Hello! CM9798 turns 20 tomorrow and that means our celebrations are coming to a close. Or, I suppose you could say our celebrations are just getting started and we’ll see in the big day in style. I’m lucky enough to be joined by Marc Duffy, a member of the Sports Interactive team for 18 years and counting.
Hi Marc, thanks for joining me. For those who aren’t aware, can you give us an explanation of your involvement with the series?
First and foremost, I’m a fan of the game since CM1. I found it mentioned in one of the Amiga magazines (alongside ‘On the Ball’ from Anstoss if I’m not mistaken), since then I’ve been hooked.
I was offered a full time job to join the studio in 1999 and have been fortunate to work, in some capacity, on most of our games since then.
What are your memories of CM9798 in particular? Both from a development point of view and playing the end product?
I wasn’t working officially for SI at this point, so I don’t really have any stories about the development of the game. I think the game itself was a more polished version of CM2 with a small dev resource. It was at the tail end of the dev cycle that SI started to expand (in April 07 Paul Norman, Kevin Turner and Marc Vaughan joined the company and 2 out of the 3 are still there today)
What I remember most about this time was that the community really started to take shape and grow at a fast rate once the game was out. The internet was really starting to pick up and more and more people were making CM sites. There were lots of people playing the game around the world and we used to hold these mega IRC chats with the Collyer brothers.
On that note, do you actually get much time to play the games or is it all work and no play?
I play all our games, I think it’s a really important part of my job. A lot of the time I’m playing to do something specific (like reproducing a bug). When I’m travelling I tend to play my career saves and I’ve putting in some quality hours at the expense of sleep on the long flights!
On CM9798 you’re credited as setting up the CM Fan Club – can you tell us how that came about please?
Bit of a long story so bear with me
When I first played the early versions, there was an address in the manual to write to if you had any ideas on how to improve the game. This was pre-email and internet so I put my letter in the post and a few weeks later received a reply from Oliver Collyer, who as everyone knows is one of the two people responsible for us all being here. I used to spend a lot of time mocking up screen ideas to show off some of my ideas and Ov was always nice in his replies, but deep down I think I was just annoying.
In 1995 I started making CM related websites and emailing SI and making online friends with CM fans in IRC chat rooms and it kind of escalated from there.
My site became relatively popular and I don’t exactly remember how it happened but Ov offered me the chance to run an official CM fan club. I guess one of the things I’ll remember fondly about this time was bringing the CM community together via a regularly updated site but crucially via the forums.
We went through ISPs at a high rate, we tried out different software but we had too much demand and had to move around a lot.
Are you still involved in that side of things to this day?
I still take a very keen interest in the community, the forums and I love how it’s evolving with things like Youtube channels and Twitch streams – but we’ve got professionals running these things now. A few months ago I spent about 2 weeks just sitting and watching streamers playing FM and I found it amazing that people would watch. I never would have imagined that FM could do that and it was pleasing to see.
You were heavily involved in FM Live, what did you think of it as a concept? Will it ever return?
I absolutely loved the concept (even though it had a lot of design flaws) and since FML shut down I’ve worked pretty much solidly on FMO, an online football management game, which we’ve been servicing in Korea and China.
FML game had a real community feel, was loved by the few that played it and I know that many friendships were formed within the gameworlds.
Although FML will never return, I’m hopeful that one day we can bring an online game into Europe that will be popular on a much wider scale
Who do you support in the real world? Are you happy with their season so far?
I have split loyalties. I’m a big Liverpool fan, and have been since I was small. However, one of my kids is mad Watford fan (our hometown) so we get to every home game and the occasional away match and if nothing else, its great to see the different teams and talent in the flesh.
We’ve had some fans on previously who can’t face managing their own side for various reasons, do you like to pitch up somewhere further afield or do you prefer your own team?
I always start with either Watford or Liverpool and I get sacked, a lot! My best ever save though was in FM14, where after getting sacked I landed up in Newcastle. Two seasons later we won the league and Champions League
You’re in the CM01/02 database as a player (along with Marc Vaughan) – did you sneak yourselves in or could you play a bit?!
I think everyone in the company back then was in the game in some capacity. I’ve always liked playing the number 10 role (especially as I got older and fatter) but I was always a bit of a luxury player.
FM18 is just around the corner, where do you feel the series can go next?
The game is getting more and more realistic every year and I think that trend will continue. Miles has built up a rather nice black book of football contacts, so he’s using those contacts and his own knowledge to make sure that what you’re seeing in game is a fair reflection of what happens in the real world
Can you tell us something we might not know about CM9798? In 20 years I think I’ve seen everything now…
The game didn’t have any copy protection (not sure of the exact reasons as it was before I officially worked at SI) however there is a strong belief that this meant that the game ended up being played by a lot more people than the sales figures might suggest. CM3 proved to be one of the fastest selling games at the time – there has to be a link…
Obviously CM9798 is our favourite version of the series, do you have a favourite or is it like asking you to pick a favourite child!?
I would say CM01/02 was my favourite. There was a last minute problem with the licensing of the background images in the game, so I was able to drop in about 6 pictures of my Sunday League team in a cup final we’d played in. If you still play CM01/02 and want to know which team wore the CM sponsored Umbro kit, that’ll be the mighty Holywell FC.
Final question – who is your ultimate CM or FM player? I need one name please!
Thanks again to Marc for taking time out at this busy time of year to speak to me – Football Manager 18 is released November 10th. You can follow Marc on Twitter @marcduffy10