The A500 Club was formed in 1991 by Certain Select Amiga Games as a place where they could meet and discuss Matters Of Great Importance in privacy and comfort. There are leather chairs. There are luxuriant carpets. And there is oaken furniture polished to a deep lustre by shuffling retainers in tail coats and striped trousers.
The Members work hard to maintain an atmosphere of gentility and sophistication, and employ a World Class kitchen staff so that the Club might serve as a place where a game can eat a decent meal away from home in civilised surroundings.
And where it may take friends and business acquaintances for a quiet chat about, oh, I don't know, this and that, away from the hustle and bustle of The Industry.
Tonight is a special night at the Club, it is time to elect a new member. Gaining membership of The Club is a lengthy and arduous process. A game must first prove itself worthy before a panel of Expert Reviewers and then pass a lengthy interview by the Special Membership Sub Committee. Only then is its application put to a vote by the Members.
Each Member is given two balls - one black, one white, and each about the size of golf balls. A velvet bag is passed from Member to Member and each places into the bag a ball according to its preference - white to accept, black to reject. A complicated formula is used to determine the number of white balls needed on any given day to secure membership for the Applicant, and the tally is recorded in The Great Ledger by the Loyal Membership Secretary.
The successful Applicant is invited to take its place among the Members in the Joystick Lunge. There they may sip F-Max and relax before the Initiation Ceremony and the Passing Of The Sacred Secrets. As Honorary Members, the MIGHTY BEINGS of AMIGA POWER are privy to the mysteries of the Ceremony and, indeed, of the Secrets, but we are bound by Solemn Oath never to reveal them to Leisure Suit Larrys (Club slang for non-members). We are allowed to say that they include the use of dongles.
There are fewer applicants these days and there is usually a large turnout on Election Evenings. Conversation in the Joystick Lounge is animated and noisy as the Members wait for the results of the Reviews and Interviews. Tonight, after the Reviewers had finished their work, the Applicant was called to meet the Special Membership Sub Committee.
"Please state your full name for the record," said the stern-voiced Chairman, F1GP.
"I am Total Football."
"Like the magazine?" asked Monkey Island.
"Yes," replied Total Football, wearily, "just like the magazine only not connected with it at all."
"Very well," continued F1GP, "Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?"
"I'm an isometric-view arcade football game. Some of my friends say I look a bit like FIFA. I try to concentrate more on action than simulation and I've tried to be as playable as Sensible."
As he spoke, both FIFA and Sensible looked up from their note pads and began to pay a great deal more attention. "I've got a full array of international teams - although I haven't actually got a licence from anyone so I can't use real players' names - and I offer a range of tournament styles, from Friendly to League and a knock-out cup, support two player action and two-button joysticks. And when the Player scores they can control the celebrations of the on-screen players with a bit of joystick waggling and button pressing."
Like the magazine only not
"I see, said Cannon Fodder, this year's Treasurer.
"The report from the Reviewrs says that you play exceptionally well. It says you might even be a rival to Sensible." The Committee chuckled at this and look at Sensible for a comment. He stayed unusually quiet. "What have you got to say about that?" the Treasurer asked.
"Well, I'm flattered, naturally. I've tried to make sure that my controls are accessible and that it's as easy to get started on a game as possible. I haven't bothered with a load of tedious tactics and management rubbish - the player just chooses a country and a formation for them and gets going."
"What?" said FIFA. "No variable weather? No team selection? No statistics?"
"I've got weather, yes, but the team selection and stats just get in the way as far as I'm concerned. With all due respect, you were designed with the American market, where they love their sporting statistics more than their own mothers, very much in mind."
"And with your FIFA licence you could afford to mess around with players and all that caper. I haven't got to worry about any of that. And football isn't about statistics. It's about thrills. And action. And Saturday afternoons in a freezing stand with a mug of Bovril and a chees roll. Do you know what I mean?"
"I know," Sensible assured him, "I know, FIFA and I have been having this argument about playability and realism for years. But you've gone for realistic-looking graphics. Why was that?"
"With all due respect to you, too. I wasn't interested in looking like a cartoon version of football. Team tried that and look where it got him". There were laughs around the table and a few of the rowdier games threw bread rolls at a hand-coloured box on the mantelpiece.
"I wanted a realistic look with arcade accessibility." The roll-throwing continued and looked like getting a little out of hand.
"I say, you chaps," said F1GP, desperately trying to bring the meeting to order. "Put those bloody bread rolls down and let's get on with the business in hand. Do you mind? Thank you. Well, my lad, I can tell you that our Reviews Committee has written a glowing report. They say, 'With looks like FIFA and playability almost on a par with Sensible, Total Football is an all-rounder of exceptionally quality. Only the lack of subtlety in the player control - a hurry-up button for pursuing players would have been nice, for instance - and a lack of player identities marred an otherwise superb performance."
"Total Football doesn't quite have the magical playability of Sensible but it's an admirable synthesisis of the two, producing a good looking and superbly playable football game which we enjoyed immensely."
"Golly," spluttered the Applicant., "I never expected all that. I know I'm shooting myself in the foot a little, but are there any negative things in the report?"
"Oh yes," said the Chairman, "But mostly minor ones. Apparently your players all look a little bit like... where is it? Ah, here we are.
Shooting myself in the foot
"The players in Total Football look as they might have been extras in the crowd scenes in Planet Of The Apes. They have human torsos and limbs and they move much as men do, but their faces are startlingly simian. We thought it was just the goalies at first, but closer inspection showed that it was all of them. It's a small thing, but it did add an extra dimension to the game to imagine that, just outside the stadium, Charlton Heston was shouting his despair at the sky with Liberty's torch thrusting poignantly from the sand in front of him. It probably won't work for everyone."
"The main criticism they had was of your difficulty level. It seems it's much too hard to beat the computer controlled teams. Even the very bad ones."
"I wanted to be a long-lasting game, it's no good being so easy that the Player can beat the computer 10-nil every time - where's the challenge? And anyway that's not the reason most people buy football games anyway. I put all my best efforts into the two-player game."
"Yes, well, I have to say that the Reviewers agreed with you," replied the Chairman. "They say that as a two-player game you can rival any of the greats and that with all that dancing and shirt-waving the Players can make their goal-scorers do you'll be the cause of many a Saturday night punch up in living rooms across the land."
They chatted for another hour until finally, the Chairman thanked Total Football for coming and asked him to wait in the lobby while they proceeded with the vote.
In the Joystick Lounge the Loyal Membership Secretary, Theme Park, presented the findings both of the Reviewers and the Special Membership Sub Committee. She described his realistic graphics and simple controllability. She noted the variable match-length and weather. She remarked upon the fact that it wasn't possible to switch control between off-the-ball players and the extreme effectiveness of the goal keepers.
"All in all", she said, "Total Football is a dman fine game, and the Committee recommends that you accept him into the Club. My colleague will now pass the bag among you. We have used Farthingale's Left-Handed Rule to determine this evening's pass rate and I am obliged by the Rules Of The Club to tell you that Total Football requires white balls from 119/156 of the total membership less Those Abroad Or Address Unknown as of the thirteenth of last month.
We shall then apply the Apple Pie Rule to 2/3 of the remaining un-cast votes with a view to reducing the..."
"We've counted them. He's in," shouted a voice from the back.
"I knew he would be." Theme Park said and sat down with a can of F-Max.