Month: November 2017

The Patcher in the Wry

My Most Favourite Player after Season 3 was easy. Emre Can. In my Individuality Exercise a season or so ago, I said it was too early to give Can a rating, but that he hadn’t impressed me so far,.

Well, he has impressed me since. Currently he’d get an 8/10 on the Individuality front. I’ve even changed my formation to maximise his abilities, and now play him as an advanced CMF in front of a lone DMF, just behind the strikers. A 4-1-3-2, with the 3 stretched out in a near-horizontal line. It’s a formation that’s workmanlike rather than spectacular, but it brings results (see below). It’s all about Can being a great all-rounder. If he’s out suspended or unfit, I miss him – the test of a true PES individual.

I have more or less emerged from post-patch blues. I still don’t think the patch has done much, but I no longer think it’s done nothing. I would have liked a lot more from the patch. I would have liked PES2018 to be transformed into a proper single-player game. I knew the online multiplayers would get the first consideration, and that is what happened.

I think it’s the wrong direction, but I also understand that it’s the only direction PES can go in and still be a viable commercial property.

The game now has to sell X number of copies, and have Y amount of players playing kissmyfuckingarseClub online, and these ‘people’ have to spend Z amounts of money on micro-transactions while doing so – or the series stops existing. Such is the spreadsheet reality of life in 2017. 10-15 years ago, the world was very different.

Two patch acknowledgements. Three, really. First, I take back my paranoid Internet-era assertion that the patch was a phoney one.

Second, there do seem to be a few more matches with a foul-count above 2. But there are still too many with a count of 0 (ZERO), or at most 1 (ONE).

When it comes to fouls, it’s not about the fouls per se. It’s about the iceberg of which fouls are the tip: continuous play. The goddamn churning, nauseating, endless flow. Bring on a sub at half-time if you want to guarantee him getting on much before the end. There can be no forgiveness for this aspect of nuPES, ever, in my cold, cold heart.

And third, shooting-range free kicks do seem more numerous now. I have seen the above view – lining up a shot over a defensive wall before a free kick in shooting range – possibly 5 times over my first 14 matches in the Premier League on the new patch. Pre-patch, I’d have been lucky to see this view once.

I take back my early impression that the game felt faster now. It definitely did in those first sessions on Thursday and Friday, but over the weekend and yesterday I stopped noticing it.

Life in the Premier League, on Superstar, was tough, so I dropped back down to Top Player for a session, and have since gone back up to Superstar.

I’ve played maybe 6 matches in total on Superstar, and it is brutally tough. Getting anything out of this AI on Superstar is a major achievement for me right now.

I do continue to be mightily impressed with the AI. The variety of its play is remarkable. I can’t finish a post without taking a swipe at the online community. I will repeat that even the worst, most plodding PES AI throughout history has played better football and given me a better game (in every sense), on the whole, than the ‘game’ played by 99% of all human online players. The goddamn PES2018 AI might be the strongest we’ve ever had in this regard.

Of tightly organic responsiveness

Amid all the excitement over PES2018’s Patch of Destiny, I concluded my Season 3 in Master League, and won promotion to the Premier League.

Second place, as is traditional for me. I rarely go up by winning the D2 title.

Look at Middlesbrough’s final points tally. And see how many matches I – and the teams below me – lost and drew.

I had a good run-in, with some peculiar dips in form. Veldwijk scored just 2 goals in his last 15 matches, but still finished as Division top scorer thanks to his early-season exploits.

And he made it into the Team of the Season:

Along with his strike partner, Stepinski, and Emre Can in midfield.

With all the distraction of the Patch of Destiny over the last few weeks, I neglected to mention that those two players – Stepinski and Can (particularly Can) – have emerged from the shadows of nuPES-style poor individuality, and staked separate claims to be great and memorable PES players.

Can is a dominant, powerful midfielder who can play defensively or attacking-ly, fills in at CB when we’re desperate, and chips in with a respectable amount of goals. ‘Emre Can, Wonderman’ is my mental mantra when he gets the ball. If I was doing my Individuality-ratings thing again today, he’d get an 8, easy.

Stepinski would get a 7, and has become very important for me. I don’t think Veldwijk is going to cut it in the Premier League, and my finances are such that I can’t afford another striker. I’ve got £30m-odd (THIRTY MILLION-ODD) in the transfer kitty, but my Salary Budget is -£2m (MINUS TWO MILLION). It’s a somewhat pleasing callback to the days when ML finances would routinely handicap the human player for most of the first seasons.

Emre Can (Wonderman) is easily the cuplrit on the wages front. He’s on £3m-plus (THREE MILLION-PLUS) per year. I had a great transfer offer for him, but Master League is all about hanging onto your best players and getting by somehow, and that is what I’m doing.

Up to the Premier League, then, and my first opponents were Everton.

My preferred style of play is pass-and-move. I rarely try long balls into the box. Well, PES2018’s AI does such a good job of catenaccio-ing me out of things, that I have been trying the occasional long ball. Like this:

I uploaded that goal from within the match at a time when I confidently expected it to be, as titled, the winning goal. Just after I resumed play, I conceded the equaliser, and then Everton got the winner, and I lost 3-2.

I’m on Superstar now, by the way. It seems harder than Top Player, as it darn well ought to.

The Patch of Destiny landed yesterday, and really, it’s as if it didn’t. Yesterday I tracked my fouls-count across 13 matches (see the comments thread on the previous post for details). The final average was about 0.5 fouls per match. There has been no change on that front, and I see no changes anywhere else either. I’ll take people’s word for it that they perceive the general gameplay to be tighter here or looser there or more responsive in general or whatever.

I still have no real idea what is meant by any of those buzzwords. OrganicTightness Responsiveness. These words and many others have been knocking around for so long in the PES lexicon that we have stopped noticing they’re not really attached to any consistent meaning that players can all agree on.

I think that by ‘responsiveness’ we mean ‘as close as possible a correspondence between controller input and on-screen output’ – but isn’t that a bad thing from the point of view of a kinetic video game with moving parts (players) who are all meant to have different attributes that must therefore sometimes mean they have to be un-responsive, for the greater good of the simulation?

Is it not the case that as responsiveness levels rise, player individuality levels must fall?

Doesn’t this alleged responsiveness contribute massively to the relentless Keystone Kops feel of much PES gameplay since PES2014? Might responsiveness (or tightness, or organicness, or whatever) actually be the enemy of true PES values?

That is just one aspect of confusing terminology surrounding PES that puzzles and disturbs me in equal measure. It’s disturbing because I’m never sure that we’re talking about what we think we’re talking about.

So I don’t see, or feel, or intuit that the Patch of Destiny has done anything of note to the gameplay in any way whatsoever. I would never say that I have the most discriminating palate when it comes to footy gaming. I could believe that there have been some changes – the game has felt a touch faster – but such minor alterations that they don’t amount to a hell of a lot.

All along I have said that PES2018 could well be the final new PES game I will ever play. As I have documented quite exhaustively over the past year or two, the series has been taken in a direction that does not satisfy me. I’m no longer in the target market for this product.

As things stand, there will be no PES2019 in my life or on this blog. This time next year, I’d much rather be playing PES2011 than yet another slightly tweaked and prettified instalment of the egregious PES2016, which is what this current ‘family’ of PES games really is.

But I will not be hasty. PES has earned its place in my life.

Yesterday I played 13 matches, and that would seem to be enough to detect something – or nothing – but I will give it the rest of my Master League career to finally decide. That will be at least 2 more seasons’ worth of footy gaming.

R Fanni, in the middle of R street

A few days from the patch that will paradoxically save PES2018. I say ‘paradoxically’ there because, on the face of it, PES2018 often seems to not be a game that needs saving.

I’m playing with (mostly) enjoyment. I’m getting through the sessions and the seasons. I’m bonding with my ML team as much as this new-style, low-individuality PES will allow me to.

So why the big anticipation for the patch this Thursday?

Because without surgery, PES2018 might not make it to the end of the calendar year.

I’ve had two shooting-range free kicks this season so far. Two. In PES2018, your most strategic decision is whether to take corners long or short.

This is still a decent computer game, no question about that. Often a good one. But it’s only sporadically a great PES game. I always want and expect PES to be great. ‘Good enough’ is simply not good enough.

For PES2018 ever be a great PES game, change has got to come. It’s still a respectable 8/10 sort of game at its best, even with all the issues. I’m very intrigued to see what a potential fix for the headline problems might do. Konami have previous here: PES2014. We shall see on Thursday.

Back at the ranch, I’m still second in the D2 table in season 3. After cruising for most of the season so far, I had one of those sessions. In a total of 12 matches (a single session thanks to the PS4’s Standby feature) I won perhaps 2 matches. Drew about 6. Lost the rest.

Veldwijk, who had been scoring for fun, could no longer score for anything. He got 1 solitary goal toward the end of the session.

As you can see, the 3rd place team has closed to within 6 points of my position, and it is only March in my Season 3. It’s a long old season in Division 2, and so there are enough matches left for me to slip up if I allow it.

Somehow, though, I imagine that the next time I switch on the game later today, things will be different. PES is never exactly the same game from session to session. This is the source of all the ‘patch has changed the gameplay’ rubbish that we hear after every balls ‘n’ boots update from people who forget (or never really knew) that PES plays differently from one session to the next under normal conditions.

This time, the imminent patch really will change the gameplay. Those of us who have played nearly every day since release (including me, except I rarely play at weekends anymore) will be best placed to judge by how much, and whether those changes have brought about the necessary conditions to turn PES2018 from a (so far) decent short-term football game into what it deserves to be: a long-term PES proposition.

The clock is ticking.

Whatever happened to the Intertoto Cup

Mid-season of Season 3 is upon me. Rooney has already been sold for the statutory Regen cash-in fee of 6-million-or-so. It’s telling that I have no idea of how much money the club has in the bank. There’s no need to worry or bother about it, so I don’t.

Rooney has gone. Just as foretold by last week’s Individuality exercise, where he scored low. What a shame – one of the most individualistic players of the modern era simply does not stand out in this football gaming era. The demands of our online overlords mean that a general sameness of all players comes first. Rooney in PES2018 (and last year, and the year before) is virtually indistinguishable from any other attacking player rated about 78OPR and above. All handle nimbly. All possess the same kind of strength and tenacity, the same kind of shooting, and perhaps most absurdly, the same incredible stamina.

This new Individuality environment is about as un-PESlike as it gets. Forget fouls and the like – Individuality is where the betrayal of the PES legacy is at its most pronounced. Now, a virtual Rooney is just a name. There are a hundred players just like him. Two hundred. Three hundred. I have consistently laid the blame for this ‘flattening’ process at the door of the online marketplace and their demand for ‘flow’ at all times. Damn them. Damn them all to hell.

And, while I’m moaning, I have had several sessions without a single foul. Literally – not one free kick, bar the occasional offside.

Yesterday I was fouled and got a free kick in shooting range. I realised with a startle that it was the first free kick in shooting range I could remember having since… Well, I couldn’t remember the last time I had one. Last season maybe? I think it was last season. Probably 30 matches ago. That’s about the average for me – a shooting-range free kick every 30 matches. Appalling.

Certainly if there was no patch forthcoming to address this, there would be no PES2019 next year for me, and PES2018 would not last much longer.

As things stand right now, though, I’m zooming through the matches. The click has gone on clicking.This surprising player won the Asian player of the year:

Personally I thought D LASKY should have got it. Or M DIXON. Or C COMET. Or, if we choose to riff instead on the League Cup, one of the MILK brothers. Or F WORTHINGTON. Or P LITTLEWOOD. Or – I’ll stop now. This paragraph has been sponsored by the 1980s.

Veldwijk continues to tear up trees.

Not bad for halfway. I’m anticipating over 30 goals by the end of the season. This message speaks Truth:

I expect Veldiwjk to score in every game, and he pretty much does. Which begs a question: do his goals generate my expectation, or does my expectation generate his goals? I do find myself working the ball to Veldwijk a tad more than to any other striker. He gets at least one solid gold chance per half thanks to me knowing it’s him and that he’s a superstar striker, etc.

There’s no injuries to worry about. In a recent match, Veldwijk went in for a heavy tackle and lay curled up on the pitch for ages while play went on around him.

Most times when we see this, the player drags himself up, often with that maddening ‘ref! ref!’ animation that we’ve had in lieu of fouls and injuries for so many years now.

This time – Veldwijk stayed on the ground, motionless. As the game went on.

I thought I was about to see that unicorn of nuPES – an actual in-match injury! Not simply a notification that he was off for treatment, you understand, but an actual ‘player is unable to continue’ message and a forced exit to the squad screen. Thanks to the goddamn onliners and their precious fucking flow, we can’t have that sort of thing anymore. So the game just went on and on and on (and on and on and on) for a ridiculous 15 minutes or so of match time. And Veldwijk was down.

I used to kick the ball out if I had an injured player or wanted to get subs on. I don’t do that now. There’s a Principle at stake that’s far more important.

Nothing happened to Veldiwjk. He eventually got up. Nothing happened. Nothing. He was fine for the rest of that match, and the one after, and will most likely be fine for the rest of the season too. The only danger he or any other player is in is from loading-screen injuries. You know the ones: Player A has been injured for 8 weeks, or whatever. I suppose that could happen. It probably will, now I’ve tempted fate. I’ll deal with it if it does.

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