Month: August 2010

FIFA11 and the pressing concern

The Treble is over for me in PES6(360). After losing all three of my opening European Championship group games, I had to win the remaining fixtures to stand any chance of progressing. Game 4 was against Inter. I lost 0-2, and it was a pretty miserable performance all round.

At least I’m still top of the league and I’m 1-0 up after the first leg of the D1 Cup quarter-final. So the Double is still on. But it’s the Treble I want, and I’ll have to get it to feel any sense of closure with PES6(360). I’m disappointed—and time is fast running out in the current game year. I should be able to squeeze in another season or two of PES6(360) before the end (Dwarf Fortress willing).

At this time of the year a lot of my football gaming activity is related to the imminent new games. I always have something to say about them, and it’s always necessarily personal and opinionated. I’ve railed against my own pseudo-journalism on this blog—which was conceived as a regular diary of my football games playing—but I can’t help indulging myself every now and then. Particularly every August and September.

FIFA11 has received a fearful kicking over the past few days. At the time of writing (Thursday evening), the forums are still boiling over. It’s all based on a  couple of dodgy videos filmed on the Gamescom floor on Wednesday.

You can’t tell anything about the most important part of a football game—how it feels, to play, in your hands—from videos, no matter how good or bad. But FIFA11 looks ridiculously fast, which is worrying enough. More worrying still is the clear evidence in several videos that next-gen FIFA’s most unattractive feature, the dreaded double-sprint-pressure clamp, is still in the game.

In next-gen FIFA, sprint-clamping has gradually been turned up to the max. Turned up to 11, you might say. It is so extraordinarily, unbelievably, shamefully effective. By this stage the ‘technique’ is so widely known and generally despised that its continued presence in the FIFA series can only be a deliberate, conscious choice on the  part of EA.

“If you don’t like it, don’t do it.” This argument has never, ever washed with me. Whether it’s super-sprinting in PES2008 or double-sprint-pressuring in FIFAs 09 and 10, if something is in the game, it’s in the game, as EA themselves would say.

And I’m speaking just as an offline, 1p vs CPU player of football games. I never play online. When I moan about sprint-pressuring, I’m moaning about myself. I’m the one who uses it in all my games. Knowing it’s there, I have to use it.

Sprint-clamping will be the death of next-gen FIFA as a serious football game in the long run unless Something Is Done. Feeble tokenistic gestures—tweaking this or that variable to mitigate the effect by a few fractions of a percentage point—are not good enough. The whole damn mechanic needs to be got rid of, or reduced in effectiveness so much that it’s only effective 10% of the time, say—instead of 90% of the time, as it is now.

God knows what online players must have to put up with. I did play a few matches of FIFA10 online, way back at the start of the footy game year. My random opponents might as well have glued down their sprint, tackle, and secondary pressure buttons.

Having said all that, I’m not too worried about FIFA11. Over the course of this year it’s become plain that I’ve moved away from FIFA and back towards PES. The reason? Master League 2010. That’s the reason.

So I don’t anticipate myself playing FIFA11 for longer than a few weeks at either end of the upcoming 2010-2011 game year. I am greatly looking forward to giving myself wholly over to Master League in PES2011. (What could possibly go wrong…?)

But I don’t want to see a great football game—which next-gen FIFA is, despite its problems—progressively ruined by corporate timidity. I agree with the most common theory prevalent on the FIFA forums: EA are terrified of losing the kiddie crowd.

We have now come through 3 years of next-gen FIFA. Have EA really not noticed that an awful lot of people play their game with their fingers clamped on three buttons? That that’s literally all they do, just waiting to get the ball back? And that the most common end-result is a midfield wrestling match with occasional outbreaks of football?

PES isn’t innocent. Some passages of play in the PES2011 vids are truly alarming. Whenever I’ve played PES online, the problem exists there too.

The FIFA forums have been in ferment for a few days and show no sign of settling down. Ahhh, but they will settle down… FIFA11 will likely come out in much the same condition as FIFA10. It’ll  be a bit too fast for my taste even on Slow, and performing a Vulcan death grip on the controller will win me back the ball 90% of the time.

That’s fine. As I showed last year and the year before, I’m capable of getting a lot out of such a game. But is this really what FIFA’s future looked like in the heady days of FIFA08, when the much-maligned old footy franchise swaggered back onto the scene? It didn’t look this way to me.

Smile, though your heart is breaking

It’s been a really tough few days. Maybe I should have made more of a fuss about getting in on the Beta. I mean, maybe I should have shamelessly touted myself in Konami’s face as a long-term PES/Master League blogger. I should have tried to blag my way into the Beta via the back entrance.

Maybe I could still try it—but no, I won’t. Not my style. I’d feel embarrassed, weirdly. I bet Jon Murphy’s not even looking at his email or Twitter accounts, knowing that they’ll be full of begging letters.

I’ll just live with my pain. The Beta will be over soon enough, and then all of us who didn’t get in can be happy again. Happy

It’s been hard to look on from the sidelines. Hard to watch the videos and read the testimonies from the front line. But it’s character-building, is what it is. It’s an opportunity to be philosophical about shit.

Having other things to do helps. Dwarf Fortress! On Monday night the disappointment of Monday morning was crushed beneath the weight of a five-hour Dwarf Fortress session. I’m starting to glimpse the frightening reality behind this celebrated quote from the DF forums: “I play Dwarf Fortress. I wish I was a meth addict instead.”

And there’s also been PES6(360), and PES2010(PS3).

I played a session of PES6(360) yesterday morning. I was still hurting about the PES2011 Beta, and there wasn’t much conviction in my play, alas. I lost all three of my opening group matches in the European Championships. Even three good wins in my remaining fixtures won’t guarantee me scraping through to the knockouts. The Treble might be over.

After that, I took a look back at PES2010(PS3). With all the talk about PES2011 I thought it might soothe my pain to have a go on the most recent PES. And I’m coming up to my end-of-year review of the game, so it’s only right to refresh my memory. I played two ML matches and won them 3-0 and 4-0. It had been five weeks since my last game.

Despite this, I enjoyed myself. As I’ve said before, I regret ever leaving PES2010 behind. I know I could have played Master League all year in some form. I went off to dabble with FIFA10 because I felt that I should. I will never repeat that mistake again.

I’ll play Master League for the whole 2010-2011 football game year if that’s what I want to do. But will I be playing Master League Online? Early reports have not been inspiring. Never say never, of course, but I doubt it’ll be for me.

Master League Online sounds just like FIFA’s Ultimate Team. Playing one-off matches against random opponents isn’t really what I envisioned when I thought about ML Online. It sounds to me as if they’ve just created an Ultimate Team clone and grafted the Master League name onto it. But we’ll see. As the novelty of playing PES2011 wears off for the lucky Beta testers, they’ll start drilling down into ML Online. Maybe there’s gold in there.

At least PES2011’s gameplay looks good and sounds good. Some of the videos have looked amazing, some have been average, and some portions of some matches looked really poor. Overall, though, yes, it looks like PES2011 is finally a departure point for PES in the next-generation.

So could the Great Anguish, as the period 2007-2009 may come to be known in PES lore, be over? Will PES2011 halt that decline? Reverse it? Cancel it out completely?

If I’d been in the Beta I think I’d have a good idea by now, which is frustrating. The upcoming demo won’t really tell me anything. 2-minute matches with a small selection of teams makes for a very distorted impression of the game, as last year’s PES2010 showed. (Great demo, not-so-great final game.) So it’s looking like it’ll be October, and mid-to-late October at that, before I get the answer to the burning question.

See you Beta?

So, I’ve been playing some Dwarf Fortress. It’s renowned as the hardest computer game in the world, with a learning curve like a sheer vertical cliff face. And it uses pure ASCII graphics. I grabbed a Mac client with a graphical tileset already built in (like a true wuss). I started with a step-by-step newbie guide open in a browser window.

After half an hour, I was kind of ‘digging it’, and after several hours, I think I’m hooked. My first fortress is hilariously bad. That’s the terrible surface area pictured—my first goblin invaders are going to just walk right in, and I don’t know how to stop them yet. There are several lower levels to the structure, all just as cack-handed. (DF veterans, please don’t judge me. That’s literally Day 1, Hour 1 work.)

But I suppose you have to fail in order to succeed. (Seabass’s next-gen journey in a nutshell?) So far Dwarf Fortress has been a delight. I was looking forward to spending much quality time with it until PES2011 happens along.

But now another factor has entered play. Could I be playing PES2011 on Monday? This Monday coming?!

A full Beta test for PES2011’s Master League Online mode will start this Monday, the 16th of August. It ends on Sunday 29th of August. I have duly put my name down. Successful (i.e. lucky) applicants will be informed on Monday morning via email. I’m one of thousands of hopefuls all waiting to see if our Wonka bar’s got a golden ticket inside.

I await Monday morning with interest. Will I be checking my email at 11 a.m.? Will I? Will I?

I have no idea what criteria Konami will use for invitations. The only information you have to provide is PSN/XBL username, email address, and date of birth. Hopefully it’s a purely random selection and I’ve got as much of a chance as anyone. Hopefully it’s a simple lottery. There are whispers of a ‘first come, first served’ system, in which case I’m probably out of luck. Registration was up and running for about 9 hours before I cottoned on.

If I get in, the nature of this blog will change pretty abruptly for the period of the Beta. This gentle winding-down of the 2009-2010 gaming year will come to a crashing halt as I go all-in with my beloved Master League mode’s latest adventure. Poor old PES6(360) might suffer yet another ignominious, premature abandonment.

Part of me hopes I don’t get into the Beta. The edge would be taken off my excitement in the weeks and days before PES2011’s release. And I’ve got a fledgling dwarven fortress to look after.

How will Online Master League work? Will there be persistent worlds, a la Football Manager Live, with a set pool of players for everybody to battle over and with? (I.e., if you have Schwarz, nobody else has him.) Or will it function more like FIFA’s Ultimate Team, where anybody can have any player at any time? I hope it’s the former.

Monday’s regular noon post will be an episode of Loss Time. It’s pretty much a placeholder while I wait to see which way the Beta wind will blow.

Briefly, PES6(360) is still going great. I’m gathering the goals for the planned mini-compilation in a week or two. I’ve won most of my next batch of games in the league and Europe. I’ve qualified for the full European Championships. I’m 2nd in the league table. The Treble is still very much on.

But will the hand of Fate let me finish it? Probably it will, yes. I need to be lucky to get into the ML Online Beta and I’m rarely lucky with such things. We’ll see.