Month: October 2010

Through the transfer window

It’s the halfway stage in season 1 of my Master League career in PES2011. As expected, I’m still bottom of the league.

I don’t think it could have been avoided, considering the teams I’m up against and the players I’ve got. I do enjoy the challenge with lesser-skilled players, though. It’s why I choose to put myself through this masochistic ordeal every Autumn. In many respects, this period is arguably the best period of Master League. So I should enjoy it—and I am enjoying it, hugely.

I think this really is my worst-ever start. PES2011 has brought a new gameplay style that we haven’t seen an exact analogue of before.

At the moment I’d say it plays like a fusion of the best parts of PES4 and FIFA08. So far I haven’t found a typical route to goal that I can rely upon. That’s a very old-school PES attribute, right there.

Here’s the current Division 2 table, complete with hideous lighting bloom that, I have to repeat, is in the game itself. Not my fault at all, guv:

Up at the top of the table, Bayern Munich are running away with the league title. It’s the most emphatic surge to the top by a CPU team that I can remember seeing in any Master League league, ever:

They’ve only just lost that one match now, immediately prior to the mid-season transfer window. Just a few matches ago they’d only conceded 3 goals. Needless to say, when I met them about 8 matches ago I lost, badly, 4-0. It was one of those matches where I felt lucky to get nil.

The PES2011 transfer windows go on far too long! Or better to say, there’s nothing to do in them.

From the second week of December to the first week of February, there are no matches. Once all transfer business is concluded (mine was wrapped up in two weeks), there is literally nothing to do except advance time. There are 17 presses of that button between matches. I don’t like it.

I turned off auto-save in order to speed things up, but it still dragged on. Maybe there was a ‘go to Week X’ button that I overlooked? Or maybe in seasons to come those empty weeks will be occupied by Cup matches of various kinds?

I hope so. If not, this weird mid-season blank period is another curious decision on the part of this year’s ML team at Konami. Those curious decisions are starting to pile up a bit.

I did the best that I could in the transfer market. I’d already had offers for a shedload of players, who all left in week 1.

I  bade farewell to JARIC, DODO, ETTORI, LIBERMAN, ESPIMAS, and a few others. HUYLENS never even played one game for me this year.

In keeping with this year’s deflated transfer market fees (yet another one of those curious decisions), the average price for each of them was about £40,000. I don’t think any of them went for more than £60,000.

The Myth of Castolo has been on the transfer market since Day 1, but nobody bid for him. Because he’s rubbish, you see. His excellence is a myth built on the foundation of Castello, a former Master League player who no longer exists.

The years have not been kind to Castolo. Pretty much all that he had left was an extra bit of pace, but even that seems to be gone now. His belly is hanging a long way over his waistband, and the comb-over isn’t fooling anyone. I don’t expect to see Castolo at all in PES2012, hopefully not even as a Youth.

I only brought in one player from outside the club: CIURMIRA, a 69 OVR CF. He was on the Free Agent list. I tried for a few others in their 70s OVR but they declined to join. My team is the very lowest of the low.

The bulk of my new signings, perhaps unwisely, were players from the Youth team. SCHMIDT is a very young CB/SW who will be immense in a few seasons. I got SHIMIZU as well. And  also PELAEZ, an old friend from last year’s PES2010 campaign who won me my long-ranger trophy.

My 4-3-3 formation, as seen above, is a contributing factor to my dismal form. Perhaps it’s the primary factor. I knock the ball around well enough, but at times the CPU waltzes through on goal without much effort. I’m already thinking about alternatives. A nice solid 4-4-2 is on the cards, I think.

I still have not scored a proper long-range goal in PES2011. Not in the PS3 version anyway. I have had the PC version of the game for a while now. It’s really good and plays very well on my gaming laptop.

Its super-fast speed really bothers me. The PC version is missing the -1 and -2 speed options. I know all about kitserver, thank you very much. I’m waiting for Konami to finish what they started and patch it in themselves.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a few matches. On the day last week that I installed a PC Option File, I played a quick match as England against Brazil—just to see them in their famous kits.

I scored this daisycutter from distance with James Milner (the reflections and screen-shimmer are due to this being the PC version):

No, I don’t think it counts as a long-ranger either. For me, they’ve got to fly spectacularly through the air. This one, although enjoyable, is nevertheless a glass of tepid water compared to the sparkling, fizzing feeling that I get from scoring a true long-ranger. Soon, it’s got to be soon…

The bottom inspector

Normal service has been resumed. I’m about a third of the way through my first season in my Master League career as Coventry City in PES2011. I’m rock-bottom of the Division 2 league table.

I’ve broken with tradition in some ways this year. I installed an Option File for the very first time in my PES-playing life. Then my initial setup turned out to be compromised by a silly bug, and I restarted. Now I’m hip-deep into my career and I couldn’t be happier with it. I know somebody who cannot function as a human being without spending a fortnight in Spain every six months. I’m like that with my Master League career every October.

Here’s my current league situation:

That lighting bloom on the screen is an unfortunate feature in many PES2011 screens. It obscures a lot of the text in screen photographs. It’s even hard to see the text in the original view. It’s going to cause difficulties in the future, as I hopefully start to rise up the table. For now, though, being bottom, it doesn’t matter much.

After 9 matches, my record is W1 D2 L6. I’ve scored 4 goals and conceded 12. Past experience tells me that I’ll most likely finish bottom at the end of the season.

I’ll do my best not to allow that to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, but there’s years of precedent here. I’ve decided I might drop my frequent schtick of claiming to be an average or below-average player. I might start claiming to be the worst player of PES, ever.

I met West Brom in the first round of the FA Cup. Domestic cup encounters are one-legged affairs for me in this career. I’ve only ever played two-legged Cups in the past. It’s another ML tradition that I’ve broken with. I won 1-0 with a delicious goal in the last minute.

Then I met Arsenal in the second round. I was 4-0 down at half time. Yes, in one half of PES2011 football I conceded as many goals as some people concede in entire seasons. No, I’m not very good at this game yet.

How is the gameplay holding up? Pretty damn well, actually. After an initial week of trying to play the game like PES2010, the new ‘un finally clicked. I’ll have more to say about this over the next few posts.

PES2011’s shooting is a big talking point, and rightly so. It’s the most debated shooting model we’ve had for a long, long while. I think PES4 was the last instalment to cause this much discussion about shooting.

One concern for me is that I have not so far been able to score any of the long-range goals that I love so much. I’ve been having a good go, possibly to the detriment of my overall play. I would score more goals if I focused more on working the ball into the box.

I only want one long-ranger. Then I’ll calm down.

Here’s a clip with a near miss from Ordaz—it crashed off the bar just as it seemed about to dip into the net. Before that comes the very first goal I scored in this restarted career, with Gutierrez. It’s an example of the kind of goal I should be trying to score a lot more of.

Link: First Goal and a Near-Miss

I will get that long-ranger eventually. When I do, it’ll be right here, you can count on that.

This time I know it’s for real

Deja vu all over again? No, this is the real deal now. Finally I’m up and running in a proper Master League career in PES2011, starting at the very bottom.

In Wednesday’s post I bravely ventured forth with the Default players, using an edited PES United, as I always do. This should have plunged me into the thick of the action as the lowest-rated team in the world, with no money, no staff, and a squad made up of terrible players.

Instead, I found myself given a slingshot into the higher echelons. I was ranked 56th in the world, above every other team in my division. I had £33,000,000 to spend. All my staffing levels were at the higher level 2 from the start. I was able to attract top players immediately. I got Michael Owen on loan.

I feared the worst. I thought Master League had been dumbed down, or streamlined, or whatever the term is. I played around 10 matches with a mostly sinking feeling. Finally I met Tottenham in the FA Cup (superbly added by the WENB Option File). I beat Spurs 3-1 quite easily. Now I really feared the worst.

Then I heard about the ‘ranking bug’, as it’s come to be called.

In a nutshell: if you Edit a team, and then start Master League as that team—even with the Default squad—you will find yourself awarded an Advanced Start.

The only currently known way around it is to start Master League as the unedited, original team (PES United in my case).

Then save the game, and go back and edit the team to what you want it to be (Coventry City in my case, with the corrects kits, sponsors, and fan chants, and my own customised stadium). And then go back and load up the save.

I can testify that the workaround solution works.

I’m back in business as the lowest of the low, ranked 170th in the ML world. I have a paltry £3,000,000 in the bank, most of which is already earmarked for existing player and Level 1 staff salaries. Coventry City are back where they belong.

I also took the chance to select ‘Dynamic player growth’ this time. I wasn’t sure what it was first time through. I understand Dynamic will cause player stats to decline because of injuries and loss of form, and even when they’re just not picked to play for long enough. I like the sound of that.

I put in a few bids for players. After a bit of confusion, I finally located the FREE AGENTS list (under ‘category’ in Advanced Search).

I tried for a few players rated intheir 70s but they wouldn’t sign. When the transfer window expired I’d only signed one player, a 69-OVR, versatile-looking SB/CB named NZOM GOLE.

I signed 4 of my Youth Squad: PALMIERI, FETACHA, SHIMIZU, and SCHWARZ. I can’t get used to the fair-haired Schwarz of 2011.

The teams with me in Division 2 are a formidable bunch. Picking this kind of lineup implements a secondary layer of difficulty. Last year, with a similar league lineup, it took me 7 seasons to win promotion.

I’ve started on Professional as the gameplay difficulty level. I’m not ready yet for Top Player. Others may be able to hack it on Top Player within minutes of getting the game, but not me, not yet. Generally it takes me a season or two to warm up. I suppose I should be thankful for my anti-ability at the game, and I am.

I rushed to Game 1 of the season against Fenerbahce. I’d won my first game of the aborted career, but I didn’t win this one. Not even close.

I still had most of the possession, but that was all I had. I lost 2-0 and had far fewer shots on goal than them. And this pattern was repeated in the other matches I played this session. Which was only 4 matches in total. I spent a lot of time fiddling around, getting the new, proper career all set up.

So, I got there in the end. A shame to have wasted a few days on a bug, but things could be worse. I’ve finally got to the promised land, and my Master League career is set up.

Now it remains to be seen if I can get out of Division 2 before Christmas this year.

Master League 2011

Master League is the main thing I play every year, and has been since the year 2002. I don’t play any other PES mode—or even any other game of any kindnearly as much. Even in the fated year of PES2008, I still managed to play ML for more than 100 hours. Last year, in PES2010, I notched up 250 hours or so. It’s time to get on with PES2011’s version of the mode, and see where it takes me.

Yesterday’s special post showed my newfound desire to Edit the game up to something like a realistic level. I finished editing my Coventry City kits and they turned out… okay, I suppose. They won’t win any awards, but they’re decent.

The home strip is a bit too Man City-like, but that can’t be avoided. (They copied us!) The away kit’s black stripes and shorts should be a very, very dark red, not black, but I couldn’t find the required shade of very, very dark red. I’ll probably stick to my usual routine of changing the kits every season anyway.

Before heading off to set up my Master League, I had to edit Division 2. I didn’t want to play with the made-up Konami teams. I replaced them with a raft of top teams from around Europe. It acts as a secondary difficulty setting. Last year in PES2010 this contributed to me taking 7 long seasons to win promotion from Division 2.

Onto team and squad selection. This year they’ve made the choice of whether to go for a team’s Original or Default squads impossible to overlook. I chose the Default squad as always. And again as always, it was great to see the familiar names filling my screen once again. The Myth of Castolo is now 35 and surely due for retirement soon. Will we see him in PES2012?

The new design for Master League’s menus and navigation, as seen in the picture at the top of this post, was a surprise. I thought they’d stick with last year’s interlocking circles design, or some slight variant. This is all-new. And it’s a sign of much else that is new.

Onto the formation screens, and the first order of business was to choose a starting formation and lineup. I would soon acquire a few new players, but before I did I picked a starting XI and formation using the Default squad alone.

I moved quickly onto Game 1 of the season before I paid any proper attention to transfers and training and staffing levels and whatnot. After all the Editing and all the setting-up, I just wanted to play.

Game 1 was against Rangers, wearing their disturbingly Atletico-like away kit. I won 1-0, scoring my first (and so far only) goal of Master League 2011. Here it is in slow-motion from a low-down angle. Castolo to Ordaz to Gutierrez and bang, goal.

Link: Master League 2011 goal 1

Also on show in the background of that clip is my custom-designed, lower-division home stadium. Its name, until I think of a better one, is ‘The Football Stadium’. It’s all right for a few minutes’ work. I’ll lovingly upgrade it as the seasons pass, adding custom boards and all kinds of good stuff.

After the opening day win I drew the next match at home against Zenit St Petersburg, 0-0. Then, away to Dinamo Kiev, I lost 1-0.

Which left me postiioned like this in the table after 3 games:

Yes, they’re some top clubs I’ve included in this Division 2. Bayern Munich for one. I might be glad of their company in the long run. One key aspect of Master League seems to have been made a lot easier.

I’d already heard quite a bit about it. I mean, of course, the new, ‘easier’ transfer system. My club budget was £33,000,000. Staff wages were low and I could afford to splurge some cash on players before the transfer window closed.

The game itself got the ball rolling, suggesting I look at an AMF named Kharta. I did take a look. Kharta was rated 76 OVR with decent stats across the board. Normally I wouldn’t even think of looking at a player like that the midway point of season 1, and I would not usually get him.

I put in a bid for him, and it was accepted. I got him for £300,000. A 76-rated AMF, at this stage of my ML career? Hmmm.

But ‘worse’ was to come. (I’m saying ‘worse’ because it’s too early to know if all of this has any real long-term effect on my adventures in ML.)

I couldn’t find an ‘Openness to negotiation’ list, but I located something that seemed pretty similar: a ‘Target List’. Michael Owen was on that list.

I put in a cheeky bid to loan him for a season. Again this was something that I wouldn’t have even considered doing at this stage in past MLs.

It worked. I got him. I had to pay £1 million to loan him for the season, but I had him. I had Michael Owen in my Master League squad after two games. Er….?

In the Youth squad there were a few gems waiting to be picked up. I signed Palmieri, an 84-rated(!) 20-year-old; and Fatecha, a 74-rated 18-year-old goalkeeper who is an instant replacement for Ivarov.

And I had a look at Schwarz. Then I had another look at Schwarz. That’s Schwarz down below in the picture. That’s Schwarz!

Of all the changes, Schwarz has got to be one of the most striking, and the most controversial.

So that’s the state of play after 3 matches. Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 1. And I’ve now got four outstanding players in my squad when I ‘should’ have NO good players at all, going by Master Leagues of the past.

Has Master League been dumbed down—or ‘streamlined’ in the current jargon of games developers? This is my worry.

I checked my team ranking, which should be around the 165 mark at this stage. I’m using an edited PES United. I should be at the very bottom.

Lo and behold—my ranking is currently 57. I’m the highest-ranked team in Division 2. What?

As I was putting this post together, I heard that the rank-boost, and excessive amount of starting cash, is caused simply by Editing my team. I.e., if I’d started as plain old PES United, I’d have no money and be ranked rock-bottom of the world, the way things should be—and then I could edit the team into Coventry City mode. Is this true? Am I going to have to restart?

Whatever’s gone on, I do not want to cut through this career like the proverbial hot knife through butter. If that happens—for whatever reason—I’ll be more unhappy about it than I was about PES2008. Considering that I still haven’t shut up about PES2008, the blog could take a turn for the worse…

But I’m only 3 matches in. It remains to be seen how the transfer system changes and/or the puzzling boost in team ranking will impact my experience in the long term.

Whatever happens in the future, right now it does feel great to play Master League again.

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