Month: May 2018

Rooing the day

Part of the allure of Master League is being part of your own individual instance of a fantasy footballing world. It’s interesting to see what happens to the big-name players over time, particularly in their twilight years. E.g. the 39-year-old Messi at Sunderland and the like.

It’s only season 3 in my PES2011 ML, the equivalent of real-life season 2012-2013. In this alternate universe, Rooney has already set off on his travels and is now at QPR.

He played pretty well in this match, which I lost badly, thumped 3-0. Still only on Professional difficulty too.

The AI in this match had an odd habit of shooting often from long-range (with Rooney, and without). Football game AIs shoot from distance far too seldom, normally. More please.

The PES2011 AI in general has impressed me more in the Premier League than it did in Division 2, where it often seemed so passive and plodding that I actually feared for the long-term future of this segment of my sentimental journey into the PES past.

Matches in the top flight are tighter, and the AI more aggressive. You would expect this to be the case, and it is.

I still feel gratified at the many touches in this ML – reckoned by some to be the best-ever – that really make a difference to the experience.

E.g. after a victorious home match, you’re rewarded with a useful few £££s. These few £££s add up over the course of a season, and that sum really means something substantial. Hiring more and better backroom staff crucially affects your team’s form and fitness, and the better backroom staff are very expensive. It’s £1 million for a basic one, £3 million for a middling one, and £5 million for the best ones. There are 5 positions to fill. I think it will take me several more seasons to populate each position.

I’ve been toddling along with basically the same squad for a season now, because I’ve spent most of my money on backroom staff. So the £30k I got for winning the match above, if repeated with lots of other wins of course, all adds up, and all means something.

A few defeats have sent me down the table, but overall I am not struggling for results when I really focus on getting them.

I’ve made a decision about the difficulty level. If I’m still in the top half of the table come mid-season, I will graduate to Top Player and remain there for the rest of PES2011. (There was no Superstar level at this point in history.)

My goalscoring is still awful, so I need to invest in a striker come mid-season. Iaquinta and Pinilla have so far not delivered the goods in the top flight, and Schwarz is still very much a Youth in development.

Come the transfer window I’m favouring Old Forlan, as per my previous post, for various reasons. The personal satisfaction reasons being the main ones.

For richer, poor Forlan

I am now well into the swing of things in Season 3. Above is the scrolling schedule calendar, which is thronged with fixtures now. I have played on past the above screenshot (pre-Liverpool game), and past the FA Cup tie vs Brescia (purists look away), which I won in Extra Time.

Life in the Premier League on Professional is gratifyingly tougher than it was in Division 2. I’m sticking on this difficulty for now.

Here is the current league table:

Nice to see CSKA Moscow riding high there. A real, old-fashioned ML, this one.

I am worried about my goal-scoring, needless to say. Things just have not clicked for my players so far. It’s not as if I have massively diluted PES2011’s mostly hidden Team Spirit mechanic by signing a load of new players.

In pre-season I picked up one new player – a veteran GK, Agazzi. I have otherwise started my maiden season in the top flight with the same squad that won the D2 title. In real life that’s pretty much always a bad idea, but in this pretend-life of ML, so far, it’s not been a disaster. Unless my goal-scoring picks up, though, I am guaranteed to finish mid-table, at best, come season’s end.

I did try to bring in new players before the start of the season. I was particularly pursuing the 36-year-old Diego Forlan – a personal ML favourite – who would only have cost £5m. Even if I only got one good season out of him, it’d be worth it.

But my finances are such that I couldn’t even afford the £5m.

I could have afforded it by downgrading a couple of Staff members from Level 3 to Level 1, freeing up £4m in an instant, but that would have been a foolish thing to do.

The backroom Staff system in PES2011’s ML is one of its key mechanics. Having better Coaches and Team Doctors really does have a boosting effect on form, fitness, and stamina, from match to match. So I didn’t want to downgrade my Staff, and impact the entire squad, just to pick up one ageing player.

Instead, I will pick up old Diego in mid-season if he is still available. Granted, I will then do very well to get half a season of goals from him, but I’m not playing PES2011 to be a 1337 haXXor Gam3r, or whatever the myClub people call themselves. I’m playing it to please and interest myself. Getting a favourite near-37-year-old striker, in my first ML season back in the top flight, will please and interest me.

Old Forlan will either be remarkably great – in which case, a top ML experience is in the offing, with the game being an appealing fantasy – or he’ll be amusingly ineffectual in his twilight months… in which case, a top ML experience is STILL in the offing, with the game being true to life. Either way it’s win-win.

Stumble sail

Season 3 of my return to PES2011 is here. Coventry City in the Premier League, where they rightfully belong.

I accidentally captured this image while trying to snap a pic of the pre-match Premier League logo:I pressed the shutter button at the moment the image changed to the players lining up in the tunnel, pre-match. I think it worked out.

There’s nothing like the excitement of your first season in the Big Time in a Master League career. You expect everything to be refreshed and brand new, and it is.

Eventually.

First I had to haul myself through The Void that separates the end of one season from the beginning of the next.

After the last game of Season 2 came the long, long weeks where all I could do is progress from one empty week to the next. Someone might suggest: ‘Just press the Skip To Week button!’ There is no Skip To Week button in PES2011. You have to manually cycle through the empty half-weeks from May to September – about 22 of them. One. After. The. Other. Wait for the game to load the next week. Click through all the status messages. Repeat.

It takes about 8-10 minutes to get through The Void between PES2011 seasons, even with Autosave switched off.

I had my reward at the other end. A fully-fledged Premier League! With all the correct badges and logos and everything.

Granted, having the likes of CSKA Moscow and Sporting Gijon rubbing virtual shoulders with the Newcastles and the Chelseas feels peculiar now, after several years of not having to put up with that sort of thing – but it’s astonishing how quickly the old PES instincts resurface, once you commit to the course. The quality of truPES gameplay makes up for everything. Everything.

Fixture number 1 was disappointingly against one of the ‘expansion teams’, as I think of them, Sporting Gijon. I won that 2-1. And then I had my first proper Premier League match, versus Everton – which was a straightforward affair that ended 0-0. I was rarely in difficulty, and should have won it. I think Top Player is not far off.Newcastle are up next. At odd moments of my days lately, I think of myself playing ‘proper PES’ again, and it makes me smile. Giving up on nuPES isn’t giving up on PES. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Interestingly, what haven’t I mentioned so far throughout the two full seasons I have played back here on PES2011? 7 years after my first go-round with the game?

I have not mentioned the stumble animation.

A certain Northern poet once remarked that the passage of time leaves empty lives waiting to be filled. What he should have said was that the passage of time lessens one’s infuriation with certain aspects of past football games.

The stumble animation was a major grievance for me in 2010-2011. For those not in the know: the stumble animation is triggered whenever your player has certain kinds of common physical collisions. Your player will stagger forward for a few steps, and then stand there, motionless and dazed, for enough time for the AI player to make away with the ball.

7 years ago I found the animation intrusive and destabilising in a very fundamental and deeply aggravating way. It was the key component of a spoiled experience, and directly led to me abandoning PES211 after ‘only’ 11 seasons(!), without having won anything.

But now?

Now, after several years of button-mashy, arcade-sprinty, ballerina-skippy, online-sucky PES, I genuinely don’t notice the stumble animation at all.

Last day drama

We are going up. I said we are going up.

It went down to a last-day decider for the title (of course). Master League does so love its last-day deciders.

Of my final 4 matches, I ‘unexpectedly’ lost one and drew one. Heading into the final round of fixtures any one of three teams could have won the title depending on all results.

I was 1 point behind Villa, who were top. Sporting Gijon were behind me on goal difference.

Knowing PES as I do, I felt that as long as I won my match, I would more than likely win the league.

My players were well up for it – the subs’ bench too.

In PES2011(PS3), red arrows really mean something. I thumped my last-day opponents 5-0 after being 4-0 up at half time. Matuidi scored a gorgeous 25-yard daisycutter that almost prompted me to get out the mobile phone.

When the final whistle went, my players’ celebrations fired. I wasn’t sure if we’d won the title or if they were just celebrating promotion. Impatient to find out, I pressed Start, and missed seeing whether or not there was a trophy presentation.

Sheer delight indeed.

This was the final table:

And this was the Team of the Season, with Individual awards:

Pinilla should have made it there, having been superb for me since arriving mid-season, and part of the reason why I suddenly surged up the table, but the methods of PES’s calculation are obscure.

Iaquinta is totally justified as he got 20+ tap-ins throughout the season as a whole. Top scorer.

And that concluded the season. I will now have to spend 20 minutes cycling through The Void, as I call it, that separates one season from the next in PES2011. That’s around 30 button-presses while the calendar moves slowly from one week to the next. Turning off Autosave for the duration speeds things up, but not by much. No ‘Skip To’ calendar option in PES2011, remember.

Plans for the Premier League? Well, for one I will be needing a new keeper. My main man, the totally reliable De Sanctis, retired at the end of the season. I deliberately chose to bring in a veteran keeper at the start of the season, so I can’t complain too much. I got Fatecha from the Youths mid-season, but I’ll be shopping for another veteran GK come the Transfer window.

And how about the difficulty? I’ve played the past two seasons on Professional. Now I’m in among the big boys, would a move up to Top Player be in order? It would make sense. Things were getting easier for me in Division 2 toward the end of the season…

Not a chance. I will start Season 3, in the Premier League, on Professional difficulty. And see how things develop.

So here at the end of Season 2, with a D2 title under my belt. where does PES2011 stand?

Very high. I’m having a consistent 8/10 experience that is slowly building up to something more than that. I never have a bad session. Bad sessions were not a feature of Golden and Silver Age PES. You could always have the odd bad match where you thought ‘ugh’ once in a while, but an entire session of arcade, button-mashing crap? Never. Bad sessions of PES are entirely a PS4-era phenomenon.

Season 3 beckons, and it seems this whole retro PES thing has really bedded down for me.

One thing’s for sure. I don’t believe I could ever now go back to the sprint-’em-up nonsense of the current generation of games.

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