I may have played over 700 hours of FM14 but, for me, it's just a bad game. Only once uninstalling and going back to FM13 did I realise that I didn't actually enjoy playing FM14 that much, I simply played out of habit and a vain hope that the next patch would fix the quite terrible match engine.
With the new FM15 features announced recently, I've been party to a few discussions about its prospects. My usual answer is that we can't tell what 15 will be like until we play it because, as with every iteration of the series, it all comes down to the match engine - and it is this which made FM14 so poor. With the removal of sliders and the full-blooded commitment to the roles system, FM14 saw a significant shift in how the player can influence a match. A shift that, in my opinion, has made the game regress.
The removal of sliders and the limitations in personal instructions that can be given to a player make the game more restrictive, less flexible and ultimately less enjoyable. There is precious little customisation available in tactical instructions outwith the rather rigid parameters that are available in the roles. The introduction of the Raumdeuter in FM15 proves this nicely. I'd never heard of the Raumdeuter before and I guess most hadn't - apparently it was invented by Thomas Müller to describe his own role. So, in essence, SI are saying that you can't create instructions in the FM14 system which would reflect how the second top scorer at the World Cup plays... and so they have to introduce a new role specifically for just one player.
For many people, this sort of restriction won't matter, in fact it may make the game more accessible to significant numbers; but there will be many who, like me, find this inflexibility frustrating at best, game-breaking at worst. Anyway, my views on sliders are well covered by my article in Clear Cut Chance but it is an indication of the future of the game and the path the developers wish to take.
SI want to, quite understandably for marketing reasons, open up the game to a broader audience but it feels like their focus in doing this is all wrong for me. In a football simulation, the focus should almost entirely be on the match. Not the "match experience" with pre-game press conferences and graphics of ballboys round the pitch - the actual match, 22 men kicking the ball around in as realistic a manner as possible. FM13 was very good but somehow 14 managed to take a huge backwards step - introducing more of the frustrating in-match events that make a mockery of SI's claim that the game is as realistic as possible.
Maybe I'm in the minority. Maybe the match engine isn't everyone's main focus. Maybe people are happy that their fullbacks fail to defend the channels so long as they grow moustaches during November. Maybe people are happy for players to ignore a ball 5 yards from their feet so long as there's a picture of a burger van outside the stadium. Maybe people are happy that strikers never play a square ball across the 6 yard box so long as they can give their manager a second preferred club.
I appreciate that I am more cynical than most when it comes to FM and SI but all of these new "features" that get announced every year are filler. A distraction, some of them are little more than gimmicks. SI have to get the match engine right this year or the loyal fans like myself who were so put off by the abysmal engine in 14 may just give up. Of course, maybe they won't care. Maybe the constant move to a UI that is clearly aimed at porting to the tablet market will bring in more new players than are lost by their failure to focus on the basic mechanics of the game. Maybe the celebrity endorsements and curious mixture of hipster appeal and 'banter' (sigh) culture that pervade the latest versions will bring in new sales and old grumps like me will be left with our memories of sliders, wibble/wobble and better times.
Or, just perhaps, FM15 will actually be quite good and I'll be left looking rather silly. After all, the "odd year" versions of the past have traditionally been the best copies - FM09, FM11, FM13... is FM15 next? Is this part of the problem with a game that is released annually? There is no requirement for each version to be optimised as it's "only a year" until that can "be put right". Are we just paying £30 a year for a rolling beta? Well that's a discussion for another time...