Admitting to having a favorite child isn't something that you would expect many (or any) parent to do, for fear of alienating one of their children or causing a divide. This doesn't mean that they don't have a favorite, it just means that they wouldn't admit to it (please don't kill the messenger, I'm just telling you the facts).
That analogy perfectly sums up the situation the Fifa franchise finds itself in in the run-up to its latest release. Much like the parent who refuses to own up, Fifa will never outright admit to prioritizing Ultimate Team over Career Mode, but there should be no doubting who Fifa's favourite child is...
Ultimate Team is Fifa's golden child. Year-on-year the game mode brings in record profits for the brand and is rewarded with the utmost attention... weekly updates, special tournaments, expensive marketing campaigns, etc.
All the while Career Mode has played the role of the unloved sibling. Since the switch to fourth generation consoles (PS4 and Xbox One) improvements to Career Mode have been put on the back burner by developers and despite what they may think, fans can see through their half-hearted attempts to keep Career Mode "fresh" (e.g. the addition of international management).
We, the fans, want real improvements this time around.
Here are our demands!
"Alright so I've got £30 million left over from this season after winning the League/Champions League, and I'll probably get another £30 million from the board for at start of next season, so I should have around £60 million to spend".
Loads up next season, opens email.....
"The board has decided to give you £18 million to spend on transfers"
I'm not an expert gamer (or mathematician) so maybe somebody could explain to me why the finances are the way they are, but to me none of this makes sense. There's no way the board should be taking such an unreasonable amount of money from transfer budgets every season, something's got to change.
At the very least the board should give you an explanation as to why they've robbed... I mean 'reorganized' your finances.
- Position Changes
How many times have we heard of players starting their career in one position and ending up making their name in another? Philipp Lahm changed from being a left back, to a right back, to a central midfielder.... Fernando Torres changed from a goalkeeper to a striker (he may have only been 8, but that doesn't make my point any less valid).
The point is footballers play in many positions over the course of their careers and it's about time Fifa caught up!
With the addition of training sessions in the last game, Fifa has already opened the door for position changes without even realizing it...
Fifa 17 gave managers the chance to create training sessions that focused on improving a particular player's weaknesses (speed, stamina, etc). This time they should take it one step further. Managers should be able to use training sessions to make their players more versatile - this is especially applicable to academy prospects or scouted players who haven't really started their careers.
These position changes wouldn't be anything crazy like a goalkeeper becoming a striker, but more minor changes like a left footed centre back adapting to play as a left back.
Position changes wouldn't necessarily have to be imposed by the manager. Players who aren't getting much match time in a particular role might request an opportunity to try their hand in another, giving managers a new way to maintain player morale.
- Press Conferences
The introduction of press conferences seemed like an interesting idea when it was first introduced in Fifa 12, but since then absolutely nothing has been added to take it further. As it stands, before each game you're given a couple of multiple choice options which allow you to make a positive or negative comment about your players, the opposition players or the opposing manager. I mean it serves it's purpose. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, but that doesn't mean that there's anything right with it either...
What the 'press conference experience' is really missing is a visual element. By adding cut scenes for the press conference where the manager could answer questions and make statements, Fifa could transform press conferences from a mundane task to an interesting side feature. It could even be used as a opportunity to unveil new signings.
These press conference cut-scenes would of course be skippable/optional because the novelty will probably wear off after the first couple of times, but it would still be an improvement on the current format.
- Stadium Redevelopments
I could tell you that the reason I want this feature added to Career Mode is because I care about the maintenance and appearance of the stadium, but that would be a lie; it's all about the money (it's always about the money).
Outside of offloading players and tournament prize money, there really aren't many ways to generate income for the transfer market (signings and contracts). This problem could be solved by allowing managers to invest money from their budget into stadium redevelopments.
Increased capacity + Increased ticket sales = More Money
To make this feature more realistic, the improvements to the stadium shouldn't come into play as soon as the payment has been made, but 6-12 months after. This would mimic the time it would for developments to take place in real life and also give the player more of a reason to stay invested in their career mode rather than start a new one.
The addition of this feature would be a nod to the old Fifa games on PS2 where you could improve the stadium and other areas of the club.
A part of me thinks that Fifa got rid of this feature so that they could bring it back and trick us into believing it's brand new, but that's a post for another day.
- Manager Customisation
Let's not just skate over the attempts Fifa has already made to improve manager customization, such as expanding the number pre-set faces available to 11. I know that doesn't sound like much, but bare in mind there was a time where you could only pick one face.
But with all of that being said... none of them look like me. I'm black, 6"2 with a slim build and an intact hairline. The only black manager option is at least 20 years older than me and bald. You can see the frustration.
Manager customization probably won't be important to players who only care about playing matches, but if you're like me and want a more personalised gaming experience then this is a feature you've been waiting on.
No one's asking EA to reinvent the wheel with this one. The technology is already in place to make in-game managers look like their real life counterparts through the game face.
In addition to the game face, players should also be able to choose the personality traits for their manager. This could be anything from their mannerisms to their celebration style (sprinting up the touchline, fist pump, the "Rafael Benitez" note jotting, etc).
- Buy-back Clauses & Sign-on Bonuses
Gerard Deulofeu re-signed for Barcelona from Everton this summer after the Spanish club decided to activate his buy-back clause (£10.6 million)
Gone are the days of one off payments for transfers, we're now firmly in the era of buy-back clauses and sign-on bonuses, and it's about time we have a Career Mode that reflects that.
Buy-back clauses - When selling a player you should be able to include a buy-back clause. This means that you can negotiate a fee with the club in advance should you choose to resign the player within the next two seasons. This would be particularly useful when managing a smaller club; where you may need to sell your biggest player or an up-and-coming youngster to raise funds, but want him back in the side when you can afford to pay him. However, the buying club should also be able to reject the deal if they're not in favour of a buy-back clause, or they can set the future fee so high that you might not want to re-sign the player when the option becomes available (e.g. extortion).
Sign-on bonuses - Again, this feature will probably benefit the manager who's taking on the challenge of a smaller club. In addition to the transfer fee agreed between the two clubs when selling a player, the manager should also be entitled to a small percentage (e.g. 5%) of the transfer fee received if that player is then sold again.
- Manager-To-Player Communication
'Player Power' is undeniable. If a player wants something, they'll get it. Whether it be a wage increase or a transfer, you can be sure that they'll go out of their way to let managers and fans know about it.
Fifa has got this down to a tee through the email system, which allows players to contact managers directly and voice their concerns.
This all sounds great in theory, but the issue with the current system is that it only works 'one-way' - the player can contact you but there's no way to respond to them, except by meeting their demands (e.g. new contract).
Honestly, I've had enough of being held hostage by my players and not being able to tell them why things are the way they are at MY CLUB.
When a player of 53 overall emails me saying; "Boss I really feel like I should be playing in the next game [Champions League Final]", I should be able to message him back saying something like; "I don't think that you deserve a place, we've got better players in the squad. Keep improving and I'll consider you for selection in the upcoming games".
Or when a player wants a wage increase... "The club are on a tight budget this season, but we can meet your demands in the summer if you can hold out".
To cut a long story short, every email sent by a player should include a drop down list of responses so that we're not constantly being held hostage by our players.
- Loan Reports & Clauses in Loan Deals
In the world of Fifa, sending a player out on loan is like sending them into the abyss - once they're gone, there's pretty much no way of checking on their progress apart from their stat improvements and the appearance table, and even that isn't much help if you've loaned the player abroad.
This could be solved with a simple 'Loan Reports' system, where a manager could request a report that showed all of the usual details (appearances, goals, assists), as well as the player's overall impressions how the loan deal is going.
For the longest time loaning players out was like an 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind solution'.
A player complains about not getting enough game time? Send him out on loan... Wage bill to high? Send him out on loan... Can't sell him? Send him out on loan!
Remembering The Forgotten Ones. Its all been a little bit too easy for managers, there needs some kind of thought process before we jettison our players off into the wilderness.
Fifa 18 should put managers in a position where they have to broker specific loan deals for their players. This should include 'appearance clauses', whereby managers can state the amount of league games the player must play in a season (or by the halfway point). If a team is unable to honour the amount of games they agreed to by a certain point, then the player should be sent back to the parent club, giving the manager something extra to think about.
As well as an appearance clause, the manager should also be allowed to choose which league/division they'd prefer their player to be loaned to - each league/division would offer the player a chance to improve more in a specific area of their game (e.g. a loan spell in La Liga would improve passing and technique, but less so in strength and speed).
- Pre-set tactics for simming
I'm really showing my age with this one, but who remembers Visual Sim?
Visual Sim was like normal match simulation, but with one difference... if your team was losing at any point you could jump in and save the day by playing out the remaining minutes. I can't lie, It hurt me when they got rid of Visual Sim, but I get why they did it. It kind took the risk element away from simming games, but at the same time simming games shouldn't be anywhere near as frustrating as it is.
So how about we find a comfortable middle?
Instead of jumping in mid-game, managers should be able to apply pre-set tactics for different scenarios. For example, if you're simming a game where you need a win, you should be able to set tactics like formation changes to shut-up-shop if you've got a slim lead, or bring on a striker to turn a draw into a win, or maybe even just give a youngster some game time at the 75th minute of every game.
The possibilities are endless!
It would also spell the end of the possibility of Lucas Leiva coming on instead of Daniel Strurridge when you need a goal.
Got any ideas for how to improve Fifa's Career Mode? Drop your suggestions in the comments!