Month: December 2009

The Nakamura the merrier

And so here we go again. The story so far: I mysteriously suck at PES2010, or to be more accurate, at Master League. I’m about to embark on my 7th consecutive season in Division 2.

As far as I know, this is my own singular experience of Master League this year. If I’d been told back in October that I’d still be in Division 2 by New Year, I simply wouldn’t have believed it. The tendency of next-gen PES—sadly—has been towards less difficulty, at times to almost idiotic levels of difficulty: not more. And overall PES2010 is a pretty easy PES, as I discovered pre-Master League. So I don’t know what the hell is going on.

At least I’m shaping up for an epic career. Since starting the blog I’ve often referenced my PES5 career of four years ago. The memory of that magical year of PES gaming was most of the reason I wanted to blog about my PES play in the first place. And PES2010 is already hosting my longest Master League career on any of the next-gen games. I really should be happy that I’m in this predicament—and I am happy.

Season 7 started out in familiar territory. I was in a lot of debt. A few seasons ago I expanded my backroom staff levels a little too enthusiastically. I’ve been paying for it ever since. Players first, then staff—that should be the rule. Not the way I did it.

First things first. Clear the debt, which was just over £4.2m:

season-7-debt

I dropped my remaining level 3 backroom staff down to level 2. That shaved a few million off the debt. I could have gone down to level 1 and prevented myself having to sell players, but I was unprepared to go any lower. So I had to sell a few players. Reluctantly, but I sold them.

I sold KOOISTRA and TREJO. They both hurt, but the game was offering me a combined £4,000,000 reasons to swallow my hurt. At a stroke my debt was almost gone. But should I have held onto Trejo and Kooistra and taken my chances with my staff on level 1? We’ll see how the season goes.

Below is my full squad for season 7. The players are pictured all jumbled up after a bit more transfer activity—Nemeth is not a left-sided midfielder, as the 35 next to his name indicates:

season-7-full-squad

BAMEN ROBERK is a Youth Team player. NAKAMURA and BERTOLO were available fairly cheap on the transfer market. I had some spare money after selling a few other players, so I got them. The early signs are that Nakamura in particular will prove to be an essential signing. He’s only in his early 20s in my game.

The season started. I left the difficulty on Professional, and I left the match time on 10 minutes.

I was tempted to change both. I considered moving difficulty back up to Top Player, and the match time to 15 minutes. But I felt unready for both changes. Professional is a well-balanced game. I know that most PES veterans regard anything except Top Player as equivalent to Beginner level. But I like Professional and I find it challenging, so I’ll leave it there for now.

As for the 15-minute matches, I was this close to making the switch, but decided against it for time reasons. With 10-minute matches I can get through a season roughly every 4-5 days. With 15-minute matches I think that’d expand to 6-7 days, at least. So I’ll stick with 10-minute matches for now. The main reason for switching would be to encourage a more focused, less panicky approach to the game, particularly when behind. But I’ll make a concerted effort to do that anyway, in 10-minute matches.

beat-Blackburn

The first three games of season 7 went well. I managed to get revenge on one of my nemeses from last season, Blackburn Rovers. I put in a disciplined performance that dominated possession and choked off all their pacey attacks. I took one of my few chances, the goal rifled in by Nakamura, capping a fine move and sealing a memorable debut. (I’m really very excited about this player.) That victory felt very sweet. I won another match and drew another, and sit in 3rd after three matches.

Naturally it all means precisely nothing. I’ve started just as well or better in all of my recent seasons, and failed to get promoted in any of them.

season-7-after-3

When PES gives you lemons

It’s the end of season 6. My PES2010 Master League career has so far been a pretty farcical—but enjoyable—one, with me oddly stuck in Division 2 from the start. Everybody else in the PESverse seems to be capable of getting out of Division 2 in one season, or at most two seasons. Not me.

Why has this happened to me? I still don’t know, but anyway…

With four matches of season 6 left I was in 7th position in the league table, 4 points off the promotion spots. During close league run-ins, Master League traditionally offers the chasing human player a helping hand, making other results fall just right—as long as you can win your own games, of course. If I could get enough points from the last 4 matches, I could still do this thing. Probably

So what happened in the final four matches? Let’s find out. Let me note here that I’ve played the whole of season 6 on Professional difficulty, in my usual 10-minute matches.

Coventry City 1-3 Blackburn Rovers

Disaster. Mission Improbable seemed to be over before it’d even begun. And I even took the lead in this match. My goal was a decent first-time strike following some nice build-up play. The ball hit the post and rebounded into the net off the keeper’s heel, but that only made it a better, more satisfying goal for me. The game wants me to win! I thought. 1-0 to me was the half-time score. But it’s a game of two halves…

For several years now, taking the lead in a Master League match can be the worst thing you could do. The second half was all Blackburn. Literally. I don’t recall possessing the ball for longer than two passes throughout. I won’t go on about it. Almost any player of PES knows the kind of thing I mean.

Blackburn scored 3 goals and won the match comfortably. I’ve included two of their three goals in the clip—their second goal here was actually their third in the match. It came when I was looking for an equaliser and thought I might actually get it, despite feeling that the pitch was tilted 45 degrees towards my goalmouth. Note the heartbreaking deflection in the area from my created player—‘not-Greg’—that sets up Blackburn’s killer final goal:

Link: Coventry 1, Blackburn 3

Standard Liege 1-1 Coventry City

I took the lead again, but conceded a dirt-cheap goal almost straightaway from their kick-off. The AI is always very dangerous from its own kick-offs after you’ve scored. The commentary specifically mentions it whenever they do get a goal immediately. What does it all mean? Sigh. I don’t know.

Despite these two results I was still only four points off 3rd place. It really is true that the game likes to keep the door open as long as possible. Even if it’s only slightly ajar.

AC Nitsaloskis 1-0 Coventry City

And the door promptly swung shut.

That 3rd-placed team was AC Nitsaloskis. Obviously, beating them would set up a thrilling final match.

I changed to a 4-4-2 formation with widely-placed wingers. Clearly I was getting nowhere with 4-3-3. My midfield felt very lightweight. The AI’s long spells of ping-pong possession were starting to enrage me. And I almost never feel enraged by PES.

Their goal was a joke, I played rubbish, I lost—and that really was that. There was not even a mathematical chance of promotion now. It was always unlikely anyway, I suppose, given my history so far in this career. 10 points from 12 is the kind of form that’s still some way in my future, when I have a better team made up of better players. Will that day ever come?

Portsmouth 1-3 Coventry City

It’s probably no coincidence that my best result of the four was the one that came when the pressure was off. AND that it was against against a lowlier team, of course. The top teams are beasts in PES2010’s ML, for me anyway. I was 3 up at half-time. In the second half the familiar CPU overdrive mode kicked in, but I mostly held them at bay.

And so that is that. Season 6: no promotion. Yet again. On I go to season 7, to try it all again.

The final table:

season-6-final-table

Too many draws cost me again. Despite the mediocre campaign, I had three players in the Division 2 team of the season—Ruskin, Duffy, and my created player not-Greg:

season-6-team-of-season

I’ve given up feeling disappointment, embarrassment, bewilderment, or anything negative about my lack of progress. I’m mostly curious now, if anything. What is happening (or not happening), and why? When will I make the breakthrough? What if things stay like this all year…? At what point would I just give up? (I doubt I’d ever give up.)

This is simply my PES2010 Master League experience, for better or worse. It’s a vastly different experience from just about everybody else’s experience. And I’ve just got to make the best of it. I’ve just got to make lemonade.

Writhing through the snow

Ho ho ho. There’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that something has slightly ‘clicked’ for me with PES2010. Why and how I have found Master League so much more difficult than it seems every other player is still a mystery to me, but I’ve started doing much better. I’m still not scoring enough goals, but when I do score them I’m holding the AI at bay a lot better. Playing on Professional difficulty obviously helps.

The bad news is that, yet again, I might not get promotion. I might be spending season 7 in Division 2. I swear I’m not doing this deliberately.

It was all looking pretty darn good at one point. With 20 matches played, just after the mid-season transfer window, I was 3rd in the table:

season-6-after-20

In that mid-season transfer window I acquired 3 players. I felt on the crest of a wave.

Two were Youth Team players. AN CHONHIN (CB) and FOTECHA (GK). I released Ivarov, Burchet, and Stremer—they were just pointlessly taking up space. The rest of my squad had angry faces on them for a week about the supposed mistreatment of the three players, but they soon forgot about it. I also picked up one ‘proper’ transfer from another club, a very decent-looking AMF/SS/CF called IAKOVENKO. I know: what’s teh point of giving them names? I’ve just had so many players, and there’s nothing to suggest some or all of these new boys won’t be sold to pay the bills come August. We’ll see.

Here’s a great goal I scored with Kooistra during my good run. This is one of my favourites of the PES year so far. I’ll remember this one for years to come. As the ball dropped I was all set to try one of my favourite, first-time showbiz volleys. But I’m trying to stop doing that so much. I decided to try to trap the ball and then take the shot, or lay it off to somebody else.

I tugged on R2, took the first touch, and let off a delicious volley with the ball still hanging in the air after the first touch. The second replay shows the full extent of the goodness. This goal shows why Pro Evolution Soccer is still a force in football gaming despite its lean years:

Link: PES2010, touch and volley

That was a high point; it was downhill from then on. I went on a catastrophic run of 5 straight draws. I lost one in there too—only my third defeat of the season, the least amount in the division. Here’s the situation after 30 matches, with 4 remaining:

season-6-after-30

15 draws in 30 matches have cost me a lot. With 4 matches left in the season, I’m four points off 3rd place with a vastly inferior goal difference. As we all know, PES games do like to assist a chasing human player in the league. It’s likely that if I could pick up 3 wins and a draw, say, in my remaining four matches, it’ll probably be enough to lift me into the promotion spaces. So that’s my target: 3 wins and a draw; 10 points from the final 12. These will be the biggest four matches in my PES2010 year so far.

The final fixtures will be: Blackburn at home, Standard Liege away, AC Nitsaloskis away, and finally Portsmouth away. The first 3 teams in that list are all above me in the table. The matches should comprise an interesting little microcosm of my ML career so far. In Monday’s post I’ll cover them all individually.

season-6-endgame

When they really are out to get you

A shorter post today—but there’s an amusing video clip in it.

I’m nearly at the halfway stage of season 6 in my Master League career on PES2010, where I continue to languish in Division 2. It’s been, er, quite a ride so far. Out of my 16 matches played, 8 of them have been draws. And the score in each one of those 8 draws? 0-0, in every single one.

And I’m playing on Professional difficulty now. I should be ashamed of myself. I’m not ashamed of myself—not really. But in some measure? Yes, I am a little bit ashamed of myself.

I’ve come to terms with the possibility that this season might not be the semi-automatic stroll to promotion that I thought it’d be when I dropped down a difficulty level. What is going on with me and this game? There is nobody else in PESdom, to my knowledge (nobody over the age of four anyway), who is struggling with Master League as I have struggled with it.

I do have a theory.

Recently I’ve been noticing the in-game advertising. That’s the point of advertising, to make you notice it, so it’s worked. The pitchside advertising hoardings can be updated remotely over the Internet. Currently it features endless adverts for upcoming Christmas football on TV. Konami have granted themselves the ability to update parts of the game without telling you first. So: could Konami have somehow nobbled the gameplay in my PES2010?

At times over the past two years I’ve been harshly critical of next-gen PES (and PES2010 won’t be getting off lightly in the fullness of time). Konami surely know that this blog can sometimes get as many as two hundred hits per day, and so they have taken steps to annoy me. They’ve sent a squirt of something nasty, just a few lines of code, up the Internet and into my game. They’ve made my game harder than everyone else’s!

Yes, I’ve decided that’s almost certainly definitely what’s been happening. Konami have decided that my frequent next-gen-bashing over the past 2 years has got to be punished. It’s really the only possible explanation.

————-

Now I’ve got a novelty clip to show. At kick-off in a recent match, one of the CPU players suddenly decided it was all pointless. He despaired of everything. It was all futile and there was no point in carrying on. “What’s it all about, really, at the end of the day? What’s it all for?”

Link: PES2010, what's it all about

I’m 5th in the table. Once again, just look at that goals scored column—it’s just so feeble:

season-6-after-16

Next time on PES Chronicles: it’ll be Christmas Day (bah humbug), and I’ll be going shopping for new ‘talent’ in the transfer market. And will I start scoring some goals?

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