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Football Manager 2018 is going big on artificial intelligence

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The latest Football Manager 2018 news ahead of next week's release

Artificial intelligence is going to play a bigger part in Football Manager 2018 than it ever has before, according to Sports Interactive studio director Miles Jacobson. In an interview with Wired, Jacobson explains the complex network of motivations that make up the players in game, as well as other managers, owners and more. 

“There are lots of different types of non-playable characters in the game, and literally hundreds of thousands of individual characters," Jacobson explained. "All of them are driven by different AI modules that all talk to each other and make sense of each other. Everything is tied into everything else.

“Issues in the game can occur as suddenly as they did between Cavani and Neymar," Jacobson adds, going into detail about an experience from his recent saved game, where he tried to introduce a new striker to Watford, upsetting Andre Gray. Gray was fuming about the new signing, which prompted a transfer request granted by Jacobson – only that led to a dressing room rebellion as other players sided with Gray. “You have to decide whether you’re going to stick to your principles or if you’re going to play him or appease him in some way in order to keep things calm”.

This kind of background player happiness has been a part of Football Manager for years, but if it's as integrated as Jacobson claims, it could require more attention than ever before. 

But what else can we expect from Football Manager 2018, ahead of its release date of Friday 10 November 2018. Here's everything we know so far:

Football Manager 2018: Features

In the build-up to that release date, Sports Interactive has been drip feeding videos outlining every new feature one by one. Today's new video outlines the changes on match day, showcasing the new engine, and outlining everything from team talks to post match analysis.

As you can see from the video above, it's all very Sky Sports, with a good view of the stadium before kick off, the players warming up and animated team sheets appearing before kick off. There's more diversity in terms of stadia – which should make your journey from Conference to Champion's League final all the more special – and the players have enhanced motion capture animation thanks to the Creative Assembly Studio.

But it's not just a graphical touch up. Sports Interactive has been working on some of its features for some time – even if they won’t say what those features are. In an interview with Four-Four-Two, the series’ creator Miles Jacobson said: “An initial feature set was put together for Football Manager 2018 in March last year, so now we’ll have meetings to go through new things we want to happen in the new game." The most interesting of these is a new "Dynamics" system which could see you lose the dressing room altogether – but more about that below.

"Normally we’ve got a few features that people have been working on in advance – not everything can be done in a year. So if we wanted to have some new fancy technology that might take a team of two people 18 months to do, they’ll be working on that for one of the future games. There are definitely some things in FM 2017 that we’ve been working on for multiple years, and there are some features for FM 18 that people who finished their work on ‘17 have already started working on."

What could those features be? Well, a new video done in the style of a transfer deadline day news report has shone some light on that, and it's looking very promising indeed:

If you refuse to watch the video, for some reason, this is the top-line summary: a new graphical engine, a scounting system that behaves more in the way professional clubs actually do their scouting, better stadium design and yet more depth in terms of sports science and tactics.

Dynamics, however, is by far the most interesting of the new features. While previous instalments of Football Manager have had certain players favouring other pros or members of the backroom team, Football Manager 2018 will take this to a whole new level – allowing players to group together based on playing styles, nationality, history and more. The thinking behind this? If you keep the balance perfect, your team spirit could surprise everyone and you could emulate Leicester City's amazing Premiership title-winning season. If it all goes wrong? Well, you may be ushered out the club a bit quicker. The video below explains more.

Another interesting new addition is Medical Centre, which seeks to put players more in control of their team's fitness. In the past, injuries have appeared a little random and unfair (I still remember signing a 34-year-old Roy Keane, only to have him break his leg in his first match and then retire). Medical Centre is a "one-stop shop for everything related to the fitness of your squad" – providing insights in five categories for each player: Overview, Risk Assessment, Current Injuries, Injury History and Season Summary. This, in turn, will let you adjust training regimes to avoid your players picking up unnecessary knocks, and keep your squad fit for the title challenge/battle against the drop. You can see more in the video below.

While it will barely change Football Manager 2018 as a game, one new feature has caused quite a stir on social media. For the first time, football players will sometimes come out as gay in the game, giving your team a small revenue boost through ticket sales and merchandising, the game's director Miles Jacobson has revealed.

"We know from the amount of professionals that there has to be players who are gay but feel they don't want to come out," he told the BBC. "I find it weird that it's still a problem in football so we decided to try and show people that coming out isn't a big deal and can be a positive thing."

For legal reasons, Sports Interactive hasn't made the randomly generated event include any real-life players, only occuring with procedurallly-generated characters who "can't sue us." Footballers in countries where homosexuality is illegal will also not come out as gay, for obvious (if depressing) reasons.

It won't impact the performance on the pitch, but it is a good, decent step from Sports Interactive to try and drag football into the 21st century. "I just think it's crazy that in 2017 we are in a world where people can't be themselves," Jacobson added.

Football Manager 2018: Release date 

Sega has announced that Football Manager 2018 will be launching on Friday 10 November 2017 for all three versions: desktop (PC, Mac and Linux), Touch (PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android) and Mobile (iOS and Android).

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