of the main goals is to provide a noticeably quicker game. And of course, one with less need for 'enhancement packs'.
Hit The Net
Get involved in the official forums and tell us exactly what you'd like to see in the game. The BGS team are all on hand to listen to suggestions and answer any queries you have. When the full version of the site goes live in April, every user will be given their own page creating a unique environment for community interaction, enabling you to weblog your exploits within the game and in the real world of football.
Everyone who registers before April is also entered into a draw for a free football shirt of their choice, a new winner is drawn everyday! Visit www.championshipmanager.co.uk
Do you have an eye for talent? Are you able to spot the stars of tomorrow? Would you like to appear in Championship Manager 5 as a scout? Eidos and Beautiful Game Studios are offering a unique opportunity for ten fans to be immortalised in the game. Be the envy of your friends as your name appears on the small screen alongside the greats of the footballing world.
How do you fancy being one of the first people ever to play Championship Manager 5? Four lucky winners of this unique competition will get the chance to spend a day at Beautiful Game Studios testing the game, months before it comes out in the shops. Instead of simply reading about it, you could have a say in the way the game is shaped. Following a full day's play, you will be given the chance to share your opinion with the people who actually make the game.
To enter either competition, simply send your name, address and daytime telephone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winners will be drawn on March 31st.