Miles Jacobson talks Watford, wearing suits for press conferences and FM14

Miles Jacobson

As an avid Football Manager fan, having the opportunity to interview one of the men who makes it possible to become as enthralled within the game was extremely exciting. Football Manager 2014 was released at midnight yesterday, and it is almost certain to top the grand success which the previous edition mustered, and as ever there are plenty more features to hear about.

The game has captivated millions of people up and down the country, and across the world, with people donning suits for press conferences and cup final ties. So what does the new version of FM have in store for us? Let’s ask Miles…

Firstly, I would like to thank you for taking time out of what must be an extremely busy schedule to speak to us.

I think its been a hectic few months really, and it carries on to be so. But I’m the luckiest guy around to be able to do what I do, so you wont hear me complaining.

I for one cant wait to play the new game, and have been an avid fan for many years, my first copy being FM 2006 and I have purchased every one since. However you were also in a similar position when the Franchise first started, as Championship Manager, becoming one of the early testers, and working your way up to the position you are in now, you must be delighted by the successes you have achieved!

Yeah it’s great. We’ve been working together for a long time now. I first got involved 19 years ago, but didn’t go full time till about 11 years ago. But, we have always worked pretty closely together as a team. Very few people leave the studio, and we grow organically each year so have known each other for a long time. ‘Ov’ (Oliver Collyer) and Paul (Collyer) as well as still working on game together, are still two of my closest mates as well so we have grown up together. It’s a bit odd in a way as when we met we were kids. Look at us now!

With the release of FM14 just around the corner, and the demo already being in circulation, what kind of new features should fans expect to find in the game?

There’s over 1,000 new features in FM2014, which range from big things like a tactical overhaul, a brand new interaction system, new underlying transfer system and being able to live negotiate transfers now, communicate much more from your email inbox, so lots of little things that make a big difference. Just converting some stuff from text speak to football speak, as we want to be talking to football fans, not to people who make computer games. So its been a long process this year and a big undertaking, but I really do believe that what we’ve created is the best we’ve ever made, and certainly I’m enjoying playing it a lot.

Have there been any features in previous editions that haven’t made the cut, such as diving, and other various issues in football such as that?

Around 400 features have been cut. We always have too many features than we have time to do. So I do one round of cuts in February, and another set in June, and most will appear in the series at some point, there was nothing that was dropped because it was rubbish. If something’s is rubbish, it won’t get scheduled for the game anyway. We also have several ideas that haven’t made it into any titles yet, so there is always a good list that we are looking at for future versions as well as new features we come up with every year.

With FM 13 having been such a success, the most popular to date, how do you feel this one will shape up in comparison?

If we remain un-pirated for the same amount of time that we did for FM13, FM14 will do a lot better. If we get cracked and it is pirated earlier, we will do worse. Certainly for me it’s about the game.  Reviews seem to be saying that as well and the feedback we are getting back from those playing beta who pre-ordered the game is all very positive as well. So we are pretty lucky really.

And how about the growth of the FM Handheld series? How do you feel this version will fare in 2014?

We haven’t got a release date yet for FM Handheld, which is the game we have coming out for android and IOS, beyond it coming before Christmas. For Vita we don’t have a release date for Christmas, and we don’t know when it’ll be out other than that it will be this season. That will be Football manager classic, not FM Handheld 14. With that, able to take game from your PC or linux using classic mode, and save the game on to the Vita, to then carry on playing it on there.

Obviously you have a huge fan base, and this includes some famous names. Having Jason Manford include a reference in his routine about the game must feel good?

Oh it was great. You know, Jason, by having that in his set helped us get famous and mainstream, but also helped himself do that, so that was cool. There were also three shows at The Edinburgh festival that had Football Manager comedy in, one of which was completely dedicated to FM, so having this many people talk about your game is quite weird really, but also really cool. It feels great when anyone tells you they enjoy your game, and when they have a few million Twitter followers playing your game then that’s even better so loads of others hear about it.

Is there a favourite story you have heard about quite how much people have fallen in love with the game?

I just think that anyone who wears a suit to a press conference is a bit mental, so those tend to be my favourites. The stories I personally like the most and get moved by are the ones where the person I’m speaking to has used the game to get through an illness, we get that quite a lot and that’s amazing. Just to know you’ve helped that person a little bit on a dark day is a very good thing.

As with every edition, there are always some hidden gems to get cheaply early on and watch bloom. Any hints as to who we should target in the new edition?

We never ever reveal any player lists before release as we don’t want to ruin the game for people who like to find them themselves, so come and ask me again in the middle of December and I can give you a few. I may release a few on Christmas day, as Christmas presents to the fans though.

Trying to scout the enormous database Football Manager must be tough, even with all of the staff you use to scout. What determines who you decide is suitable to go around and collect all the data on players, and just how long can this process take?

We have four head researchers who work out of the office around the UK, and they are the ones who decide who will be doing the research. We have 1500 scouts across the world. We have 51 head researchers across the country, and they have teams of people who report to them. so our guy in Chile will be deciding who assists him in Chile, but the head guys in the office determine who the lead guy in Chile will be.

Do you have a go-to club to manage when you play the game, or is it just a spur of the moment decision, merely based on form and signings.

When I’m testing the game and directing the game I will choose a bunch of random teams, from random leagues. When I’m playing the game for fun I tend to do it with Watford, but I’m in a bit of a problem now, as I really like Zola, as a manager and a human being, so what I did was use the data editor on the game to make him my assistant manager at Watford.

Finally, as a Watford fan, you must have been disappointed to miss out on promotion by the narrowest of margins last year. How do you see the Hornets fairing this season?

And as a Luton fan thanks for reminding me… Last year we should have gone up. If Holloway hadn’t done such a brilliant job tactically for the final and if some of our players had turned up for the final I think we would have gone up. This year is going to be harder, as we have such good teams that have been relegated from the Premier League.

There are genuinely 12 clubs that could get promoted this year and some people are already writing off Burnley even though they’re top of the league, saying they don’t have the players. They have some quality players and a fantastic manager in Sean Dyche. It’s so unpredictable in the Championship, I would like us to go up as I think we’d do well in the Premier League.

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