The Long Season

I’m not quite at the end of Season 8 yet. Reason being, I’m still involved in European competition at the end of a season for the first time in PES2017. I’d forgotten just how much being in Europe elongates the season.

I’m two matches from the end of the domestic league campaign:Heading for a last-day decider and it’s ‘exciting’. The ‘quotes’ indicate my roll-eyes ‘appreciation’ of the huge dollops of table scripting that seem to engineer these types of run-ins more often than not.

Two matches ago I was 4 points clear, but then mysteriously lost my shooting boots. I drew against Spurs at home (1-1) and then was perplexingly beaten at already-relegated Fulham away (lost 1-0).

I say ‘shooting boots’ but I really mean ‘scoring boots’. I had 20-25 shots in both matches, half of them on-target. There was one farcical passage of play in the Fulham match that consisted of me taking a shot, seeing it saved, then winning the ball back immediately, working the chance, taking a shot, seeing it saved, over and over, for most of the first half. The veteran PES2017 player will know exactly the kind of fevered, relentless, churning gameplay I mean here.

I’m preparing for my forthcoming PES5 months by tuning up the PC it’ll run on. This requires playing a few matches of PES5 every day at the moment. PES5 is surprisingly zippy after all these years and its players also dart around at a surprising rate of knots.

This handful of warmup PES5 matches have refreshed my view of PES2017 and made me appreciate what the latter game does that’s good. I’ve always been dead-set against playing multiple different football games at the same time. And with good reason — so much of the way I play football games is about settling into a groove and staying there. But a groove can just as easily turn into a rut. Sometimes we need our perspectives reframed.

Which in turn isn’t to say that I’m suddenly happy with PES2017’s no-fouls, individuality-lite nature. Far from it. I’m just seeing what else it does that’s good, anew.

I’m through to the Europa League Semi-Final (above) after seeing off Everton 2-0 in the return leg of our Quarter Final – another mostly fouls-free, 1000mph affair.

The Semi-Final draw was interesting. I drew a made-up club called Verwestadt, and have the probably-dangerous feeling that it should be a stroll.

The other Semi is between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. It should be an interesting final if I make it. I’ve already played the first leg against Verwestadt. I won it 1-0. The away goal is gold. It’ll still be a nervy return leg at my place.

And so onto Friday, when the whole of Season 8 will certainly be done with. And March will be well underway.

In the meantime, here’s a Houchenesque diving header from one of the undoubted pearls of PES2017’s Defaults, Jarvis:

Updated: 28th February 2017 — 10:01

64 Comments

  1. NG – no worries, i will record a video from me booting up the game to the settings screen and show you its still on Superstar, i even looked last night as i was bored of the ease of the matches, i found it incredulous that the game capitulates so easily so soon.

  2. Paul – Haha! Apologies if I came across as an armchair, low-rent, preachy Jonathan Wilson wannabe. Unless being player-manager of a team in a local six-a-side league before rupturing my ACL last June counts for anything (even in a “Yes, your Hot Wheels toy *is* the same model as my actual Ferrari” kind of way), I really can’t (and won’t try to) compete with your top-level football experience.

    That said, I’ve been writing about videogames professionally as a full-time career since the age of 17, and I’m 42 now, so I know quite a bit about the science of their design. I think that there’s actually a simple misunderstanding at the heart of our discussion, and it’s all to do with the use of “AI” as an umbrella term.

    I believe that the PES 2017 match AI – that is, the code that governs the basic movement and behaviour of individual players and the teams as collectives on the pitch – is sophisticated in some ways, limited in others, and downright inadequate in a few select areas. However, and in sharp contrast, the Master League mode AI (or scripts/scripting to be more accurate, but those terms obviously have other connotations) is fucking atrocious this year. That part of the simulation, for exactly the kind of example that you offer, is utterly shite.

    In short, the Master League front-end code should be informing the match engine about the stakes in any given fixture – but I don’t think it does, or it may only do so in a half-arsed fashion. This is why you get teams defending when they need to attack, or pushing everyone forward when they have a strong position to defend. There’s also my bugbear *de jour*: the fact that the relative challenge posed by each opponent has almost nothing to do with their position in the table, or even their playing squad. Each match takes place in isolation; the ML front end AI and game engine AI are not communicating in any meaningful fashion.

    There’s actually a really good example of this: have you noticed how AI managers often leave excellent players on the bench because their role designation doesn’t fit the team’s formation? There are regular scenarios where, say, a 71-rated RWF will be selected for the RWF berth while a 91-rated SS (who would play, even with role penalties, an easy 80, often more) will be left on the bench. This is a good example of the ML AI/scripts being really dumb. The match AI, however, usually recognises that the overlooked SS is way better, and will often bring them on directly after half-time.

    However, the match engine can be equally moronic due to programming/design/balance blunders. I had a CL final against Juve a few months back where, with the score 1-1 after 87 minutes, they sent their keeper up for a corner. One quick clearance and a 60-yard manual strike straight down the middle into an empty net later, I strolled off with the trophy. This is due to a curious oversight that occurs in knockout rounds of cup competitions where, if a team is level with or even ahead of their opponent, the all-out attack setting still instructs their keeper to go up for corners. This never happens in league fixtures unless a team is behind. (And even then, it’s extremely rare to see the all-out attack setting employed – derby matches only, I think.)

    And you’re right: PES 2017 does some really stupid things that completely fracture the reality of the game, and offer ample cause to walk away for a time. I’d also agree that it does not have adaptive AI in the truest sense. Changes in attack/defence level aside, there seem to be two things that it does regularly: one is to assign tighter marking to a single player in your squad identified as a danger man (usually your most recent scorer, if you’re ahead), and the other is to adjust its own formation for greater width. If you still have commentary on (I got sick of it ages ago), you’ll hear them mention these events just after they happen.

    I know that the match AI doesn’t always measure up, and can be woefully mechanical at times, but there’s some really good work in there as well – which is why I’m still playing. When it clicks into gear, PES 2017 can be glorious. IMO, it’s just not finished, and certainly not sufficiently polished. The devs have their yearly schedule to meet, and too little in the way of time and resources to elevate PES to its old heights.

  3. Paul – Also: Konchesky? Walsh? Telfer? Robinson? Dickov? Am I hot or cold? 😉

  4. Fight, fight, fight…..

    “When good bantz goes wrong” brought to you by Channel 5 and pes chronicles.

    I made a pressure plate to open my new iron door today, it’ll keep them zombies out and I was right proud of myself. No doubt it was a more solid door in minecraft 1.03.

  5. James – I find that my 4-2-3-1, although a dull formation, actually works better as a fair test of the opposition strength. The French Ligue 1 equivalents of Brighton, Boro etc also turn up in the same formation but offer no attacking threat and I can wear them down eventually regardless of scripting. It’s the top teams, plus sometimes the attack-minded middling teams, who throw a lot of players forward that create trouble

    Paul – intrigued to hear how long your effortless period of wins goes on for. I’ve had sequences of maybe 10 games where it all seems too easy, even with an average to good team, but eventually it ramps up. How high is your team strength now compared to the opposition? On the whole 2017 seems quite an easy PES, so with too many superstar players the challenge might evaporate

  6. Turf – Werd was claiming, on oiledhunksinleather.com just now, that Minecraft is just for 5 year olds! What is your response?

  7. I’m not Googling that.

  8. Abbeyhill – I don’t have an objection to the 4-2-3-1, just the way that PES 2017 has to slightly distort the reality of a match to give the COM sides that use it any kind of attacking threat. PES often isn’t great at operating lone strikers this year, so it’s amazing how 4-2-3-1 team can suddenly string together a succession of perfect, seemingly uninterruptible one-touch passes before a killer ball that leaves your defence flat-footed and fucked as someone makes a perfect run to tap the ball past your keeper. They have few noteworthy attacks – but the handful that they get usually feel as if the AI is taking a goal, rather than scoring one.

    I’ve been using a gung-ho attacking style for the past couple of months to avoid the type of “Is this it?” ennui/frustration that I think Paul and Jay are experiencing, where routine wins+contemporary PES idiosyncrasies either drive you away, or leave you perpetually dissatisfied while playing. It might be that I’m leaving myself more open to that kind of bullshit than I should be. I know how to shut the AI down, but devising tactics that keep things fresh and make opposing teams pose a danger is what maintains PES 2017 as a going concern for me.

  9. Also Abbeyhill – Funny that you should mention that. While innocently searching earlier today for an obscure track by Boiled Punks in Leather, a little-known 1980s New Wave ensemble from the Canary Islands, my cat leapt upon my keyboard, and – to my *considerable* dismay, as you can well imagine – I happened upon the very same site. But it wasn’t Werd’s post that drew my attention. It was a gentleman (or an approximation thereof) with the alias “G-n” who wrote at great length on a number of seemingly unrelated subjects. Choice lines? Allow me to regale you.

    “You’d have to be, and excuse my vulgarity, some kind of fanny to play in the French league in a football videogame. But not just any kind of foof, I might add – a giant, sun-eclipsing mega-clopper. With all due respect to my dear Gallic friends, of course.”

    “I could not afford a PS2 in my youth. To compensate, I have constructed elaborate fantasies about the impeccable design of a very specific football videogame, known as PES5. To my shame, I perpetuate these lies to this very day, and must admit that I have not once even viewed a single static picture of said entertainment product. I am, sadly, quite blind after a chance liaison with a jar of peanut butter, a border collie, an Athena poster with a tantalising – yet so very fateful! – measure of shapely buttock, and a woman named Merryl6464. I wonder what became of her?”

    “A confidant of mine, Mr P, recently divulged that he’s poised to engage in quadruple. I worry for him. He has been quite blue in his time, and this may be too much, too soon.”

    “It’s tragic, really, to see him floundering in the mud, in a field outside Nuneaton, clutching a twig with every last screed of his fading energy, exclaiming: ‘It’ll keep them zombies out!’ But what can one do? There are some afflictions that you cannot cure, and nor should you care to try.”

  10. Abbeyhill – I’ll have to take your word for it as aromatic oils play havoc with my fair skin, but I would suggest that five year olds get all the best toys and I’d direct mr Werd to the Lego car racing event going on at Gateshead library in April (its free and the one they did for kinex was great).

    I’m actually not that committed to minecraft, I don’t have that must switch on feeling at the moment, the marvel puzzle ap is taking up more of my time. The one thing I’m not doing is getting the pull of pes, I’m afraid I think I’m now a very casual player, I can’t seem to stick more than three seasons of this ‘new’ kind of ml before I get bored of the same old stuff.

    James – careful what you say about handling twigs in fields, some people are very keen on that sort of ‘science’ to discover water/gold/loch ness monsters

  11. James – good points again well made and I agree with pretty much all you said. You hit the nail on the head with the bit about the ML engine not talking to the game engine.

    All I ever see in way of adaptive AI as you mentioned is the cpu mark my last scorer. Even if it’s a right back. And the cpu team
    Increase width. That’s all.

    Another fine example of things last night. FA cup match vs Everton.
    The pics below tell the story.

    League table showing fairly high amount of goals scored

    View post on imgur.com

    Match vs Everton. Go 2-0 down. Not a problem

    View post on imgur.com

    Confirmation of difficulty settings

    View post on imgur.com

  12. Paul – the one bit of reassurance I take from your rampage is the relatively low-scoring GF column. Not much different from mine at the same stage of a season. I must get more 3-goal games than I think.

    And I’m always irritated seeing that peculiar example of Japanglish – ‘Super Star’ instead of the more orthodox ‘Superstar’. Must drop Konami a ‘why oh why oh why’ letter.

    James – I don’t write in a prolix style like that! [*Opens Frankenstein*].

  13. Paul – What’s the thinking behind 11 minute matches?

    Hoping to fit in a few ML matches over the weekend but I’m rather looking forward to another break at the end of this, hopefully title winning, season.

  14. Shed – 11 min matches just give that little bit more time, i know its only a minute longer, or 30 secs per half, but 10 min matches seem to be over in a blur, these just feel more balanced.

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