Month: October 2010

The PES Wanderers

I’m at the mid-season transfer window in season 2 of my Master League career in PES2011.

Players have come, players have gone. All transfers were arranged long before I got to the window. All were completed in the first week. And then I had to click my way through 16 empty weeks.

It’s still easy for ML veterans to forget that the transfer window is just the transfer window nowadays. It’s no longer the negotiations window of old, which used to be hectic periods. Could this also have been forgotten by the creators of Master League? These long blank weeks make no sense at all to me.

So who have I got? My most important mid-season signing seems to be DUFFY.

I found him in the Target List, where he was presented as a Youth player and available for no money. This could be a bug or glitch in the system. In either case, taking advantage of it would be an exploit. But it’s not certain that it’s a bug or glitch, and so I took advantage of it.

Whatever, DUFFY is now my first-choice DMF. After a few macthes of the second half of the season, for a raw 17-year-old he’s pretty impressive, despite an OVR rating of just 59.

I’ve started paying a lot more attention to the players’ stats instead of the OVR rating. I’m coming over to the sniffy view that the new-fangled OVR rating does not belong in Pro Evolution Soccer.

In fact, I might make it my official stance to pretend that the OVR rating doesn’t exist. It’s not a reliable guide to the quality of the player. Duffy is 5 points OVR behind Stein, for example, but is a much better player. Or could this be the placebo effect in action? Who knows.

My other signings are decent too. HUSZTI is a quality left-sided midfielder whom I’ve decided to play on the right.

BELLION is a name I remember from many football games over the past eight years or so. Back in Football Manager 2005, where I briefly had him on loan, he had a Pace attribute of 20 (the highest possible). He’s still pretty fast, for what that’s worth.

And I finally signed KIM JONG YEOL from my Youth team. I needed a CB and his wages were only £47,000 after all.

Below are two goals—first a team goal featuring plenty of one- and two-touch passing, with a first-time shot to finish things off. The second goal is low drive from Gutierrez that I liked because it went through the eye of a needle, so to speak, leaving the keeper gawping at air.

And after the goals comes video evidence of the wandering side-back problem. That’s not the snappiest ever name for a problem, but it’s the best I can do at short notice.

Link: PES2011: Two Goals and a Walkabout

Yes, my nomadic side-back scores a goal there, and a pretty good goal to boot. But I’d really prefer him not to be standing in that central CF position to begin with.

Let me reiterate: the ATT/DEF level was on 1 out of 5. My formation was the one seen in the picture at the top of this post. I’ve positioned both side-backs a few yards further back than the rest of the defence. But they both still pop up in the CF positions on a regular basis, exactly as seen in the clip.

Is it something I’m doing, or is it the game? It is possible that sometimes I’ve ‘one-twoed’ them up from their natural positions, but I’ve noticed the probem occurring even when they haven’t been involved in passages of play in any way.

I submit that even an attack-minded full-back should not behave as my left-back behaves in this clip. It’s got to be a bug/glitch, and a pretty embarrassing one at that. Another one for the patch list.

Long-range forecast

It had to happen. I love long-range goals. I’ve struggled to score one in PES2011 so far. But I kept trying to score one, and eventually, yes, I scored one. Here it is (my team’s playing here in a new black-and-grey away kit):

Link: PES2011 long-ranger

That’s Schwarz with the thumping finish. He’s still a raw Youth. But that celebrated left foot is starting to show itself.

Over the first part of this season—my second, and Schwarz’s second too—he’s steadily grown in influence.

His rise to prominence has paralleled my growing familiarity with the game, of course, but he’s the only one to emerge so far from the pack of relative non-entities in my squad. I have got other decent players, but Schwarz is currently a good one. This goal was the middle of three goals he scored in successive matches.

The lightness of the shooting in PES2011 is responsible for my lack of long-rangers so far. Almost three weeks in, and the above goal is genuinely my first real contender. I’ve finally adapted, just about, to feathering the shoot button. Last year, PES2010 was one of the heaviest PES instalments ever.

In my last post I related the tale of an amazing session of PES2011 in which I rediscovered that my motivation to play Master League in the first place was to win matches. Not just placidly bide my time until I had enough good players to give myself permission to start really trying. No more passive treading of water, I told myself. “You can do it!” Etc.

Well, predictably, in my next session the game seemed to turn against me. Could I get a win? Could I hell. I swear my attitude and approach were both the same. But PES2011 was like a different game now.

I was fortunate to get a few draws and only lose a couple of matches. I had to wait for my next win until the next session completely.

It’s all combined to leave me dangling in 13th place after 15 matches. With the mid-season break coming up, it’s safe to say that there’ll be no heroic surge to the top of the table. Not this season.

But I’m still looking ahead, equipped with my new attitude. A few good new players and I think I’ll have enough to set the agenda.

A word before I go about my new away kit. It’s a rather fetching version of the previous striped away kit, except this season the stripes are black and dark grey.

There’s MACCO on the left, modelling the away kit. As can be seen, the game doesn’t exactly push the graphical boat out in terms of differentiating between shirt and shorts as separate physical objects. The kit looks like an all-in-one body suit there. That’s a minor quibble, but other quibbles are not so minor.

The PES2011 annoyances are starting to form a pretty long list. Player switching is the headline issue. Full-backs randomly wandering upfield to play as central strikers (!) is just as big an issue for me. I’ve got a movie clip of my left-back wandering around up front next to Schwarz when my ATT/DEF level was on the lowest setting. There are other issues.

Do they spell long-term doom for PES2011? It’s hard to say for sure. I still love the game overall, and hope that the issues remain at their current level for me—tolerable. Just.

Unbelievable belief

My last few posts contained the seeds of insurrection. I’ve been having doubts, dark doubts, about the nature of Master League in PES2011.

I considered Master League in PES2010 to be the best-ever Master League. Konami’s tweaks to the format for this year did not sit well with me. Just two examples: the deflated transfer fees, and the twin Voids of Nothing in mid-season and post-season.

But it’s with relief that I can say I’ve finally settled into the new Master League. It turns out (for now at least) that it’s all in my mind. My successes and failures out on the pitch are determined by attitude. I’ve been experiencing what Paul Merson once referred to as unbelievable belief.

It grabbed me over the weekend. My first season had been pretty disastrous, really, with poor performances and a resoundingly last-place finish in my custom Division 2 league table.

I started the second season with a new set of kits. The home kit is above, as modelled rather camply by Schwarz.

And the season started much as I expected: badly. I lost my opener, 0-1 against Dynamo Kiev, then drew the next few matches, and then lost another one. I was a few places off the bottom of the league. It was looking like another season of treading water until I could get a few more players to help turn the tide at some unspecified and distant point in the future.

Then I met one of the relegated teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers. They came down along with Wigan and Blackpool. Wolves had started the season in good form. They were top of the table and undefeated.

The match kicked off and my patchwork team seemed to be responding really well for once. Many have noted PES2011’s layer of sluggishness underneath the surface gloss of FIFA-style ‘freedom’. This is most pronounced, of course, when using lesser-skilled players—and when being a lesser-skilled player oneself, as I am.

I always start Master League with the Defaults, and lately I always fight my way up from a toughened Division 2, but I don’t necessarily enjoy the process.

But why should that be the case? Other PES players report success with early Default squads, and achieve promotions in their first few seasons. Why shouldn’t I?

There’s quite a lot else I’d like to try in Master League this year. Playing with other teams, for one thing. Why be stuck fast to tradition? Why go on doing something simply because I’ve always done it? Why go on being a slowcoach in PES?

This attitude has been crystallising over the last few weeks. It swam into clear focus during this match against Wolves. I went into an early 2-0 lead—over the league leaders, remember. It was the first time I’d had such a lead over anyone in my ML career so far.

Among the goals was this one—it’s rare for me to laud a ‘team goal’, but this one is interesting for a few reasons. Note the first-time pass at 4 seconds and then the first-time shot at 10 seconds. First-time passes and shots are problematic in PES2011, but they are possible:

Link: Flowing Schwarz Goal

Wolves scored a late goal, a penalty that I was foolish to concede, but I held on for the win.

I was elated. I wasn’t just ‘quite pleased’. It didn’t just make me nod in sastisfaction before continuing on to the next match. I was sitting up, leaning towards the screen, living every moment, intensely absorbed in the action in a way I haven’t been for a long time. I was elated.

In my next game, against Club Brugge, I came from behind to win 2-1. The mood, the magic spell, had not broken.

In my next two games I won hard-fought draws in the face of incredible AI pressure.

And there, sadly, my golden session had to end. Its magic had boosted me up to ninth place in the table.

I now believe. Why should I have to put up with seasons of mediocrity? Why shouldn’t I battle for this league right now? I needed to shake myself out of a sense of routine, and I believe that I have.

These could be exciting times for me in PES2011.

Beyond the Voids

Season 1 is over. I finished bottom of the table. In the second half of the season I won 2 matches. I’m playing a bit better now, but Master League is still hard.

Here’s a badly-GIMPed picture of the entire final table (I’ve just started learning to use the GIMP; this was a first-hour job):

Still no long-range goals for me in PES2011, but I did score a good goal with Gutierrez that is probably my favourite so far. It was a bit FIFA-like, for me. In next-gen FIFA, particularly in FIFA09, I came to use a shooting technique I called the ‘reverse hook’. This goal felt similar. It was all in the pivot, using the weight of the player and ball to hoist the ball around the keeper’s far side.

Link: Gutierrez 'hook' shot

Whisper it, but I’m entertaining a few dark doubts about the tweaks that Konami have made to Master League. The Advanced Start bug was an annoyance, but I got over it.

What I haven’t got over yet are the twin Voids that await you in mid-season and at the end of the season. There are just too many empty weeks between games at those times.

I’m more than a little disturbed about them. I thought the mid-season Void was bad enough—17 button-presses to navigate through! But post-season is far, far worse. My transfer activity was completed in the first week of the window. And in total I had 25 empty half-weeks to press through. Even with autosave disabled, it takes an age.

Master League in PES2010 was damn near perfect—the best it’s ever been, IMO. It was inevitable that Konami would meddle with it for 2011. So far, I’m not really digging those tweaks, I have to say. The Voids just make no sense. Transfers are handled all-year-round in the new-style Master League. What are the Voids for?

Things picked up for me in the second half of the season. I continue to find the PES2011 gameplay fresh and challenging and immersive and all the rest of it.

My one reservation is the way you’ll often see a gigantic empty space on the pitch—yet another Void—where the side-backs should be. Pausing the game at such moments, I always find my side-back standing in a centre-forward position. That is just weird.

“It’s your tactics,” the Football Manager forums would say about this kind of problem. Hmmm. I’ll have to see about that. I’ve seen the wandering side-back happen on all ATT/DEF levels. My tactical sliders are already on the conservative side. Investigations are ongoing.

So I won 2 matches in a row at the midway point of the second half of the season. I enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in all my remaining matches. If the second half of the season had been a league of its own, I think I’d have finished four or five places off the bottom.

I had two players retire at season’s end: Ivarov and The Myth of Castolo. Good riddance to both of them.

For season 2, I’ve abandoned my 4-3-3 formation, for now.

My new 4-4-2 (more like a 4-2-2-2 in practice) served me well last year. I’ve got a 3-4-3 mapped to a strategy button for those times when I need more bodies up front. (Not that my side-backs need any encouragement to play up front…)

I’ve got the general squad size down to 21 players.

I released a load, and I sold SHIMIZU and PALMIERI, but only because I had to. My total debt was £800,000 and there was no way I was going to make that kind of money by selling Burchet & co.

It’s a trim squad of 21 players now. I brought in two players from the transfer market, both costing about £100,000.

SERDAR OZKAN (SMF/RWF) and SOLIANO (CF/SS) are the classic slightly-better types of players who help to raise your overall ML squad quality and on-the-pitch performance by the necessary increments.

As much as I enjoyed PES2010’s multi-season adventure in Division 2, I really don’t want to repeat it. It was January before I got to Division 1!

I’ll be satisfied this year with a three-season promotion campaign. Taking any more time will just be careless, I think.