Everybody Loves Ronaldo

Online debutant

So as July becomes August, I embark upon a new venture. Exploring a strange, undiscovered country, populated by natives with one thing and one thing only on their minds: running in almost-straight lines and scoring goals that they give every indication of not really caring about. More on that later.

Earlier this week I wrapped up Master League for another year. Most years I then give FIFA a desultory try that fizzles out after a week or so, my juice having been all used up by PES.

Every year, at some point, I do play PES and/or FIFA online, even if it’s just a couple of matches in one single session on one single day.

This year so far, I hadn’t done so. Before I removed the PES2015 disc from my PS4 for good, I decided to rectify that. I played a couple of Online Seasons matches, which weren’t bad at all. The opponents were the familiar exhausting all-action types that you only ever meet online, but it was a novel experience. I was trounced in all 3 matches but I enjoyed myself. Crafty, determined human opponents are something fresh.

And so for my next trick…

MyClub main menu

MyClub. The team name is: CHRONICA. I was going to name it after the blog, but decided that was too cheesy, so this version of it will do. (Unless anyone has any better suggestions? In MyClub you can change your team name as often as you like.)

Way back in November I actually set this mode up, created a team, and played one single match against the AI. And then promptly forgot all about it – something that would benefit me hugely in the form of a bounty of GP (the mode’s currency) that was waiting for me when I logged in this week:

Give me that lovely booty

Take a look at the scrollbar on the right of the above screenie. All the messages in this Inbox were delivering a bounty of GP.

My GP and Gold

At the time this screenshot on the left was taken I’d already spent about 60,000 on players, including DIDA and XAVI. So my starting bounty was something close to 200,000 GP.

For reference purposes, the cost of a top player is 10,000 GP. I believe it takes some time to accumulate that amount of GP in the normal course of things.

So I had money to spend and a team to set up. At first you get a squad of no-name, low-rated players who would make the ML Defaults blush. But in ML, the Defaults were at least decent and capable. The MyClub defaults are terrible in MyClub.

After a few matches and cashing in some of that lovely GP, I had XAVI and a couple of decent strikers. I went with 4-2-2-2, for which I needed the relevant manager:

MyClub squad

That Ultimate Team-like display does little for me. Much better understood in the traditional view:

MyClub formation

Unlike other online modes, you can’t set up extravagant formations in MyClub. The mode simply won’t let you. It’s a deliberate corrective to the tendency for 1-1-8 formations and other lunacies. You have to stick to orthodox formations with very little room to move players around. You can still set up a swashbuckling 3-4-3 or 4-2-4, but you need the relevant manager.

There’s a whole other range of factors involved, of which Team Spirit is the most important. This is not a potted overview of MyClub – I doubt I’ll be playing it much at all beyond the next week or so.

The main thing is, as ever, the playing of the matches – and it’s here that online football gaming falls down flatly on its arse.

The game online bears little resemblance to the single-player game I love. ISS and PES as I have played them for almost 20 years are one thing. PES online as it has evolved over the past 10 years is a completely other thing. The latter is barely football at all. Competitive controller-squeezing would be a more accurate description.

There are points of similarity between offline and online football gaming, but in essence they are wholly separate entities.

Goodl old Titty Town

The human players simply don’t play football. It’s a soulless, abstract exercise in the manipulation of pixels on a screen, with the desired result of occupying higher positions on some leaderboard somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but it’s not what floats my boat.

“The AI only plays one way!” is one of those ‘what everyone says’ things, and a traditional cry heard from the online lobbyists at the start of every PES year.

One glimpse of how most online players play shows the strange truth that is the opposite of ‘what everyone says’. Online players only play one way.

Even the poorest performance from the PES AI has more variety, subtlety, and football to it than any online player I’ve ever come cross.

Post-game stats MyClub

It’s human players who only play one way. Without exception they favour a central dribbling style that favours one or two star players. Minimal deviation from a straight line to goal. Maybe a couple of one-twos, maybe a floated through-ball to the fast star man, and bang – it’s a goal, always scored from about the same spot inside the penalty box.

The opponent above actually played a lot out on the wing – he had Ronaldo (everybody’s got Ronaldo) and liked to score thumping headers. A hat-trick of them in this case.

All 14 of the others played the straight-down-the-middle sprinting style that I call ‘run and gun’.

In 15 games played online at the time of writing, I have never seen any opponent attempt a shot from outside the box.

In 15 matches, I must have conceded 40-45 goals (averaging 2-3 conceded per match), and not even once has any opponent showed any sign of wanting to watch the replay.

Perhaps that’s the strangest thing of all for me, coming from a single-player background.

In a typical session of Master League, I’ll score at least 1 goal (usually 2 or 3) that makes me pay attention to the replay. Such behaviour is Forbidden online.

Yes, yes, I accept that this skipping-replays thing is an evolved custom. The players are trying to be polite to each other by skipping their replays. I know that. That skipping-replays custom started up in the days of PES5 online, and I was there to see it.

But there was also the custom of, every now and then, being allowed to sit back and watch a replay of something special.

About 10 of the 45-ish goals I’ve conceded looked special to me. Not one of my opponents wanted to watch them. I’ve often wished I could communicate with my opponents in some meaningful way and ask them: “Are you actually enjoying this? Do you enjoy this game? Do you like scoring these goals? What’s the point of this, for you? What are you getting out of this?”

The experiment goes on. MyClub is a swish mode, an enticing take on Master League. I want to explore more of it. I want to actually win a match. I want to see what the matches handle like with top players in every position in my team. Maybe my experience so far is just what happens to a new player turning up with a poor squad. We shall see.

——-

POSTSCRIPT:

Half an hour after putting this post to bed, tucking it up, and bestowing a creepy kiss upon its imaginary forehead, I won my first online match.

38 Comments

  1. NG – there is a fantastic irony to your post. You make the human on-line player out to be a frustratingly remote, robotic like player who doesn’t want any interaction and gets no pleasure out of the game. On the otherhand the CPU plays with thought and intelligence and is less unpredictable. All this is very true and we are all the on-line player and we are more automated in our play than what we think. After a while without thinking you go into a set way of playing and only after a break for a couple of days do you play with a fresh approach, hence why the CPU finds us easy to read eventually. What playing on-line does is make you appreciate how good the AI has become when playing off-line.

  2. Darryl – absolutely, this is what has struck me all over again this week – that the AI in PES, even the worst AI in the worst football game ever (PES2008 on PS3? Or FIFA2003, something like that) plays better and more subtle football than almost any online player.

    I’m not complaining about the online opponents not wanting any interaction – I don’t either – I’m just noting that they seem detached from the whole affair. I detect little or no enjoyment or passion for the matches in their actions. It’s just an intuitive feeling I get from how they play and what they do and don’t do in the matches.

    I did meet one player yesterday who I thought was really good and who circulated the ball and tried wingplay and crosses (but still NO long shots). Other than that, you could just be playing a very basic one-note AI when you play most people online.

    “The AI is better at playing an all-round game of football than 99% of all humans.” I’d love to see a lurking reader who plays (and maybe loves) online emerge from cover to try to rebut this.

  3. I would refuse to play anyone who has a 13 y.o boy’s idea of an amusing name – T.I.T.T.Y town ffs. (it probably is a 13 yo boy)

  4. My least obnoxious opponent so far had a username that ended in 1965, i.e. he was more than likely a bloke turned 50 this year. The younger set are so committed to winning a computer game first and foremost that they’ve collectively evolved over the years this run-and-gun, direct all-action all-aggression style. It was already laid down in PES5 online, which I played on PC a bit back in the day.

    I’ve probably given the impression that MyClub is an almost completely negative experience. It’s really not. You could do a lot worse than making it your first port of call to reacquaint yourself with PES2015. The game performs well online (when people decide to actually play it).

    I’m quite enjoying it, but it’s not going to last. The mode itself is very well-designed and it’s been interesting poking about in the menus and seeing what everything does.

  5. To me the best way to experience this years PES is actually on-line but with both players playing with pass support at 0. When done so it reveals how good a game this is on-line and in my opinion the best of the lot. Problem is nobody wants to play with this level of pass support and everyone goes for 4 bar passing. To find anyone who wants to play on zero support is as rare as finding rocking horse shit on the moon.

  6. Darryl – I love 0-bar.

  7. I tried a few online games in 2013 to see if I’d get the super boots or whatever. I gave up when I realised no one I met was interested in a good match up, they were purely after the points or whatever it was. Every time I suggested choosing a decent team (rather than the usual Ronaldo, rooney, etc) to enable a more considered approach they let me choose newcastle, villa, soton, etc then chose chelsea or barca. The stoppages infuriated me as well. Basically the community was a bunch of arses.

    What is latest pes version. Think mine says 1.04 which I assume is it.

    Skyrim first tho. With my ability to conjure allies now I can sprint through any remaining dungeons which is part of the fun removal unfortunately.

  8. 1.04 is the latest version of PES2015.

    I played a bit offline today with my ML team (it was so good to be back after the clamp-fest of online) and worked out how to play with it online. (You have to export team data from within ML itself first, then look for your team in User Data online.)

    That could be something for us here to explore — pitching our ML teams against each other in one-off friendlies online. (No ‘gentlemen’s rules’ about sprint-clamping or anything as that would be just as oppressive in its own way, and I’m happy to sprint-clamp at certain times.) I’ve got a 14-season team of superstars but would be willing to handicap in several positions to meet others’ teams on a level footing.

    It’ll most likely be Monday before I get a chance for this now, and it’s for August only. We could have a mini-league or somesuch.

  9. NG – like the sound of that. Boom.

  10. NG – wish I had not deleted the ML save now 🙁

  11. Darryl – whyyyyyyyy??????

    Actually, check your PS+ online storage, you’ll find it in there backed up. Unless you turned the auto-backup option off somehow.

  12. !! My God is that really NG suggesting an online league. What is going on? No doubt paul is currently blogging about his dislike of leopard print sofas and the joy of wearing clogs. World turned upside down….

  13. NG – that is me and my physiological DNA as once I have decided something is over I then cut off everything completely.

  14. Darryl – But you should be able to recover the save from PS+ storage, so all is not lost!

    Uncle Turf – I’m just ready for something different at the moment. It’s been a long and exhausting Master League this year (no Treble, and Superstar was a slog much of the time) and this is relaxation time.

  15. My suggested team name change: simply remove the letter “A” from the end of your current team name 🙂

    Yes, everybody loves Ronaldo CR7. But not nearly as much as he loves himself! Personally I prefer the real Ronaldo…

    I’ve been away from footy gaming for a while, but as always, I return as the next years releases of FIFA and PES draw nearer.

    I was really disappointed with PES2015, bought it on PC via Steam install, foolishly thinking it’d run out of the box. But it required hunting for & testing different tweaks just to load past the menu screen, which soured me to the whole thing. That coupled with other stuff (e.g. national teams being bare-bones) just put me off & the game didn’t last 2 months before uninstalling.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the next PES game to be released this autumn – will it be any good? I want PES to return to former glory, but as far as I’m concerned, the latest release should’ve been titled (P)ro (I)teration (S)uperstar (S)occer.

  16. Hmm, just finished a session. Set up ml but to get into the habit I tried said myteam. Like you I must have fired it up in November then ditched it as it took me through the sometimes strange menu arrangements (why can’t you release players direct from the squad, etc) and then told me I had 166,000 points from messages. Signing players is a bit of a head scratcher. I desperately needed a Dmf as my manager has two of them in his formation. I got four amfs in a row. I’m not sure if that ball stopping is a game of timing or entirely odds based regardless of when you press it. Mario gotze and Sergio Ramos were the only two genuine stars, they line up alongside Peter whittingham and a host of South americans.

    No human opponents yet just the AI. It gave me a run for my money on regular which was a shock. Faces, fouls and far too high back lines remain annoying but bloody hell I’d forgotten how good they are at closing down pass options and keeping the ball. Dare I say it was very enjoyable.

    Knocked skyrim off as well. It really drags on the main quest. Treaty negotiation my arse. Next time I’ll join the rebels.

  17. Hello NG,
    It’s been a while! How are you sir? I thought the blog was completely dead! I’ve been playing FIFA the last year, but I watched a YouTube PES goal compilation last week (by ‘agameturk’) – all long rangers and I thought of you! 2015 seems to be a golden year for long shot lovers.
    Anyway, enjoyed catching up on your blog. It has inspired me to go back to PES next year for Master League goodness.
    Re: holding a private online league – it’s the way to go. FIFA 09/10 had private online leagues built in and I joined one on the FIFA forum. Up to 3.5* clubs. 10 players and almost everyone played their own style of football. After each match people wrote a little match report on the forum and it was all very friendly and grown up. Highly recommend you do the same!
    Unfortunately I went with an Xbox One this generation, so won’t be able to join in.

  18. diego – hi and long time no see, shame about your PES2015 trajectory, similar to so many others’. The game was and is a placeholder in the PES pantheon, I have no doubt. Still a good game though for me. Weird that there were Steam issues?

    Your mischievous suggestion for my team name is noted – wait until you see the screenshots of a proper thumping I took the other day…

  19. Uncle Turf – no, you can’t target players or even positions and have to rely on the lottery of the Agents. I’ve spent about 100K in GP so far and I only got two black balls: Xavi and Dida. The rest were decent but unspectacular, and it’s costing me online, but it’s a decent mode I think. It’s all about the Team Spirit heatmap and mine is cold.

    You can usually find the position you need in the Loan list, though, where you can pick and choose. Get in there and spend some of that oodles of GP.

    It sounds like you’ve already done this but make sure you’ve checked in the Inbox and cashed in all the bonus GP. I thought I ‘only’ had 70,000 GP until I looked in there and found another 130K waiting for me. You have to press Triangle and cash all or something.

    When you play offline in MyClub you’re playing against teams (and tactics) created by other users. (Somebody, somewhere, might be playing against an AI-controlled Turf Town FC right now.) Thus the high defensive lines. Offline in ML I didn’t notice high lines so much after the last few patches, but that might just be an acclimatising thing. After a while with any football game you ‘forget’ the issues (central shooting in PES2012; the auto-stepover in PES5; and many many more) and just get with playing. The exception for me being PES2011’s stumble animation of course. Grrrr.

  20. Grilled Seabass – well, well, well, now this is a Bobby-Ewing-in-the-shower moment. (Look it up, youngsters.) Have the past 3 years been just a dream?

    Welcome back in any case. When I saw your name in the comments feed I thought you’d swooped down to defend online football gaming from my vicious attacks – I recall you being an enthusiastic online gamer long ago. Online football gaming is almost indefensible. A wonderful idea that should be the greatest experience ever. But sadly, like online shooters, things evolve to make the actual experience of playing something less than wonderful in most cases, IMO.

    A quick month-long private league of Master League teams here would be very informal and rough-and-ready. Considering I can only really play on one or two occasions per week my own participation would be fleeting.

  21. NG – No luck I am afraid as there were some saved but these were old ML campaigns from my first time around when I did a few re-starts.

  22. Ah, right, thanks – I played what I thoughht had to be an online team, Luca something in charge of Napoli, yet it said it was a CPU match up. If it was his team/tactics being controlled by the AI that makes perfect sense. It was a cracking match – shambolic defending aside, and the ridiculous sending off. I do like the lottery of the signings in the same way people like scratchcards but it doesn’t make for planning. I saw the loanees but wasn’t sure how long you had them for or what the whole squad cost issue was (I skipped a lot of the info, I should read it). I always liked the fifa equivalent until it got a little hollow and pack buying, this is a great way to warm up for what might be an enormous lump of humble pie.

  23. Got beat by Spurs in the Cup Final and lost the League by 2 points to bleeding Spurs. On the plus side Sibon is shaping up nicely and Gerrard, Figo, Ronaldo, Ribery and Lahm are all now in their peak years so next season could be the one. Onwards

  24. First comment from new phone, so anything could happen.

    As the new season is underway, and the current version of FIFA approaches the Swiss clinic of redundancy, tonight will probably see my annual dalliance with Player Mode or whatever it’s called.

  25. NG – A few Sibon goals in the middle.

  26. Lloyd – my pick came at 5:50 with the half-volley from your number 16 – you cut away before the caption said who he was. I enjoyed seeing your Homemade Sibon – you’ve got the chunky appearance right, and he looks and moves according to the database too.

    Chris99 – Be A Pro, the original and arguably best version of the mode (okay, barring Libero Grande and other earlier attempts, I know).

  27. So I played my first (second era) match in ML last night. A red card for a foul just outside the box….and the AI was down to ten men. I guess that’s it for the entire duration of my ML now. Is Top Player 1 bar passing the majority?

    NG – myClub seems not to punish red cards, I’ve had numerous sendings off yet they remain available for every match which seems an unusual decision when weighing up that last minute hack from behind at a striker through on goal.

  28. Is that MyClub red card thing against the AI or online opponents? I’ve had a few reds online but not noticed whether the player’s been available the next match.

    Just this morning I’ve looked more deeply into Team Spirit and it seems it’s absolutely critical, as in, don’t bother turning up online if your TS is less than 90. (Mine is around 55-60.) Play offline or even in Coach mode and build it up, seems to be the advice. I’ll be posting a screenshot of my heaviest defeat tomorrow that’ll beggar belief.

    I do find myself liking MyClub a lot and discovering aspects of PES2015 that I like all the more.

    It’d be very interesting to see what you made of Superstar on PES2015 – but I don’t recommend it, unusually. Top Player 1-bar or 2-bar would give you a challenging, rewarding game. 0-bar for another internal difficulty shift. Superstar is punishing this year. I think only Pete of the regular commenters found it relatively straightforward.

  29. NG – That was Figo, my 101ovr AMF genius. Scored 13 last season from tip of the diamond. Bad start to new season with 3 draws and a defeat in the League. 9 points adrift of Spurs after 4 games. Football, bloody hell.

  30. I’ve not got a playstation membership so it’s all offline for me but at the moment I don’t mind as my team spirit dropped to 6 (six) after releasing a player. I had no choice as I was over the cost limit but seemingly they didn’t like that. Consequently ive found pro quite a close run thing. Top player on 1 bar for my opening ml game was hard, mainly thanks to the need to defend without the use of sliding tackles. I found the cut in from the side continues to be route one for the AI and when you’re shorn of your usual option due to the automatic yellow it’s going to take a work around. Based on what you and others have said I’m not going to bother with superstar given my feelings about other aspects of the game, it’ll only lead to me binning it again.

    I’m busy stripping the ml team of defaults. I’ve never liked most of the new breed.

  31. You know what, I had no idea you needed PS+ to play PS4 titles online until this very minute. Incredibly, the information has somehow eluded me for all this time. Probably because my own PS+ membership goes back so many years to when you didn’t need it to play online. I assumed it’d stayed that way. That’s pretty bad on Sony’s part. When PS+ started up back in the PS3 days one of its main selling points was that it was a voluntary enhancement of a service that would continue to be free for all PlayStation customers, in contrast to the Xbox’s Gold membership scheme.

    If and when you master Top Player — properly master it — then might be a good time for Superstar. I have to say that Superstar took some of the shine off PES2015 for me. I was having a 9/10 footy gaming experience for most of my Top Player seasons with a decent squad, and naively rushed up to Superstar because that was the thing we’ve always done.

  32. that’s what I was saying last week – really annoying that after spending £16 on Rocket League I realised I needed PS+ (which would have given me the game for free) to play it online!!

  33. And that’s why it made no sense to me last week what you were saying, but it does now. I think PS+ is worth it anyway. The monthly giveaways are often all duds, but there’s enough good stuff over the course of a year to more than justify the subscription.

  34. Take the National Express when your life’s in a mess….

    No gaming for me over the next couple of days as I have the joy of going down to Tooting tonight as I have some tests in the morning. As it is so cheap at £5 and £10 coming back I am on the Megabus for 6 hours. I picked up yesterday from a free book shop in Preston the auto-biography’s of Dickie Bird, Sven and Ricky Tomlinson. Then tonight I am staying in a hotel in Tooting but can’t have any caffeine or Alcohol.

    Tonight i’m a rock n roll star……

  35. If its medical tests Frater- good luck.

    If its educational tests – good luck.

  36. All the best Darryl whichever way it goes.

  37. Nowt for concern as when my daughter died I had to have tests in Tooting as it was thought to be a hereditary condition. So obviously with the little one it was important I had them. I got the all clear but was asked to come down for a MRI scan just to be 100% certain.

  38. Cheers NG/Frater.

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