Month: November 2010

Pressure, pushing down on me

Things are bad. At this moment in time, I honestly believe I will be relegated this season. The PES2011 AI has closed a set of steely jaws around me and it won’t let go.

I’ve graduated to Top Player difficulty for my first season in the Premier League. As if that wasn’t enough, the latest PES2011 gameplay patch came out at the same time.

The forums have buzzed ever since with claims that the patch has cranked AI pressure up to an unprecedented level in PES. For once, I agree with them. I don’t recall ever previously encountering in a PES game anything like what I am currently going through.

The game is kicking my backside on a regular basis. Before, in Division 2 (on Professional difficulty), I was able to find a bit of time and space to build my attacks and create chances. Now, I cannot do anything without being swarmed by two or three AI players, all the time, all over the pitch.

I’m fascinated by the existential horror of what’s happening. My Master League career is collapsing in front of my eyes. It’s car-crash gaming.

Thursday and Friday last week I played two full sessions of five or six matches each without scoring a single goal. In about 10 matches, not a single goal—and not many chances of scoring one either.

In a state of some shock, I have now stumbled my way to the mid-season point. Things are worse for me than they have ever been in any Master League campaign, ever. I think relegation, for the very first time in all my ML years, is a strong probability.

Look at this table of shame—these numbers do not lie:

I’m second from bottom. 11 goals scored in 18 matches so far. Only Rangers below me are worse. A 5-point gap between me and safety.

If this keeps up, I will be relegated.

At first, I blamed Top Player. Now the consensus on the forums is that it’s the patch, and I agree, with caveats.

People have talked about and talked about AI pressure for many weeks now. I didn’t pooh-pooh the claims.

I believed them, but I believed that I had experienced the AI pressure and was coping with it in a different way (i.e. with a non-dribbling, pass-and-move, endlessly patient approach to the game).

But that doesn’t work for me any more.

I’m at my wits’ end over what to do about the AI pressure now that the deadly combination of Top Player and the patch have moved the goalposts a long, long way down the field.

The sane thing to do would be to go back to Professional difficulty, at least. But I don’t want to do that. I’ve done my time on Professional. I like to go to Top Player and stay there. And now I’m curious. Where is this crisis leading me?

I’m in shock, and in trouble. The deepest shock and most profound trouble I’ve ever known in PES.

Time for some damage control. The mid-season transfer window is at hand, and like many PES2011 ML players, I have taken to treating it as a negotiation and transfer window. I haven’t got any new players lined up, but I will have a good look.

But would new players really help me? Maybe the top-rated, super-skilled ones would, but they are a long way out of reach financially and reputation-wise at the moment.

My best chance of avoiding relegation this season is to go back to basics, and go out in each match with the determination not to concede, and just hope that my odd goals here and there might accumulate enough points to save me.

But the AI is steamrollering me for fun. It’s scoring goals in a way that I don’t recall it doing before the patch landed.

And, if this continues… If I never get used to life on Top Player, post-patch… If PES2011 effectively runs me out of town… What then?

Patchwork tilt

Patch Wednesday was as interesting as I thought it would be. The size of the patch—13MB—was a surprise. As it installed, I had to wonder just what I was in for. A football game is a delicate balance in so many ways, a tradeoff between enabling user freedom (that new buzzword) and deliberately hard-coded limitations. Tinkering with any part of it risks ruining the whole.

And my first match was definitely a bit weird. I sensed a slight change in the handling—I imagine that sensing a disturbance in the Force must be a similar feeling. I didn’t notice any change in game speed, as such. I play on -2 and have done since early on in my PES2011 adventures.

The only overt change I would swear to noticing was in the touchline control issue. It’s much better. I found that my players could collect the ball for a change.

It used to be that a bouncing ball approaching one of your players within several yards of a touchline would simply bounce off them in a ridiculous manner and go out for a throw-in or corner—one of the stupidest things in any PES game, ever. True, before touching the ball you could super-cancel and ‘renegotiate’ the interaction, but I resent having to do that. It should work to begin with.

I’ve just got to the Premier League with my Master League team, and I’ve bumped up the difficulty to Top Player. Not the ideal time to assess the impact of a major gameplay-changing patch.

After a pretty easy first few games on Top PLayer, I’m struggling to get any kind of game going. A large part of this has to be the patch in action, I feel. The sudden leap from my previous session to the rock-hard difficulty of the sessions since the patch, is too great.

In my first post-patch session I played 5, won 0, drew 3, and lost 2. I scored about 2 goals. One of the matches was a traumatic 5-0 defeat at the hands of Blackburn:

Perhaps more significant than the scoreline in that match was the possession statistic. I’m used ot having at least 60%, usually more. But I had the least amount of possession for the first time since my very early days with the game.

Is it the patch or not? Is it the patch or not? Is it the patch or not? That’s what I keep thinking every few minutes, every time something thought-provoking happens in-game. Is it the patch or not…?

Like I said, I have no way of finding out—other than to suspend my play for a session or two and carry out all kinds of exotic experiments featuring other accounts on my PS3 and whatnot. Which I’m not prepared to do. I haven’t got the time, even if I had the inclination. This is a blog about playing Master League, not an inquiry into meaning and truth. I’m happy to sit back and let the forum sleuths investigate and argue amongst themselves. If I’ve got a PES game that I’m happy to play and that gives me enough of a challenge, I’m happy enough.

Below is the league table after that disastrous session—I’ve slipped down the table a long way. I’ll have to be careful not to get dragged down into a relegation battle.

In the Premier at last

Here I am in the Premier League at last, after 4 seasons of hardship in Division 2. It’s not been quite the epic odyssey that PES2010 was (7 long, long seasons), but I’m actually glad of that.

Master League this year has a few rough edges. It doesn’t quite live up to last year’s high standards (PES2010’s was the best-ever Master League, IMO), but it’s still only a difference between a 9/10 and a 9.5/10.

First thing I did was to do some redesign work on my stadium, ‘The Football Ground’. I upgraded the stands from lower-league stands to the next level, as can be seen at the top of the post. That picture is very reminiscent of the old Highfield Road, the real-life Coventry City’s stadium until recent years.

Here’s my new squad for season 5:

I was very busy in the transfer market. The Void flew by. My main aim was to get a decent sized squad, and I achieved that. I wanted a full complement of at least 22 players for my first season in the Premier.

In the end I sold Animan, my star defender, for £900,000—a huge fee for a youngster by this year’s standards. That money plus the cash from promotion gave me a sizeable warchest to work with. Leonardo and Paonessa were both dirt-cheap on the regular transfer market. Agard was a free transfer. The other new players are Youths.

Leonardo is going to be a first-choice left-back; I’ll probably move Nzom Gole to CB, his other position. My new right-sided midfelder, Gustavvson, is a Youth for whom I have high hopes. As I do for McManaman, who has already blossomed into a 70 OVR player from his start in mid-season.

I had enough cash left over to purchase a single staff upgrade. £500,000 went on a Level 2 Athletic Trainer, my only staff upgrade. I left myself with £300,000 in the bank to go towards an emergency fund for mid-season should I need to.

The only thing left to do was to start playing football. I edited my Home and Away kits (left and right respectively) and got going.

By one of those football gaming coincidences, my first match, against Everton, was the same fixture as my first match in my Football Manager 2010 save. In FM2010 (the best FM, for me, since 2005) I took a 5-0 beating from the Toffees on day 1 of my arrival in the Premier League. I played my PES2011 ML opener on the same day as I took that thrashing. How would I fare?

I lost it 1-0. It was a typical grinding, dour performance from both teams that could have gone either way. It seemed to be heading for a 0-0, which I’d have been happy with, until I conceded from a corner. It felt suspiciously automatic, but I can’t complain.

And it was only after the match that I realised something. I had fogotten to change the difficulty up to Top Player. I was still playing on Professional. Doh.

I made the switch up to Top Player and got on with the next few matches. And, true to form, PES being the contrariwise beast that it is, I won both of my next two matches on Top Player quite comfortably. I beat Chelsea 3-2 away (after being 3-0 up at half time), and West Ham 1-0 at home.

Here’s the very early Premier League table, complete with fancy colour coding. We never had anything like that down in Division 2…

It’s too early for me to say how I think I’ll get on with Top Player difficulty. I didn’t really notice the CPU players closing me down any more than they already did. Performance-wise, I seemed to pick up exactly where I’d left off last season.

If anything, the two matches on Top Player felt a bit easier than Professional, but I’m sure that’ll change as the seasons start to roll by. How many before I can secure the fabled Treble?

And of course there’s a headline-grabbing gameplay patch to be installed. At the time of writing, Wednesday morning, it’s just been released. I’m off to install it now and play some more.

Season 4: every goal

A special post today. I have a bumper compilation of goals from season 4 of my Master League career in PES2011.

I recorded literally every goal I scored, all 48 of them, no matter the quality.

Without further ado, here it is:

Link: Season 4 - every goal

There are 48 goals in total, with only a few shown twice from other angles.

The goals appear in strict chronological order, from the start of the season to the end.

I didn’t want any trouble from Sevenload’s copyright patrol, so I got the music from an open source website. The four tracks are taken from a collection called Terra Incognita by a poster called ‘nightowl’.

I also made one of these compilations for PES2010 last year, albeit after 10 seasons when I had better players than I have currently in PES2011.

It’s always interesting to note patterns and repetitions of scoring methods, if any. But I will leave it to the viewers to judge whether this compilation shows the best or worst side of PES2011 and/or of my approach to it.

For the record, my favourite goal of the season appears at just 47 seconds, scored by David Bellion.

Normal service will be resumed on Wednesday, with my first post about my opening spell in the Premier League.