Match of the Groundhog Day

Something slightly different for this week’s two posts.

On Friday I’ll be taking my long-promised retrospective glance at PES2014. I wasn’t blogging for that game’s entire lifespan. I want to devote a special post to it now.

Today, a sidelight on PES2015, and an exploration of the perennial PES topic of scripting. I’m putting my Season 10 progress on hold to look at just one particular match that I played again and again to see if it was or wasn’t scripted.

(Spoiler alert: it was scripted.)

My FA Cup Quarter Final was away at Derby County. Or, as I affectionately came to call them, Derby Cunty.

I played this fixture, over and over, a total of 8 times, and lost every time. I didn’t even score a goal until the 8th and final attempt.

The first time around, unknowing of the epic to come, I lost 2-0.

Something about the match troubled me. No matter what I did, nothing at all seemed to work. I can usually make at least a couple of good scoring chances, even if I’m not ‘allowed’ to score them. On this occasion, in this match, I didn’t create a chance. Not one.

Normally I just shrug and sigh and move on. Strange matches that you strangely cannot win are a staple of PES and Master League. It’s probably best not to look too closely.

But every now and then, at least once per PES year, I like to look too closely…

Prior to this match, I’d backed up my ML progress to another file, and uploaded that file to online storage. So I had another copy of my ‘real’ ML, and I could experiment with replaying this strange fixture as many times as I wanted without compromising my no-reloading policy. (Once the experiment was over, I indeed resumed season 10 in the original timeline where I’d lost 2-0.)

I devoted an entire session to trying to beat Derby Cunty.

Match #1: lost 1-0. Match #2: lost 3-0. Match #3: lost 2-0. By this stage I felt unusually committed to the cause of beating Derby — or at least, for the love of God, scoring a goal

I played it again, and again, and again. #4, #5, #6. All straight defeats. No goals scored by me in any of them.

I had at least started to make chances. They went wide, or hit the post/crossbar, or were saved by the keeper.

I tried different formations. I tried different personnel. Each time I loaded up the parallel world, it had different squad members on blue and purple arrows, so I was forced to use different players. At some point of this process, my entire squad got a game against Derby Cunty.

The Impossible Match

Match #6 was interesting: with heroic defending I held it to 0-0 and took it to extra time. It looked like penalties until I inexplicably lost all control of my CBs, allowing a Derby player — let’s pretend it was dear old Paulo Wanchope — to waltz through in long-legged, languid style, and tuck away the winner.

Incredible. 6 matches (7 if you include the original), all of them defeats in which I had not scored a single goal.

I switched off the PS4 and returned the next day for a new session. And decided to have one more try at beating Derby.

Interestingly, the general feel of the match at once felt different, which supports what we all already know: that PES is different from day to day.

I managed to score a goal in the first half, my first in all these attempts, and held Derby off until the second half, at which point they jammied two goals from nothing. They held on to the final whistle. I wasn’t interested in prolonging the experiment. I’d proven what I already knew, that large chunks of my experience in ML are blatantly scripted.

But so what?

Back to my ML I went, hungry for more.

This experience is a handy reminder that we are always in the hands of a script, even when we believe we’re not. Freedom in football gaming is a carefully crafted illusion. And more power to it: illusion is the basis of all enjoyment. In PES2015, that’s truer than it’s ever been.


  1. Currently, it feels like 1-out-of-3 matches in my ML world are scripted. I’m noticing things more and more, and it feels like my players will make more mistakes, will get barged off the ball with ease, or will switch off more and more. By switching off, I refer to players stopping when running, usually chasing down a 50-50 ball when I’m holding sprint firming down. This has crept into my game this season, and looks so obvious it’s almost criminal. Obviously it could just be another bug to add to the ever-expanding list.

    Either way, it’s frustrating. But I go into ever game knowing that I can beat the CPU, scripted or not. It just takes a level head and a little patience, and a spot of luck sometimes too.

  2. NG – interesting stuff but as you say it is all part of the illusion as every outcome of a football game is scripted as is my league table at the moment with other resulta enabaling me to climb up to 7th. I could spend time thinking about it but as I have been catching up this takes up valuable ML energy.

    In relation to a question on the previous post I haven’t won any silverware on any PES title as would you believe this is the furthest I have got into the game. My record on Fifa is equally as bad, although I have the Zenith Paint Sherpa Van Mickey Mouse trophy from 2014 in there now. I am very poor at football games in all honesty.

  3. I remember in 2008 I replayed Kaiserslautern 3 times! before I won. The final however has an anticlimaz as I beat Bayern 3-0.

    Tommy – yes, I’ve had that, players at red arrows missing sitters. Com keepers pulling off triple reaction saves, bottom clubs with players who slalom through defenses like Cruijff. Frustrating yes. I however just capitulate and bow down to fate. I cant win a scripted match.

    Frater – three trophies. Div 2, FA Cup and Supercup. which I received a paltry prize sum 19 matches after the actual final! Remember I do have “tweaked” players from the off, still none past 83 mind.

  4. Darryl — and you’ve picked IMO the hardest PES ever to go for your first ML trophy in. Yes, other players with different play-styles might not find PES2015 a hard game, but with my play-style it’s easily the hardest PES I’ve ever played. These frequent scripted matches (not outcomes: just the general nature of the matches) make it even harder.

  5. Tommy — I don’t ever feel that certain events within matches are always predestined to occur. My 8 matches against Derby Cunty were all very different apart from it being impossible for me to do anything in them. But the overall shape, the ebb and flow, the momentum, of many matches are certainly scripted in the macro sense. It constantly amazes me that there is still any doubt at all that the game works behind the scenes in all sorts of ways to sabotage you when it deems necessary. A run of good results is usually what does it.

    werd — in a scripted match, you play into the AI’s hands by continuing to try to play a normal game yourself. A normal game for a human player tends to be ultra-attacking, streaming as many players forward as possible, and generally just playing Russian roulette with AI counterattacks. The best way is to hunker down and defend like the devil. ‘But attack is the best form of defence…’ Yes, but keep the back door locked. Don’t one-two your CB to send him up on runs etc.

  6. NG – I may try your hack defend. I usually play quite a clean game, but a penalty at least gives you a second chance. I have saved 3 so far. My squad has three new members so I may be able to afford a few red/yellow cards.

  7. werd — I never mentioned ‘hack defence’ and wouldn’t recommend it, even if sometimes it’s just what ends up happening. No, positional discipline is what I recommend. Concrete example: an AI ball carrier ghosts through your midfield, and with a couple of mates in tow is soon bearing down on your DMF(s) and defenders. The conditioned reflex of all football gamers is to immediately squeeze every damn button on the controller, paying particular loving attention to R1, Square, and X. DO NOT DO THIS. All you’re doing is dragging defnders out of the way of the AI runners, who’ll be slotted in for an easy chance. Ease up on R1. Ease up on square.

  8. nG – Yes, agreed. I believe I made a similar point when I was commenting on this blog a couple of years ago. The word scripting almost seems inaccurate, as the games aren’t pre-determined or anything like that. It finds numerous ways to sabotage, as you say. It’s more of a tilt in the CPUs favour rather than a pre-planned result. It’s almost as if the CPU has full red arrows, even though it doesn’t show it as such. Always beatable, always frustrating.

  9. NG- Although I’m on a different PES this is what I was on about the other day, an 8 game session where I struggled badly against lesser teams only scored 1 or 2 goals then the next morning I went on a winning run with goals galore. Nonsense!

    Incidentally Werd(and everyone else) is it just me or are cup finals ALWAYS anti climactic? Seems I always struggle in the early round against the Readings and Fulhams of this world but then when I inevitably play Liverpool or Chelsea in the final it’s a doddle and the opponents seem to have scripting AGAINST them.

  10. Interesting post n-G and such a simple idea that I’m surprised I’ve not seen it done before.

    We all know – or at least suspect – our footy games are scripted at times but I find seeing the hard and stark evidence of this ever so slightly depressing.

    Still, on we go. Not much had much time to play of late but I’ll be back to the hard grind of PES 2015 shortly.

  11. The biggest game of my PES career coming up with Europa final v AC Milan.

  12. There we have it 🙂 🙂 a 1-0 victory over AC Milan brings to an end plenty of years of hurt. I first played ISS 98 on the PS1 and since then it has been a sorry tale of re-starts, frustration and quiting but tonight I have laid a few ghosts to rest. I have much further to go on this incredible journey but for now I am going to kick off the boots and take in the moment with a rich tea biscuit and a cup of tea. Fabulous!!!!!!!

  13. Haha agree with you NG, I had a similar experience in my season 1 when I forgot to save a good 3-1 win over Ajax in the Europa Cup. The game does not let you win, but this may vary from day to day. The next day I tried to replay it but lost 3 times in a row. Even when i tried to sim it, I still lost. I finally took the only simulated win after about 10 tries. Usually I just let the loss be a loss, no matter how frustrating. Maybe I’ll replay it once, if the loss was a totally frustrating and tired sprint clampy affair. This just happened recently. I took charge of Brazil in the 2015 Copa America, and it was straight knockout from the start. After beating Jamaica 4-0, Venezuela 3-0, lost 3-1 to Uruguay in the semi-final with goals in the last 5 minutes from Suarez and Cavani. So unsatisfying that a replay was in order. Lost again 3-2 in the last 5 minutes of extra time to another Cavani goal, so that was that. Also should mention that my only 90+ OVR player Neymar was mostly anonymous all tournament long, mostly spending his time on the ground after numerous barges by the opponents, resulting in quite a number of free kicks – about 3 a game! Quite realistic 😀

    Season 3 is under way (don’t laugh), the only game played a 5-0 win over Juventus in the Supercopa Italia season opener. My new players Coutinho and the Portuguese CMF Leonardo Pimenta whom I picked up for 30m+ euro seem to have settled well, their teamwork stats are 99 and 88 after one game. I got distracted by the Copa America and forgot to scout for regens, so Pirlo (16 years 81 OVR) is now at Valencia and they were asking 84m+ euro for him! Since I didn’t have the funds I went for Leonardo P who at 85 OVR and 22 years old was a good consolation prize.

  14. Darryl – brilliant! Considering the Europa League is a cursed trophy in PES2015, winning a hard trophy in the hardest PES is some going. Now onward and see if you can lift the title. It only seems impossible from this side of the finishing line…

  15. On the topic of scripting and simming in general, I’ll perform maybe one such experiment a season out of curiosity, but forward momentum is the only thing that keeps the illusion intact. Every session includes at least one match that feels dodgy and I’d get bogged down if I dwelt on the dodgy-feeling matches. Two 0-0 draws in a row can be as disastrous to your season as a heavy defeat.

    Just playing a few sessions of PES2014 on the PS3, it struck me that the games didn’t feel scripted. Why? Because I was playing a few matches in an ML career that was only a couple of seasons in and on a game that I’d mostly forgotten everything about. There was no real connection with or familiarity with the players. I couldn’t tell what the game was up to because I didn’t know what to watch out for. I think this is the factor that people fall foul of when they pick up a new footy game of any kind and praise it for not feeling scripted. You have to put the hours in to spot the join.

    After lots of seasons in PES2015, I know all my players, I know what the game feels like when its playing fair and what it feels like when it’s up to background shenanigans.

    But like I said in the post, even knowing all this, it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the game and my will to continue.

  16. Mike – my FA cup against City was a dull 3-1 win. Supercup against Utd was the same.

    Darryl – well done Frater. Your forays in Europe eclipse mine big time. Treat yourself to a hobknob 🙂

    Lat night Fenegreek Cummerbund and Parades End had to wait as I gorGed myself on a PES feast between 22:45 – 00:50. a 4-0 win over Forest, 2-0 win over Villa, a tense 2-1 win at Hillsborough and the icing on my chocofudge cake a 4-1 win over title rivals Arsenal. My AMF Roderick or “Woderick” as I say out loud at midnight scored a sweet off the bar long shot.
    My new guys are a bit hit and miss and I got a new 22 year old South American Keeper. Is it me or are good keepers hard to find?

  17. Lloyd(i WILL win the title ths season)

    Darryl – Well done mate.

    Season 14 finished with a bit of a whimper, going out of the CL semis against Bayern Munich and finishing 2nd a whopping 16 points behind Man Utd.

    I sold Recoba for £62 million and Riise for £22 million and brought Roberto Carlos for £58 million. And he scored on his debut as well, a proper screamer that I’ll post up on its own later this week.

    Started the season with 2 wins and 2 draws in the League and have Man Utd up next, feels like a title decider already.

  18. werd – I’ve been with regen Brad Friedel from the start. He was almost my first signing in mid-season 1. Excellent keeper. So many times he’s pulled off miracle saves when I was certain the net would bulge.

    Lloyd – the title on Superstar 2-bar passing would be a mammoth achievement for me, so I shudder to think of what you’re trying.

  19. Thanks for all the congrats and was pleased as it is a tough ask with the Europa as you have to play 15 games in all to win it, which can fall in between times of scripting. League title will be the next goal before a venture onto superstar. For now though am still loving the balance and challenge World Class offers.

  20. Ah, interesting experiment NG. I did the same, multiple times, on PES 5 (which was my first PES). The outcome was often exactly as you described, with minor variations. Then the next day or after turning off the xbox and then restarting, completely different. So scripting (to this degree) has been in PES since at LEAST then. Onwards momentum, as you say, is the only way to keep the illusion alive. Interestingly, the teams that Ajax (my usual team of choice) had trouble with in real life, also were the most stubborn to defeat in this way (i.e. trying to “beat” the script).

  21. #1 – hey my man from Roosendaal!. I tried a few games like that over the years. Its almost like an odd roleplaying system. The AI decides that a few games in the season are going to be unbeatable/unfair. An almost behind the scenes die role to see which games.

    NG – even though most peeps hated 2014 I find sometimes I miss the looseness of the ball. I hated it to start with then loved it. Other factors let the game down of course. I’m not saying 2015 is as tight as say 2012/13 but maybe Konami stumbled on something good with that part of 2014. (if that doesnt get Paul commenting I dont know what will)

  22. #1 – PES5 was actually the first PES when scripting was noticeable to the extent that we’re all familiar with today.

    Re. my ‘experiment’ in general, I have done this before and blogged about it before, at least once and maybe twice. It’s also something that you see on the PES forums occasionally.

    werd – the PES2014 retrospective post is tomorrow. On Paul’s blog you all gave up on PES2014 very early doors, and then by the time the final April 2014 patch made the game respectable, PES2014’s terribleness had become a kind of in-joke that couldn’t be challenged. Paul was convinced that his brief look at the PC version post-April was enough to show him that the game hadn’t been improved. It wasn’t enough, of course, and I take his continued silence on this matter as proof that I was right all along 🙂

  23. NG – Its the only PES I gave up on so early. I’ve always went back to most versions, as is well known here 🙂

    I’ll keep other comments concerning 2014 for tomorrow but another factor was knowing that having no internet meant that even if there was a “miracle” patch I couldnt get it.

  24. werd — there was no miracle patch that made the game indisputably outstanding, but it did make the game respectable at least. I remember standing up for PES2014 on Paul’s blog, 1/10th mischievously I will admit (it’s always enjoyable challenging a group assumption and you had all become used to regarding PES2014 as something that was over), but 9/10ths seriously too. But yes let’s save that discussion for tomorrow…

  25. Oh and here is my winning goal from the Europa final the other day as it was delayed in going up on YouTube for some reason. NG – I am not technically gifted so can you tell me how I get the clip to go straight in the post, rather than posting a link.

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