The second edition to my games I regret buying lately, is a little known Hockey Simulation title called Franchise Manager 2014. The game is in the same vein as Football Manager and Out of the Park Baseball, which is developed and published by the same people. I’m a huge fan of sports simulation games, with my 150+ hours on every Football Manager since 2008, as well as cranking up many hours of simulation on International Cricket Captain 2006 and Eastside Hockey Manager 2005 + 2007. In fact, EHM 2007 has my personal record of hours played, with one save in particular reaching 2070, with over 250 hours clocked up (I leave these games running in the background of other games). Franchise Manager 2014 almost makes me wish I’d never got into simulation games, it is THAT bad, in ways. The layout and UI is just atrocious to say the least. I’ve never seen a game look so terrible, played a game that’s so awkward to get through – and actually, I found myself willing to uninstall it despite paying £30 earlier that week for it. To be called the successor to EHM was always going to give it a tough billing, and despite it having solid foundations to be a good franchise in the future, it’s not really playable now. The bugs are just so off-putting and disruptive, which is supremely heightened by an already rubbish UI experience. There’s no shortcuts to skip forward or to go to the homescreens or anything of any use, as well as a box screen that’s unresponsive and awkward to acclimate to.
One of my biggest bothers is the lack of an understanding/programming for the free agency program, and the AI in general to be honest. Restricted Free Agents can be poached with no compensation, which is one of the huge strengths of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement, which I won’t bore you about). As well as this, there’s no real discussions when offering players contracts… they give their demands and you either meet them or you can’t sign them, which is absolutely pants; a huge lacking AI. Another example of this AI not providing any realism to this game is its thought process in trades. Firstly, there’s a seemingly inability to trade draft picks – the AI never wants to offer a sixth or seventh round pick for someone on the Trade Block, but rather adding a crappy player instead. The second problem is that, if you try to change a trade, as stated, I’d prefer draft picks personally, then go back to the original proposal with that team then saying no and demanding extra; which, despite being silly, means you can’t get a decent trade going without adding another pick. There’s no ability to set what you actually need/want back in a trade, although it does tell you what position the opposition are weak at if you want to fit their needs.
The games are tough to see who scored in the periods in all reality, not simply being on the screen whilst the game’s gone on, with the stats in the match screen being unresponsive to who’s scored the goals/got the assists/minutes played etc. It has a wide variety of stats to read when just looking at your team, but during a game itself, it’s tough to see who exactly is doing what, who the danger man is, which all-in-all, means that you end up not really making any changes during the games. When you realise this, the games go a lot faster and you end up just skipping attendance at them instead.
All in all, as much as I enjoy simulation games and ice hockey, this combination needs a bit more work to be in any sort of shape for general release, but I do hold hope for this franchise. I think with a LOT of work on the UI, shortcuts, gameplay itself and perhaps most importantly an understanding and responsive AI then this could turn into a franchise in the same vein as Football Manager.