8-bit Heroes: FOOTBALL MANAGER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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In 1982 there were two Kevins synonymous with the world of professional football. Messrs Keegan and Toms. Both sported fine head's of hair, but only Kevin Toms had his face on the front of his own football management game.

The founder of Addictive Games, Kevin Tom's developed the original football management sim, Football Manager, whilst working as a professional computer programmer for a large company in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In his spare time he developed his own on games, mainly on a Video Genie (a clone of the Tandy TRS-80). Porting his original text only Football Manager game to the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81, Toms began selling these versions by mail order in 1982 through advertisements placed in computer magazines using the name Addictive Games. The game became a big success, and after he ported it to the ZX Spectrum he began to get big orders from high street stores, leading to Toms quitting his day job to run Addictive Games full time.

One thing that I always loved about the adverts for Football Manager, and indeed the case for the game itself, is that it had a big old picture of bearded Kevin Toms on the front cover. As if this was some kind of sign of quality. Don't get me wrong, it clearly was (and still is) a quality title, but in all honesty nobody really knew who Kevin Toms was. If it had been the Keegan of the Kevin variety you could understand plastering his face all across the merchandising, but how many school kids thought to themselves "I must buy Football Manager because it's by Kevin Toms"? None, I suspect. But then, when you own the company, I guess you can do as you please...

Kevin Toms Football Manager was not just published by Addictive Games it absolutely was an additive game in itself. After porting it to the Spectrum, Toms added animated graphics showing match highlights. Every other element of the game was written entirely in BASIC and used only text displays and keyboard entry. It didn't matter though, the chance to control your teams destiny far outshone the lack of a sparkly graphical interface.

At the start of Football Manager, the player chooses a team and then tries to earn promotion from the old fourth to the first division, whilst also competing in the FA Cup. While the team and player names are real, they are not accurately represented so whichever team is selected, the player always starts in the fourth division and their team is randomly populated with players. Each player has a skill rating and an energy rating, and must be rested to renew their energy rating or they become injured. The players' skill and energy ratings also change at the end of the season, so players can get old and age out, needing replacing by younger team members.

Skill ratings of defence, midfield and attack, energy and team morale, all factor into the way the team will perform against their opponent, so the player needs to carefully select their team to balance the skills based on the opposing team's ratings (e.g. to increase the defence rating if the opposition has a high attack rating).

On top of all this, Football Manager was a proper simulation game as you also had to balance the finances. Weekly income and expenditure is calculated and bank loans can be taken out. There is also a basic player transfer system with random players available to buy which you can bid for - as long as your squad isn't bigger than the maximum of 16. If it is then you can list your own players for sale and then accept or reject bids.

Having the nifty feature that game progress could be saved at any time (a necessity with a long term game like this), plus the even niftier customisable ability to rename the teams and players, just added to the fun. WarpedFactor Wanderers, anyone?

Football Manager was a huge success, selling half a million copies and ported onto a wide range of systems, with a sequel (the imaginatively titled Football Manager 2) arriving in 1988. Many other football management sims came along and took its crown (like Championship Manager and Match Day), but for its sheer addictiveness in those early days of home computers, Kevin Toms Football Manager could not be beat!

By the way, Kevin Keegan did eventually get in on the football management simulator game, with his own Player Manager release in 1993, but it wasn't anywhere near as much fun as that of Kevin Tom's 8-bit hero.

Did you ever play Kevin Tom's Football Manager? What was your favourite team name? Let us know your memories of this 8-bit hero in the comments below, and view all our 8-bit Heroes articles here.

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