Welcome back to a new A-Z post and this one is a little different. I really had no idea what to do for the letter “J” until I spoke to @fmcheapseats on Twitter. His suggestion immediately caught my attention and when the main man asked to write a post for it I had to say yes. So please welcome Ian and his fantastic post talking about Joint Saves….

Joint Save: It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Blurst Of Times

We’ve all been there.  The idea of a joint save with a bunch of friends, with whom you’ve shared FM memories over the years.  What could go wrong?!

After all, a joint save can be the absolute best of times…  It can also be an unmitigated disaster. 

Today, we’re going to talk about how to ensure that one of these two outcomes is reached.  Which one you get, is up to you.

I.        You Say “Pot-ay-to,” I Say “Po-tah-to”

First and foremost, when I think of a “joint save,” I think of two distinct types of saves: (1) a “pass-the-parcel” save, where everyone takes turns playing the same save file, in succession; and (2) a community save where everyone agrees to certain starting parameters (e.g., youth only in the French 5th tier), but plays their own save with frequent updates from all.

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, most of which are obvious and need no elaboration.  At the heart of it, though, they are distinct experiences with much to their credit.

Regardless of which approach you take, being thoughtful about how you approach the save is critical to everyone enjoying themselves.

II.        Philosophy of the Save

Before you even fire up the game, I’d recommend that you discuss or establish the broad parameters. 

What kind of save is your group looking to play?  A one-club save, where you build a dynasty from the ground up and slowly work your way towards domestic, continental and global domination?  A pure journeyman, where you go wherever the winds take you?  A glory-hunter, where you’re simply looking to accumulate titles, not caring what bridges are burned behind you?

Having a cohesive, agreed-upon philosophy for the save will help ensure long-term enjoyment for all. 

As Louis can attest, victories are ephemeral. Temporary. Philosophy and unnecessary Ian Curtis quotes are forever. 

Think about it this way.  You and several other players have spent years building up Espanyol to challenge for the title in La Liga, and emerge as a continental force.  But the guy who just received the pass-the-parcel save decides to take the Barcelona job, because “la Masia LOLOLOL,” or abandons Espanyol to go youth-academy-only in the Greek 3rd tier because he “hates transfers and once dated a chick from Lesbos.”

Those moves might be perfectly acceptable.  Maybe even desirable. [Editor: I, for one, would like to hear more about this delightful woman from Greece…for science.]

But chances are it will be seen as a gigantic “f*** you” to everyone who spent time working to build Espanyol up to this point.

How the group responds will be a function of the overall philosophy.  Are you a ruthless, Mourinho-esque manager who is only in it for personal glory?  Or are you a purist, loyal and true to some ideals?  Does the move make sense for your manager, in-game?

In the end, I can’t answer that question.  But if you haven’t thought about it before you start the save (and/or discussed it with your group of fellow players), you’re asking for a breakdown at some point.

The guiding principle I would recommend (and that will be a recurring theme) is simple. 

We all have our individual saves, where we can do whatever we want, how we want, with as much (or as little) justification for our actions as we see fit. 

A joint save, however, is never about you, as an individual player.  It is about the collective.  It is about a group of people pulling in the same direction, to accomplish a goal. 

Sure, we should all aim to leave our fingerprints upon the save in some way, shape or form, but – I cannot emphasize this enough – the joint save is not about you

The moment a joint save becomes about you, instead of the collective, is the moment people will start to become frustrated, lose interest and leave.

A shared sense of purpose is the key to an enjoyable experience for all.

This is easier in a community save where each person is playing his/her own save, obviously.  Because people are necessarily playing their own save, within some pre-defined parameters. 

And, of course, in a pass-the-parcel save, whomever is managing at a given moment is responsible for making decisions regarding transfers, tactics, job offers, etc.  The point isn’t that every decision must be signed off on by the group.  Quite to the contrary.

The point is that the save will be most enjoyable when everyone is pulling in the same direction, with each individual making their own unique, individual contributions to the save.

Trust me when I say that nothing kills a joint save faster than the player who does not respect the save itself (and the contributions of others), by insisting on doing things his/her way, on a timeframe of his choosing, to the exclusion, detriment and frustration of others. 

III.  Game Setup

Of course, there are more practical considerations. 

In a pass-the-parcel save, hardware limitations must be considered.  Not everyone will have the same capacity.  Someone might have a brand new, top of the line desktop while another player has an aging laptop.  You can’t run a proper joint save if the bloat from extra leagues and added players kills the save for some people.

This doesn’t mean that you have to set up the save with an eye towards the lowest common denominator, just that you should be aware of how the overall setup will affect everyone, especially as time progresses in the save.

Other things to consider include the various tickboxes at the start.  Are we playing with fog of war, such that player attribute masking is on?  What about the in-game editor – is that flatly prohibited, or simply on the honor system?  Are people allowed to use third-party editors?

Want to ruin a joint save?  Reveal players’ current and/or potential abilities.  Or, use an editor to “heal” all of your players, so that you can play the same XI in every match during your turn.  Unless you’ve agreed this can be done in advance, this will taint every accomplishment you claim.  It’s also disrespect of the highest order for the save and everyone else playing it.

Using an editor in a joint save, when it hasn’t been discussed?

How many participants are there?  Is there a limit?  In a community save, the more the merrier.  People can come and go as they wish, because the point is the shared experience

In contrast, the number of participants in a pass-the-parcel save is critical.  Too few, and the fun can be too limited.  Too many, and people could be waiting months to take their turn.  Which means you have to consider things like:

  • Are there any time limits, per turn?  Is one week reasonable?  Two weeks?  Too short, and people don’t have enough time to play.  Too long, and players who are waiting for a turn might lose interest.
  • What happens if someone goes over the time limit?  Does play continue from the prior person’s save, or does the save get passed-on as-is? 
  • Can new players join in, when the save is in progress?  If so, do they jump to the front of the queue or wait their turn like everyone else?
  • Tip: as a player, you need to respect whatever rules are set.  If you ask for special treatment, to be put to the front of the line and then disregard time-frames that have been suggested or established – congratulations.  You just made the save about you, instead of the group.  It is disrespectful, at best.

You should also consider how progress is going to be tracked.  Where are people posting their updates?  In a forum?  A Twitter thread using a particular hashtag?  On a blog?  A WhatsApp chat?  How frequently should updates be posted?  Again, much of this may depend on the participants and their individual preferences, but the shared experience means demands regular, frequent updates.  This is a joint effort, we all want to know how the save is going.  If you don’t tell us what’s going on, we’re going to lose interest.  We’ll stop being invested in the save.  It is as simple as that. 

I’m not suggesting that there are objectively “right” answers to these practical questions (even if there are obvious “wrong” answers).   

Rather, my point is that you should consider these issues from the outset and ensure that any agreed-upon rules or guidelines are enforced even-handedly, to avoid problems later.

As always, keep in mind that the joint save is never about you.  It’s about the shared effort and experience.  It’s not about short-term accomplishments, it’s about the long-term – setting up the people who will play after you for success. 

IV. Think outside the box

While most people think of a joint save as the traditional pass-the-parcel save, that doesn’t have to be the case. 

My most enjoyable experience in a “joint save” was a community save on the SI Forums: Saving Football, Frauding a Nation, where approximately 20 people leaped into the 5th tier in France at the same time, each playing their own save, but with a focus on youth.  Some enjoyed tremendous success.  Some failed spectacularly.  At least one manager ended up going to prison.

It was utter madness.  One of the highlights of the year for all involved.  Everyone was playing the “same” basic save but doing it their own way.  A collective venture where we could all share each other’s journey, through what felt at times like a firehose of updates.

The point being, this was an out-of-the-box way of approaching a joint save, that maximized everyone’s enjoyment and investment.

By the same token, no one should demand or expect “success” as an end goal in and of itself.  Half of the fun in a pass-the-parcel save is when things go to hell, when the player you’ve built a squad around suddenly loses his mind in the 8th minute of the Champions League final you’ve been building towards, earning his first-ever red card and ensuring failure at what might have been the pinnacle of years of effort.  

The shared horror and pain of that moment simply cannot compare to anything else.  @BenjoeFM may never recover from the moment when Cray Ray Romano proved that his nickname was well-earned, but there was joy to be found in trying.

That being said, the shared sense of purpose born from that kind of disappointment also ensures that the fight for redemption is ten times sweeter.

Again, that’s the overall goal.  Because a joint save is never about whether you individually accomplished.  It’s about the journey.  It’s about sharing moments of success with the other participants (who put you into a position to succeed), celebrating the collective accomplishments of the group, and setting others up for success in the process. 

V. Final Thoughts

Hopefully this has sparked some ideas. 

I know that I’m thinking about a pass-the-parcel save for FM21, and that @MarcusWedauFM is thinking about a community save when FM 21 drops (he’s also the brains behind the brilliant Saving Football, Frauding a Nation save, mentioned above). 

Well, what are you waiting for?