THIS PAGE COULD ACTUALLY be called "QTANFABTMSB": Questions That Are Not Frequently Asked But That Maybe Should Be. However, due to "Tips & Trivia" being a somewhat jazzier title, we have in the end decided to use that instead. Yet, the basic idea behind this section really is what any self-respecting QTANFABTMSB page is about - to tell you everything you ever wanted (or didn't want) to know about Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, without you actually having to ask.
Much of the information on this page comes from our personal experiences, observations and web search. Quite much more comes from January 2002 when we had the wonderful opportunity to exchange emails with Graham Blighe himself. He revealed a number of interesting points about the way EHIS works and how it came to be. As a result, a large part of the following is some sort of a collage of those posts, glued together in a hopefully readable manner. Of course, any misinformation and misunderstandings are ours, and ours alone.
Warning!: Much of this page discusses technical aspects of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. This includes the A.I.. If you for one reason or another do not want to know about the inner workings of the game, stop reading here.
PETER CALVER, the producer of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer and then managing director of Audiogenic was the initiator behind the game. He had decided to produce a good football game, and not just one that would make some easy money. As a result, he was looking for programmers both willing and able to do it.
Graham Blighe had spent a year at IBM and subsequently studied mechanical engineering at university. After graduation he had started programming on Commodore 64 ultimately creating a program called Turbo Disk to boost the reading speed of the C64's 1541 disk drive. Turbo Disk had been picked up and released by Supersoft, which happened to be part of Audiogenic. And in all its brevity that is how the paths of Calver and Blighe crossed.
At first the basic idea was that Blighe would write the Commodore 64 code and then have other programmers to convert his code for other platforms. However, as no one they asked showed any particular interest towards the task, Blighe ultimately found himself sitting at home writing all five different versions of the game (C64, Amstrad, Spectrum, Amiga, Atari ST). That is also the reason why Emlyn Hughes International Soccer did not appear simultaneously on every platform. Instead, it took more than two years, spanning from the C64 release in 1988 to the final Atari ST lauch in 1990. (After which, you could say, the game was renamed and the project continued as "European Champions". But that is a different story.)
The first version was coded on a C64, assembled with Mikro assembler and then tested on another C64 that was wired to the first one. (For the later versions the code was assembled on a PC and then transferred to the individual machines for testing.) Blighe's biggest problem with the code was to somehow include all his own ideas as well as Calver's endless supply of suggestions into the limited amount of computing power and memory that a Commodore 64 had to offer. As the final product shows, he did that brilliantly, and the Commodore 64 version of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer still stands as a marvellous piece of engineering, as well as being an extremely fun game to play! Yet, Blighe's squeezing out the last bit of what the computer had to offer was not without some sacrifices. The source code had to be broken into chunks, using jumpblocks to link the different parts together, and Blighe was even forced to leave out all the comment lines in his code in order to save some crucial bits of memory.
As Commodore 64 only offered 8 sprites, Blighe also had to create a system that would guarantee that no more than those 8 sprites would be used at any given time. Born from that restriction was the part of the program's code that would make sure that there weren't too many players on the screen at any one time - without such a check one could for example easily end up with no goalkeeper! As a result, and since the ball is one of the 8 sprites, each team usually has only three players visible (or, indeed, in existence - EHIS thus really operating in a universe where Berkeleian subjective idealism is let loose). Occasionally, of course, there are four players for one team on the midfield, and obviously at the end of the field there is the goalkeeper who is the eighth sprite. Yet, it was only later on in the 16 bit versions of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer made for Amiga and Atari that all the players actually existed at all times.
There were yet other compromises that had to be made with the Commodore 64 version because of hardware limitations. The initial plan of implementing scrolling colour memory to add texture to the grass was discarded, as were some matters related to simulating real football, most notably the red and yellow cards, as well as the referee himself. It is also because of the 8 bit limitations that in the C64/Amstrad/Spectrum versions the ball can only move in a limited number of directions, while the 16 bit Amiga/Spectrum versions of EHIS allow it to pratically go in an infinite number of ways. This, combined with routines that check where the ball is going exactly for optimal kicking/heading, is the reason why it is far easier to pass and especially head the ball in the last two incarnations of the game.
GRAHAM BLIGHE WANTED to maintain the highest possible frame rate in the game, and that often required hours of studying various printouts in order to shave a few clock cycles off a critical piece of the code's execution time. In the hierarchy according to which execution time is allocated to different tasks, the critical jobs such as scrolling the pitch and moving the players and the ball depending on their individual speeds is first done in an IRQ routine that overrides everything else. After that, what is left of the execution time is given to the "secondary" aspects such as the AI, the sound effects and updating the various texts outside the playing field. As a result, when there is too little execution time left, some of the players may start wandering around aimlessly, or can even momentarily get stuck somewhere, as there is no processing power left to direct them. Of course, whenever this happens, it usually does so only for a fleeting moment, and the effect is not as dramatic as it may sound. All this can in fact even come as a surprise for some who have played the game ever since its release.
As a side note, when there is too much execution time available, something that never happened on Commodore 64 but what can occasionally be the reality on some (less perfect) C64 emulators, players tend to wind up in big clusters as they are all suddenly super-quick in their tactical calculations. Yet, even on those emulators there are moments when some players seem to completely lose it and start acting extremely strangely, suggesting that some bugs remained in the code, despite Blighe's best efforts. We, of course, prefer to call these things features.
The A.I. of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer is, along with the freedom of control, obviously one of the reasons why we are still playing the game. It is also something that remained largely unchanged throughout the different incarnations of the game, for although in the later versions the computer players may seem to play marginally better football, this is only due to some monitoring code checking that the guys haven't gone haywire. But how exactly do the computer controlled players live and think? Well, although we do not know the exact principles and parameters, we can reveal that the players are each assigned an individual function depending on their position on the pitch as well as their distance from the ball. The player in control of the ball or in the best position to gain the possession of it is marked as the "primary player", and he is given tasks such as avoiding tackles, shooting, and so on. Meanwhile, the other two or three players on the side of the possessing team are given other tasks like trying to be in a good position upfield to receive a pass. At the same time, the player in the other team who is closest to the ball is allocated the task of gaining possession of the ball, while the others will try to mark the opponents. These tasks are then obviously constantly updated, although not too often so as not to create aimless confusion among the computer players.
The toughest part for any computer football game programmer, however, is probably the goalkeeper. If you take a moment to consider how difficult it is in real life to make the kind of decisions that goalkeepers do, and then continue the thought-experiment by thinking how close to impossible it is to actually put into words any guidelines that a goalkeeper should follow, you then start to understand why programming the goalkeeper is not fun. However, you apparently cannot truly know the difficulties until you have actually tried to explain to an 8-bit computer what the essence of preventing a ball from hitting the net really is. So, the next time your loyal keeper makes what looks like a childish mistake, do think twice before you curse his name!
One of the most crucial components behind just about any computer game is the possibility to rely on random numbers. On Commodore 64, these were created by setting one of the SID channels to produce noise and then reading the value of that noise from a register. Interestingly, this may be the reason behind some observations so often made when emulating Emlyn Hughes International Soccer on a PC. Namely, (unwatched) matches involving two computer teams are far more prone to end up in a draw than what is the case on the Commodore. The theory goes that since the random noise is produced through a SID channel, it may be that the emulator does not perfectly randomize that noise, and hence the draws occur. Similarly, this may also be the reason why the computer is so lousy with penalties on the emulators, hardly ever scoring, while on Commodore 64 the computer nets roughly 50% of the spot kicks.
LET'S FACE IT, football today is really about money, and money is more often than not about business, and business is and has always been about advertising. And, surely, this does not seem to be any different in the world of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. It is, after all, called "Emlyn Hughes International Soccer".
The number of people wondering about the choice of person for the name and the face of the game has throughout the years been large. Considering that when the game was released in 1988 Emlyn Hughes had already been retired for half a decade, it may indeed seem puzzling that he was chosen as the godfather of the product. Yet, Peter Calver didn't see it that way. He reasoned that Emlyn being a popular TV personality at the time, and one who wasn't really associated with any particular team at that point, he would not put anyone off from buying the game. Moreover, at the same time he would, as a legend, appeal especially for the parents who remembered his greatness on the field, and might buy the game for their children.
Then there was also the need to fill the hoardings at the side of the Commodore 64's field without making them too repetitive. The Audiogenic ads were of course guaranteed, but it took some ingenuity to fill the rest. Yet, Peter Calver ultimately managed to make a deal with Match and Early Times magazines in which he traded some of that advert space for a word or two about the game on the pages of the mentioned publications. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, was not even contacted - Calver thought that the multinational giant wouldn't mind some free advertising, and so they just put the Coke advert there for realism's sake.
In fact, the Match and Early Times magazine ads were added only just before shipping the game. Consequently, many of the test versions sent to game magazines included different hoardings, as you can see in the following screenshot published in the December 1988 number of Commodore User:
Meanwhile, the Amstrad and Spectrum versions have no advertisement boards, just a mention of Match and Audiogenic at the top of the screen. Finally, on Amiga and Atari ST the advertisement texts are somewhat different. Audiogenic and Match are still there, but instead of Coke and Early Times there are a number of ads for Super League Manager, a game closely related to EHIS.
THERE HAD BEEN TALK of doing a version of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer for Commodore 128. It would have taken advantage of the extra 64k of RAM and all of those grand 2 megahertzes of raw power that the machine had to offer. However, this never progressed from the planning stage as Blighe was so busy doing the other ports.
The fate of a planned DOS version of the game was similar. After the five different platforms the game had been released on, the last version of EHIS, which at that point was called Wembley International Soccer, was to be for DOS. Blighe was already more than half-way through programming when Peter Calver suddenly sold Audiogenic and with it the rights to the title, as well as to other Audiogenic best sellers, to Codemasters, and the development stopped.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF FACTS about Emlyn Hughes International Soccer that you become familiar with after playing the game for, well, over 15 years like we have. One is that if you head a ball that was just thrown back into the game following a throw-in, and then try to get it under your control with the same player, you will simply run through the ball as if it didn't exist. Apparently, there is a bug in real life, since in reality this never happens. In any case, if you want the ball after you have headed it from a throw-in, the only way to do so is to change the player you control or let the opponent touch the ball first.
For some reason many fledgling EHIS addicts also tend to find changing the controlled player difficult. Although it is fully covered in the manual, many have the habit to do this in the wrong way (call that "intuition"). Just to help you in your frustration: changing the controlled player is achieved by pressing the fire button down, then pushing the joystick to the direction where the player you want to control is, and finally releasing the joystick button.
Another matter well covered in the manual but surprisingly badly known even by those who have played Emlyn Hughes International Soccer for years is how to make substitutions. This is how: When the ball is out of play, pause the game, press Q and you will be led back into the game menu. Go to 'Pick team' and make the necessary changes, then click on 'Play match' and un-pause the game. The ball is considered to be out of play when there is a free kick, a throw-in or a corner, or when the ball is in the goalkeeper's hands. Note that you are not allowed to substitute players when either of the teams scores.
Something that a lot of people have spent hours - even years - wondering about is whether one can score from a goalkeeper's kick-in. Well, you actually can. When he performs his opener on the lower part of the screen, you can try a leap of faith against his kick to perform a spectacular head-goal. However, a word of warning: scoring is very difficult, and on average only happens about once in 350 years (or that is the average from our community's playing experience). Most of the time you miss the ball, and even if you actually succeed hitting it, it will most likely end up flying against or well above the crossbar.
Finally, you may want to know that pausing a match and then pressing "@" displays you the text "Written by G M Blighe" on the top border where the player names usually go. If you want to try this with an emulator, note that some emulators cut the top and bottom borders of the game, and that the "@" key is situated next to "P" on a Commodore keyboard (so, where "[" is on an American PC keyboard layout).
This page is full of behind-the-scenes information about Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. From the left-hand column you can read, among other things, an account of how the game was made, how some of the most crucial parts of it function, and what was left out. Meanwhile, the right-hand column serves you some interesting bits of information you probably didn't know about, as well as some priceless tips about how to become a master EHIS player.
Graham Blighe, the man who wrote what we think is the greatest football game ever, is himself not a fan of football.
A match can end 102-0, but you will not see it written on the screen. Apparently, the game only counts goals up until 99, after which the score becomes marked with an F. No one has yet had the patience to try out whether a game ending 101-102 (F-F) would be recorded as a tie or a victory.
You can take advantage of the game's way of handling players when playing with another human player. This works especially well with opponents who are very slow to respond either because of their poor reflexes or, when playing online, their huge ping. (It must, however, be stressed that it is not considered good sportsmanship to use this trick in the latter situation.)
Click the pictures to open full-sized versions in separate windows.
1) When trying to get past a defending player who, in running before you, happens to end up being close to the edge of the screen...
2) ...make a quick turn...
3) ...run back until the other player is out of the screen (notice how your opponent comes to control a player far away from you) and then turn back...
4) ...to run towards your opponent's goal and voilą, no more opponent in front of you!
Interestingly, the player names in team Italy are all food names in Italian.
Here are screenshots capturing some of the funniest features sometimes found in the game. Note also the somewhat darker colours than usual: these screenshots were taken with a different emulator than the rest of the images. Click the images to open a full-sized version in a separate window.
Mexico '86 all over again?
Are they perhaps trying to favour Spain?
Hey!? Where's everybody?
...apparently not here, either.
Higuita, Italy '90 style... Really, only the scorpion kick is missing.
Now, seriously, was it really a corner kick or perhaps a corner throw?
You can take advantage of the computer's habit of marking a player during a throw-in and a free kick. The following only shows how to do it in the former case, although it should be clear how to transfer this knowledge to free kicks. This tip, obviously, only works when playing against the computer.
1) When attacking right, stand on the left side of the team mate throwing the ball at you.
2) Then, suddenly, start running towards your attacking direction (here right) and ask for the throw.
3) Once you get the ball, you already have a crucial head start against the slowly reacting computer opponent.
Because of the way the goalkeeper reacts to different situations, there are a number of places from where scoring is relatively easy. But it must be stressed that this is only relatively so, for it is not enough to be in the right place at the right time (like in most other games), as the strength of your shot depends on the fitness, skill-level and the running speed of your player. In any case, below are some screenshots of places on the field that are good for scoring. (Click to open full-sized pictures in new windows.)
This is what is commonly known as the "cheap goal" (or the "cheap shot"). Basically, when running on either side of the field, kick a high shot towards the goal, and if you time everything perfectly the ball will bounce so that the goalkeeper dives under it. This type of goals are often not allowed when playing online with unequal pings.
This is a variation of the previous one. This time you are running diagonally (here from up-left), but the kick and the outcome is basically the same. However, it is a bit more difficult to succeed in, as you cannot choose the shooting site as well as in the previous one. (Still, it is ruled out if the "no cheap shots rule" is used when playing online.
This is an annoying one for the opponent. Somewhere around the Early Times logo, shoot a high ball towards the goal, and if your timing is correct, the goalie will dive away from the ball. However, in order to succeed, you should not be vertically in the middle of the field or it'll bounce from the goalie. Yet, do not go too far on the side either, or you'll shoot wide. This is also ruled out if the "no cheap shots rule" is used.
This one looks nice. Basically, when running vertically in front of the opponent's penalty area, kick a high ball towards the goal, and with a bit of practice it should go in relatively often. Works also when running downwards. This is allowed with "no cheap shots rule", but of course not allowed when the "no shots from outside the box rule" is used in online games.
This is much used in online games. When you have entered the opponent's box from the lower side, shoot a low ball with your joystick pressing straight upwards, and the ball will enter the goal just about where the upmost forwarder's head is now (good that EHIS has no offsides!). Note that you have to shoot earlier than you might imagine, or the goalie will catch it.
And finally, everyone's favourite easy goal. If you manage to make it through the opponent's defence, just run towards the goalkeeper, and right before he is going to take the ball away from you, smash it to the roof of the goal.
Because you may be even lousier than the computer when it comes to penalty kicks, here are some different ways that people have found useful when given the opportunity to face the opponent's goalkeeper from the spot.
1. Hold down the joystick and press fire when the refree whistles. This should produce a good shot towards the lower part of the goal.
2. To score to the upper part of the goal with the same method, the joystick has to be pointed diagonally towards the direction one wants to kick to. So, up + the direction opposite to the one the player is facing.
There is a very neat way to start the proceedings when two players play together.
1) When you have the kick-off...
2) ...the central player should, right after getting the ball, start running downwards and as soon as possible make a (high) pass to the other human player who, meanwhile, has been running towards the opponent's end.
3) If conducted properly, the winger should, after receiving the pass, now be running towards a very good place to score with no opponents in sight.