Football Manager 2014 Preview: Slider Removal – good or bad?

As I mentioned in my article discussing the eight new tactical roles, Sports Interactive have been pretty heavily plugging Football Manager 2014 through Twitter and through videos from Studio Director Miles Jacobson. His most recent video can be found below. Recommended watching if you haven’t already.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I’ve been fairly vocal in my support of sliders over the past few weeks and so I wanted to put forward the case for sliders in the face of mass-criticism. I’ve also managed to convince one of those more firmly in the anti-slider camp, @rtherringbone, to give the other side of the argument. He has a fantastic blog over at When Seagulls Follow the Trawler which has managed to keep me [somewhat] sane over the Summer when a number of quality FM blogs appear to have gone on something of a hiatus. Definitely check it out.

The Case for Sliders

Over the past six months, since I created this blog, I’ve thought a lot more about the intricacies of Football Manager tactics and their creation. And one of the things I’ve happened to use a lot is the sliders. Now, the rtherringbone’s of this world will tell me that, actually, I can still use the player instructions in such a way that is actually more realistic than the sliders were. But is it more realistic, really?

Are we so naive and ignorant to believe that a manager will simply tell his players to “push forward” or “stay back”? Is there no grey area? In the era of the £100million transfer of a footballer, money is flooding into the game. And with this comes increased analysis of games, and in particular, the players themselves. Are we really going to assume that a manager won’t fine-tune his team in such a way to ensure that it plays exactly how he wants? I completely understand that not every manager is that meticulous, but removing this choice is just a step backwards. I also understand that players may not follow the instructions exactly in real-life, but such a system can still be implemented with sliders.

But with player instructions, there’s the issue of the players themselves not actually knowing what they’re supposed to do. Can you imagine Tato Martino asking Sergio Busquets to play as a ‘half back’ and expecting him to carry this out effectively? No. Martino would give Busquets a set of specific instructions which would then define his role. His role would not define his instructions.

With the removal of sliders, we’re left not knowing what each role does. We’re left having to trust SI’s somewhat lacklustre role descriptions. And when they’re releasing ambiguous new roles such as the ‘half back’ and ‘engache’ into the wild, it’s more important than ever that we know exactly what they do.

Having played Football Manager and its previous iterations for over a decade it’s clear to me that actually, they do a really good job. They’ve managed to wangle tens of thousands of hours of playing time out of me. But sometimes they do make mistakes. And whilst I haven’t yet played Football Manager 2014 or accessed the new system for player instructions, I’m not enthused by the potential changes. However, I’d absolutely love to be proven wrong. Time shall tell if I am.

And the case against…

Now that Sports Interactive’s latest video appears to have effectively announced that sliders will not feature in Football Manager 2014, what does this mean for the way we play the game?

My approach in the Tactics Creator era has been to embrace the “new” system, but to still refer to sliders to understand what the base instructions of each Role and Team Instruction are. I use these as a visual aid, and never actually stray from the default settings in order to ensure that Shouts function as intended.

Losing sight of this detail will certainly be challenging, and asks a lot of the user base to “read football”. Furthermore, it asks a lot of the 2D and 3D graphical representations of the Match Engine to enable this “reading”. It promises to be quite a learning curve.

However, the arguments I have seen in favour of sliders as a means of tactical interface are fundamentally flawed. I repeatedly see the word “realistic” used in conjunction with “sliders”; for me, this is utterly wrong. Sliders are a legacy of a bygone age where there was no alternative interface. Since the Tactics Creator arrived, the clock was ticking for sliders.

The notion that 5% incremental changes are realistic and remotely resemble “real life” is farcical. There is no doubt in my mind that Shouts and Player Instructions better represent the way that player tactical instructions are conveyed in real life. In real life, do we see Klopp, Guardiola, Bielsa, Conte or Benitez asking a player to do 10% more of this, 5% less of that? Of course not.

As far as Roles are concerned, it was put to me recently that the idea of saying “You should play as a False Nine” or “You should play as a Shadow Striker” is nonsensical. What is the alternative? What is the slider way of achieving the same? Is that realistic?

Template Roles give us a shell, and it then appears that in Football Manager 2014 we can use Player Instructions to tailor everything that we could in the slider age, albeit with fewer increments. This is a step forward for the Tactics Creator – another layer of detail, and it forms part of a holistic package of Roles, Instructions and Shouts.

I applaud and embrace the direction that the game is heading in. It is a “simulation” of a very dynamic sport, not a bean-counting exercise of moving sliders up and down a notch or two. The new interface sounds as if it is more intuitive than before, and I believe that the relationship between Role, Instruction and Shout is more in keeping with the sport itself.

I reject the idea that Football Manager is being “dumbed down”, or heading into FIFA Manager territory. In my opinion, fear of change and a perceived loss of control drives the opinions of pro-slider FM’ers. At the end of the day, the proof will be in the pudding. Until we actually get our hands on the game, everything is pure conjecture.

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Of course, as R mentions, we absolutely don’t know what we’re going to get. This article is based on less than a minute of video and a lot of this is wild speculation. But we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Are sliders unrealistic? Or is the new player instructions system far too primitive in comparison to the complication of new real-life techniques? Tell us.

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19 comments

  1. Thomas Paine

    The sliders are gone, long live the sliders.
    I probably wrote the same thing when SI removed Wibble/Wibble from the game, I was skeptic about the outcame, but they said it was irrealistic and led to Match engine exploits, the same story is happening again.
    Football is a holistic game, they say, the anti-sliders party, notches need to go, no more 1 to 20 settings but amazing buttons containing players instructions, like real managers would do…
    I still think Wibble/wobble let you control players horizontal movements in a way we actually can’t, of course there were exploits, not sure that reducing managers options is the right way to avoid exploits, strengthen the AI, maybe rewriting it from scratch, looks like a better choice in the long period, but in the long period, like Keynes said, we’re all dead.
    In the same manner, I firmly believe that sliders, if used correctly, are helpful to develop your own favorite football style in a more flexible way, not sure what the future will bring us.
    My major concern is about the well known “team instructions panel”, is it gone as well?
    We don’t know, but most importantly we don’t know anything about a possible replacement. Such a panel was key in my experience, it let you see the big picture.
    It was immediate and full of info, I could exactly adjust my defensive line or my tempo, without having to use a pre-built shout (3-4 notches more, 3-4 notches less…), it meant freedom to me.
    I’m waiting for more news and for the demo, of course, knowing that game developers sometimes do make mistakes.

    • Jad

      I am completely for removing sliders. A game like FM, which represents football and tactics increasingly realistically, cannot continue to progress while sliders are at the heart of its tactical system. I am quite astounded that those against the removal of sliders are calling the alternative unrealistic when the
      system they support simulates a football match based on arbitrary, somewhat ambiguous sliders.

      Of course managers talk to their players and say things like “stay back” or “push up” – hell, that’s the extent of the tactical instructions I received in my playing career. I know at the top there would be more specifics, but nothing anywhere close to sliders. Can you imagine Fergie telling Rooney to push up with the latter replying, “two notches boss? Gotcha”? More likely he would have said “push up” and then Rooney would interpret that in the context of his own ability, intelligence, preferences and the role he was already playing. I have also seen people lamenting that roles are unrealistic without us being able to see the sliders. So what do players get told to do then? They might not be told explicitly to play as a poacher or an Enganche but they might be told “play like Michael Owen” or “play the Pirlo role” and then if the manager wants to change something, he might say “but roam more” or “don’t stick your foot in unless you have to”. They’ll set the tactical instructions for players with footballing language that humans can understand, not that computers can understand.

      The core of the pro-sliders argument is that sliders give control. My argument is that yes they do, but they shouldn’t. We absolutely should not be able to adjust the way our team and players play one notch at a time. We are seeing the game modernise, and become realistic. Footballing language is the game now – and as managers we will have the same control real managers do, or around about. If you want fine tuning and flexibility then I don’t think you are after a realistic representation of real football to be honest; if managers in real life could adjust every little detail like we currently can with the sliders, we’d see a very different game. I’m by no means saying that what we have seen of the new system is perfect or will be perfect but I genuinely can’t see why it is being seen as a bad step.

      • Eds

        I’m not nearly suggesting the sliders system is perfect. Obviously it’s gone *too* far and we’re being given far too much control. But at the end of the day there’s far more to it than “do this” or “don’t”, particularly in modern football. As football clubs’ performance analysis teams grow ever bigger, players instructions are getting ever more specific. Yes, 20 notches is unreasonable, but so is 3.

        I’m not arguing that 20 notches is realistic, because it’s not. But 3 just doesn’t do the complication of footballing instructions justice. I say, keep the wording (yes, that’s how it works in real life, fine) but give us more options. Perhaps even 5 would be great (although I’d prefer 7 – there’s a whole word of difference between the high lines of Swansea, Barcelona and the Dutch totaal voetbal side of the ’70s, for example), but 3 is just awful.

        And I completely disagree with your point about roles governing instructions. That’s *surely* not how it works in real-life. Surely?! A player is given a set of instructions in terms of how to play, by his manager, the coaches, the analysis guys, whoever. The names of the roles are only there within Football Manager as an easy way of explaining what a player is actually going to do on the pitch. Wouldn’t it be a better game, a more realistic game, if roles were completely abandoned and a player was governed by his instructions?

        I’m not advocating sliders staying in their current state. Because they’re certainly unrealistic. But giving us too little to work with is a much worse option than too much.

  2. rtherringbone

    Eds, out of interest, why do you mention the number three quite a lot?

    In FM13, we already had more than three defensive lines, as we had one per Strategy, which we could then increase using Press More. Alternatively, we could then use Shouts to increase or decrease the line. Indirectly, we already had almost 20 lines.

    This isn’t just defensive line. For width we had a setting per Strategy and then the Play Wider and Play Narrower shouts, and it looks as if on FM14 we can also adjust individual player width too! We have an enormous array of options still, just packaged in a more intuitive way.

    • Thomas Paine

      Intuitive?A crystall ball could be more intuitive. How could I understand where my defensive line is set after 4-5 shouts plus players individual intructions tweaks? A little slider let you know that.

      • rtherringbone

        Or, you could watch the match perhaps?

        It’s a crazy idea, I know, but that’s the way we’re heading – actually watching a game and reacting in real-time to what we’re seeing – sort of like a manager does in real-life in fact, rather than looking at a clipboard where he’s drawn an imaginary line across a pitch.

      • Eds

        I think you’re missing my main point, that the sliders show you what a role does. And yes, we should know exactly what a role does because we’re the ones telling the players to perform in that way. Do we need to watch the match in order to discover what we’ve actually told our players?! Of course we shouldn’t need to. I completely agree that heading that way in terms of analysing what went wrong/right is good for the game, but we should know what we’re actually telling them. When we’re asking a player to play as a halfback, we don’t even know what we’re telling him to do! We shouldn’t need to watch the game to tell.

      • @robbyojay

        I think one thing we’re missing here is a novice manager taking over a football team likely won’t fully grasp the complexities of what he’s saying when he asks his most creative player to play as an enganche. After watching a few matches however he may see how his player interpretes this and then adjust accordingly gaining experience and more knowledge of the role in the process. I think this is what the slider-less system asks us to do and it’s closer to how things would work in real life.

  3. Sport Follower

    Slider removal is not good or bad is realistic. As explained on video the decision was taken after speak with several managers.
    All the changes that made FM more realistic are good.

  4. Thomas Paine

    It could be done, not with the ME we had so far, really difficult to spot how deep you’re playing or how wide you’re on the pitch just using the match viewer.
    If we had a perfect 3D match viewer even players attributes could go (the 1-20 attributes measurement isn’t realistic, is it?), FM 2025 could be the right one for that.

    • rtherringbone

      The ME is OK, it’s just the camera angles we get and the amount of pitch we can see in the graphical representations that is the issue. The 2D variants are fine for assessing your line and general position, but they are only about 20 years out of date!

      Some of the 45 degree angles on the 3D are just awkward, in particular they make you look far narrower than you actually are, andthey chop off great sections of pitch, so you can’t be sure of all your player positions. With or without sliders, it’s a pain!

    • Jad

      How on earth is it difficult to see how deep you’re playing? I really fail to see how anyone watches the match if the ME doesn’t show our tactics being played properly. To say that the ME isn’t accurate questions the simulation of the game as a whole. I watch every match on Comprehensive or Full and I would do miles worse if I didn’t – I can strategise and finetune all I want but if I don’t watch the game it’s all guesswork. If you don’t watch the game or don’t trust FM’s ME then I can understand why you would want the sliders to stay, but I’ve never had any problem watching the game to see what’s going well and what’s not right. The only thing that will happen without sliders is that we need to watch more to analyse how roles are interpreted by players, but I don’t see the issue with that.

  5. PeeDub

    Of course, one of the major keys is describing exactly what the roles do. We can’t even agree amongst ourselves what the enganche and the halfback are; how do we know what SI thinks they are? Sliders go a ways to doing so, but if there’s another way, I’d probably be OK with that.

  6. Shrewnaldo

    This from Eds further up the page is bang on:

    “The names of the roles are only there within Football Manager as an easy way of explaining what a player is actually going to do on the pitch”

    Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a game and the interface is there to allow a computer to understand what instructions we wish to impart within the match engine. The roles, such as they are, are a preset selection of instructions which, previously, could have been implemented with sliders. To take the rudimentary examples that have been offered above, I think I’d get the same blank look from Darren Mackie if I asked him to play as a trequartista as if I asked him to be ‘10% more direct with his passing’.

    My main gripe with removing the sliders is simple. For a purely descriptive system to work you need 3 things -the roles to be perfectly understood by the coders; the roles to be perfectly implemented in the match engine by the coders and the players to perfectly understand the roles they are selecting. If any of those 3 are missing then it will just lead to more confusion. I don’t believe any of those 3 things are in place.

    There was also mention above that the shouts and strategies etc meant that there were plenty of options for the defensive line (the example used). This may well be true but the shouts and strategy changes also have knock-on effects elsewhere within the tactic – effects which are not fully explained anywhere within the game and which are very difficult to spot. An example? The ‘hassle opponents’ shout not only increases closing down but also switches marking to ‘man’ throughout the team. Whether or not you believe this to be logical (I do not), it is not immediately apparent from the description of the shout (which I believe only exists in a tooltip pop-up during processing, I may be wrong). That’s a massive flaw in the game. At least with the sliders or advanced instructions there we could see what effect the changes were supposed to be having.

    Fair enough, sliders probably have to go eventually but the replacement has to be transparent at the very least. Without seeing the game it’s impossible to say whether it is or isn’t but the evidence of the YouTube video isn’t encouraging.

  7. Sven

    “The ‘hassle opponents’ shout not only increases closing down but also switches marking to ‘man’ throughout the team.”

    Given that even “man marking” is zonal in FM, in this case it was arguably moot anyway. I see your point, but lest not forget the set-up as we know it is becoming obsolete. As such you’d expect SI to make the visual cues and text descriptions different too. Additionally there will likely be more headroom for user customization, as it happens in FM 2014 to the roles already.

    I’m excited what this thus means in the future of ME development. Remember that all those defined concepts now aren’t mere slider combinations anymore, they can be directly addressed as such by the ME coders. Behavior can be directly linked to those roles. Rather than tweaking the match action towards the unlimited number of slider combinations, SI can – in theory- make those concepts (strategies, roles, etc.) stand out a lot more in the match action itself. As hinted at by Paul Collyer in the forums, he can specifically address a role as such.

    Add to this that sliders were given many users a false sense of control anyway (I fully believe anyone of the SI staff who says but a fraction of players really got the gist of them, in fact the authors of Tactical Theorems which eventually turned out in the Tactics Creator outright claimed in an early TTF document not knowing exactly what the sliders would would benefit the game). This might be a massive win in the long run for the game. Of course in reality roles aren’t set in stone, as aren’t strategies or anything else. But on paper, every slider player was revolutionizing football tactics and making things up from the ground up, maybe something the AI wasn’t even able to cope with, drawing player quality etc. all moot.

  8. Jez

    I think they are taking a tool away that gives you less tactical freedom. I have played semi-pro football in Spain and they would draw on the board how much they would want you to push forward and where you should stand where the ball was where. I don’t mind the removal of sliders as long as they could let me “tell” the players how to behave by pointing on the pitch where I want them to be. This way you could make Pique to make his runs like he does in the last minutes of the game in real life. Also, why can’t there be different tactics for attacking and defending? Let’s say you want your team to play 4-3-3 when on the ball, but 5-4-1 the moment they lose the ball?

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