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Part Seven: Soccer Manager
In between carpeting my floor with wargames and fending off giant cats, I designed another world first - the first soccer manager program. I called it ... Soccer Manager. Being 1980, it was a text based game and followed the fortunes of an English first division football manager. Yes, this was the days before the Premier League, a time when Notts County and Luton were top teams and Chelsea and Newcastle were lowly second division outfits. And not a Russian millionaire in sight.
The game started with the player choosing the name of his team. A brilliant innovation which allowed countless dreams to come true as Accrington Stanley and the local pub team suddenly had the chance to rub shoulders with the Arsenals and Man Us.
Then the player bought his team - selecting from a list of 22 available players. He or she could buy as many players as they could afford. The larger the squad the bigger the wage bill and, of course, the better players commanded the higher transfer fees.
Players were rated by three attributes - their defence, midfield and attacking abilities. The greater the ability, the higher the transfer fee.
A note of explanation: the engine I created to determine the outcome of a match was a complex one. I spent ages analysing all the various attributes that made a successful footballer and then distilled them down to three generic abilities. Defensive, midfield and attack.
Of course nowadays I'd have to add extra ones - their commercial potential, diving ability, amateur dramatics and head butting. Not to mention the wives and girlfriends module.
But in the simpler Brylcreem days of 1980 three were sufficient. And it fitted my game engine. The idea was the manager picked his formation (4-3-3, 4-4-2 etc) and the program then added together the defensive, midfield and attacking attributes of his team. So if he put all his attackers in defence he would achieve a lower defence quotient than if he played all his defenders in those positions. And if he played Wayne Rooney's dad as a lone striker he would be sacked immediately and sent back to Stockholm.
With me so far?
The program then simulated the game. The midfields battled with each other to get the ball, the teams with the higher midfield quotient having the better chance. They then played the ball to their attack and the program compared the quotients of their attack against the other team's defence. Either they scored or the ball was played back to the midfield and the tussle began again.
Using a fiendishly simple algorithm the program would keep a tally of what had happened and adjust each footballer's quotients according to how well they'd played in each match. Forwards who scored improved, defenders at fault didn't. In that way, team strengths changed as the season progressed. Winning teams became stronger, managers in relegation trouble sought to buy in better players to bolster their weaknesses.
And, of course, there were injuries.
And cup matches. I factored in the FA Cup, League Cup and one of the European competitions.
And an economics model. Money came in via the turnstiles and player sales. Money went out in wage bills and player acquisitions. Winning teams attracted higher crowds.
It was one of my most successful games and spawned a whole generation of imitators. But only one game can ever be first.