1. Not old. Vintage. :)

Testing 1,2,3…Football Manager on the Oric

Discussion in 'SIG: 8-Bit Software' started by Andy Barr, Nov 23, 2021.

  1. by Andy Barr
    Andy Barr

    Andy Barr Chief Officer

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    Many, many, many moons ago, in 1982, an extremely talented chap called Kevin Toms coded and released by mail order an amazingly addictive football strategy management game (I believe the first of its kind and it was aptly published by Kevin’s fledgling company back then - Addictive Games) for the early UK micros on the 1980s home computing scene such as the ZX80/81, TRS80/Colour Genie and (incredibly advanced for the time) a version featuring 3D graphics/stick men on the ZX Spectrum.

    Footie man ad 1982.JPG upload_2021-11-23_15-15-35.png

    ABOVE: Early ad and tape cover (my mate Meds received his copy by mail looking like this and we didn’t put the game down for the next six months. We would rush home from playing/watching the real thing to load up and play this – it was so engrossing!!)

    The game play was that immersive that players were utterly hooked and would play “seasons” for weeks in real-time if not months (and for some folks, years!). News of this new game spread like wildfire in the computing magazines and popular press – it became a bit of a sensation as it really felt like your decision-making could propel say your humble local team, ie. Hull City, from the old Division Four right to the summit of Division One if you made the right team selections and bought and sold the right combination of players’ (and their attributes – so much data was packed into 16/48K, eg. Weighing-up player’s energy levels, injuries, positions, skill and transfer value etc,), your decisions could see your lads go on a long unbeaten victorious run both in the league – and the FA cup – or get ruddy relegated or dumped out the cup by York City! It was gripping. Nothing like this had quite been experienced before. You really felt like the game was “real”. I know of one lad who, back then, actually used to go around their town on a night chanting the results of the computer matches that had taken place on his Speccy, outside the houses’ of rival fans in order to taunt and goad a response from the occupants!! You know who you are, Walks!

    upload_2021-11-23_15-16-41.png

    ABOVE: Check your team’s position after another thrilling game and win/loss/draw…it sounds ridiculous now but back then there was nothing else like this soccer sim – it was superb and so thrilling to watch the goals go in as the clock ticked away and the final score was confirmed. It gave you a real buzz – move over Ron Atkinson and Bobby Robson!

    In short, the game felt that ‘real’ that for my money (and it wasn’t expensive – typical price for a tape for your micro was about £6-8 – excellent value when you ended up playing it for countless hours and months) no other game on the home computing market at this time could match it (if you will excuse the pun) until Braben and Bell released their incredible galactic smash trading and fighting sim classic Elite on the Beeb. In my humble opinion, it was THAT GOOD and just as believeable and immersive in terms of a “world on a tape”.

    So, what’s new, Baz? Did it make the director’s cut for the Oric then, fella?

    Well, yes… and no…and maybe.

    Here’s the little short story then, and I want to immediately give huge credit to two people, well three if you count the seller’s wife who was so incredibly kind and helpful, in allowing me to purchase and then tell this interesting retro software tale.

    About two months ago, I was in touch with a lady called Sandra who said that her hubby was selling off his old Oric tapes (she’d got the all-important job of offloading!) and would I be interested? In a word, yes, I was. Further, she not only sold me an initial batch of tapes that had caught my eye (I had always been interested in sports sims – especially footie ones and The Boss by Peaksoft was listed which I’ve also long admired but hadn’t had a copy since playing at my gran’s when I used to stop over back in 84 when I first started work and couldn’t afford the bus there and back from home every day! Anyhow, that’s another story), Sandra also mentioned that Jim had a few other tapes “tucked away” that I might be interested in but it might be better to get more details from him as there was a little story connected with one of the tapes…

    Aha, my nose/sense for something out of the ordinary was stimulated and so I dropped Jim a note and enquired further.

    Basically, back in the day (here we go again), Kevin needed software testers for the various versions of his software (and on Football Manager, versions were eventually released for EVERYTHING from the humble monochrome ZX80/81 to the all-powerful then 16bit Amiga and Atari ST platforms) and by 1992 a staggering ONE MILLION copies of the game had been sold on all formats!!

    So, as fate would have it, in 1984 Oric user Jim contacted Addictive Games and Kevin wrote back and more or less said yes, please play test this conversion for the Oric-1/Atmos micros of my very popular football management sim and let me know what you make of it in terms of identifying issues such as ‘bugs’, any loading issues, how did it play and were the instructions easy enough to follow etc etc.

    Anyhow, Jim being a supersonic keeper (some would say hoarder!) of things retro and Oric, like yours truly, kept ALL of his letters, documentation, play-testing and program review comments and even…

    A cassette of (as far as we know the only one – although you might know different!) a pre-production copy of the original pre-release beta-test version of Football Manager for the Oric micros.

    I was amazed / stunned and all my earlier memories of playing this great game on the various formats came tumbling back.

    Anyhow, Jim and Sandra were happy for me to buy the gear and continue to be the “torch bearer” of this lovely old Oric miscellanea – so long as author Kevin Toms was happy about the items being passed on, as it were.

    Suffice to say, Kevin Toms was duly contacted via his forum over at:

    https://www.facebook.com/KevinTomsGames

    kevin toms group.JPG

    and Kevin was politely asked if the sale could go ahead to which he kindly consented – a lovely touch - and further commented on the fact that this would make a lovely story on social media as many fans of the product still enthuse about, comment on and play the game to this day!

    Further, author Kevin Toms reported that the Oric micros were particularly troublesome in that they were a difficult platform due to “instability” (the infamous tape loading errors?) and the game was never quite officially released…

    upload_2021-11-23_15-21-8.png

    ABOVE: Oric (and TRS80 sales) feedback!

    Or was it? I also own, hidden deep in the dark dungeons here at Baz Towers, an official Addictive Games cassette of Football Manager so maybe a small batch was released? Perhaps Oricians and software experts can update us on this.

    upload_2021-11-23_15-22-37.png

    upload_2021-11-23_15-23-4.png
    ABOVE: A rarity? Unique? Pre-production and post-production copies of the Oric version of Addictive Game's Football Manager

    In summary, this is quite an interesting tale of one man’s incredibly successful football simulation, which for many was the epitome of our 80s micro heyday game-playing experiences, and another man’s play testing of this legendary program on one of the more “under-dog” micros out then, if we can call the Oric that, in terms of its own (lack of) widespread commercial success… and a tape that survives to this day… together with associated letters, play testing docs and feedback forms, contracts etc, drawn up way back when all this electronic magic first caught our eyes on our bedroom 14" CRT TV screens…

    Sincerely, I hope you enjoyed reading all about it and for sure, I will always look after and treasure it.

    See below further examples of the play test "treasure chest" and Oric ephemera that Jim has kept - thank you so much once more to both Jim, lovely wife Sandra and the one and only... Kevin Toms - for making all of this story possible.

    upload_2021-11-23_15-26-9.png

    upload_2021-11-23_15-26-30.png

    upload_2021-11-23_15-26-47.png


    upload_2021-11-23_15-27-2.png

    upload_2021-11-23_15-27-27.png

    and finally...

    upload_2021-11-23_15-27-57.png
     
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  2. by nysavant
    nysavant

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    Brilliant story Andy!

    I loved Football Manager (still do) and have quite a few different formats. This Oric one is a real convesation piece though :)

    Very cool of Kevin Toms to reply back. One of my early sofware heroes along with the hairy yak himself, Jeff Minter.

    p.s. that Atmos looks bloody lovely!
     
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  3. by AlexDrito
    AlexDrito

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    Great story, Baz!

    I too always loved the FM series since when I saw its first incarnation on my C64! It was amazing at the time, even much better than the ZX Spectrum, the game taking advantage of the technical features of the Commodore 8-bit machine (sprites, sounds, multicolor graphics) but most of all it was the playability that really took me in front of the screen for hours.

    A couple of years ago I made an interview with Kevin Toms and it was released on RetroMagazine (IIRW it's issue no. 05-IT) and the guy was very kind and collaborative. A good interview came out of our conversation and the readers sent nice feedback after the publication. Then he asked me to help him with the translation in Italian, French, and German of his new app which is still based on FM!
     
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  4. by Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine
    Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine

    Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine Chief Officer

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    I must admit I hate managerial / stat based games, I'm also not keen on most sport games, BUT I love a good story about the old days. That tape must be worth a few quid these days..

    Great story, nice bit of history in your house Andy..
     
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  5. AlexDrito

    AlexDrito Deckhand

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    Hey Baz, did the social media story actually made it on FB or elsewhere?
    Did you manage to load the game on your Oric-1 or ATMOS and have a playtest?
    From the picture above, it seems like the division was only formed by 8 teams, so a bit like the ZX81 version which ran with 16KB RAM expansion. Maybe Addictive Games/KT decided to go for a "limited" version for the Oric as well because the base model came with 16KB as well. The original game was programmed in BASIC on a TRS80 clone called Genie and then ported to ZX81 and everywhere as you said. The porting to other machines must have been trouble probably because of hardware restrictions (memory firstly).
    Did you make a dump of the ORIC version? If it has never been released, it surely is a rarity! Congratulations on sniffing out the right trail that led you to this market gem.

    Sorry, maybe too many questions. But I was always much into sports and sports simulation games so...
     
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  6. by Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine
    Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine

    Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine Chief Officer

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    I bet Andy has sort of promised to keep hold of it / not dump it, when in fact it's a little pot of gold. A pre-production Kevin Tom's game with it being the only copy would cause a feeding frenzy if auctioned, not only would the Oricites want it, but there's Kevin Tom's fans out there who would want it too.

    Even better, there's direct provenance from the Man himself as proof.

    I'm not saying people could retire etc, but I'd guess well over a ton, possibly a lot more..
     
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  7. Andy Barr

    Andy Barr Chief Officer

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    Hi, guys.
    Thank you so much for your feedback on this article - Al, Paul and Daz.
    I'm just back from a little break away with Bev to the Lakes and the winds have blown us all the way across the country!
    I have not yet tested the Oric pre-production copy of the Oric FM tape but I will do, Daz.
    It is amazing that the paperwork and memories of this play test have all been preserved.
    It's also brilliant of Kevin to permit this and fully discuss it and enjoy adding this story to the legend that is his original football simulation on all the UK home micros which lit up the scene in the early 80s.
    I am presently awaiting his comments on this article and then I will re-run the story on both his forum and Oric online forums... then we will see indeed if there is a "feeding frenzy" but I am not looking to auction it off, Paul.
    Well, not right now - maybe in the distant future, when I'm finally all done with my hobby but the Oric stuff will remain with me til the very last breaths of my energy for this hobby of ours, fellas.
    Thanking you again and I will update you guys on what Kevin has to say and how the story might evolve yet with other Oricians' / Footie Manager player's input.
    Cheers!
     
  8. by Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine
    Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine

    Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine Chief Officer

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    Nice you had a break for you and the boss, bad luck with the weather. Mind you, the way it's going we may have either scorching hot or freezing madness as the norm. That's if Omicrom does not get us first..
     
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  9. Andy Barr

    Andy Barr Chief Officer

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    Thanks, Paul.

    The weather was great on Wed and Thurs and we even had a bit of winter sunshine and got a load of our Chrimbo shopping done plus sampled 1-2 local hostelries whilst staying over at one of Bev's friend's so that made the trip a cheap one overall.

    Then the storm hit!

    Hey, Kevin's had a little look, given the story his approval and now 1-2 folks on his forum have commented, incl our own Alex Drito!

    (Cheers, Daz)

    https://www.facebook.com/KevinTomsG...55558562684&notif_t=comment_mention&ref=notif

    upload_2021-11-28_0-2-41.png
     
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