Last Fall, I reviewed Franchise Hockey Manager, a professional hockey text sim from the makers of Out of the Park Baseball. At that time, FHM felt relatively unfinished, despite its pedigree and huge amounts of potential.
Recently, FHM was updated with its largest patch yet, according to its developer. Here is a quick break down of two of those improved systems, and my associated thoughts.
Training was implemented in FHM "out of the box," but was a relatively abstract and hard to find feature. Now, training your players is a much easier endeavor, thanks to some key improvements.
Basically, after you set a training focus for each player, they earn points based on a number of factors. If they ever achieve enough points in their specific focus area, those related skills will improve.
While I wish these points were available to see--they are "behind the scenes," so to speak--a quick glance a new training screen makes it easy to see how players are progressing.
A color coded system indicates the likelihood of an increase skill set: green for likely, red for no chance, etc. This really makes it easy to see who is progressing as a result of training, and who might need a new assignment.
Other changes allow for players to learn a new position, fixed retirement, and delineation of mental/physical skills.
Overall, these improvement radically increase the depth and accessibility of the game's training options.
Like training, the scouting system, post-patch, is much more intuitive, interactive, and--most importantly--fun. In many ways, it mirrors the scouting system in place in the more recent FIFA games.
Using a well-organized scouting menu, you can assign jobs to your scouting staff. These can range from looking at a broad range of players to individuals. The system to set up these jobs is simple to use, and any player in-game can be scouted using a right click.
From there, a specific letter rating attached to each player's ability and potential indicates how well that player has been scouted: "A" for full report, to "E" for no information.
I found these letter ratings to be extremely helpful, especially when deciding on roster moves and trades. It's hard to trust a "D" rated report, but it's easy to see who you need more info on.
What's more, these ratings decay overtime--a small but nice touch, simulating ongoing player development.
The two changes above represent significant improvements to the fledgling hockey sim from OOTP Developments, and it's nice to see them supporting this game as well as their flagship franchise, Out of the Park Baseball. I would say FHM is still far from being as good as OOTP, but with each patch it is getting better.
The rest of the changes are detailed on the FHM forums, and include miscellaneous bug fixes, some new leagues, and improvements to the front office personnel system.
If you haven't tried FHM and are a hockey fanatic, or just like text sims in general, there's no better time than now to give this title a try. It definitely has improved since my initial review, and deserves a second look if you overlooked it at release.