Easter Monday was the next in our series of creator Q&A’s, this week was with Avery who is writing ‘Board in the USA’ released daily on the Higher Tempo Press.
Anthony Haynes kicked us off as he was intrigued by Avery’s bio on HTP “Cerebral and unfeeling with a penchant for inappropriate wit”: what lies behind that description?
Hey all! Honestly, not a lot went into that caption. I have a penchant for making vaguely inappropriate, yet (I hope) funny jokes. I also tend to view things very analytically, almost robotically. Hence, cerebral and unfeeling!
You are currently writing about a save in MLS with Atlanta. What, in your opinion is the best thing about a save in MLS?
Well, I would say there are many great things about a save in MLS; the excitement a playoff structure generates, the complexity of deals between teams, the competitive balance a salary cap brings… But if I were to narrow it down to the thing I enjoy the most, it definitely is the ability to wheel and deal on a far greater level than in any other league. There are many trade-able resources (international player slots, Superdraft picks, players) and the ability to mix and match them depending on need and demand creates a very interesting dynamic amongst teams in MLS
I see, it does sound interesting but also quite complex. Is signing players as complicated as it seems or something you have gotten used to?
Signing players is actually fairly easy, since one of the perks of MLS is that a player cannot refuse to be traded to another MLS team! That being said, there are certain restrictions with regards to signing players from outside MLS that involve the degree in which they impact that salary cap. The rules take getting used to, but once you know how to use them they can be very rewarding.
Oh OK, a player unable to refuse is quite appealing! Are there any frustrations to the way the transfers are done which have prevented you from signing the players you wanted?
For sure. Just to give some background, the most annoying restriction that exists is that apart from a player’s wage itself, Acquisition fees (agent fees, signing on fees, and most importantly transfer fees) get factored into the salary cap impact a player has in his first year. As such, signing a backup or rotation player from a non-MLS team can be a lot more taxing on the salary cap than one might originally anticipate. The easy work-around is to find free agents, but that severely limits the pool of players one can sign. Such is the life of MLS!
Really, those are things I rarely ever consider so maybe a season in MLS is not for me! Now, not to spoil anything for people still catching up but you reached the conference semifinals in your first season. What do you think it will take to go a step further next season?
Honestly, if you’re into FM and its complexities as a game, you will likely enjoy managing in MLS. But I digress… Without spoiling anything, I think what it would take would be better squad depth in certain positions, In my first season, we were hampered by a injury to my only reliable forward. That definitely has to (and will) change if things are to improve for us.
FM Samo had a question and asked You’re playing your save as a director of football type. What do you think SI would need to bring in as new, or change about FM as it is now, to make it a director of football style game, rather than a football manager one?
Plenty of changes can be made in that regard. I think the easiest and most significant one that could be done, that would continue to further the “Manager” experience of FM, would simply be to allow Assistant Managers complete tactical flexibility when the Manager goes on holiday. Right now the Ass Man is stuck with the shape of team that you set up, and can only tweak Team and Player instructions. Complete tactical flexibility would go a long way to solving that problem
I think it would do FM a world of good if the Assistant Managers have a greater tactical spread. As far as I am aware Assistant Managers only suggest 2-3 shapes, which is not at all in line with reality. If the AI could be programmed to do a little more that would be great for the whole FM experience!
I see so do you have any input over tactics?
I had to work with the constraints of the system FM provided me, so to simulate the “Director” experience I always changed the shape to my Ass Man’s suggestions, and left team selections entirely up him. I broke that rule a little when I wanted some squad rotation to grow my young players or appease my rotation players. I mentally justified that by thinking that DoFs in clubs would have some amount of influence when making suggestions to the manager to use the talent they brought in. I do hope that justification seems fair to all! That only happened rarely though, I tried my best to have as little influence over tactical decisions as possible.
So how do you deal with the frustration of losing games when you don’t control the side?
It’s actually fairly easy to swallow the results when all you do is go on holiday and you don’t have to watch the defeat occur in real time.. So I would say it’s actually easier to deal with the frustration!
True, I guess you don’t have the need to tinker for 90 minutes. When looking to improve the side, how do you decide what players the team needs if you do not watch the games?
Obviously, injuries would be a fairly obvious indicator reinforcements are needed. Other than that, I take a look at player performances and see who is under performing. I take a look at which positions the Assistant Manager is incapable of rotating despite tiredness… The same factors apply as a normal manager, just without the pain of watching the games themselves
How much emphasis do you put on the Stats (in game) or do you look more at Attributes?
It’s a mix of both? A glance at attributes would be my “eye test” – after, I take a look at their performances to see if they are capable of performing at the level their attributes suggest they should
Have you analysed the staff you use to play the game? And what criteria did you use to check they are doing a good job?
For most of my staff I rely on the same attributes that a normal manager would. The only guy who I scrutinise more closely would be my Assistant Manager. The evaluation is simple: whether he can win my team games. I dare say, for such a new squad, Theiler certainly is doing a good job!
What would you do differently if you could start the save again?
There are certain deals that I made that I regret somewhat. I think in general, I would play the save a lot slower than I did. A lot of the decisions I made were made somewhat quickly, which led to some of them being fairly sub-par.
You’ve had 12 parts to the series go up so far but what made you start writing about FM?
I’ve always wanted to write about FM, I just did not have a save that interested me sufficiently to keep the writing consistent. This save had so many decision-points for me that I really wanted to jot my reasoning down, and that’s what led to me writing so much about it. In short, writing everything doubles up as a log for the important decisions I made that I can look back to should I need to!
HTP editor Chris wanted to know more about Avery’s writing and asked You’ve made a prolific start to your writing, daily updates. How have you managed to achieve this and what tips would you give a new blogger?
Yeah @curator [^AH] has mentioned to me how impressed it is by the sheer volume of writing I manage to do. It’s a lot easier when you take detailed notes along the way, which is how I’ve been managing to write it. That way, when I come back later to polish up the next update, a lot of the thoughts have already been penned down and I just need to neaten them. In terms of tips to a new blogger… I would say have fun with it? Personal tone is a big part of what makes such posts enjoyable! Also on a more practical note, make multiple saves at different points in a seasons so that you can come back and take screenshots later.
How did you start writing for the Higher Tempo Press?
I’ve been reading stuff on the site for a while, so it was a no brainer really. Happy to contribute! Another reason I reached out to HTP to publish my Atlanta save was because I noticed there was a dearth of accessible written content regarding MLS, and I wanted my journey to create a base for people to work off should they require any guidance on the various technical points. I’m also working on more comprehensive pieces to act as a “guide” to the intricacies of MLS, so do look out for that!
That’s all we had time for if any one would like to ask anything else to Avery I am sure he will be able to answer them directly, or comment on his posts on the site. I would recommend you catch up on his series if you haven’t done so already