Month: April 2016

Scripty McScriptface

The pattern of Season 10 of PES2014 is becoming clear. After Monday’s somewhat gushing endorsement of the game and my progress in it, I find myself being contained more or less in place. Can’t get ahead, but not falling behind. In the League at least. I’ve played 6 more league matches and this is the table:

PES2014 Season 10 after 15I’ve not lost any more matches, but there have been two frustrating draws that have prevented me getting close to the runaway leaders. Both of these dodgy draws felt a touch scripty. Saying that PES is a touch scripty is like saying EastEnders is a touch shouty. It’s what happens.

First Man Utd were almost unplayable, and I considered myself lucky to come away with a 1-1. Then I should have thumped Spurs 10-0, such was my dominance. Their keeper clawed everything away and the post saved him twice when he was beaten. 1-1 there too.

I’m worried that this season will see me just go through to the end, almost getting within touching distance of the top but never quite managing it. As if the game won’t allow it for another season or two.

Many a veteran PES player will snort in derision at the suggestion that there’s a secret layer of machinery behind the scenes that controls the tendency of outcomes. But I know that the machinery is there, and that scripting exists.

Two reasons. First: I’ve perceived its effects, in every single football game I have ever played, for over 20 years now. Second (this is the real clincher): if I was creating a football game, I would pack it to the rafters with scripting. Football gamers want football games that last for more than a couple of weeks. The only practical method of doing that is to install a host of artificial handicaps that work their hidden magic according to very specific criteria – scripts, in other words.

Scripting in PES is an old debate that should have been put to bed long, long ago. I’m amazed when I see it suggested, or even hinted, that scripting doesn’t exist in football games. Believing that scripting doesn’t exist in footy games is a little like believing that film actors improvise their lines, and are accidentally filmed in the course of doing so. It just isn’t a credible position to take.

PES2014 Season 10 Europa League final group

Things are slightly different in the Europa, where I have sailed through to the knockouts, as I knew I would. You just get a feel for how things will go. Scripting works both ways.

The knockouts are where I traditionally trip up in European competition. The Europa (or the WEFA Cup, as I will always think of it) is my least-won competition in all historical Master Leagues, for various reasons. This may be the last opportunity I will ever get to win it in PES2014.

Finally today, two moments from my encounter with Chelsea at the start of this season. I found these moments on my phone. I won this match 2-1. Yes, I’m the one who inflicted that solitary defeat on Chelsea as pictured in the table above.

First you see one of PES2014’s dumb moments: a decent header from Torres (okay, it seems to come off his shoulder, or even the Chelsea defender’s back, but whatever) that is chested down on the line by Deco, who then can’t twist in time to scoop the ball in. Aaargh!

But responsiveness fans needn’t fret too much. A few minutes later, Torres is on hand to first-time a half-volley into the net. The goal comes from a nifty one-two and is a fairly typical PES goal in many ways, but I find these something of a rarity in PES2014.

Pro Evo’s Cave

Something has shifted with me and PES2014. I’ve arrived at a stage where it feels as if I’ve crested the difficulty curve. After many seasons of relative struggle, I seem to have emerged into a zone of greater comfort and even greater enjoyment.

Not ease. PES2014 is still not the kind of football game where you ever want to go 0-1 down. And it’s also not the kind of football game AI that will happily put up with being behind. Defending is more difficult in this game on account of its (in)famously cumbersome handling, and the scripting shenanigans are as strong in PES2014 as in every PES.

But here’s the table after 9 matches of Season 10:

PES2014 Season 10 after 9

The game feels as if it’s turning for me now. About time too.

PES2014 has been my only football game snce mid-January. I did hop back to play PES2016 for two matches on the day the Euro 2016 DLC was released. But that feels like a long time ago now. I’m not tempted by the latest patch for PES2016. I don’t feel any need to try it out and deliver ‘My Verdict’. I’ve got a great football game going on right here in PES2014. Why do I need to go and check out PES2016? I’m just a hobbyist blogger. I have no obligation to provide any kind of pseudo-journalistic ‘coverage’ of PES2016 patches. So I won’t be doing that.

I’m not interested in any football game but PES2014 for the moment. I’ve got to know my players, at the level where, in years to come, I’ll be able to recall some — Keano, Joaquin, Pizarro, and others — with great fondness. I know the game’s mechanics. I’m actually scoring medium-long rangers quite routinely now — the sort of goals, from 18-25 yards or so, that would have had me reaching for the phone camera a few weeks ago and presenting them as a novelty. These are now fairly common, as they should be.

That certain winning feeling helps too. I’m starting to score lots of goals and win more matches than I don’t win. My squad upgrades of the last two transfer windows have tipped me over the edge here.

My average player rating for my First XI is 87 OVR. That’s more than decent.

I fancy my chances of the title this very season. I’m still in the Europa League too. I’ve won all 3 of my opening group matches. Barring a Devon Loch-style collapse, I’ll sail through to the knockout stages. I would love a Double of the League and Europa Cup.

But those are the only trophies remaining up for grabs this season. I’m out of the FA Cup, Bloody West Brom did me on penalties after a 3-3 thriller.

That’s been a feature of this new season, by the way: matches are averaging 3-4 goals per game. A few seasons ago the majority of matches would end with 1 goal scored, or goalless.

This explosion of goals is an example of the game levelling up along with the player. Now that I’ve got a squad capable of scoring 2-4 goals per match, suddenly the AI can too. Which always makes me pull a face… You’ve got to wonder just how much actual control we have over the destiny of the matches in our football games.

I think we definitely have enough input to make it a satisfying experience and genuinely affect the outcomes. But at times it could also be argued that we’re nothing more than participants in a very cunningly designed QTE-type interactive script.

There are lots of things in life that we shouldn’t look too closely at, in case they disappear under scrutiny, revealing themselves to be nothing more than shadows on the cave wall. Pro Evo is one of them.

Chiptune Mozart

Deco about to strike

My new CMF strikes the winning goal from the penalty spot in Game 1 of Season 10.

Pre-season 10 of PES2014. Before I even dreamed of Deco, first on the shopping list was a bloody reserve keeper.  After the last transfer window’s proper howler, it was the very least I could do. Then a quality midfielder – Deco popped up, and I got him. And a quality defender or two wouldn’t hurt either…. I’ve got enough strikers. Here’s the outcome of everything:

PES2014 season 10 starting squad

Wellington at CB is already proving himself. And that new reserve keeper, Barbera, is called Hanna in my head for obvious reasons.

But Deco is the headline acquisition. He’s a young super-Regen, of course. The super-Regens have now been around in my ML world for several seasons. Deco is 20 years old. At this stage it’s starting to seem less cheesy to get them, particularly when you factor in the difficulty that PES2014 is throwing my way on a regular basis. Going 1-0 down in this game is usually trouble.

So I’m happy that my squad now looks as a Season 10 Master League squad should. Quality from back to front. The defence only looks weaker in comparison to the strong midfield and very strong forward line. I should win things with this squad. In any other PES I’d have won something with what I already had for the last few seasons. Time to get some silverware on the shelf.

The only weak area, really and truly, is my subs’ bench. PES2014’s shortened and limited transfer window means I’ll have to look at strengthening that bench in mid-season. For now, this squad is the army I go into battle with. I like ’em.

Finally a bonus item — the highlights from my opening day 4-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers. They finished just below me last season and were tough opponents, so this was a good win.

Idiosyncratic as ever, PES2014’s highlights engine decided we needed to see Robbie Keane’s goal 6 times from different angles. Maybe because it was a bit of a curiosity, to be fair (like the game itself). I’d raced Keane in from the wing and rather overdone the R1 tapping. The ball ran slightly ran away from him as I pressed shoot – resulting in a rather bizarre, ground-level, sliding scissors-kick.

I won the next game as well, to make it two wins out of two… I’m not saying anything. It’s like when a snooker player pots two reds and two blacks. Doesn’t mean a 147 is on the way.

Zardoz and Eraserhead and PES2014

Season 9 of my unexpected foray into the world of PES2014 has come to an interesting if unspectacular end. The final league table is below.

I suffered from poor form in the run-in, but my main problem this season stemmed from a right howler that I made in the mid-season transfer window. I let my second goalkeeper go and neglected to replace him. And then had to play the entire second half of the season with just one squad goalkeeper.

Inevitably, there were numerous matches where he was either unfit, or on blue/purple form arrows, or lacking in Heart, and often all three. Results were good one week, terrible the next, and usually mirrored my keeper’s condition.

PES2014 Season 9 final season

PES2014 has a well-documented capacity to irritate the most seasoned football gamer. Case in point was my 6-pointer against Arsenal with about 5 matches remaining. At that stage they were 10 points clear of me in the coveted 4th place. If I won the 6-pointer I’d be 7 points behind them with 4 to play. In Master League, that’s an invitation to stitch together a few results and overhaul them.

I went behind, I equalised, I took the lead, they equalised, I took the lead in the 84th minute, they equalised in the 90th with a stinging 25-yard drive into the top corner. 3-3. In the 94th minute they scored their winner (another long shot into the top corner). 3-4 to Arsenal it finished.

13 points adrift. My last faint hope of finishing 4th dashed.

The maddening thing about this match was the way, every time I went ahead, I was not allowed to keep the ball. There was always an AI player snapping at my heels, getting in the way of passes, chasing things down. Realistic, yes, of course it was realistic. Even if Arsenal themselves never play high-pressure, aggressive football, it’s okay for an AI team to do so.

What annoyed me was that it was a script that kicked in only when I was leading. As soon as Arsenal got their equalisers (and their winner), like magic I was ‘allowed’ to keep the ball again for periods. And this isn’t realistic.

Ah, PES2014, the most enigmatic Pro Evo of them all. Is PES2014 a classic edition of the series? No, I wouldn’t include it within that hallowed company –  perhaps just one or two PES games would make it there, for me – not unless you define ‘classic’ as simply ‘something one enjoys’. But PES2014 is definitely a cult classic. In this regard it is alone and unique. There is no football game like it and never will be again.

Onto Season 10 of PES2014. With summer looming, the unlikeliest journey shows no sign of ending soon.

I’m eager for silverware in this game. What’s the endgame scenario for PES2014? I’d like to be done with PES2014 by June at the latest, leaving me plenty of time to explore a few other options in what remains of the footy game year. So I think a Double of some kind would do me for this one. I don’t want to take it all the way to September.