So now I play my new football manager type game. I enjoy it. I have the basis of what I want to be there. I get excited about what is happening. I make changes and try to do better. I know how it works but that doesn’t make it easier for me. Only 70% of the functionality is in place but I have the base to build from!
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.
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.
So what was it that made the original Football Manager catch on so well, and what can I do now? Well since I wrote it, I know a lot about what made the original tick. I know I made it very playable, very enjoyable, and it had a pace that kept people playing it. I know this because it was all deliberate. I was not new to programming, it was my profession, I was not new to games design- I had been inventing games, both board games, and ball games for years. So there was no random chance about what I put together.
When you are a programmer AND a games designer, you are in the best position to tune and design the game for sheer playability. There are no communication issues in the way. But, there is only you.
So now, I am completing my new Football Manager type game for the iPhone (name suggestions always welcome!). On the iPhone, once more I am free, just like 30 years ago to program and design the entire game myself. So, if I have my way, it will have my strengths in design- simple to learn, fun, very playable. And of course my weaknesses- not flash on presentation lol!
I am close now, I am having fun, creating fun, and that is the way it should be. I will be very happy when the game is (soon) ready for release and I can talk about it and discuss what I have created.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I thought it would be nice to do 2 things, show a copy of the original ad-
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! 🙂
57.62% complete. – That is what I wrote earlier on Facebook. I have been involved in many projects, with many estimations. But they are mostly flawed with software development. They try to make developing software like building a bridge, something that is done with fixed materials, specifications etc.
But, often software is changed mid project, in fact so frequently that methods like extreme programming were invented to cope with that. The equivalent with building a bridge would be to change the materials half way across building the span from steel to a newly invented plastic.
So, I invented my own method to suit the way I am working on this game. And I am 57.62% complete. 🙂
It was interesting asking people what they wanted or needed in a Football Manager game. Everyone has different preferences and I have my own. In fact, a key part of putting the game together is filtering. I have plenty of ideas of what I want to do, and in the past I have generated a lot of work for myself with trying to implement all those ideas.
These days I am taking a different approach. I am ruthlessly filtering. Filtering out anything that is not truly essential. That is not so simple to do. Just like those that answered my questions I have my own opinions on what must be included. And it’s up to me to challenge every single one of those opinions!!
Craig asked me a question on my Facebook page. It was a question about the follow up, and building up expectations, referring to Jon Romero. Well I replied on Facebook but he raised a very good point. This game I am writing, is in a way a follow up to Football Manager, the original Football Manager written by me. But, I am not trying to do a follow up. In fact, for me, this is starting fresh, with design ideas and plans of what I want to achieve over time. When I put this game out, it’ll just be the start of the ball rolling.. 🙂
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.