Monday, 27 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: The Final

And so it's come to this... Fifty of the greatest retro football video game titles have been whittled down to just two. Falling by the wayside have been the classic and the clumsy, the majestic and the 'meh', but now we arrive at the Final to find a monumental showdown between two giants of the home computer age.

On the one hand, we have Sensible Soccer, a playing simulation par excellence. 'Sensi' provided everything the football fan could ever want. After-touch control, editable squad lists and team kits, plus different pitch styles and goal replays were just the icing on the cake. What really made it a great game, however, was its sheer simplicity. There were no 3D graphics to render, no sluggish sprites to animate - just a brevity of detail that gave the game its slickness and playability. A masterpiece of arcade football brilliance.

And then we have Football Manager, the grand-daddy of all management simulation games. Originally made for the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, your job was to manage a squad of players with enough élan to help them rise from Division Four to Division One over successive seasons. By selecting your best individuals and buying better ones where necessary. it was possible to enjoy each match (shown in isometric 3D) and steer your team to ultimate glory. Detailed without being confusing, this was another triumph for the 'less is more' school of video game programming.

But which one gets your vote? Which game had you gripped with addiction every time you played it, and which one is deserving of the title 'Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever'?

Simply select one of the two titles below, register your selection and in seven days' time, we'll announce the winner as chosen by you, our beloved football nostalgia lovers.

Make your decision, be brave, and may the best retro football video game win...

Fantasy Nostalgia: Liverpool wear Admiral

When I recently read Bert Patrick's book all about the history of Admiral, legendary kit makers to the great and good of British football, one episode sent my mind into a tailspin. It was the section where Patrick, looking to grab the kit contracts for as many top clubs as possible, approached Bill Shankly at Liverpool and gained his agreement to provide them Admiral outfits.

Sadly for Bert Patrick, what would have been a huge name to add to his company's portfolio turned out to be a false dawn as Liverpool's board of directors overruled Shankly to prevent the deal from going through.

Yet it got my mind thinking: what would Liverpool have looked like in an Admiral kit back then, and thereafter?

Time to get doodling, I thought...

Kit 1: Circa 1973
If Bill Shankly had been backed by his board, this might have been the first pair of Admiral kits worn by his team. (Click on images for a larger version.)

Applying Liverpool's colours to the Admiral kit for Leeds United at the time, you get an all-red outfit with a flappy collar, oval badge and those famous Leeds number ribbons stitched into the socks. Well we can all dream, I suppose...

For the away kit, I've gone for the white and black that was preferred by the Anfield club at the time.

Not bad, but quite plain and basic as were many of the kits at the time.

Kit 2: Circa 1974

Admittedly this is the most 'out there' design of the lot, but this is Fantasy Nostalgia after all...

Here I've used Admiral's Luton Town kit template which would have originally used orange, navy blue and white. Given that Liverpool only wore two colours at home in the early 70's (red and white), I've had to use a bit of artistic licence by adding a darker shade of red on the first kit. As for the vertical band, I hardly think it would have been accepted by the Anfield faithful, but it was somewhat in vogue at the time!

Once again for the away kit, I've chosen a predominantly white and black colour scheme, but this time there's more red thanks to that red band flanked with black.

A more interesting pair of kits than the last ones, but perhaps better suited to, say, a Swindon or a Middlesbrough...

Kit 3: Circa 1975

By 1975, the England national team had an Admiral kit of their own, and that's the design I've used for this third version of what Liverpool might have been wearing around the same time.

Again I've employed a shade of dark red on the shoulders and shorts as an accent colour, but this time it's predominantly red with white trim for the home kit, and quite smart I think it looks too.

For a bit of variety in the away kits, I've provided two options - white/black again, but also an all-yellow version, even though Liverpool rarely wore that colour until 1979.

Personally I think these kits are the most believable of all those shown here and I think Bob Paisley's team would have looked quite fetching in them.

Kit 4: Circa 1976

Yet more flights of fancy now as we enter the era of the glorious Admiral tramlines. For Liverpool to have embraced this design would have meant a leap of faith of gargantuan proportions for club officials and fans alike, and yet it's not completely beyond the realms of fantasy to think of Liverpool in such a series of kits.

One shortcoming of the design, however, would have been exposed when Liverpool became the first top flight team to have an official shirt sponsor around 1978/1979. Having to fit 'Hitachi' onto the front of their kits would've broken up the tramlines motif somewhat, and yet according to my home kit design shown here, it doesn't destroy the whole look, in my view.

Could you imagine Graeme Souness or Ray Kennedy wearing any of these? Probably not, but it's worth remembering that if Shanks had got his way, that Admiral logo really would've been worn by the English champions rather than the Umbro diamonds...

-- Chris Oakley

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game: Semi Final result

The last five days of voting are finally over and now we can announce who has reached our Greatest Retro Football Video Game Final!

Thanks to all the votes you registered, we ended up with a clear winner in Group A and a tie for first place in Group B!

Despite a neck-and-neck battle with Sensible World of Soccer over the first four days, it was Sensible Soccer that eventually stretched its lead towards the end of the Group A campaign to come out top, In Group B, however, there was a three-horse race that proved exciting right to the bitter end!

From the word 'go', Football Manager led from the front, picking up many of your votes, with Championship Manager very close behind. Then in the second half of the voting period, FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 rapidly gained in popularity, and in the final hours before the deadline picked up enough crucial votes to tie for first place with Football Manager. Championship Manager missed out on a three-way tie by just one vote.

Here are the total number of votes cast:

Group A

Sensible Soccer (1992, CA/AST) - 21 votes
Sensible World of Soccer (1994, CA/PC) - 13 votes
FIFA Soccer 95 / FIFA 95 (1995, SMD) - 10 votes
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (1988, C64/ZXS/AST/CA/AMS) - 4 votes
Match Day (1984, ZXS/C64/AMS/BBCM) - 4 votes
Tracksuit Manager (1988, ZXS/C64/CA/AST) - 1 vote

Group B

FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (PC/NGB/SMD/SNES/PS1/N64) - 15 votes
Football Manager (1981, ZXS/ZX81/BBCM) - 15 votes
Championship Manager (CA/AST) - 14 votes
Kick Off 2 (1990, CA/AST/AMS) - 6 votes
Kick Off (1989, CA/AST) - 2 votes
Actua Soccer (1995, PC/PS1) - 1 vote

(Total responses: 54)

With 'FIFA 98' and Football Manager sharing top spot in Group B, we decided to go completely retro by tossing a coin to decide who should reach the Final. Then we realised that this was an outdated and highly unsatisfactory method and opted instead to count the votes gained by both titles in the previous round. It's not just UEFA that can lean heavily on a co-efficient system, you know... ;-)

Having totalled up all the previous votes, we found that FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 picked up 10 while Football Manager scored 26, so it's Kevin Toms legendary management simulation that goes through to meet Sensible Soccer from Group A in the Final.

And that's what's coming next on The Football Attic - the grand finale that will decide the Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever! Watch this space for details of how to vote soon!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Subbuteo: Short-Sided Variations

Think of Subbuteo and you think of eleven plastic men pitted against eleven on a big green cloth pitch. It was ever thus; in its simplistic form, Subbuteo was nothing if not a beguiling interpretation of football on a miniature scale.

What's not so well known is that the makers of this classic football game also made several other variations, each with their own quirks and foibles...

1. Fivesides

"The Replica of Indoor Soccer" as it proudly called itself, this game was launched in the 1950's as a complimentary edition to the regular Subbuteo 11-a-side format. Aimed at improving your playing techniques, Fivesides consisted of a half-size pitch with minimal markings, some tape to act as a low wall around the perimeter of the playing surface, two modified goals and a pea-sized football.

There were three different sets to buy, ascending in price - Introductory, Standard and Deluxe - and the first two of those didn't even come with any players. By using the players from your original Subbuteo set, you could save some money and still enjoy the essence of the game.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: Semi Finals

Welcome back to the Greatest Retro Football Video Game vote-off where we find ourselves at the semi-final stage!

We had a great response to the First Round of our competition, so thank you to everyone that took part. The results were as follows:

Simulation: 1970's/1980's

Kick Off (1989, CA/AST) - 16 votes
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (1988, C64/ZXS/AST/CA/AMS) - 14 votes
Match Day (1984, ZXS/C64/AMS/BBCM) - 10 votes
Microprose Soccer (1988, PC/CA/AMS/AST/C64/ZXS) - 9 votes
Match Day II (1987, AMS/C64/ZXS) - 8 votes
International Soccer (1983, C64) - 6 votes
Peter Shilton’s Handball Maradona (1986, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 4 votes
World Cup / World Cup Carnival (1986, C64/ZXS/CPC) - 4 votes
Gary Lineker’s Superstar Soccer (1987, C64/ZXS/AMS) - 3 votes
Peter Beardsley’s International Football (ZXS/C64/CA/AST) - 2 votes
Pele’s Soccer (1980, ATA) - 2 votes
‘Football’ (1975, BIN) - 2 votes
NASL Soccer (1979, INT) - 0 votes
World Soccer (1987, SMS) - 0 votes

Simulation: 1990's Group A

Kick Off 2 (1990, CA/AST/AMS) - 16 votes
FIFA Soccer 95 / FIFA 95 (1995, SMD) - 13 votes
Actua Soccer (1995, PC/PS1) - 9 votes
International Superstar Soccer (1995, SNES) - 7 votes
Italy 1990 (1990, ZXS/C64/CA/AMS/AST) - 7 votes
Manchester United Europe (1991, ZXS/AST/CA/AMS/C64/ARC) - 4 votes
Super Kick Off (1991, SMD/NGB/SNES) - 2 votes
World League Soccer ‘98 (1998, PS1) - 2 votes
Gazza’s Super Soccer (1990, C64/ZXS/AMS/CA/AST) - 2 votes
Dino Dini’s Soccer (1994, SMD/SNES) - 1 vote
Super Soccer (1992, SNES) - 1 vote
European Championship (1992, PC/AST/CA) - 0 votes
Olympic Soccer (1996, PS1) - 0 votes

Simulation: 1990's Group B

Sensible Soccer (1992, CA/AST) - 27 votes
Sensible World of Soccer (CA/PC) - 25 votes
FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (PC/NGB/SMD/SNES/PS1/N64) - 10 votes
FIFA 99 (WIN/PS1/N64) - 6 votes
Multi-Player Soccer Manager (1991, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 4 votes
FIFA International Soccer / FIFA 94 (PC/CA/SNES/SMD/SMS/SGG/NGB) - 4 votes
Actua Soccer 3 (PC/PS1) - 3 votes
World Cup Soccer - Italia 90 (1990, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 2 votes
Michael Owen’s World League Soccer ‘99 (PS1) - 2 votes
Striker (1992, CA/AST/SMD/SNES) - 1 vote
Champions of Europe (1992, SMS) - 1 vote
John Barnes European Football (1992, CA/AST) - 0 votes

Management / Hybrid

Football Manager (1981, ZXS/ZX81/BBCM) - 26 votes
Championship Manager (CA/AST) - 19 votes
Tracksuit Manager (1988, ZXS/C64/CA/AST) - 9 votes
Footballer of the Year (1986, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 7 votes
Premier Manager 2 (1993, PC/CA/AST) - 7 votes
Player Manager (1990, CA/AST/PS1) - 5 votes
Footballer of the Year 2 (1989, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 4 votes
The Boss (1984, C64) - 3 votes
Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes (1987, ZXS) - 2 votes
Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager (1989, ZXS/C64/AMS/CA/AST) - 2 votes
The Double (1987, ZXS/C64) - 1 vote

(Total responses: 45)

And so to the Semi Finals where the top three from all of the above sections have now been drawn into two new groups - A and B. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is simply to pick your favourite video game from both groups. Once again, you have five days to cast your votes, after which the most popular video game from Group A and Group B goes through to our Grand Final.

Here's the voting form - now it's over to you... Good luck! :)

AMS - Amstrad CPC; AST - Amiga ST; BBCM - BBC Micro; C64 - Commodore 64; CA - Commodore Amiga; N64 - Nintendo 64; NGB - Nintendo GameBoy; PC - Personal Computer; PS1 - PlayStation 1; SMD - Sega Mega Drive; SNES - Super Nintendo; ZX81 - Sinclair ZX81; ZXS - Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

World Soccer: August 1981

With less than a year to go until the 1982 World Cup, there was much concern among the writers of World Soccer. Concern over Spain's readiness to host the tournament, concern over England's ability to qualify, and concern over the standard of football being played by Europe's top clubs.

A survey of officials and observers in Spain suggested the twelfth World Cup hosts would indeed be ready when the tournament started in June 1982, however while the areas of transport and accommodation appeared to be in good shape, the upgrading of certain stadia appeared a little sluggish.

Despite having been appointed as hosts in 1964, work on improving the Balaídos Municpal Stadium in Vigo and the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao was only just beginning, and a similar tale could be told for many of the other 15 venues too. Barcelona's Nou Camp was due to increase in capacity and have a new roof fitted, while elsewhere media facilities were being beefed up too.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: First Round

How do you like your video game football? Do you like the excitement of scoring goals out on the pitch, or do you prefer the cerebral challenge of managing your team to glory?

Either way, the world of computer soccer has offered much in the way of fun, thrills and spills down the years, from the basic battyness of Binatone's 'Football' to the ultra-realistic games we know today. But what's so fun about manipulating a not-quite-right version of Robin Van Persie when you can immerse yourself in the retro world of blocky pixels and badly synthesised music?!

Yes, where The Football Attic's concerned, the less realistic it is, the better we like it - a sentiment we're sure you'll agree with... And that's why we've decided to find out which retro football video game is the best with the launch of our cunningly-titled 'Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever' vote-off!

Over the last two weeks, you've been telling us which retro football games you think should make our starting list, and with thanks to all of you that did so, we can now begin Round 1.

We've arranged 50 titles into four groups: One for playing simulations of the 70's and 80's, two for playing simulations of the 1990's and one for management simulations. What we'd like you to do is to choose up to three favourites from each group. You've got five days to make your choices, and at the end of that period, the most popular three titles from each group will go through to the semi-finals. At that stage we'll have two groups of six where the winners will go through to the Final - more of which in due course...

For now, just pick up to three favourites from each of the groups below, and we'll fill you in on who's through to the next round in five days' time. Thanks for taking part!

AMS - Amstrad CPC; ARC - BBC Archimedes; AST - Amiga ST; ATA - Atari 2600; BBCM - BBC Micro; BIN - Binatone TV Master; C64 - Commodore 64; CA - Commodore Amiga; INT - Intellivision; N64 - Nintendo 64; NGB - Nintendo GameBoy; PC - Personal Computer; PS1 - PlayStation 1; SGG - Sega Game Gear; SMD - Sega Mega Drive; SMS - Sega Master System; SNES - Super Nintendo; WIN - Microsoft Windows; ZX81 - Sinclair ZX81; ZXS - Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Thank you for all your votes in the First Round of our Greatest Retro Football Video Game vote-off. We now know our 12 semi-finalists, so watch this space as we'll soon be revealing who's through to the penultimate stage of our big computer game showdown!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever!

Way back in August 2012, on our second ever podcast, we covered the subject of football computer games and it was a whole heap of fun!

Chris and I were discussing the subject again recently while also observing it's been a while since we had a decent vote-off here in the Attic. Put 2 and 2 together and you get 4... which is a nice bit of maths for you, but nothing really to do with computer games... To that end, we decided we simply had to decide once and for all which retro football computer game is the best ever!

Now, that word 'retro' is there for a very important reason and not just because we happen to be a nostalgia website. No, it's there so we can apply some kind of cut-off in history, lest the poll be overwhelmed with embryos who never got to experience the thrill of three minutes of gameplay after half an hour of epileptic-fit inducing load screens, and for whom the best game ever just depends on which version of 'FIFA' we're on.

For us, to make the cut, the games have to have a large degree of unrealism! 'FIFA' may have realistic player faces (and indeed names) and may look so real as to be almost indistinguishable from a match on TV, but we don't care about that! Where's the charm in realism versus the delights of a blocky sprite going by the name of Alun She-Ra? It's all very well being able to score a screaming volley and watch it back from 30 different angles, but don't we all pine for a simpler time, when goals could only be scored one of two different ways? No? Oh ok... maybe not that last one!

My own personal journey through retro video games starts with one of the worst ever... Arctic Software's 'World Cup'; a truly awful game, but it makes the cut because it's my first... and we're running the poll ;-)

So what else makes the list? Well, that's where you come in... We want your suggestions and if you feel so inclined, a justification of why you think your nomination deserves a chance. And you don't have to limit yourself to your favourite as that's what the vote-off's for. You can nominate any game you've ever played... once we've got a good list, we'll set up the vote-off and let the games begin!

Right - as hinted at, there are some rules... not many though.

1)  The cut-off point - we had to pick a point in time to decide between retro and modern and the point we've chosen is right before the PS2 was released. Why? The PS2 introduced the first batch of almost-realistic games. Sure, the PS1 had 'FIFA' and Actua Soccer which were almost there, but they're blocky enough to shade that degree of unrealism.

2)  That's about it...

So, get nominating on the form below... and keep an eye on the list of games on the Vote-Off Candidates page.


Rich (& Chris).

See also:
Our video game reviews...

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Catalogue of Eras: Marshall Ward - Autumn and Winter 1975-76

Once again it's time to plunge into the long-forgotten world of mail order catalogues as we search for football-related delights to remind us of an innocent time before the internet went and spoiled everything.

On this occasion, we're going back nearly 40 years to check out a Marshall Ward 'club book' that would have been put to good use in the run-up to Christmas 1975.

In our previous instalment, we found that football boots were available to buy in a 1982 catalogue, and here again they crop up, but in two flavours - 'cheap and nasty' and 'I could be the next Johan Cruyff.'

Sunday, 21 September 2014

FKS: Soccer Stars 80

It's my firm belief that FKS should probably have been renamed 'NCM' around the start of the 1980's. 'Non compos mentis' is a fair description of what their football sticker collections were like back then, such were the variable standards employed throughout.

The new decade should have brought about a new dawn for FKS and its sticker albums in the UK, but instead they continued to churn out yet more of their basic, plain-looking stickers that were not dissimilar to the ones they were making a decade earlier. Look closer, however, and you'd have marvelled at some truly laughable examples of photography in the images that were featured, setting FKS well apart from the equivalent merchandise being made by Figurine Panini at the time.

To begin, there was the eye-catching front cover of the Soccer Stars 80 album. Overall, it had a more modern look than the corresponding Panini offering, although the picture showing West Bromwich Albion seemingly playing St. Mirren may have been every bit as baffling as some of the stickers inside. Along the bottom, a caption indicated that the English First and Second Divisions were featured among the 48 pages, and for good reason as this was the first time that Second Division teams had appeared in an FKS collection.

Inside, each of the First Division team line-ups consisted of 13 players, confusingly spread over one-and-a-bit pages. The extra 'bit' meant that some double-page spreads actually showed players from two or even three different teams. You wouldn't have got that in a Panini album, but then perhaps Panini had a bigger budget or better designers.

Each team section was titled in a never-more-Eighties green bubble font, followed by some rudimentary facts relating to the honours won by that team. There was also a handy grid showing their results from the previous season, with spaces provided for results in the current season too.

Sadly, FKS didn't bother with the team pictures and foil badges that were made so popular by their rivals, making do instead with the regular white-bordered player stickers bearing a name along the bottom edge. As for the photos themselves, let's just say they were... idiosyncratic.

While Panini standardised on 'head and shoulders' shots for their stickers, FKS were nowhere near as conscientious. They instead opted to raid image galleries, reuse old pictures from previous collections, take some of their own pictures and even paint over old pictures to form a tapestry of lunatic inconsistency.

If ever you're feeling depressed, just turn the pages of this album in its complete form to quickly cheer yourself up. Smile at Brighton's Peter O'Sullivan pinching his nose as he runs out onto the field for Brighton. Be amazed at Martin Peters wearing his Norwich City shirt from 1976. Laugh at Middlesbrough's Stan Cummins sharing his picture with one of his team mates, or Terry Cochrane proudly wearing his Burnley shirt despite having moved to Ayresome Park in October 1978. As for Trevor Francis, his shirt has had more paint applied to it than the Forth Road Bridge.

Uniformity was a key element of this collection - in more ways than one. Players were shown in their home kits, away kits, old kits, new kits, training kits, tracksuits and in Terry Cochrane's case, wrong kits altogether. The whole thing was a total hotchpotch from start to finish and could be considered to be 'interesting' if it wasn't for the fact that it was actually rather deranged.

In similar vein, the Soccer Stars 80 album featured a dozen England Under 21 players - six shown in the middle of the album, and six at the very end. None of the full England squad were included, though - just 12 upcoming young stars such as Russell Osman (in a grey Ipswich shirt), Derek Statham (distracted) and Kevin Reeves (asleep).

Luckily, higher standards were restored with the excellent gallery of Second Division team pictures, before leading into the Scottish Premier Division team pages that used the same format as their English counterparts. Then at the very end of the album there was the customary 'Special Offer' - something not unfamiliar to Panini fans. In this case, FKS collectors were invited to send off for up to 22 bronze medallions "each representing an English First Division Club from the current 1978/79 season." The front of each coin showed a club badge while the honours and cups won by the team were displayed on the back. Think 'fancy 2p pieces' and you're pretty much there.

With that, you have a full picture of FKS and it's floundering attempts to keep their foothold in the UK sticker market. Though they'd make further collections for another couple of years, they were finally declared bankrupt in 1987, never to be seen again.

It's anyone's guess what their stickers might have looked like had they still been around today, but my feeling is they'd be virtually the same as they always were. A plain white border around a randomly chosen photo - that was the FKS way for years and years. Unable to stray far from that tried and tested formula, it was perhaps this reason and this reason alone that ultimately proved the undoing for Britain's very own answer to Panini.

-- Chris Oakley