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Football Manager      

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Addictive Games Ltd
Sport / Football

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Your Reviews

Den of Geek (Interview (continued))   23rd Dec 2008 10:38
add to it. And there more memory on the Spectrum as I had on the ZX81, so I could do a bit more, and so I decided that that was what was needed. I spent a lot of time on the dining room table with my Spectrum, working out how to make it work. At the same time I was writing business software on an Osborne computer to run the business as well!

It seemed like a game that took over your life for a couple of years, what with the conversion to pretty much every format on the planet?

Yeah. I think what happened there was that because the game had such longevity it continued to sell, so when new formats came out it was a good idea to do them, because they would sell too. It wasn’t like it would be “oh, that’s last year’s now”.

It was a real pain, in that every new format had to be converted for. I did start employing programmers to help with the conversion.

Some of it was interesting. One of the things I was really proud of was designing the graphics on the BBC in teletext-style two by three pixels and making it actually look like footballers running round. There were good parts to it, and solving technical problems like how to fit things into memory and bits like that. But the most fun was writing the original, really. And marketing is interesting, it was creative in itself. Writing the ads, designing them and stuff.

And which format holds the version of the game you’re most proud of?

The Spectrum, definitely. The other one I’d liked if I remember rightly was the Amstrad CPC. I thought that was a good version too.

Can we move onto the game Software Star, a software company management game that got lost a little bit in the huge success of Football Manager. But presumably that was reflective of what you were going through?

Yeah, it was. It’s an interesting point. My son is 15 years old and in the last twelve months we dug out Software Star on an emulator and played it, and found it great fun actually. I hadn’t played it for years.

The one thing that came through on it, and I noticed reading on your blog, there seemed to be a little bit of cynicism under the cover of it in the shape of the hype mechanic. That you could successful hype even the worst games and they’d be a success?

That was a true story I put in the blog! Somebody had complained that it is wrong, you should not write a game where hype is more successful than honesty, because that teaches people that being dishonest is good [laughs] Oh my God, it’s just a game! The thing was it wasn’t quite true what he was saying, because there was a balance in it. Hype wasn’t actually always more successful. It was high risk, but what I was reflecting there is that people do use hype. There was lots of hype or ambitious advertising, and still today it’s happening all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes people just don’t believe it.

It’s a bit like Football Manager, in that there are a range of strategies, and there’s more than one that can work. There’s no guaranteed success strategy. People dug really deep. On Football Manager I can remember a guy came up to me at a show complaining, because he was playing on level seven. He said he came up against a team, and he described the attributes they had for defence, midfield and attack, as there is no way that I could have scores that high, so it’s unfair! They were 20, 19 and 20 or something. People probed the edges!

One of the things about your games obviously was that your face was on the front of the packaging for them. Why did you do it?

It was very simple, actually. I used to do the shows, and there were a number of them at the time, the micro fairs, and the computer fairs and things. What you would see happen was that people would be playing the game, and sometimes people would sit there and play for ages, which was really good because members of the public would come in, go round and say that guy’s still playing the game! They were sales people for us!

The other thing was that I would talk to them about the game, and at some point they would realise that I actually wrote it, and wasn’t a sales guy on the stand. That meant a lot to them and it clicked at some point. It was this is a bit like being a book author, or musician or something. People are interested, and the thing I really thought was they were interested because there was a style involved, a design style. I thought surely this business is just like books. Books is probably the best analogy, in that you like to know who the author is, because you like the way they write. And I thought it’s not corporate, when I buy music I don’t care for EMI putting out a record, I care if it’s U2 or something like that. I don’t care who published the damn thing. And I still believe that.

That’s what started it. And the other side to it was that I realised that as soon as I did it, that I was vouching for the game. I wasn’t hiding, I was saying you know what, I believe this is good enough so I’ll put my face out there, I’ll put my name to it, not hide behind it in case it flops. It was credibility as well, but that was the key driver.

This is about style, and my plan was to produce more games, but what happened was it stayed as Football Manager for longer than I intended, because the business was taking over, and I wasn’t able to write as much as I wanted to - although I did produce Software Star and President. That was where the plan didn’t work out as intended. Because I thought people will get to recognise the style.

Your face to be fair was on tens of thousands of copies of games that were in our homes. Were you recognised much as a result of that?

Yes. It did happen.

And what kind of things would people come up and say to you?

Well, they’d shake my hand or something, or buy me a drink in a bar. They’d come up to me in odd places, like I was on holiday in Italy, and recognise me there. It did happen. At fairs they would ask for autographs.

The association of programmers with games has waned a lot afterwards. Does that disappoint you in a way?

I think it’s bound to happen, and it depends on who is in control. There’s not a lot of vested interest. You see it in the music business all the time. Unless they’ve got somebody locked down, they’re not really keen on promoting the creative people behind it, because they’re businesses, and they’re saying this guy is going to go and work for someone else and take all we’ve built up. So the deals aren’t right for it, really. Isn’t that why United Artists was formed? George Michael had a famous case where he took on Sony, too.

In the movie business though, it’s generally 100 to 200 people to make a movie. Yet a lot of people though could name the director of a film. But games aren’t like that. Yet we see from the numbers of something like Grand Theft Auto 4 that games is in many ways a bigger businesses. And yet programmers are hidden away?

I think there’s no need, I think it’s human. People who are writing the stuff, and people are interested in business software, they’re the ones who want to know who writes stuff. If you look in the open source sector, there’s a lot of engagement about the writers, and their personalities, and what’s going on between them.

Do you have an interest in politics that drove you to write President?

When you do strategy games, certain things are going to come to mind, and it is a football strategy game, about decisions and management. The political thing has some other dynamics that are interesting as well, the trying to do the right thing and all the conflicting things you have to deal with. And yeah, that did interest me. That was really the core of President. And that was combined with a business game as well about oil exploration, which was something I was interested in doing.

I played President quite a lot, and I think it’s the most difficult game that you wrote. Was that a conscious thing, or was it the amount that you were trying to cram in there?

I think it was the amount that I was trying to cram in was probably the reason actually, it sounds right. I think I was ambitious, probably, with what I was trying to do. But you tend to

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This title was first added on 18th May 2007
This title was most recently updated on 29th January 2018

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