Month: October 2007

Two Random Goals; and Master League is coming…

I’m done with my International Cups for now. I got to the final of one last night and lost to a deflected goal in extra time. Perhaps 90% of gamers would just reload their last autosave and play the match again, and again, until they won it. My house rules don’t permit me to do that. I have to go all the way back to the start of a whole new tournament.

Below are the two random goals promised by the post title. I recorded them over the past few days, using my mobile phone. The poor video quality is regrettable but unavoidable. (And you have to take into account the really shockingly poor quality of the PS3 game’s replays to begin with.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kvkOqcp_Pg&rel=1]

Both goals were scored at various times during my ten-or-so stabs at the International Cup since Thursday 25th October.

I won’t be playing any more International Cups for a while. I’ve reached the point now where I think I’m familiar enough with PES2008 to get down to the real business. Master League. It’s finally time. At the time of writing I have already started. I am, of course, playing as Coventry City (i.e. an edited PES United). The real Greg Downs would be so proud.

From tomorrow I will post almost every day – circumstances permitting – about my ML team selections, matches, league positions, transfers, everything. The whole kit and caboodle. PES is deep, deeper than man can comprehend…

I usually play the same career for the entire PES year. For example, during the PES5 year I was unemployed in real life for 6 months, and I managed to get to the game-year 2048 in that time. After finding a job just in time for PES6, I ‘only’ got to 2026. What season will I get to this year? We shall see.

Occasionally I will also post assorted pictures, goals, and miscellaneous video clips from my Master League. Unfortunately I am stuck with a mobile phone camera at the moment. I recorded, converted, and uploaded the goals above as a test. Hopefully a straightforward method will become available to transfer replay save files from the PS3 to the PC, and then create high-quality movie files with them (without having to buy the PC version of the game – my PC simply wouldn’t be able to cope with it).

Let the year-long game begin.

Lamping one in

The shooting mechanism in PES2008 is slightly peculiar for a PES game. It seems difficult to get any height on long-range shots. Most will fly toward the net at head-height. Getting them up, up, up in the air – high enough to curl over and down around the goalkeepers’ despairing dives – seems tricky.

Some people recommend double-tapping the shoot button. I.e., first tap the shoot button, then press it again for the desired power. This actually seems to work, although more often than not the resulting shot flies high over the bar. I don’t remember seeing this in the manual, which I’ve read all the way through from cover to cover (does anyone ever actually use the blank Notes pages toward the back of some game manuals for the making of Notes?).

I suspect it really is just all about the power – that and the player’s placement, his footedness, the proximity of opposition players, angle to goal, wind direction, etc. etc….. It should be no more difficult, from what I have seen so far, to blaze the long-rangers in on PES2008 than it was on PES6 or PES5. In fact I think it might turn out to be easier, what with these slightly dodgy keepers and all. It’s just a matter of getting used to the tweaked parameters in the new game. Time will tell on that front.

I’m still playing International Cups – and still not won one. I’m playing on Top Player these days. It isn’t obligatory for me to win a Cup before progressing to Master League, but it would be nice. I came close today. Something clicked, and I flew through the group stage, thumping my first two opponents 3-0 and then, in the case of poor old Wales (the group minnows), 5-0

The third goal I scored in that match was the best I have scored on PES2008 so far. I had a corner on the right. Instead of pinging the ball into the box and just sort of hoping for the best (as I do with 99% of all corners), I thought I’d try something different. I rotated the view left and saw Gerrard and Lampard standing a few yards outside the box. Gerrard was marked. Lampard wasn’t. I aimed at him and pressed for about a three-quarters-strength cross…

books_totally_frank_the_autobiography_of_frank_lampard.jpg

Beckham has a fine delivery. The ball arced through the air. But I had slightly misjudged the power. I’d wanted the ball to fly directly to Lampard, but it bounced about a yard away from him. No matter. I met the ball on the half-volley and walloped it past all the defenders and the goalkeeper into the back of the net. Nice one, Frank.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KapR-B5FpBI&rel=1]

I was eliminated from the tournament in the Quarter Finals by the Czech Republic. Unaccountably, I found myself 0-3 down within 30 minutes of kickoff. The CPU teams in PES2008 often have this knack of being able to magically twist their way through any and every challenge, get possession back instantly whenever they lose it, and walk the ball into the net if that’s what they feel like doing. I’m not bitter. Not much.

Pass, pass, pass, shoot, goal

After resolving my slowdown issues – *touches wood, throws salt over shoulder, rubs a necklace of lucky charms…* – I can finally get back to what this here blog is supposed to be all about: the joy of PES.

An important element of PES2008 that I’m just discovering for myself is the excellent one-touch gameplay that you can pull off if you’re so minded. It all came together for me this morning. Let me explain.

I’m still plugging away with England in my International Cups. Every year I like to play these Cups until I feel I have picked up enough of the new PES to be able to move onto my beloved Master League and give a good account of myself there.

I’m kind of struggling to make quick progress with PES2008. There was the dreaded slowdown issue to contend with, of course. I am not lying or simply being precious about matters when I say that I was knocked out of at least three International Cups because I either conceded a key goal or missed a key goal due to the slowdown. But it wasn’t all about the slowdown.

One thing I have noticed is that defenders in PES2008 are very happy to run forward into attack and leave the back door wide open. I have conceded some hilarious goals where my entire team has been up around the penalty box and opposition strikers have had clear runs through on my goal. (I’ve also picked up loads of red cards when trying to tackle back.)

I am still experimenting with the Formation screen settings, looking for a way to get my defence to hang back more. Maybe it will turn out to be as straightforward a matter as keeping my ATT/DEF levels low. I usually like to raise it when in search of a goal, and I am almost always in search of a goal.

Of course, just as my defence likes to get forward, so, it seems, does the CPU defence…

Playing against Greece in the final group match of a Cup, I was 0-1 down. It was a good goal they had scored, a fine passing move orchestrated by three CPU players that bamboozled Terry and Ferdinand, and was capped with a rasping shot from the edge of the box that beat Robinson (not that that’s a particularly hard thing to do, eh, England fans?) to nestle nicely in the bottom corner of the net. Nestle nicely. You’ve just got to love the alliteration.

Surprisingly, Greece kept coming at me, and coming at me. I was fortunate not to go 0-2 down, a few times. I’m amazed at how attack-oriented PES2008 is. So far it’s a pleasant change from PES6, and from the comparatively sedate FIFA08. Will I end up disliking PES’s new attack-attack-attack gameplay? Time will tell.

During one of Greece’s 10-man attacks, I got the ball with Lampard just to the right of my penalty box. I passed diagonally forward to Gerrard in his DMF position. CPU players were steaming down on him so I passed, first-time, wide to Beckham. No one was threatening him, but I felt like seeing what this suddenly very supple first-touch passing move might bring. So I first-timed a through-ball down the wing to Owen. The ball skated way ahead of him and he ran onto it. A defender followed him. I first-time double-tapped a cross into the box. And there was Johnson – Andy Johnson – near the penalty spot to head the ball home. Goal!

From defence to attack in a few seconds. Five first touches. One goal.

Yes, this ‘arcadey’-style gameplay is eerily reminiscent of old-style FIFA games, and it might be a reason to beat up on PES2008 in the weeks and months to come. Right now, though, it’s a reason to smile, and punch the air.

Slowdown: The Lowdown

[ANOTHER EDIT, Tuesday 27th November 2007. The PS3 patch has finally been released, and seems – touch wood – to have resolved the bulk of my complaints about offline play. I have reset all the settings detailed in this post and it still seems – touch wood again – to work OK. It’s still relatively early days, though. We don’t yet know if the patch is the final patch. (Online players certainly hope it’s not the last.) It’s likely that slowdown will never be fully eliminated from the PS3 game. So I will leave this post below as written.]

[EDIT, Saturday 27th October 2007: I believe I have found my solution to slowdown, but will let this post stand as it was originally written. I have edited in the details of my solution at the bottom of this post.]

I never wanted to write posts like this one. I wanted this blog to be pretty much an episodic recounting of my day-by-day adventures on PES2008. It still will be that way, I’m sure, in time.

For now, though, there’s a turd in the punchbowl. I’m talking about what many PS3-owners have discovered upon firing up PES2008 for the first time. Yes, the game’s now-infamous framerate issues on the console. I’ll call it slowdown for short.

Many people don’t see it. They don’t know what we’re talking about. They stop short of calling us liars, but they suggest that we’re exaggerating, or that we’re over-fussy and over-critical. “I played 20 games today and saw slowdown just once on a corner OMG what are you people on about!” – that’s about the size of it. Things can get brutal out there in the wild.

What they’re not seeing, and what I’m seeing – along with many others – is a disastrous drop in the game’s framerate that can happen dozens of times during every game.

Most often it will happen when the screen is full of players, or when playing a long ball or having a long shot. The previously silky-smooth game suddenly slows to a crawl. It’s similar to a Bullet Time effect. It can last anything from a split-second to a couple of seconds, depending on the situation. It’s exceedingly ugly and frustrating, as it plays havoc with your timing.

If it happened just on occasions when the screen was packed with players, I think I could live with it – grudgingly, and indeed grumpily, but I could live with it. I played an entire year of PES4 with ‘packed penalty box slowdown’. But I’m seeing the problem under all conditions, at random times.

Just this morning I was playing a big International Cup quarter final, England vs Italy. I was on a breakaway attack. There were four players on screen. Four. I played a through-ball to my other attacker, and the slowdown happened. I had anticipated the ball arriving earlier, and cued up a shot. A shot that never happened, because the ball was still on its way to me. The defender intercepted easily (my attacker completing his shot animation too quickly).

Most games I play have at least one instance of this kind of thing. Some games have several. Some other games have dozens, as I said. I’ve conceded penalties and free kicks and missed easy tap-in goals galore because of it.

PES2008 is a really great game – even with slowdown, I can see that – but for those of us who have yet to play more than two games in a row without potentially game-wrecking slowdown, it’s a great game with serious issues right now.

And maybe I’m even one of the lucky ones. My slowdown is not as bad as some others I’ve heard about. Some people testify that their games are ‘crippled’. Their framerate drops so low so often that the game is totally unplayable. I believe them.

Even at this early stage – today is the official release day – there are suggested solutions to the problem. I’ll recap the main ones:

  • Turn off Stadium Effects (in the game’s System Settings)
  • Turn off Entrance scenes (in the game’s System Settings)
  • Install the game data to the PS3 hard disk (in the game’s System Settings)
  • Change your PS3’s output resolution to 720p (in the PS3’s XMB Display Settings)
  • Switch off various in-game display options, such as Player Name Bar and the like (from the in-game menu)
  • Use the Normal Long camera (in-game Camera menu)

I know, I know. We bought a games console for a reason. Having to tweak this setting, and alter that gizmo, and check the other widget, and so forth, is uncomfortably like PC gaming.

I have tried all of the above and some of them have made a difference. Only two had no effect: changing the camera and changing my PS3’s resolution to 720p – these actually seemed to make things slightly worse for me.

But, using the other measures, my slowdown is about 50% of what it was at first. I can go longer periods without slowdown, and indeed sometimes play entire games without slowdown. But then in the next game, it’ll be back. It’s like toothache: it hurts, and there are periods of respite, but you can never feel totally at ease while you know it’s there, waiting to happen again.

Different stadiums in the game are worse than others. If I could, I would choose to play all of my games at the ‘good’ stadiums. But I cannot choose. In every game mode but Exhibition, the game chooses the stadium for me. And, as Sod’s infamous Law would have it, the game often seems to favour the ‘bad’ stadiums. I played the entire group stage of a tournament at some bad stadiums this morning. It was not pretty.

Grief-stricken would be too strong a term to describe my feelings right now. Away from PES I do have a full and active life. (Honest!) But I do feel something like grief. I also feel betrayed. I have spent so long looking forward to this – the first next-gen PES! on HDTV! – that the corresponding feeling of let-down is intense.

What has not improved my mood is hearing that the Xbox360 version of the game is problem-free. This does not surprise me, having played the 360’s demo a couple of times. I found it to be excellent in almost all respects. Vibrant colours. Good graphics. Smooth gameplay. Only its replays seemed to be afflicted by very minor slowdown. I saw none in-game.

So now I am straining at the leash to go out and get an Xbox360 to play PES2008. But why should I have to do that? I have a perfectly fine next-gen console in the PS3. It is supposed to be the superior console, technically-speaking. The game’s developers must have had it to work on for over a year now. So what has gone wrong?

Perhaps the fault lies not with Konami but with some element of our individual setups. Perhaps some TVs are less compatible with the game than others. Quite how this would be I have no idea. In fact, I think it’s pretty unlikely. Every other game I have on my PS3 runs smoothly without any issues at all times. Oblivion, Resistance, Warhawk, FIFA08(!), and many more – none of them have ever given me a moment’s trouble. FIFA08 in particular represents a kick in the teeth for Konami. It shows that there is really no excuse for even a single framerate drop in a football game.

So there’s no real conclusion to this so far. Konami is reported to be working on a patch for the PS3 game that will arrive ‘in weeks rather than months’. That’s some good news. I hope that they understand just how important this is to the game’s fans on the PS3.

For now I will continue to play the game. I will continue to watch out for news and tips about how to cope with the problems. There is nothing else I can do right now.

What I will never do is do what some well-meaning but misguided people suggest. I will never simply buckle down and get used to it. I will get an Xbox360, or throw myself off a cliff, or both, before I ever just meekly get used to it. If I ever find myself playing the game and trying to take the slowdown into account when making decisions, I will instantly switch off. Permanently.

[EDIT, Saturday 27th October 2007. Late last night I came across a list of settings to tinker with on the PS3. Having nothing to lose, I went ahead and changed them. The result? The end of slowdown! Well, the end of 99% of slowdown. Have a look at the list and try it out if you’re at your wits’ end as I was.

• [Settings]> [Settings BD (Blu-ray Disc) / DVD]> [Booster DVD]> [No]
• [Settings]> [Settings BD (Blu-ray Disc) / DVD]> [BD 1080p/24 output Hz (HDMI)]> [No]
• [Settings]> [Settings BD (Blu-ray Disc) / DVD]> [format audio output BD / DVD (HDMI)]> [Bitstream]
• [Settings]> [Settings game]> [Revamp PS/PS2]> [No]
• [Settings]> [Settings game]> [Smoothing PS/PS2]> [No]
• [Settings]> [System Settings]> [Message notification]> [Do not show]
• [Settings]> [Network Settings]> [Connecting to multimedia server]> [Disabled]
• [Settings]> [Network Settings]> [Internet]> [Disabled]

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