Month: November 2009

That’s me in the top corner

Season 1 of my Master League career has come to a tame end. I finished a dismal 15th in the table. I scored a pitiful number of goals. (But only conceded a few more goals than the team that won the league.) Overall, it was a disappointing end after a promising start. I’ll have to hope I can get my game back together for season 2.

There’s a lot to be said for the romance of the struggle in Division 2, but it’s wearing thin for me. Taking my previous, abandoned ML career into account, this coming season will be my 5th spent playing in the lower tier. I’m keen to get out of here and get on with things now. I really want to see and hear my team striding out on a Champions League night, for example. Will I get there before Christmas? It’ll be a mite embarrassing if I don’t.

I can’t do anything in Master League without decent players. The Defaults—even the quite-good PES2010 Defaults—just don’t do it for me.

I only had a bit of money to spend. After the financial calamity that did the most to bring my first career to an end, I proceeded cautiously, checking Expected Earnings every week. I signed DALMAT (SMF/WF) from Standard Liege for a fee. VAHRUA (AMF/CF) was a free agent. JACOBS (GK) came from my Youth team. I got tired of GKs turning down my offers, and looked in-house. Jacobs is only a 53 OVR rating, but with Lothar and Ivarov not much more than that, I figure it’s worth it. I also brought in two other players from the Youth team: KOOISTRA (DMF) and PELAEZ (SMF).

Oh, and I found out why Expected Earnings isn’t always reliable. This is very important for anyone getting by on a tight budget. If a CPU team makes an offer for one of your players, Expected Earnings will count that as if it’s a done deal. I had an offer of £1.3m for Oscar sitting on the table for several weeks of the window. There was no way I would take the offer, but Expected Earnings included the possibility of the deal being made as part of its calculations. Thus my potential final balance was £1.3m more than it should have been. I’m now certain that I was caught out by something like this at the end of my first career.

new-season-2-kits

season-2-full-squad

And so I go into season 2 with a decent squad of 24 players. Alas, there was no money left over to buy any staff upgrades. I’ll have to put up with mostly blue and purple form arrows for another season. I also changed my kits, as usual, going for some black shorts in the home kit and a mostly-white away kit. I’ve also, finally, given up (for now) on playing with an orthodox 4-4-2 formation. I’ve gone back to my favourite ML formation of 4-3-3, hoping the players I’ve brought in are good enough to make it work. I’ll soon find out.

I played two games at the start of the season while all the transfers were going on. I won one, and drew the other.

Here’s a clip of two goals from those matches. Both of them found identical positions in the same net, high in the right-hand corner (or the left corner, as the PES commentators would always—wrongly—call it).

The first goal is from Schwarz, and was a typical blast from the edge of the area following a cleared free kick. The second is a late, late equaliser from Rivas that had me up on my feet. The weight and inertia of the ball in PES2010 is such that when you catch the ball right, you know you’ve caught it right. I knew this shot had a chance as soon as I hit it. Seeing it fly towards goal and then arc over the keeper was a classic PES moment, and one of my best moments in PES2010 so far. No, actually, make that the best so far. It was a vital moment and a vital goal in a big season for me.

Link: Rivas and Schwarz

Take me to the Rivas

So I was doing pretty well in season 1 of my restarted Master League career. From here on I’ll stop referring to it as ‘restarted’. It’ll just be my ML career, and that’s that. I’m not pretending that the first, disastrous career never happened. I still have the save file. It might be interesting to go back to it at some point in the future, hopefully equipped with some PES2010 ninja skills, and see what I can make of it.

A few typical Default-team 0-0 draws soon knocked me back to mid-table, where I’ll be happy to finish. Mid-season came, and I looked at getting some new players. Not many. I’ve learned my lesson. The new all-year-round negotiations system is manifestly not a license to spend, spend, spend—even if the game will let you, which it often won’t when you’re bottom of the heap, as I still am.

With a lot of caution, then, I’d started my negotiations at the end of October. By the time the January window rolled around I had one decent player queued up for arrival, and a couple of others still thinking about it. That decent player is called KUKTAYAN. He plays at AMF, SS, and CF. Of the several who were thinking about it, only one accepted my offer. E. RIVAS is a two-footed player who can play at SMF, AMF, and WF, and I’ve got high hopes for him. In PES2010 it’s more important than ever to have players who can play in several positions.

They’re the only two players I brought in from outside. Both were free agents. There was no transfer fee, but their wages hit me hard straightaway. From the Youth team I brought in KIM JONG YEOL (CB). I left Shimizu where he was. He’s pretty weak at the moment, and his wages are expensive. He’s not worth it. I suppose I could always sell him at the end of the season for a tidy profit. But there’s no guarantee, and I’m exercising utmost caution in my transfer dealings. I don’t want the pain and humiliation of seeing my best players sold without my consent, and/or my hard-earned staff upgrades abruptly cancelled.

I sold a few players to even things out. I sold Zamenhof and Castolo and one or two others. I’d seen flashes of the mythical Castolo, but I need money, and he’s pretty rubbish, overall. Like I said before, in future seasons I’ll watch for Castolo’s reappearance in the game as a Youth, and try to get him.

I turned down very good offers for Ruskin, Schwarz, and Oscar. I could have sold Oscar for £1.5m at one stage—that’s the cost of three hefty and very useful staff upgrades, right there. But I wasn’t even a tiny bit tempted. The CPU teams love Oscar, but they’re not getting him, not this time.

I would have liked to get a good quality goalkeeper, but the three or four whom I negotiated with all turned me down. I had a look at my Youth GK, but his stats were so poor that it didn’t seem worthwhile. Ivarov and Lothar would have to do me.

Ivarov is decent enough but neither he nor Lothar could be called great. Both of them more or less permanently have blue or purple form arrows. It’s a rare match—1 in 6, roughly—where Ivarov even has a green arrow. He had an orange arrow in a recent pre-match screen, and I nearly fainted with excitement. I won that match. Ivarov played really well, making a couple of good fingertip saves when CPU goals looked certain.

I pay close attention to the form arrows, and always have. I spent several years playing Master League where I would never, under any circumstances, field a player who had a blue or purple form arrow. In PES2010, this mechanic has been tinkered with. Sometimes you can’t avoid playing players with blue or purple arrows. I’m getting used to it, but I still don’t like it. I’ve noticed that a run of wins will make the arrows perk up, but I think I’ll need a few staff upgrades to make the blue/purple arrow issue go away, or at least fade slightly.

One sign that the formation arrows have been raised in importance in PES2010 is that they’re displayed by default. You don’t have to press anything to see them. They’re right there in front of you, slapping you about the face.

I checked my Track Record in the Gallery menu before signing off for the session. Before looking at this, I would have guessed that my total time on PES2010 would be about 30 hours. The official figure is 51 hours. 46 of them on Master League alone. Gulp. And over an hour spent online (back in week 1)! I detest playing online. That’s the only hour of the 51 that I consider wasted.

track-record-16-Nov

The Golden Castolo

I learned a lot from my first—suspended—Master League career. So far I’m doing pretty well in season 1 of my re-imagined Master League—the one with all the proper teams inhabiting Division 2, and where I’ll do my best not to go broke due to too many negotiations.

Gutierrez is so far proving as good as he was in that first career. For me he’s definitely the new Castolo in Master League. I’ve scored my favourite goal of PES2010 so far with Gutierrez (I’ll get to that).

But what of the old Castolo, Castolo himself? For several PESes now I’ve had to watch with utter disbelief as the myth of Castolo has been shouted from the virtual rooftops. And meanwhile the player has just been no good. IMO Castolo’s enduring reputation in Pro Evolution Soccer is a clear example of the process whereby folklore, through ceaseless repetition, is transformed into canonical law within a community. As a phenomenon it’d be deserving of a place in any study of comparative mythology. Castolo would have to get his own chapter. An entire generation of PES players remains hypnotised by his myth.

Yes, yes, yes. I know he was brilliant in the early years of Master League. And I know he can still be decent now—as he has been, actually, for me at the start of this career.

The 34-year-old Castolo has come into my team and done well. I can’t deny it—but it doesn’t mean anything, okay? Ximelez and Macco and Ruskin are all doing well too. The other Defaults have to earn their daily bread and their plaudits; Castolo is deemed to be automatically entitled to them, just for being Castolo. That’s what puzzles me about the myth of Castolo.

I’m playing a 4-4-2 formation. My first-choice striker to partner Gutierrez up front started out as Ordaz, but the latter picked up an injury in training and was missing for the first month of the season. I brought in Castolo, grudgingly, hating every particle of the myth of Castolo. I was duly surprised at how fluidly he handled, and how he seems to have a knack of making things happen. He’s held onto his position, even with Ordaz returned to fitness. Castolo is currently one of my most influential players—after Oscar, my promoted Youth starlet, and Gutierrez, of course.

Season 1 after 17

I’ve only scored 7 goals all season so far. Castolo got two of them and assisted on a few others. Here’s a clip showing one of his goals, a stooping 90th minute header from a corner that wonderfully equalised for me in a match that I looked certain to lose. The second goal is a strange clipped half-volley from Macco, also from a corner, that I include more for curiosity value:

Link: Castolo and Macco

After 17 matches, half the season, I’m in 8th place, just three points off the promotion spots. I’ve scored a pitiful amount of goals (7), but conceded a few as well (6). Conservative passing is the key to success with the Defaults. PES2010 has only now started to come alive for me and show its true depth. Until this current phase, I had thought PES2010 was just a serviceable, bog-standard, next-gen PES game, one that I’d be lustily slagging off by January. Currently, I love it, as much as I loved PES6(360) towards the end of this summer just gone.

I might still be slagging off PES2010(PS3) in January, of course. I just don’t know yet. Give me another few seasons of Master League, and time to assemble a squad of decent players. Then I’ll know.

There’s bags of potential for the future in PES2010. Could it be the first PES since PES6(PS2) to occupy me for the full calendar year? Football people talk about the value of a box-to-box midfielder. The value of an October-to-October PES could not be measured in mere gold. Super Gutierrez

And finally I have a special replay to show. The goal might not look like much to some, but I loved scoring it. There are three replays from different angles. It’s my favourite goal in all my time on PES2010 so far. It was scored with SuperGutierrez (right, and possibly about to take off and fly). It’s a clipped, placed, dipping, curling shot from about 20 yards that goes in off the post. Unlike many other PES goals, there’s no real power in this shot. It’s all about the placement. It was an important goal too, which made it even more special:

Link: Gutierrez clipped curler

Starting again, for the first time

New-D2

For various reasons, I’ve broken with my settled tradition by restarting my Master League career in PES. This is the first time ever that I’ve done this. I’ve been playing Master League since 2002. In all that time I’ve sometimes ‘completed’ careers and gone on to start new ones, but I’ve never abandoned my very first one of the PES-year. I had my reasons for jumping ship this time, and they were good ones.

One of the major reasons was that I originally bungled my league setup. I’d foolishly chosen to play in Division 2 with made-up Konami teams. It was amusing at first, but the novelty soon wore off. The other teams might as well all have been called ABCDEFGH UNITED. There was no sense of occasion to any match. In setting up the new career I took great pleasure in hand-picking the teams that would make up my new Division 2. I included one of those made-up Konami teams, just for the hell of it.

Season 1 formation and 1st XI

I took my time over the formation and First XI. Once gain I’d promoted Oscar and Schwarz from the Youth team, and there was a starting place for both. (I’ll be more careful with Oscar this time around.) The formation is a slightly tweaked 4-4-2 with wingers slightly pushed forward and the defenders slightly withdrawn—a FIFA-style 4-4-2, dare I say it. If the aborted career taught me anything it’s that I’m nowhere near ready to play 4-3-3 just yet.

PS3-crashes-here-a-lot

Game 1 was against Dinamo Zagreb. I was in for a nasty surprise before kick-off. The game froze on me and I had to restart the PS3. Again. This does keep happening to me with PES2010. Not very often, but often enough for it to be annoying. If it’s going to happen, it always happens in the first game of a session, and always at the same place—when the players are lining up in the tunnel, as pictured.

I hear this is a recurrent problem on the PS3, but possibly just on some models. Mine is a repaired 60GB original. I’ve taken to pressing START immediately to make the game skip loading the intro scenes, and that seems to have alleviated the problem.

New-ML-1st-game

I won that first match against Dinamo Zagreb. It was a really good match, one of the best kind of Default matches, with all players fit and in form. I played really well, and had several epiphanies abut the PES2010 gameplay that I’ll talk about next week. (It’s all about the passing and the players.)

Game 1 with a new Master League team often goes suspiciously well, so I’m not planning the open-topped bus parade just yet. Gutierrez—the new outstanding hero of Master League, IMO—got the only goal.

And things continued pretty well. I’ve started this new career a lot better than I started (or finished) my last one. Scoring goals is still a problem, but I’m defending better. I’m in 10th position after 7 matches.

New-ML-after-7

I’ve learned a harsh lesson from the financial fiasco that helped bring down the curtain on my last career. I’ll be very careful about bringing in any new players until I know exactly where I stand. The new scouting/negotiation system means I have the leisure to spend the whole season looking at players and making offers. I’ll take my time.

In other news, there’s a surprising new hero to stand alongside Gutierrez up front. That player’s name is… Castolo. Regular readers will know that I have no time and no patience whatsoever for the stubborn myth of Castolo. But when Ordaz was out injured for several weeks, I picked Castolo. He was the scorer of my other goal so far, and generally he’s handled pretty well out there on the pitch. If he wasn’t 34 years old he’d almost be a prospect. I’ll still sell him at the first opporutnity I get, but I might look out for him as a Regen and see what new stories I can create with him in the future.

Assuming, of course, that I’m still playing this career by that stage. I think I will be.

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