SEGA of Europe's Football Manager series is a popular PC game that simulates the management aspects of soccer. Now SEGA and developer Playsport Games are preparing to launch Motorsport Manager, which puts players in charge of a racing team. We've managed a few races and interviewed the developers to bring you this detailed preview!
The road to PC
Motorsport Manager started its life two years ago as a premium mobile title. Playsport's first and only game to date, it caught on well enough that SEGA of Europe signed on as publisher of the upcoming PC version. The new Motorsport Manager is the game the studio always wanted to make. It incorporates player feedback from the mobile version while greatly surpassing it in scale and production values.
Although Motorsport Manager comes from a different developer than Football Manager, the latter still played a mentoring role in Motorsport Manager's development. Sports Interactive offered advice on a variety of subjects, including weather implementation, driver names, and databases. Football Manager is essentially the leader in sports management games, and both studios want Motorsport Manager to live up to that reputation as well.
Managing a team of racers
The premise of Motorsport Manager is simple: you manage all aspects of a motorsport racing team, including developing cars, hiring drivers and mechanics, signing sponsorship deals, and building facilities. Your team will then travel around the world and compete in a variety of races and championships.
Career Mode is the meat of the game. After creating a character, players will select a Championship to enter. Each of the three Championships: European, Asia-Pacific, and World Motorsport Championship consists of sixteen total races. The greater the skill level of the Championship, the more prize money for the winners.
Motorsport manager consists of three basic phases:
- Hiring drivers and engineers
- Building the car and design centers
- Winning the race
Players make mostly long-term decisions outside of the race. From the main menu, you can view a number of elements such as:
- Drivers: Check the status of your primary drivers
- Chairman: This is your boss. If he becomes too unhappy, you could be fired and lose the game.
- Stats: View Sponsors, championship standings, and finances
- Race Calendar: View details on the upcoming series of races.
- Rule changes: Team Managers can vote on rule changes for the next year. They can also vote for specific track layouts to be used that better suit their cars' abilities.
- Car: View car stats, design parts, fit the parts when ready, and improve existing parts.
By checking the race calendar, players can figure out which stats are most important for the next race and then develop parts to help with that stat (such as Top Speed). Your engineering team's knowledge base determines which parts can be developed. The team can only develop one part at a time. You have the option of bending the rules when equipping parts, but this carries a risk of getting caught and punished.
Managers also have to check email between races. There you'll receive interview requests from the media, scouting reports, communications from your chairman, driver requests, and more. Should you accept interview requests, your answers will impact driver morale.
Headquarters and sponsors
Every team needs its own racing headquarters. The team you select determines the size and development of your starting headquarters. As you progress through the game, you'll buy and upgrade more buildings. Some will generate revenue, whereas others provide access to new parts and staff.
Some of the headquarters buildings you can buy include: Scouting Facility, Factory, Design Centre, Ride Handling Development, Staff Housing, Telemetry Centre, Test Track, Brakes Research Facility, Road Car Factory, and even a Theme Park. That last one is an extravagance that will earn money for the team over time.
Building upgrades don't pay for themselves. Everything has an effect on the team's finances. To bring in more money, players must sign sponsorship deals. The current fixed rate sponsors contribute money regularly. Race Bonus Sponsors are fickler. They request performance targets like reaching a specific position in the race. Hit the goal and you'll earn a payout.
Sponsor decals will appear on your car. They can also be turned off to improve performance (of the game, not the car). And speaking of performance, Motorsport Manager runs extremely well on my four-year-old gaming notebook. The zoomed out view certainly helps keep hardware requirements down.
The racing team
Your racing team consists of two primary drivers, though you can also have additional drivers in reserve. These drivers can develop rivalries between each other. Player decisions affect the drivers' morale. High morale helps them race better, whereas low morale can lead a driver to quit and find another team. Each driver has unique traits that affect performance, like Smart, Smooth Braker, Wilts at Home, Likes Changeable Conditions, and Old (or as we like to think of it, experienced).
Drivers also develop relationships with their mechanics. The longer a driver works with a mechanic, the more their chemistry grows. This can unlock stat bonuses for the racer. Mechanics sit on the pit wall during races and build a relationship with the drivers. Sometimes you might poach a mechanic from a rival team if you hired one of their drivers, just to capitalize on their existing chemistry.
The final members of your team are designers. These engineers bring their own knowledge that will affect the direction of your team's parts development. They can help improve a car's weaknesses and further boost its strengths.
Players hire racers, mechanics, and designers through the Scouting menu. It displays a variety of information about prospective employees, including nationality, age, current employer (if any), and more.
Taking age into consideration is important because performance begins to decline in old age. It happens to the best of us! And with drivers, personality matters too. Some only want to win championships, get paid the most, be the number one driver on the team, etc. You'll want to hire people who are a good fit for your team.
Proper preparations make a big difference towards winning a race. Each circuit has its own characteristics like lots of corners or high top speed that will impact cars' performance. Weather affects things too, whether the location is known for its wetness or dryness. The team manager needs to look ahead and then research parts and outfit cars accordingly.
Once a race approaches, players have the chance to set up their cars, run a practice race, and tweak setup again before the real race. Your mechanic's suggestions start out broad and become more specific after the drivers complete their practice race.
After the race begins, you'll watch your pair of drivers do their best to win the race. You can jump back and forth between them at any time, or follow opponents instead. Each driver has its own AI and will try to find the best racing line rather than following predetermined paths.
Even though you don't directly control your drivers, your orders and decisions still have a major impact on the outcome of the race. You have several choices of driving style and engine modes that affect the driver's performance on the track. Faster styles and modes consume more fuel. Running out of fuel is a major concern, so you'll have to tweak these settings up and down as the race progresses.
Cars also experience wear and tear on tires and others parts that will slow them down as the race goes on. At that point, managers can order a pit stop and select which parts to swap out or repair. Each repair and change adds to the pit time, so making too many repairs or pit stops will endanger your driver's position in the race.
Racing season begins soon
Motorsport Manager is due out on Steam sometime in September. The preview version of the game is already quite polished, though I did encounter a few issues like typos and a strange lack of menu music. A game with so many menus needs some peppy audio, not eerie silence. Hopefully some tuneage will be added before release.
Playsport plans to support the game after release with updates and downloadable content. DLC will mostly consist of Challenges, special conditions that encourage players to approach the game differently. Steam Workshop will be supported as well, so players can create and share mods. This creates the potential for new types of vehicles and races. The developers suggested that someone could even make a Mad Max-themed mod someday!
However the final game turns out, it will be interesting to see how fans of racing games embrace this managerial take on the genre. Are you guys excited about the chance to run your own racing team?