Month: January 2010

Sliders in theory and practice

It was a tough opening to season 9—four defeats and a draw in my opening matches—but, soon enough, things took a surprising turn for the better. The only thing I did differently was to play around with the tactical sliders for a good while. I ended up with the settings pictured below.

I’ve spent most of my time on PES2010 doing my best to ignore the tactical sliders. They’re unPES to me. Oh, I’ve fiddled about with them. I’ve tweaked them here and there. But not to the extent that I have done now. In the midst of a match I must have spent a whole five minutes thoughtfully moving the sliders around until I seemed to have my team playing just right.

The results were dramatic. Here are my next four matches’ results:

This is unprecedented for me. Those ‘box scores’ show me controlling possession and dominating events in every match. The result in Europe against Juventus (the slightly blurry 3rd match pictured) was a particular highlight.

I’ve started to score more freely, and I’m scoring a wider variety of goals to boot. Below are a couple of examples. The first is a worked move that leads to a tidy finish from the edge of the area. In the second, I had just conceded an equaliser against Sunderland, my perpetual next-gen bogey team, and I was fuming about it. But straight from my kickoff, I got myself back in front. The floated cross from deep is a common type of goal for most PES2010 players—it hasn’t been for me. Not yet…

Link: Things look up

I also won and drew my next two league matches. It’s officially an amazing run of form. I’m up to 6th in the League table, and dreaming of the title. The season is only a quarter of the way through, but if this keeps up, I believe I could do it! Could it all really be due to the sliders? If so, I’ll kick myself for not taking them seriously enough so far.

My Europa League group consists of Parma, Juventus, and Dinamo Bucuresti. I still don’t know how I qualified for this tournament after finishing in 9th place last season. Of course I’ll take it. The prospect of matching myself against some elite teams at this stage is intriguing. It’s a tough group on the face of it, but I dealt with Juve easily enough in the opening match. Granted, this came in the midst of my sparkling run. We’ll see how the rest of the group matches play out.

Warning signs?

LLDLL

Season 9 is here. It’s my second season in Division 1. And could it turn out to be the nightmare that I was dreading last season? I say this because I’ve played 5 matches: LLDLL. Wretched form, wretched games.

I was thrown off-kilter in pre-season by some very surprising news. Last season I finished 9th, a couple of places beneath what I thought were all of the European qualifying places. But now I’m told that I have qualified to play in the Europa League. Eh? How did that happen? Anyone got any ideas?

I suppose I should be happy, and I am really. I over-performed last season. This is a sweet little reward for that effort. The inevitable fixture pile-up won’t be welcome, but the additional cash and experience will be. I’m looking at it this way: even if I win just one group match and crash out before the knockout stage, it’ll still be money in the bank that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

And a quick look at the calendar showed me that the Europa League games get underway a good bit later in the season, not at the start. So I suppose that’s something. ‘Our priority is the League’ has become a cliche of modern football, but it’s so true for me.

s9kitaway

s9kithome

I changed both my kits again. For the home kit I decided to go back to basics. The traditional home strip of Coventry City is a plain sky blue. For the away strip I decided to go for something different: a very fetching dark yellow colour that borders on gold. It falls somewhere between Romania and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Next season I’ve got plans to go for something very different on both counts.

season-9-full-squad

I made a few key new signings in the transfer window. And I also sold a few players—notably my star young goalkeeper, Jacobs. I’ve had him since he was a puppy in the Youth Team, so it took a lot of thinking and agonising.

Every player has his price, and Jacobs’s price was £4.5m. Sentimentality is all very well, but I looked at the realistic option that was there on the table in front of me. I could sell Jacobs, and get an equivalently rated young keeper (in the mid-70s) from the Free Agent list for next to nothing. Then I’d have over £4m left to spend on other players—better players than my current crop—who might actually contribute to my team going places this season, instead of treading water. When I thought about it like that, it was a no-brainer.

With the cash in hand, I raided the Free Agents list for an equivalently good young keeper. JAN KUN MU is a year younger than Jacobs, and only a point lower in OVR rating (74). I also picked up a very good WF/SS/CF called SILANOK (76 OVR). In the proper transfer market, I splurged £1.2m on a CF called ITZHAKI (81 OVR). This is my most expensive purchase in my ML career to date. I also paid good money—a token few thousand—for a 21-year-old left-sided SB named FILEKOVIC (62 OVR). I need cover for Ruskin, who is sadly starting to show his age. His OVR rating has slipped down to 60 in the past few seasons. He’s just not the player he was in the early seasons. I think Ruskin will soon have to go, and it will make me sad.

I had a few million left over. I spent some of it on a single staff upgrade (Head Coach, level 3>level 4). I saved the rest—around £1.4m—for a rainy day.

And so the season got going. I’d had a good pre-season, I thought. A good few transfers. I was full of hopeful feelings.

But this feeling was not borne out by results. My first five matches were five very poor games. I was lucky to get that solitary draw. It feels like a different game from the one I was playing at the end of last season.

The new signings have probably diluted my teamwork pool. Possibly my modest success last season was due in large part to the teamwork built up in a fairly stable squad over the previous two seasons in Division 2.

Thumped by Man Utd, and then Man City. Breakaway goals are so hard to stop. When my attacks break down I almost always have to deal with what feels like a mandatory counter-attack that I can’t do anything about. Next-gen FIFA has often given me the same impression when it comes to AI counter-attacks. I do hope that Seabass isn’t copying next-gen FIFA’s bad ideas…

And now for the latest in my mini-series of amusing little clips. During my second leg Cup match against Manchester City, with the tie pretty much already lost, this happened (Man City are the team in black):

Link: Hand of PES2010

I was more amused than outraged by this. I had already lost the cup tie, so the goal wasn’t decisive. That fact helped my smile:seethe ratio to stay in the 90:10 zone. I was tickled by the way the ball goes into my net off the Man City player’s raised hand, but, in the finest tradition of PES collision (non-)detection, doesn’t actually touch his hand…

I’ve scored no goals of any note in these opening 5 matches. I’m out of the D1 Cup. I’m 3rd from bottom in the table. I know it’s only been 5 matches, but I’m a little worried. Could this season turn out to be the season of struggle that I thought last season might be?

season9-early

The magic ball

Season 8 of my Master League career in PES2010 has come to an end. My Coventry City team finished in 9th place in the table. I avoided relegation, which was the main thing. But after being in the top 6 in mid-season I confess to a tiny twinge of disappointment at not clinching a European place. On the bright side, I won’t have fixture pile-up at the start of next season.

Switching up the difficulty from Professional to Top Player had a lot to do with me finishing in mid-table. The game really is very well-balanced on Professional; on Top Player, it’s balanced in the AI’s favour, as is only to be expected. How else is extra difficulty going to manifest itself?

through-his-chest

I did notice one very negative thing after the change up to Top Player. It was an extraordinary increase in the amount of dodgy collision-detection that the game permits itself at times. PES has always had appalling collision detection; PES2010 may well be the worst PES ever in that respect.

There are four particularly ripe examples at the beginning of today’s mini-movie (below). As an example of what I mean, see the picture on the right: in the very next instant, that ball warps squarely through my player’s chest and into the possession of the jostling AI player behind him. It left me absolutely fuming. The other instances of atrocious collision detection also left me fuming, or faintly disgruntled (even the ones that went ‘for’ me), but that one is the granddaddy. A magic ball, passing straight through his chest and out the other side! Think I’m exaggerating? Look:

Link: ML2010 - season 8, Division 1

My goals in that movie brought relief and pleasure, and did much to alleviate the sourness of the collision detection issues, but it still rankles with me. Why do we put up with that kind of thing? (Those of us who are still playing PES, I mean.) Is there any coherent explanation as to why we put up with it? Some of us don’t put up with it, of course; some of us have abandoned PES for various reasons. With a more compelling career mode in next-gen FIFA, I’d have long jumped ship too. Seabass & co. can’t keep dodging that particular bullet year after year. Sooner or later EA will really nail FIFA’s career mode, and that’ll be the definitive end of PES for a lot of people.

Ooooh, was that my first nextgen-PES-bashing tirade of 2010? I think it was, you know.

I didn’t see much transfer activity in the mid-season window. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse for Al Ghani, one of my early-career Youth Team recruits who is now a grizzled veteran of 24. He’s in the ‘good but not great’ category, and so an offer of £4m felt too good to turn down. I could have sold a few other players for a total of £8m or so, but I learned in Division 2 that I need to hold onto my better players, and sell very sparingly, if at all. I’m holding steady in upper-mid-table and occasionally grazing the top 6 with what amounts to my Division 2 squad. Something is going right, and I’d be an idiot to jeopardise it.

I’ve covered this first season in Division 1 very quickly on the blog, because I played through it very quickly. It took me just four long sessions over the space of two days. There were many highlights, not least my good performances against the top teams. I avenged Arsenal’s early-season thrashing of me with a fine 2-1 victory in the return match (the late, late winner from my created player, ‘not-Greg’, is in the mini-movie above).

The usual suspects, Liverpool and Manchester United and Chelsea, are very good too. But, as ever in Master League, it’s the teams you don’t expect to be great who cause you the real problems. FC Porto are monsters in this Division. Seriously, they play at 1000mph and I’m lucky to keep the ball for longer than a few seconds. They beat me 3-0 in one of our fixtures, and in the other I managed to maul my way to a draw like an exhausted boxer hanging onto his opponent for the bell. Are Porto a bogey team in the making? Possibly.

Season 8’s final table:

seasn-8-final-table

That’s not bad at all for my first season in Division 1, after everything that’d gone before. 9th place is much better than I expected. I was only 2 points off Europe in the end.

The very end of the season brought a nice surprise. I was starting to wonder which player(s) I’d have to sell to cover my debts—a depressingly familiar scenario from the lower division. But there was no need. The prize money for a 9th place finish was £3.5m! That cancelled my remaining player and staff debts at a stroke, and left me with pocket money. Now I can afford to hold onto all my players.

Roll on season 9, in space year 2017-2018. Another few seasons and this will officially be my longest ML career since PES2008(PSP/PS2). That career’s stalled in 2023 or thereabouts. I still play a few matches on the PSP, very occasionally. I believe this PES2010(PS3) career will eventually overtake it.

Back in the old routine

My first season in Division 1 has been a whole new lease of life. At the tail-end of last summer, I was slightly besotted with the Xbox360 version of PES6. At the moment I’m in pretty much the same place with PES2010, despite its faults. And after spending no less than 7—that’s SEVEN—seasons in Division 2, things are now a little peculiar up here in Division 1 (of which more later). But hey, it’s still PES. It’s still Master League. And now I’ve got a Treble to win. League, Cup, European Cup. It’s good to be back.

The Treble will be my long-term aim. Over the past few years I’ve got the Treble within 2-3 seasons (at most) of arriving in the top flight. To extrapolate from my struggles in Division 2, I should clinch the Treble just before the PES2011 demo arrives in September.

Right now my aim is to survive in Division 1. I showed enough poor form throughout my time in Division 2 to suspect that relegation may be a real possibility. It’s never happened to me before in Master League—but before this year, I’d never spent longer than 3 seasons in Division 2. Lesson noted. I must be careful, very careful.

season-8-start-squad

First things first: transfer market activity, pre-season. I had no money. The only chance of getting any money was to sell a player or two. And I sold one of my brightest young stars, a player by the name of Faisil Khelie. He was in my squad for a few seasons. He led the line well for much of last season in particular, and he scored a few important goals. The transfer offer that came in for him was not really a ‘Golden Offer’ of the sort that often brightened the gloom in Division 2—it was only for about £3m. But that would nevertheless take me out of debt and into substantial credit; it would enable me to be active in this transfer window, rather than sit passively clicking the button to go from week to week. Ask any Master League fan and they’ll tell you. If you can’t do things in a transfer window, it’s just not the same.

With some excess cash I also picked up a few other players. BAMEN ROBERK sounds like a Ferengi from Deep Space 9, but he’s yet another good young CF snatched from the Youth Team. VOAVY, a Free Agent, is the fastest player I’ve had yet on PES2010 and is proving an excellent winger, and filling in at SS when required. As can be seen, I have lost Hutchinson to long-term injury. He’s out for 4-8 months. Ouch. Al Ghani (out of picture) is filling in. I’m committed now to the 4-3-3 formation.

Division 1 new kits

I also changed my home and away strips for the first time in several seasons. It was always my routine to change at least one of the strips after every season. I stopped changing them as a kind of penance for failing to get promoted for so long. That period is now (hopefully) over.

My opening match in Division 1 was against Manchester City. They’re pretty good in PES2010, as they should be I suppose. I took the lead twice with two lovely Nemeth goals (both in the clip below).

I felt vindicated in my decision to sell Faisil Khelie. The game seemed to handle better in Division 1. Or was I just focused more? But City equalised against me twice. I felt there was nothing I could do about either of their goals, but close inspection of the replays showed numerous instances where I simply button-mashed rather than defended.

I was quite disappointed with ‘only’ a 2-2 from match 1. I met Manchester City again immediately in the Cup. It ended 1-1, a carbon copy of the League match. They won the second leg 0-1, but I wasn’t unhappy to be out of the Cup. Back in the League I beat Bolton 2-1 and loved the fresh and supple feel of the game. Sunderland, my long-standing bogey team since 2007, beat me 2-1. Overall, it was a good start, as summed up in this short clip:

Link: In Division 1 - early games, early goals

See that pitch in the last clip? Looks a lot like a PES6(360) pitch, doesn’t it? The more that PES2010 can feel like PES6(360), the better, in my view.

The season unfolded and I played against all the big guns. Arsenal completely thrashed me 5-0—I hardly had a kick. But I drew with Man Utd, beat Liverpool, and lost 1-0 to Chelsea in a game I should have won easily. The weird thing about Division 1 now is the state of the Liverpool and Man Utd first teams. There’s hardly a recognisable name amongst them. Most of the other big teams still have most of their present-day squads. What has happened at Liverpool and Man Utd?

somesquads-after8seasons

I did well enough against the other teams in Division 1 to be holding steady in 6th place—SIXTH!—at the halfway stage of the season (table below). My goal-scoring problems continue, sadly. I need to accelerate up the ladder towards getting top-rated strikers. Not crawl up it, the way I seem to be doing.

season-8-halfway-table

I’ve decided it’s time for me to cast off the stabilisers of Professional difficulty level and go back up to Top Player. This might seem perverse, almost masochistic. I’m enjoying PES2010 right now. I’m still getting, right now, a decent challenge on Professional, as shown by that 5-0 drubbing by Arsenal. But I do partly share many PES players’ opinions that Top Player is really the only one that counts.

In Friday’s post I’ll complete this first Division 1 season. As things stand, I could clinch a very unlikely first-season European place. But how will that prospect be affected by a sudden transition to Top Player difficulty?

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