Month: December 2011

Book before you leap

Work on PES Chronicles: The Book has been going well lately. I’ve added a separate section to the blog to deal with news and information about it. The fabled day approaches when it’ll be available in the Amazon Kindle store starting at 99p a pop. Cha-ching!

The new section is called simply THE BOOK. It lives ^up there^ beneath the site’s header image, next to the FAQ tab.

A sample of the work-in-progress is now available: 9 chapters plus illustrations, coming it at roughly 9000 words. That’s the rough equivalent of about 35 printed pages. A sizeable chunk, but nothing that’d take too long to read. Perfect timing if you’re getting a Kindle or iPad for Christmas.

All download links for the various formats (pdf, doc, mobi, epub) are on the new page.

I won’t mention the book here on the ‘proper’ blog very much from now on. It’ll nearly all be dealt with in that special new section. Nice and neat.

———————-

Meanwhile, in PES2012—the latest iteration of the game series that the book is notionally all about—I’m re-settling back into Regular difficulty. I was chased away from Professional difficulty with my tail firmly between my legs. It really was unexpected. I thought I’d fit right in on Professional as a matter of course.

And life in the Premier League is not all that easy on Regular, truth be told. In my promotion run back in D2, I would win about 5 or 6 matches, then maybe draw or lose a few before getting back to winning ways again. Here in the top flight, it’s a struggle to get any kind of run going. The first batch of Chairman warnings have started popping up.

I think I’ll be okay. But it just goes to show that the old Master League principle of moving up a difficulty level after promotion just does not apply any more. Not for me, anyway.

As I neared mid-season, the game had a few amusing moments for me.

First, came the World Footballer of the Year 2015. The winner: Andy Carroll. I shit you not. The runner-up was Benzema. The player in third place was Hulk.

Neither of them could topple the master from his perch.

As if that wasn’t strange enough, I scored a delicious reverse header that went in off the underside of the bar. I don’t remember scoring a goal like this before on any PES, ever.

Or at least I think I scored it. The ball seemed to rebound from an invisible force-field around Doyle’s head:

They all count.

So I won a few, lost a few, and drew a few. My bad start on Professional, coupled with indifferent form back on Regular, means that I’m stuck in the lower-mid-table dodlrums. I’ll do well to finish in the top 10 this season.

I spent a couple of in-game months frantically scouting and placing bids on numerous players. I need to beef up my squad. And hey, I’ve got cash to burn.

In the Premier League I get a whopping £900,000 per home game for a win. Even if I lose I still get a cool £700,000. It’s wonderful. And it all adds up. Money worries may be almost a thing of the past.

Don’t worry, Jacobs isn’t my first-choice keeper. Clarke is usually a bench-warmer too.

I only managed to land two new players, but they were decent ones. Brivio, a quality left-back; and Lamah, a stylish midfielder with a lovely left foot. They bring some more reassuring gold numbers to the squad pic, and strengthens that weakened left side of the team. I’ll have every position looking golden by this time next season, I expect.

Note how Camacho has displaced Irjescu in that CMF slot. Camacho has stealthly crept up to 76 OVR. Apart from having a truly wretched, weak shot (almost as bad as season 1’s Ettori), Camacho is turning into a top, top CMF/DMF. I still want him to have that booming shot again, though, just like his unforgettable cannonball shot in PES2008(PS2/PSP). If only I could train him up on shooting or get him a skill card… Sigh.

A Regular thing

Okay, so after last week’s poor showing on Professional level difficulty, I took action to restore balance. I went back down to Regular difficulty.

After all my posturing and claiming that I’d ‘give it half a season’ on Professional, I decided that I just don’t have the time or the inclination to deliberately expose myself to bad gameplay and frustration in the name of PES science.

If I have to play all the way to a Treble on Regular, so be it. I’d like to think I could go up to Professional in the future and like it, but it’s not a requirement for me.

Before I made the difficulty switch, though, I had two long back-to-back sessions on FIFA12. I was half-minded to abandon PES2012—just like that, no buildup, no fuss, just cut it off stone-dead—but going back to Regular on PES2012 persuaded me to continue. I do not wish to have two abandoned Master Leagues two years in a row. That could become a habit.

I played a couple more PES2012 matches on Professional—but with passing assistance set to full. I wanted to see if this could effectively introduce a gradation of difficulty levels, in a similar way that FIFA12’s gameplay sliders do.

I actually got a couple of good results. I beat Bolton at home 3-0, and got a creditable 1-1 away at Chelsea. I was tempted to persevere with Professional, but a cruel 4-0 thumping at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers soon cured me of that.

Back on Regular, all was sweet again. I restored my favoured passing assistance setting of 1 bar. And I resumed the same mostly-winning form that got me promoted last season.

I won two on the bounce and drew the other. And that brings me up to date.

Here’s the current table:

And here’s my current Chairman approval rating:

You start getting warnings around the 8% zone, and the final warnings at around 6%. I have pulled up just in time.

———-

Back in June, I made a big announcement about a side-project: PES Chronicles, the book. Amusingly, I thought I might have it finished in time for PES2012’s release.

I dithered and procrastinated, of course, and changed my mind several times about what kind of book I wanted it to be.

If I’d settled for a load of blog-post-style mini-essays stitched together, it would have been out in time for October 2011. But I decided to aim for something more than that.

I only arrived at a final plan and seriously started work on the book about 5 weeks ago. As things stand now, I might make it for March 2012. That’s the current ETA, anyway.

In the meantime, I have prepared a 9000-word taster of the work in progress. It should be available this coming Wednesday in mobi, epub, and PDF format. I’ll post links and blurb and so forth on the day.

Professional calamity

So it’s been a bad start.

I’m getting smashed, torn apart, rent asunder, each and every match, by every team. The result pictured above is the most extreme example of a pattern so far in the Premier League. (Man City are awesome in PES2012.)

The scorelines themselves vary. A 7-0 thrashing will be followed by ‘only’ a 3-1 gentle mauling, and that kind of thing. My not-bad early start to this season is a distant memory.

At first I thought it was just a run of tough fixtures. I played Man City, Man Utd, and Liverpool in quick succession. Lost them all, badly. I played Aston Villa in the FA Cup. Lost 5-1. But then I played Wigan at home and lost 0-2. It’s not going well, it’s fair to say.

This kind of thing is not unprecedented for me in Master League. In fact, losing games this badly isn’t the worst it’s ever been. Back in 2008 I lost 8-1 on PES2008(PS2/PSP). (Sorry about the missing images from that post.) I traditionally do struggle in my first season up in the top flight.

What is new in PES2012 is the Chairman confidence factor. If this keeps up I could run into a Game Over sooner rather than later. That changes things.

It may have been too soon for me to go up to Professional difficulty. It might not be long before I go back down to Regular difficulty, even if it is a bit too easy.

But I’m going to stick it out and play on for at least half a season before admitting defeat and going back to Regular. I’d like to see if I can get used to it and start to grind out results. And I could always bump the passing assistance levels back up, to offset the difficulty factor a tad.

The problem is that I don’t see how I can ever get used to the AI seemingly conjuring itself up a goal when it wants one. I’d say that many of the goals I’m conceding undefendable. Seriously, the CPU players just jink and twist away no matter what, and carve out the opening, and slot the ball away, and it feels as if there is literally nothing that can be done to stop it.

About two-thirds of the goals I concede, yes, I’ll hold up my hand and admit to bad defending. I can see where they were preventable, where I dived in, where I lost my shape and discipline.

But that other third? Nope. I put down the controller and think to myself, “That was just bullshit.”

In fact, these past few days on Professional difficulty have shown me more of the bad side of PES2012 than I’ve seen since day 1 with the game. Automatic behaviour. A game on rails. Shoddy, scruffy-feeling play. Everything bad that they say about PES2012.

I’m a lot less tolerant of shenanigans on Professional than on Regular, simply because the goal-scoring chances are so much rarer. If I work my arse off to create a good chance, and the shot goes straight to the keeper instead of obeying my clearly-defined aim towards the corner, I’m furious. On Regular, I can shrug it off because there’ll be another chance along in a few seconds.

My current least-favourite aspect is when you underhit or misdirect a through-ball to a front man. You would like to move your player to meet the ball, but he seems to be superglued to a defender’s side and cannot be freed from a running-along-together animation for a crucial few seconds.

And I really don’t like the ramped-up pressuring of Professional. It enforces a one- and two-touch football that feels nice up to a point—but as an obligatory aspect of a football game, something you’re forced to adopt as a normal pattern of play, I don’t like it.

A few of the factors that annoyed me about PES2011 have made an unwelcome appearance. So far the stumble animation is not annoying me, though, I’m happy to say.

Is this the beginning of the end? Could I be on FIFA12 by Christmas? I don’t think so, but it’s not totally unthinkable.

This is a timely reminder that, as a commenter said recently—and I totally agree with—the only thing that PES really has going for it nowadays is Master League. If Master League falters, or fails, there is no PES.

It’s worth noting that this is the first truly negative experience I’ve had with the game since week 1. It had been nothing but blue skies—with occasional wispy clouds—since I started Master League. This bump in the road is actually long overdue. We’ll see if it derails PES2012.

It’s a rich man’s world

So I got promoted to the Premier League in my PES2012 Master League career. It took me 4 seasons, mostly playing on Regular difficulty. I’ve enjoyed PES2012 so far, but now comes a test both for the game and for myself: Professional difficulty, in the top flight.

I will see how it goes. I’m not above dropping back down to Regular if it all proves too hard for me. I’ve also set aside a fallback gamesave in case of the sack.

First of all, I created a couple of new kits with which to grace the Premier League. There they are on the right—the Home kit on the left is modelled by my stalwart front man, Doyle; and one of my new players, a Malinese striker named Samassa, sports the Away kit on the right.

The striped Home kit is one of my favourite types of kit over the years. I think I’ll hold onto it for 2 seasons, and just change the Away kit next season. I’ll see how I feel when the time comes.

Next up, transfers, transfers, transfers. I wanted new players and considerably better players, and as many as possible. Team harmony be damned. There is no player currently on my books whom I wouldn’t sell for tuppence in exchange for an 80 OVR striker with a hint of awesome about him. My existing players are good, but none are really great. Not even Irjescu.

But I couldn’t operate properly in the transfer market until August 1st. The game didn’t recognise me as a Premier League team until that date. It’s a perennial issue with the logic behind Master League. You get promoted, but the game world doesn’t ‘know’ you’re no longer in Division 2 until the actual start of the next season, which is August. So, for the few months after winning promotion, you have to put up with players not wanting to sign because they “don’t want to drop down a level”.

So I was handicapped in the transfer market, unable to sign many players because they thought the club was still a Division 2 outfit. Piss.

What I did have was plenty of money. After all the sums were recknoed up, I had something like £5.5m to spend. That’s after existing wages. Wow.

Before I started hunting, I decided I wanted a CB, an AMF, and a top CF, plus two or three others as cover. I got the three players, but they weren’t as good as I wanted them to be. They’ll do for now. Sadly, though, I just didn’t have time to get anyone else. Time ran out, thanks to that problem I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Not good, Konami, not good at all.

These are the three new players:

J. FUNES MORI (CB/SB, 73OVR)—a worthy addition to stand alongside Bikey in the heart of defence. Cotsload and Jaric will understudy for them both.

J . COOK (SMF/WF, 70OVR)—a two-footed versatile midfidler, no relation to the Cook I had in season 1 who left on a  free

SAMASSA (CF, 74OVR)—a Mali international, with a good turn of pace to offset his disappointingly weak shot.

Only one of them, SAMASSA, was a transfer in. I paid £600,000 for him. The others were Frees.

I’ve yet to land a front man with a truly lethal bullet of a shot. I find myself looking hard at two stats: shot accuracy and power. If either are below 70, I’m not looking at that player any longer (unless they’re a Youth). Ideally I want one of them above 80.

I had many transfer near-misses, of which a couple were worthy of discussion.

I nearly signed Regen Frank Lampard, currently 17 years old and just 56 OVR. I found him while searching for players with the Long Ranger skill card. I made him an offer, which he accepted, and I got all excited. Then I saw his wage demand. He wanted £800,000 a year. I couldn’t believe it. I made a counter-offer of £350,000. That was still extortion, but at least I could afford it. He broke it off.

Next was some great AMF off the Free Agent list. I forget his name. He wanted a salary of—I almost had to lie down when I saw—£3,845,000 per year. Three million, eight hundred and forty-five thousand pounds per year. This was after the calendar had ticked over to Season 5, by the way. The game-world ‘knew’ I was now in the Premier League, and I think it had scaled things up accordingly.

So I didn’t sign him either.

I put a load of players on the transfer/loan market, and got no offers for them. Not even an enquiry to take my young CB, Mandelli, on loan, which was disappointing.

I had 27 players in my squad and had to release a few. Well, I didn’t have to—the finances were still very healthy—but I didn’t want too large a squad with players moaning every week about not playing.

I released Ruskin and Do Prado. Ruthless of me, I know, and I should even have released a few more. Jaric and Clarke will be next to go in mid-season, I think.

And I hate to say it, but Irjescu’s best days may be behind him. So far in the Premier League, on Professional, he’s not the same player he was in Division 2 on regular. He’s even lost a point of OVR, down to 69 now. He’s the only Default player left in my First XI, which is as seen in the image above. (Except for Jacobs in goal. Ahmet has taken over as my permanent no. 1 keeper.)

It was the eve of September and I still had £4m in the kitty.

I upgraded my Athletic Coach to Level 3, and the Doctor to Level 2. I upgraded the Fan Club and Marketing budget to levels 2.

I kept a million in reserve to spend in mid-season. I might be able to line up a really big player by then.

After all the fun of pre-season it was onto the matches themselves. When I saw the opening fixtures I thought it could have been worse:

Two tricky away games and a single home match.

I lost the first two matches, away to Blackburn and Newcastle respectively. The games weren’t bad. I more than held my own most of the time. I had feared being overrun on Professional. I went down to odd goals, losing both 1-0.

But I beat Wolves at my place 2-0. All in all, not the worst start to the season.

The real test will come when I start playing the big boys. Then I’ll get some idea of how life on Professional difficulty in the top flight is going to treat me. And also how PES2012 will shape up as we get closer to the year 2012.

Loo

 

 

 

 

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