So I've only been playing since '08, but the moment I loaded the game up, I was hooked. And, since '09, the match engine has seen refinements, improvements, but no major overhauls. And we got good at it. Like most people I've had an undefeated season and won a triple or quad, because the match engine as constituted had gone as far as it could go, and we had all learned how to exploit it.
And as the min/max-er type gamer, I had tested the crap out of the 09-12 ME to answer some questions I had. A few of the things i figured out that most will know, just for giggles (and you'll just have to trust that my methodology is sound, but these results come from many, many season both simmed and played out, and compared with controls, baselines, etc. I can go into it if anyone needs me to):
1. Always use the match prep attacking movement. it's worth almost a .8 goal differential per game, almost twice as much as any other match prep. Home or away, doesn't matter, it just effects too many stats.
2. If you were take a team and max out any one stat, the most bang for the buck is obviously pace, but one of the most under-appreciated is aggression, which when maxed out is hugely influential in win totals.
3. Increasing a strikers "off the ball" does almost nothing for his match ratings over a couple of seasons, but increasing a midfielders will really make him play better.
4. Shoots with power is SLIGHTLY better than places shots, not because your striker will score more, but because shots that rebound off the keeper will result in just a FEW more goals.
5. If you take any position, and improve the overall rating of that player by 20 points, the most "important" or influential position, is striker. But the second most important is fullback.
There are a LOT of things I tested, but I mostly mention them to point out that I'm not the "OMG my taktiz aint werkin!" type.
And then fm 13 came out. At first I was appalled at the bizarre defending, tendency of players to run away from ball in the air, or unwillingness of players to turn around with the ball, but I also saw (and posted about) the potential of the ME. It LOOKED LIKE FOOTBALL. I attribute this mostly to 2 changes:
1. Collision checking was changed, which made pacy strikers far less effective, and made other types of play besides scoring on the break viable (I know, I know, there were always viable alternatives, but they were all sub-optimal, and we all proved it over and over)
2. First touch was dramatically altered, which drastically cut down on the 'video game sticky foot' phenomenon.
I was encouraged. Just iron out the kinks, and we had a real leap forward in Football Manager.
Then came 13.2.
Honestly, I'm not sure what went wrong. I think that there must have been panic in the SI offices at release, when they couldn't iron out the defending problems. They fixed the hilarious dribbling errors, the ball tracking, player vision....
But they couldn't fix the defending, and so instead they seem to have changed offensive decision making, and right then the game went in the shitter.
What do I mean? Well, lets take emotion out of it, and look at some empirical testing. I noticed that offensive players seemed less imaginative, so I did a few tests.
Q: Does increasing a players creativity or flair attributes improve his performance, or my match results?
A: Not any more. When simming a season, then taking the MC, AMC, AML, AMR, and ST, and increasing all of their flair or creativity ratings to 20 and simming the season again, (and doing this with different sides, tactics, and even playing the games out) the results are clear: Creativity and flair's co-efficient of correlation to winning or match rating is non meaningful, and in some tests, even 'negative'. To be fair, even in fm 12, those stats were less important than most people thought, but now they LITERALLY HAVE NO MEASURABLE POSITIVE EFFECT.
Q: Do players take fewer through balls, as seems obvious?
A: I can't test this directly, as I don't have a game running 13.1 anymore, but i can say this: in FM 09-12 the BEST PPM, in term of match rating and win probabilty, was, by a large margin "Tries Killer ball often". Nothing else was close. In ME 13.2, Tries Killer balls often has NO MEASURABLE EFFECT. Through balls simply don't happen enough, or aren't smart enough, to mean anything any more.
Among the other things I have noticed: Playing a game with the "work ball into box" shout on does not result in measurably fewer long shots that keeping the shout off. Also, taking any tactic from FM and reducing the "creative freedom" slider by 5 clicks results in a more effective tactic more than 90% of the time. I haven't had the time or patience to really get into this, but I think most people who play the game can see just how painfully obvious player decision making has gotten.
Why these results? I'm honestly not sure. Maybe I'm just doing something wrong. Maybe I'm rushing to judgement But I'm not making these observations up.
But my theory is that they couldn't fix the defensive AI. And so rather than watching a stupid AI defense get torn apart every single time someone played a one-two, they made attacking AI dull, predictable, backward.
The result: it looks LESS LIKE FOOTBALL, more like ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. SI is a great company, and they will figure it out. But lets all join together and encourage them to embrace the chaos for the moment, because as consitituted, the game isn't broken...
It's just dull.