Addictive Games, Football Manager, Games Design, Software Development and Delivery, The 80s

30 Years ago Football Manager- weaving the gameplay

Not easy to describe this. But it was important. Important to making it work, to making it succeed. I decided the setting, the football league, 4 divisions, plus a knockout cup, the FA Cup. I decided on what attributes your players would have. I decided what you could control. Then I pieced together the game balance. The balance between randomness and control, between complexity and ease of use. Various moving(mathematically) components interacting, finding the way to make it fun and easy but give the game plenty or range, so it did not repeat, was never predictable. And then it had to fit within the programming environment I had, and the small amount of memory.

It took a year to make.

Addictive Games, Football Manager, Games Design, Software Development and Delivery, The 80s

30 years ago Football Manager – making stick men footballers!

30 years ago, the ZX81 game was doing well, the TRS80 Football Manager not so much. Then Sinclair came out with the Spectrum. So, I spent a busy couple of months enhancing the game. And one of the things I decided to do was add goal mouth action. So I got busy designing animated footballers on a 3D view of the football pitch. These footballers were stick men graphics, but they worked:

I built intelligence into their behaviour. It was simple but effective. Within the limitations, there was an infinite variety of things that could happen, so it kept the excitement, the uncertainty during the match.

Stick men graphics I created for Spectrum Football Manage
Addictive Games, Football Manager, Games Design, Kevin Toms, Software Development and Delivery, Software development tools, The 80s

30 years ago – I wrote Football Manager

So I launched it on to the market in January 1982. But before that of course, I wrote it. I bought a Video Genie to write it on. The Video Genie was a Tandy TRS80 clone.

The computer Football Manager was written on.

It was cheaper, but still expensive for me at the time. But, I believed that I would be successful with the game. Overall it was about a year of writing the game.

The game had its roots in many board game versions I had written, but at this time I was a professional computer programmer by day, so I knew what I was doing on the Video Genie. I chose to use the built in Basic because it was much better suited to a strategy game than the limitations of Assembler.

Just before going to launch, the ZX81 came out, and I realised the potential market it was creating with its low price, so I converted the game to run on the ZX81 too.

Football Manager was converted by me to run on this

That, was a very worthwhile decision!! – The sales on the ZX81 proved to be 100 times what they were on the TRS80/Video Genie. If I had only launched on that, the whole thing would not have got off the ground as I would have lost money on every advert placed.

So the ZX81 was critical to the early success.

More on the ZX81

More on the Video Genie

Addictive Games, Football Manager, Games Design, Kevin Toms, The 80s


It’s worth putting that headline in caps. It was January 1982 that the first advert for Football Manager (my original game) appeared on the newstands in Computer and Video Games magazine.  30 years on, that foundation game has grown into a genre of computer games. My original game was very playable, and very popular, spending years high in the Gallup charts of the time. I still hear regularly from people who loved and still love playing it. I am proud of what I created.

I believe I can still write good enjoyable games and soon I will be launching a new Football Manager type game for the iPhone.

The first ever advert for Football Manager by Kevin Toms
The first ever advert for Football Manager by Kevin Toms

I thought it would be nice to do 2 things, show a copy of the original ad-

And to highlight a link to the pdf of the magazine here.

The magazine is the February 1982 issue but it was published in January 1982, so that is the first advert for Football Manager, 30 years ago. A life changing moment for me! 🙂

Addictive Games, Football Manager, Games Design, Kevin Toms, Software Development and Delivery, The 80s

People ask me about Football Manager animation..

You know, the little stick men running around in the original Football Manager on the Spectrum. Sometimes people ask if the animation was a fixed set, or even believe it was. Well no, it wasn’t, there was an infinite number of possibilities of what could happen and the individual players were making decisions moment by moment what to do next. I did that deliberately so you would be in suspense.

Some people believed you could predict what was going to happen but the program code did not do that. Of course animation was limited in those days, and it was an add on to a strategy game to spice it up more. So, in some ways it wasn’t sophisticated. But within the memory limitations it did plenty. So I am proud of the design and code especially for it’s impact on the fun of the game.

Addictive Games

I play Addictive Games!

– that was what I put on the t-shirts I came up with for Addictive Games several years ago. Modeled beautifully below as shown on my Facebook page. A couple of girls wore the t-shirts for a night on in town. The next day they said they wouldn’t wear them again. – They spent the whole night fielding questions from men about the kind of addictive games they would play! 😉

I play Addictive Games
I play Addictive Games
Addictive Games, Football Manager, The 80s

80s Computer Games

Lots of people are interested in the era I was part of, the 80s when the games industry was so new, not even a retail outlet to be found at first. It was a great time, nobody knew what they were doing, just learning as they go, and the business men were also coders.

A time never repeated, great to be there.

Addictive Games, The 80s

My iPhone/iPad Football Manager Game 41 – More on it

Next week I will be developing the game further, I am looking forward to it. Whilst in the UK, it’s been good to meet a number of former players too, and reconnect with those times.  Seeing plenty of old computers at the Vintage Computer Club was also quite nostalgic. Time just drops away looking at an old BBC or Spectrum. I was present when a lovely old couple brought in a perfect looking BBC micro which had been carefully preserved by them and cared for. It was like somebody bringing something onto the antiques road show!

Addictive Games, Software Star, The 80s

Thinking about Software Star

I was reminded of Software Star today. It was a simple game of managing a software business. It captured some truth, and I played with my son a while ago. That was a strange experience, to play a game you wrote, so long ago, and find out it is still fun to play! And you can remember little about writing it, except the animated chart idea being a good one. Oh, and the thing about Hype versus Honesty, which was a good idea!