Composure 20

Avoiding the sack by the skin of my teeth. I’m doing every post-match press conference in a bid to keep the players’ morale high, but the game is ready for that trick and never quite raises morale high enough for it to seem to make much difference in the following match.

I am more or less resigned to being sacked eventually. I am scrapping hard for every result, and some results are coming, but the overall stature of the club right now blatantly doesn’t measure up to my board expectations. Even if I muddle through somehow to the end of the season, which I think I will, I anticipate the bullet then.

I have actually been sacked in this Leeds career before — back when I was trying out Tactical Defending, and was conceding a goal on almost every AI attack and getting thumped 8-0. I got sacked back then, but reverted to a side-save (and to Legacy Defending).

This time, as detailed last time, whatever happens there will be no do-overs.

I’ve only managed to play one session since last post. A session of 5 matches that yielded 1 win, 2 draws, and 2 defeats. I’m still just above the relegation zone, but not far above.

In my favour there is a 5-point cushion between the bottom 3 and the rest of us. I feared the worst after the last match, a heavy 0-3 reversal at home. The palpable sounds of booing echoing around New Elland Road…

Here is a little 1-minute rapid highlight of key moments from the session. (Apologies for mouse cursor, which I have just now noticed on playback. It is always invisible to me in-game.)

We start with one of the best goals the AI has scored against me – took me by surprise, so it did.

Then there is yet another embarrassing Semi-Assisted miss that I include for comedy value.

Then something the football purists here will approve of – an example of me adjusting to Semi-Assisted shooting by declining to take a low-% shooting chance, and squaring the ball to a teammate in better position. Composure, in Football Manager terms – I has it when I wants it. You rarely see me doing that sort of thing because I hardly ever do that sort of thing. When given the chance to shoot, I shoot. It’s a game, meant to be enjoyed, and shooting from non-optimal angles and ranges is what makes it enjoyable for me. In FM I have my team set to ‘work the ball into the box’ and I frown on long-range shooting, so my stance in FIFA/PES is purely a gamepad-football thing for me.

Finally here is a little moment that occurred after I’d put together the Miscellany above – all Semi-Assisted passing, remember (I’ll stop going on about that soon), and it nearly ends with a fine dinked finish. Good save from the keeper. This is how fine the margins are at the bottom. The match ended 0-0 (a rarity) and this was my best chance.

If I do end up saying farewell to Leeds Utd after 4 seasons it’ll be with great regret.

I could do with one more season to fix my noob errors of the early seasons (and this season).

I am still suffering the effects of my confusion and ineptitudein the transfer market.

I have been stuck with a perennially weak squad for all my time in the Premier League. My First XI is decent, and can give anyone a game, but if more than one or two players are out for any reason, I suffer, because the squad as a whole is massively below-par for the level we’re playing at.

By Tuesday’s post this will all have been resolved, one way or the other.

Do-overs are over

I’m very close to the sack in the latter parts of Season 4 in FIFA20 Career Mode.

Leeds United should be doing better than we are with the time and resources at hand. I’m still hovering between 15th-18th in the Premier League.

This is mostly down to me using this season as another one of experimentation with various settings.

I started out on World Class difficulty, and did well for a time. Until I stopped doing well, and started getting routinely thrashed. I plunged down the table. I belatedly realised I’d be better off going back to Professional.

Then I couldn’t make up my mind whether to stay on Professional or not. The matches were too easy.

I went back to World Class, started getting thumped again, and now I am back on Professional, but playing with a difficulty modifier: Semi-Assisted passing and shooting. And it works.

It works a bit too well – results on Professional have been awful in the past couple of sessions. I remain in the places above the bottom 3 that might be called the ‘relegation zone zone’.

Manager Rating is between 45-55, oscillating up and down. I keep getting ominous email warnings…

I’ve made my mind up that the time for side-saves and restarting is over. One of the things that makes football gaming so compelling for me is the weight attached to events and outcomes. Matches have to mean something. Goals have to mean something. Or they really mean not much more than nothing.

I have to take to the field knowing that everything is on the line. That if I hit the wall here, it really is over. No do-overs. So…

If I get sacked now at Leeds, it is over. No reloading old saves. And no starting again from Season 1 with Leeds.

I will continue as a manager in this world. One of the reasons I’m reluctant to part ways with Leeds is that I’ve grown attached to some of my Youths and want to see how they turn out. But I can just buy them at whatever club I end up with.

That’s if I get sacked. At the moment I am hanging on, just squeezing out enough of a result occasionally to stave off the inevitable sack, which won’t take much to happen.

Very brief highlights of a representative match, at home vs Wolves. Literally just the goals and one or two misses.

This vid is notable for a couple of things.

First, the appalling and comical miss at the start that shows just how much unlearning of Assisted muscle memory I have to do.

Second, the continuing story of how I am constantly tormented by Adama Traore in this game.

Third, in one of the PC platform’s many random events, my recording software has started capturing at 720p max by default, and I still haven’t remembered to go in and fix it…

Incidentally, this video contains one of my biggest bugbears with FIFA20 – note the way Traore twists away from my sliding challenge at 1:10.

The game blatantly reads your controller input and evades a slide challenge even when you ‘know’ it should connect.

Yes, I know, that’s Traore’s unique style anyway, and I should have played better, but it is true in FIFA20 that every AI player is capable of doing that last-nanosecond evasion.

If (when) I get sacked, I will play on and take the next likely job offer, but I am fighting for this. I’ve covered a lot of ground with Leeds Utd in these 4 seasons and I would like to finish the job. Sadly my early noob errors in the transfer market have cost me dear. I am constantly fielding a threadbare, average squad. I need time to set my errors right, but I likely won’t get time.

Aiming lozenges are so 2008

A couple of days of summertime stomach lurgy – you don’t want to know the details – hopefully over and done with, it was back onto the horse, and back onto FIFA20.

With renewed zest!

Regular readers may be familiar with an annual phenomenon that visits these parts: my early summertime slump. This is a period when I seem to be coasting through with perfunctory posts (occasionally no posts at all) and a diminished appetite for the beautiful virtual game.

It’s just one of the features of my football game year. I always, always, always have a slump from around mid-May to around mid-June – plus/minus a week or two either way. I can’t ever have the same intensity all year round

And then around about late June, early July, I do seem to get my second wind, and I’m all fired up again and enthusiastic while everyone else is mostly ‘meh’ until September.

And it’s happened. I’ve got my second wind now. A few weeks of long working hours and an enforced break from the PC for days at a time have helped to re-whet my appetite.

I’m back again with the feeling that sitting with a joypad in hand, playing a digital football game on a screen, is the best possible way to pass time.

FIFA20 is back at full throttle. It never went away. I bet many a regular reader thought they saw the signs of a wobble, and an imminent return to PES, or somesuch – but it’s been a peculiar year so far, an exceptional year, as you may have noticed. PC gaming. FIFA. A Pandemic.

Thumbnail catchup: Season 4 has seen me hit a difficulty dilemma.

World Class is much too hard for me with my modest skills and modest squad – and I am not complaining about the latter. The slow growth of the squad is one of FIFA20’s great delights. Really having time to bed in with a club, and a squad, and get to know players, is a refreshing change from the frenetic pace of Master League career growth in the benighted modern era of the other series.

World Class too hard. 5-0 thumpings at the hands of a rampant AI are routine. Only a matter of time before a sacking.

Professional difficulty, though, is too easy. 3-0 wins are routine. I have to be really sloppy to concede a goal, never mind lose or draw a match.

I was starting to consider the use of sliders as a difficulty modifier, either in the direction of making Professional a touch harder, or World Class a touch easier.

Then I remembered the Assisted/Semi settings for passing and shooting. If you go back to FIFA09 on this blog, you’ll remember the images that, ah, ‘grace’ this post.

Et voilà, all sorted. I now have a happy halfway house between Professional and World Class. Played 8, Won 3, Drawn 3, Lost 2. Goals are precious and celebration-worthy. Possession is sacred. And there is so much else still to come.

Here is the first full match I played with the settings. I’m well aware that few readers will watch all of this, so I have cherry-picked the most interesting moments and linked them separately below.

The first few minutes show me swapping my settings, and then my learning curve between Assisted and Semi-Assisted. And don’t worry, I eventually change the crowd-bothering camera setting too.

Also, apologies for the 720p setting. No idea why this massive 8GB 1440p-quality file defaulted to 720p as the max setting. Completely random.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

My First Proper Shot Using Semi-Assisted

Does this show just how decadent full Assisted settings make us, or what? The crazy thing is that with Assisted settings on, that shot would have been on-target.

A Great Moment For FIFA Realism

When my player gets the ball on the wing, watch my striker in the middle tussling with the defender. I trust the reader will enjoy the outcome as much as I did.

My First Goal With Assisted Shooting

After the fiasco of my previous shot from this sort of distance, I had no expectation that this would go anywhere near the goal. But I reduced the ‘aiming lozenge’ (blast from the past there) and in it rocketed.

I forgot I was recording this match and went into the replay and fiddled about looking for the best view of the goal, thinking to make a standalone goal highlight, before I remembered. Duh.

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And finally, here is a brief video I put together showing a snippet of PES2014 in action on the PC.

Why, you might ask? Why?

After seeing the EvoWeb discussion this week I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

I felt inspired to revisit a game that still lights a burning candle in my heart, not least because I despised it upon its first appearance (horrific release, truly horrific). PES2014 remains widely disdained by the football-gaming community, unjustly so, which gives PES2014-love a bit of sub-cultural cache.

By then I’d played FIFA20 with my new Semi settings and wanted to see how PA1 on PES2014 stacked up.

Mainly though this short clip shows off one of the best things about the PC as a gaming platform.

It wasn’t long before I applied Reshade to PES2014, and well, you can see the results for yourself. The flips between Reshade On/Reshade Off are pretty obvious.

This video, thankfully, plays at 1440p:

I don’t think I could go back to playing with the washed-out colours you see at the start, before application.

As for the wonderful Semi-Assisted passing and shooting – FIFA20 does it. FIFA has always done it – FIFA invented it. The lozenges say so.

Never thought I’d have Lombardo hair a decade later

A big decision to be made: do I stick with World Class and the regular thrashings I’ve been getting?

The sack is looming – and another decision, if I get the sack, what happens then?

Or do I swallow my pride, and admit that it was a season or two too early for World Class, for me, with my modest footy gaming skills? I’d revert to Professional, for the rest of this season at least….

I never mentioned it here but a couple of seasons ago I received a job offer from Fiorentina, one of my favourite Italian clubs in real and virtual life. It was when Gabriel Batistuta was there in the 1990s, and I used to watch the matches, usually hungover, on Sunday afternoons on Channel 4. What great days those were.

I didn’t take the Fiorentina job offer a couple of seasons ago, but I made a separate save for a rainy day, just in case, because you never know, etc. So if I did get the sack now, I could probably hop over to that. Or… I could start again with Leeds, and see if I get as many long-rangers with Hernandez in a new Season 1 as I did a few months ago the first time around.

I was getting a warning from the board after every match. I was surprised the sack hadn’t happened yet.

In the end, I’ve put too much hard work into this Leeds save to let it fall apart on me now.

I swallowed my pride, and changed the difficulty down to Professional – where it will stay for the remainder of this Season 4. I need to get my players in over the summer (more on that below), consolidate, and attack the new season anew on World Class.

On Professional I can win 2 out of 3 matches no problem, probably 3 out of 3 if I concentrate properly.

A solid session lifted me out of the relegation zone and into safety – for now. The FIFA board is notoriously fickle and I might get the bullet anyway at any time (most likely at season’s end), depending on which target I miss out on.

I had a decent January transfer window. Had a good look around for great players out of contract, and found this one, Lisandro Martinez. I’ve shattered my wages structure for him, so Season 5 had better go well.I picked up a couple of journeymen to fill out the ranks and see me through to mid-table mediocrity, hopefully, for the remainder of the season.

I also scored a slightly different goal from a corner routine:

My left-back, Bello, was in that position because I was on an Attacking posture, in which my formation is slightly tweaked to make the full-backs wide midfielders. Which makes Bello stand there at corners.

As can be seen I fluffed the initial shot, but recovered to use his decent left foot very well indeed and tuck one inside the post.

This was my first footy gaming session for a few days, and it showed. I was rusty and did well to get 3 wins and 2 draws from 5 matches on Professional.

As ever I remain blown away by just how high-quality the overall experience of playing modded FIFA20 on PC is.

If anything the shift of gaming platforms this year is more momentous than my move to FIFA20.

There’s quite a bit of precedent for me playing FIFA on this blog. In the early years especially, it was part of the routine for me to give FIFA a few months from spring into summer.

There’s no precedent with me going to PC. This really is new ground broken, and it still feels exciting and new.

The only drawback is that on console, I used to play an occasional couple of matches from the comfort of my bed, several times a week, and those matches add up over time. They’re not happening now. The PC is in its own room, at a desk (where it has to stay), so it’s more of a formal occasion. Which leads to a slowed-down progress. So when work and life get busy, as they are for me, things are slow indeed on the PC gaming front.