The inner workings of MetaSoccer simulator

Posted by 
September 29, 2023

Fútbol, as a sport, thrives on its intricacies – from the fluid movements of players on the field to the strategic decisions made by coaches. It's a dynamic and ever-evolving spectacle.

In the realm of fútbol simulations, an ongoing debate rages on: should we keep things simple or embrace the full complexity of the beautiful game? While the allure of simplification may offer a deeper understanding and predictive power, we firmly believe that embracing the inherent complexity of the sport is essential for creating an engaging, enjoyable, and rich fútbol manager experience.

The simulation we're building aspires to mirror this intricate dance. It acknowledges that matches are influenced by countless variables, both on and off the field – player skills, team tactics, weather conditions, and even crowd behavior all play a part in shaping the outcome of a match.

While our work is still in its initial phases, we're eager to share the fundamental mechanics with you, providing insight into the direction we're heading and opportunities for you to shape the future of MetaSoccer!

For us, a fútbol match is a sequence of moments in time (steps) where up to 22 players and a referee make decisions based on the information they have available.

These decisions are coded into our simulation, and they essentially affect the state of the players and the ball. Every time the clock ticks one step, all the players on the field have to perform one of these actions:

  • Idle (do nothing)
  • Control the ball
  • Dribble
  • Header
  • Keeper catch
  • Keeper dive
  • Keeper pressure
  • Move/Walk
  • Pass (short, long, or high)
  • Pressure
  • Shot
  • Slide
  • Sprint

The action to be performed is determined by a set of heuristics we have coded. There are multiple heuristics today, and we are constantly adding more to make the players more "intelligent" and the simulation more realistic. We even have plans to experiment with an AI model! (Imagine that – an AI that knows how to play fútbol !

Listing all these heuristics is not only tedious but also meaningless for three main reasons: 1) they will change frequently as MetaSoccer is developed, 2) as a manager, you can't control the heuristics (for now); instead you control the chances of these actions happening and the odds of them being executed perfectly, and 3) discovering them is part of becoming the mister! Listing them would only take the fun out of the game!

Nevertheless, I invite you to consider the following scenarios as an illustration of this intricate dance:

  • If a player is controlling the ball and an opponent is close, exerting pressure on him/her, then he/she tries to pass the ball:
    • If there is a player that can be defined as the "best pass target" (another heuristic):
      • If the player is less than 10 meters away, then the pass is a short pass.
      • If the player is more than 30 meters away, then the pass is a long pass.
    • Else:
      • Move towards the opponent's goal.
  • If a non-goalkeeper player has an opponent player controlling the ball less than 10 meters away, it will exert pressure on him to try to steal the ball.
  • If a player is less than 20 meters away from the opponent's goal and has no opponent in their way, he will shoot.
  • If a goalkeeper player observes that the ball is in the opponent's field, he will move towards the first quarter of the field.
  • And the list goes on… and on…

The result of these actions hinges on the player's skills. Naturally, a player with higher speed will traverse the field faster than a slower counterpart. Likewise, a player with greater shot power will propel the ball at a higher velocity when taking a shot than an opponent with less power.

Sharing all the mathematical details is unnecessary for the same reasons mentioned earlier. However, in this instance, it's crucial to grasp which skills are involved in various actions, so you, as a manager, are empowered to strategize your playstyle and lineup effectively.

Action Skills involved Notes * ** ***
Control the ball OVR and Concentration Ball control, ranging from 0 to 1, predominantly hinges on the player's OVR rating. The OVR is leveraged to calculate the initial 0.9 through a logarithmic scale, with the remaining 0.1 contingent upon Concentration.
Dribble Dribbling and Creativity Dribbling contributes 75% of the skill ability.
Header Heading and Strength Heading contributes 85% of the skill ability.
Keeper catch Handling, Reflexes, and Concentration Reflexes contribute more as the shot is closer to the goalkeeper's goal. Handling and Reflexes contribute 85% of the skill ability.
Keeper dive Diving, Reflexes, Positioning, and Strength Reflexes contribute more as the shot is closer to the goalkeeper's goal. Positioning contributes more as the shot is farthest from the goalkeeper's goal. Diving, Reflexes, and Positioning contribute 85% of the skill ability.
Keeper pressure Positioning and Concentration Positioning contributes 85% of the skill ability.
Move/Walk Speed
Pass (short) Passing and Throwing (GK) Throwing (GK) is used when the player acting as GK chooses to execute a short pass, whether or not they currently have the ball in their hands.
Pass (long) Passing, Crossing, and Kicking (GK) Crossing contributes more than Passing when the pass target is farthest from the ball. Kicking (GK) is used when the player acting as GK chooses to execute a long pass, whether or not they currently have the ball in their hands.
Pressure Marking, Standing tackle, Strength, and Aggression. Marking and Standing tackle contribute 85% of the skill ability.
Shot Finishing, Shooting, and Strength Finishing contributes more than Shooting when the ball is in close proximity to the opponent’s goal area. Shooting contributes more than Finishing when the ball is farthest from the opponent’s goal area. Strength is used to determine the ball’s velocity once the player has taken a shot. Its impact is greater when the player is farthest from the opponent’s goal.
Slide Sliding tackle, Strength, and Aggression Sliding tackle contributes 85% of the skill ability.
Sprint Speed

* Bravery and Punching (GK) are not being used. We will start using Bravery after implementing the concept of Moral. We have no plans on adding Punching in the short term (We’ll get there, eventually).

** Fitness affects the rate at which a player loses energy. Fatigued players exhibit a slightly lower performance compared to fresh players.

*** Positioning, Reflexes (GK), and Vision play integral roles in the heuristics used to determine the player's actions and when computing the best pass target.

On the other hand, the referee, instead of making decisions that affect their own state, makes decisions that change the game mode and overall state of the players. There are seven different game modes:

  • Normal
  • Kick off
  • Goal kick
  • Free kick
  • Corner
  • Throw-in
  • Penalty

Similarly to players, in which game mode should be the match is decided based on a set of heuristics we’ve coded into our simulator. Consider the following scenarios as an illustration:

  • If the ball enters one of the goals, the referee will change the match score and set the game mode to kick off.
  • If the ball goes out of bounds (out of play), the referee will stop the game, reposition the ball, and require all players to reposition themselves.
  • If a player attempting to tackle an opponent hits the opponent instead of the ball with a force greater than X, the referee will stop the game, reposition the ball, require all players to reposition themselves, and show a yellow card.
  • And the list continues…

The outcome of a match is a series of snapshots (pictures of the state of the players and the ball) determined by the decisions of the players and the referee. Scoring a goal depends on your players choosing a series of actions in which their execution surpasses that of the opponents. There is no concept of winning battles or zones. It's all about making the right decisions and executing them in the best possible way, much like in real life.

As you can see, winning at MetaSoccer is, much like winning in real-life fútbol, a combination of both art and science. Naturally, there's no way to guarantee victory, but it's more about managing risk and increasing the odds of your team executing well when making decisions. In other words, ensuring that you have the best players, that they perform at their maximum capacity, and that you develop strategies to exploit your opponents' strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, it's a game of outsmarting them all.

I invite you to play and uncover all the mysteries behind the next-gen fútbol manager game.

Abrazo de gol,


Many thanks to Cipone (x2), FansDelFootball, LucasG89, and Paujo for their contributions to this article.