Up Pompey

It’s official: Become A Legend has taken over my gaming life. I think this was pretty obvious anyway, but now I’m formally acknowledging it. For all BaL’s faults—and, like PES itself, they are many—I am enjoying it.

FIFA09, Valkyria Chronicles, Mass Effect, and the dozens of other games that I planned turning my time and attention to… have all been placed on hold. Possibly this BaL enthusiasm will burn itself out after I’ve got a full career (or even just a few more seasons) under my belt. I have to say, though, speaking as a PES fan of long-standing, it’s nice to discover some life in the old girl yet.

There I am, pictured down there, looking happy in the middle of a training match after laying on an assist. The smile is a bit ‘Toy Story’, isn’t it?

bal-bluehair

My first season was pretty error-strewn. I tried to play everywhere on the pitch. I moved clubs for no real reason. Almost everything you shouldn’t do, I did. Here at the start of my second season, I’m at Portsmouth and looking for a bit of stability.

When you move clubs in the early stages of a BaL career, you do have to start all over again in the Reserves at your new club. That was strangely okay with me. I liked playing entire matches again, and further exploring what’s possible (and not) as a single player on the pitch in PES.

How to play as one player in a team of AI players? It depends. As a raw Youth, I can’t go chasing all over the pitch trying to get the ball. Maybe when my created player is older, faster, and stronger, that might be feasible—but not now. By the time I get to where the ball is, it’s somewhere else. I’m almost always chasing shadows. Soon enough my stamina runs out and I’m good for nothing even when I do get the ball. It’s very rarely now that I play like that.

I’ve slowly—painfully—learned the best things to do in most given situations, and adapted my play accordingly. I’ve learned what the AI will respond to, what it’ll ignore. Simply playing my position isn’t a good idea—that way lies anonymity and stasis. I have to get involved, be a winger sometimes, a forward sometimes, a defender sometimes. (All without simply running around aimlessly, of course.) I grant myself a free role, but always anchor myself in that CMF berth. Short darting runs into space in midfield: the AI loves that, and I see the ball a lot. They love to pass the ball ahead to me if I’m in space on a wing. If I make a run through the middle of a defence, the AI is brilliant at spotting the run and playing a good ball. Alas, I’m still looking for my first proper goal scored with my feet in BaL.

Portsmouth are a decent team, and we started the season very well. A few good league wins put us up in the top 6. I was still scratting around in the Reserves, but I kept an eye on the First Team’s progress, knowing that it would materially affect my own fortunes.

I earned my chance in the Reserves ‘A’ team, and did well. I qualified for the subs’ bench in a proper match. I sat and watched the CPU vs CPU matches extremely grumpily, and came on and tried to do too much. At least I did well enough to avoid being bumped down to the Reserves again. With four midfielders in a fluid 4-4-2 formation, my prospects are better at Pompey than they ever were at Villa.

bal-growing-stats

I had a few above-average substitute appearances, playing well enough to notice my stats climbing match after match. Then came a breakthrough match.

Away to Middlesbrough, we were 0-1 down when I came on in the 65th minute. I played great, the best I’ve ever played in BaL so far. I saw a ludicrous amount of the action. I had 28 touches on the ball in those 25 minutes (that’d be a respectable figure for a full match). All my passes found their mark. I lobbed a few dangerous through-balls over the defence for Utaka to chase (what a speed demon he is), but we couldn’t quite  get back on terms.

Then I ran ahead of one of our wingers, going for a pass. This move is something you learn to do in BaL. You have to do it, to nullify the effect that the terrible winger AI has on the pattern and flow of your attacks (it tends to kill them). You have to take charge yourself to a certain extent. I’ll be interested to see how this dynamic alters, if at all, over the course of my career.

Here’s the replay. Weirdly, the YouTube clip cuts off just before the ball goes into the net. I am, of course, the player with blue hair:

I loved this moment. The cross, the headed goal (don’t know quite why we don’t see the moment the ball goes into the net, but I promise that it did). After the match I was stunned to see my match rating. 6.5 is the highest I’d ever got in BaL so far. Getting an 8.0 was nosebleed territory:

scored-an-8

And there was more staggering news when I returned to the main menu screen. AT LAST…

bal-set-to-start

That’s posed as a question, but it was a fact. I was in the starting line-up for the next match. This is massive for me. Nervous? No! Yes. YES.

I’m loving this mode. It feels a lot like the intense early days of a Master League career, when you play long sessions for a much longer period than you really intended to, and can’t wait for the next one. Roll on my very first start for the first team.

16 Comments

  1. Congratulations! It’s great that you found some new life in PES 2009 and are enjoying BAL. Great assist, and smart overlapping run to create the opportunity. I must say your winger doesn’t look that stupid, the way he fed you that clever ball. Good luck on “becoming a legend.” See ya later.

  2. steph_wheeler – yes, still playing and enjoying BaL, and I project that it could last for a fair long while yet. Re. the wingers in BaL, they’re only stupid when left to their own devices. I have to say that the AI overall is brilliant at spotting your runs and feeding you the ball, as I will be talking about in more depth on Wednesday.

  3. Good to see the love for pro evo is back, this seemed like a long shot a couple of months back!

    I think this mode may just have saved the series for a lot of the fans, my hope is that in pes2010 you can become a manager master league style following on from your playing career.

    Looking forward to watching the clip when i get in from work (can’t open this page at work again for some reason), i hope you’re gonna colour your hair for every new team!

    Bring on wednesday’s entry!

  4. One thing that’s annoyed me with the AI in PES in general is that your wingers basically refuse to make deep or overlapping runs. In BAL, you can do that work for them, and you’re right — more often than not they’ll find you. It opens up the number of spaces you can play into, so for BAL it works.

    I’m really glad to hear that you’re enjoying PES again. I am also loving BAL at the moment, and totally agree– it’s like the early part of a good ML when it’s all potential and goosebumps.

  5. am i the only one that found BaL to easy? by the end of the 2nd season i scored in almost every game. in the 3rd season i scored 100+ and won the trebble with Spurs.

    my stats for the 5th season were somthing like played 52 scored 161 and 51 MVP’s. Only 6 assists,my record… My playing stats were mostly in the 80’s with 3 or 4 in the 90’s.

    i played as a CF and as soon as my player was good enough i didn’t pass, at all… i’d just hang on the last man making runs or drop in the hole and turn the defender, i even scored 7 goals in one match.

    i gave up after winning 3 consecutive trebbles with Spurs.

    BaL is really missing a harder difficulty setting.

    being a (rather large) CF it was to easy to predicit the AI and exploit there weaknesses maybe i’ll start a new one with a CMF and see

  6. liam—I noticed last week that the blog had gone a bit screwy in IE6 again. They still have IE6 at my workplace too, and the blog was crashing the browser completely. I thought we were past all of this! I’ll have to look into it again, as incredibly IE6 is still (I think) the most common browser out there, and sites have just got to be compliant with it whether we like it or not.

    Glad you’re enjoying the unfolding BaL story. As ever I’ll save it for the posts, but I think BaL is shaping up to be epic.

  7. ck—The quality and range of the AI’s passing to you when it’s playing behind you is very, very good indeed. It delivered a delicate diagonal chipped through-ball the other morning that put me clean through on goal. (Naturally I blasted the ball vertically out of the stadium.)

    There are rumblings – can’t remember where I felt them – that PES2010 will not feature BaL. As much as I’m loving it at the moment, that’s not a deal-breaker for me (yet). The overall gameplay and feature-set of PES2010 will be the ultimate deal-maker or -breaker.

  8. Great to see you enjoying PES again, your enthusiasm shows through in the most recent posts, and I’m starting to regularly follow your BaL exploits – Valkyria Chronicles just didn’t do it for me 🙂

    Although I did read your FIFA posts, if only to get a feel for the game that is supposed to be the main competition to PES.

    I’m tempted to start a proper BaL career of my own, I’ve only played it briefly when PES first came out..

    At the moment though it’s all about Champions League, playing the final 4 in the current knockout stages…

  9. Max—I think questions like this all depend on the individual (human) player’s skill. You don’t say what difficulty level you were playing on, but yes, I have heard plenty of others saying they found BaL a little easy after a certain point. Well, all I can say is that I’m lucky/unlucky enough to be an average player. I’m near the end of my second season now and nowhere near the levels you describe. Granted I am playing as a CMF. And I’m using the Vertical Wide camera (did you use that cam?), which seems to add an extra layer of difficulty.

    Time will tell. I found Master League really hard for a few seasons, then found it really easy. This BaL is all new to me. I hope it goes on much as it’s started for me, but even if – if – it does pass over into easy territory, I’ll still look back on these intense few weeks with pleasure.

  10. diego—What’s that you say… you mean there’s another game mode I haven’t played yet?!

    Glad you’re enjoying the BaL posts. If you do try BaL, make your mind up before you start that you’ll give it at least a season, and then stick to that whatever happens. That’s what I did, and it got me through the awful, awful first batch of games, when all I could do was wish I had the ball…

    Oh, and don’t move clubs for the sake of it. Best to stay at your first club (unless their formation is a real stinker for your position). I’m still catching up on the time I wasted in the reserves at my second and third clubs.

  11. I run a website that gathers appx. 150,000 unique hits in a month, and our breakdown has these numbers:

    – 33% of total hits were using Internet Explorer 7.0
    – 12% using IE 6.0
    – 3% using IE 8.0

    ^ Our visitors are 84% from the U.S., with only 3% from the UK, so YMMD, but I bet these numbers are very close to your blog.

    If you’d like to know exactly what your traffic is doing, and control your domain (i.e. can upload files), email me and I’ll share the tracker I use. WYSIWG interface, appx. $30.00 so somewhere around 20 pounds.

    ——

    If PES 2010 were not to contain BAL, it would be shocking . . . in that it wouldn’t be shocking at all. In fact, it would only confirm for me how out-of-touch Seabass and Co. are. This has been a wildly popular game mode; having lurked around the ML stories forum on PESFan, I’m surprised how many of them are BAL stories in disguise. Almost all the ones I follow are.

    Personally, I’d love to see a fixed-cursor option in ML, where you could pick which player of a set you wanted to control. Desperately need that draw? Better control a DMF or CB. Need 3 goals to advance? Pick up your CF. Could be fun.

  12. ck – isn’t there a fixed cursor option in the general in-match menu in all game modes? I’ve never looked, but I’m sure it was possible in the PS2 games. Even if it’s there somewhere in PES2009, I doubt I’d ever choose to use it in ML. One thing I haven’t got to yet in my recent posts is that I’ve resumed my old ML save using the Vertical Wide camera. It was initially to familiarise myself with playing BaL in that way, and I found I really enjoyed it for its own sake.

    Thanks for the offer re. the tracker, but my host provides a weekly stats digest, I just haven’t checked in on it lately. I don’t doubt your site’s browser figures are accurate and representative of wider usage, but the % is a little surprising to me, if only because it indicates >50% of your visitors using a non-IE browser – ? Is that right?

  13. Yes — total IE usage is 49%. The days of 90% market share are ovah. Ovah! Ultimately, you have to support your market share with a strong product, not the most inferior one. The amount of hate IE gets is entirely due to Microsoft’s unwillingness to play with the other kids in the sandbox and the resulting suck. Slowly, the other kids have marginalized them.

    Firefox is at 35%, Safari at 10%, and the remainder split between another 15 types of browsers. Interestingly, Chrome is at 3%, the largest of the “off-brand” browsers. I’m looking forward for Chrome for Mac. If I were on a PC, I’d be running it for sure. It’s nifty.

    But to put Chrome’s numbers in context, 3% are also using some version of IE 5! IE 5 is so jacked up, I don’t even test for it anymore. Honestly, if you’re running IE 5, I just can’t help you.

    The lesson for web developers is, develop for standards-compliant browsers, hack for IE. IE 7 is pretty close to good, actually, and supposedly IE 8 is standards-compliant, although I’ll believe it when I install it. 😉

  14. ck—that’s amazing, the last time I can remember hearing the stats, IE as a whole was still on more than 90% of the market share. That was a few years ago, mind, roughly the time I switched to Firefox, and also learned the rudiments of HTML and CSS. I’ve let all that go rusty since. No time, you see.

  15. No i didn’t use the stndard BaL camera that would have a lot to do with it i think. I first discovered the BaL style camera in PES4(contrary to some opinions one of the fav PRO’s) while “experimenting” with Magic Mushrooms…

    Me and 2 friends were mid trip and i decided to try and play a few games, i couldn’t focus all that well so i tried changing the camera and suddenly WOW!!! am i in the game? I asked my friends if they were seing the same thing i was and they couldn’t belive it either. We had never seen or heard of this camera before and actualy felt like i was in the game.

    anyway the next day back in the real world i tried it again and although fun after a while all the spinning made me feel a bit sick…

    for the sake of my carpet i only played with the BaL camera a couple of games, maybe you should try it until your player improves a bit?

  16. Max—I’ve done my fair share of gaming under the influence of various things, and it never really worked for me. It was too fast, there was too much coordination needed, etc. I used to like playing PES after a few drinks, but even that’s beyond me now. I am getting old…

    The default BaL camera is just the Vertical one – I think you might think I mean the Player camera, where the point of view is down at pitch-level and in-close on your player? I don’t mean that one at all – I think it’s unplayable, really. All that twisting and turning. No wonder you were freaked out under the influence. It makes me dizzy under normal conditions.

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