Month: June 2018

Kelsen’s Folly

And just like that, June is (nearly) gone. This time next month, it will be less than one month to the new PES – which I might or might not be there for.

Whether or not I do end up getting PES2019 depends, bizarrely, on myClub.

It’s a bizarre situation because of all the barracking I’ve given the mode over the years. Of course myClub is the mode for which the game has been fundamentally changed. All the fast and frantic, fouls-free, flowing action is entirely due to answering the needs of myClub. Online players want to sprint-pressure for 90 minutes with little or no interruption. So that’s what has to happen.

I’ve played myClub enough now to admit that, yes, it is a good mode. There is unexpected depth. Player individuality, that staple ingredient of PES, is more pronounced in an arena where the slightest edge really matters. Even the online opponents are not universally the insane button-mashers I have so often parodied them as being. Many of them are that way, but it’d be unfair to deem them representative of the mode.

One of my most amusing discoveries in myClub is the discovery that there are no fouls online either. There’s an average of 1 foul per match, I’d say. Most matches are incredible scenes of constant sprinting aggro. The game allows it. 20 fouls per match and 6 red cards would not be excessive, given the way 98% of players play. But of course that would never be allowed to happen.

Playing myClub demonstrates why fouls will never return to PES – or to any other football game. The players would never stand for it.

Given this poxy state of affairs, there’s little point in old-school players enacting any kind of boycott. I’ll continue to get my ML fix in the past, in editions of PES that valued single-player experiences above others.

But why not play myClub on the current PES as well? Why not, indeed. It has an excellent squad-building mechanic. I’ve currently got four squads, each individually tailored to meet a need. It doesn’t take long to start feeling that Panini sticker-book urge. The mode has player development and levelling up (something Ultimate Team doesn’t have). There’s the interest in taking a team ‘to the top’ of something, even if it’s just climbing a ladder in one’s own head.

So all in all, PES2019 might happen. If it does, it’ll be myClub-only from day 1. I will see what unfolds over the next month.

The last few days have seen me play precisely two matches, offline, in myClub’s ad hoc single-player mode that I sketched out last time. (For anybody struggling to spot the single-player option, it’s the one with the big black letters that says VS COM. This is only a partly snarky remark. I get easily lost in new-to-me menus too.)

My Irregulars have not been able to gain any traction the last few times I’ve taken them for an outing.

I went instead for my Kelsen formation. You can give each squad an individual name. Kelsen’s Folly is aptly named.

This old-school Default’s 5-3-2 was such a spiffing wheeze to take online, I thought. Then I promptly got thumped, twice, by opponents who probably couldn’t believe their luck.

I tried the formation here in single-player. You’re allowed to tweak the players’ positions slightly, as I have done on the right here. Difficulty: Professional Stronger (myClub has its own difficulties-within-difficulty levels).

Got thumped 1-3 by The AI That We Need… I was lucky to get that 1 goal.

Formations and tactics are very important in myClub – which is another damning indictment of nuMaster League, where they are not very important at all. Sorry, but they’re really not.

You’re locked to the manager’s formation in myClub. It’s a tricky concept to explain to the uninitiated, but it strangely works. Restrictions bring a sense of freedom and accomplishment, when you manage to work with them. Look at what I have to do to accommodate Bale in this formation. CMF.

For my second match vs COM, I switched to my A Team  and easily won it 4-1. Which I regret doing now. I will stick with the Irregulars (maybe even with Kelsen as manager) for single-player from now on.

I also spun a few balls and got Boateng and Nacho and Benatia to shore up my leaky defence. I’m nearly ready to venture back online again. Nearly.

Alleged Irregularities

Not much football gaming has gone on in the past few days. Only time for a scattered few matches, here and there – all of them in myClub.

In a sign of which way the wind might be blowing, though, they have all been offline against the AI. I am still licking my wounds from that truly shocking season in Online Divisions 11.

I have been having an absolute blast taking my 1-star squad of Irregulars through some vs COM matches in myClub.

Team Spirit has crawled up to 87. It’s arguably the most critical factor in making a team perform well on a nuPES pitch, for better and worse. I could apply a few in-game items and slingshot Team Spirit straight up to the high 90s, but I want to grow this team ‘organically’. It’s the time of year for PES buzzwords, and there’s a classic one for you.

myClub offers a surprising way to play the mode offline and really enjoy it. Look at the highlighted square on the top left of the UI:

You can take your team on a pseudo-ML-like adventure in which you ascend a ladder of achievement ‘up’ the difficulties. There are subdivisions within the difficulties. Here I have taken my team (using any squad within myClub; I always use the Irregulars) up to ‘Medium’ within Professional.

It’s damn hard to get past this point, for me, with my 1-star Irregulars. Four draws in a row, some of them with heartbreaking last-gasp goals from the AI, have kept me stationary where I am.

Next up was a Napoli team that looked like this:

When you play an AI team in myClub, you really play against another myClub user’s team as it currently stands, albeit controlled by the AI. As you can see, that’s a very decent Napoli I am up against.

How would my PES Chronicles FC (I’m sticking with the lower-case styling) fare against them?

I went 0-2 down very early on, and it was still 0-2 in the second half. It was looking like I would drop down to ‘Weak’ within Professional. This is a very surprising, and very addicitve little single-player feature within myClub. I accept I should probably get on and ‘git gud’ at playing the button-mashers online, but this feels more like my kind of thing for now.

I scrambled a goal back with not long left. 1-2. Could I do it?

Yesssss. That’s a CB slotting in at the end of that very nice move for my third goal.

And now I was up the next rung of the ladder. Up to ‘Strong’ within Professional. Win home and away on this level and I will go up to ‘Weak’ Top Player – and so on.

I like it.

My conclusion from the past few weeks isn’t that I am some kind of class traitor for taking a wander into the wild world of online.

No – instead, the last few weeks in my footy gaming life is clear evidence of something that has been staring me in the face for the past 15 years:

I only really have 1 Master League campaign in me per year.

Once I’ve used up the ML juice, the ML juice is gone. I think I was doing well to play 2.5 seasons on PES2011 on the PS3.

I will get back to the meat and potatoes of myClub – actually playing the annoying feckers online – eventually.

For now, I’m really enjoying this quasi-Master League feeling of seeing how far I can take my Irregulars offline.

I have not forgotten my other myClub squads, of which there are two: an A Team and a B Team.

The other night, spotting that I had plenty of GP in the bank, I took a few ball spins using the Special Agents. and for the first time I hit the 2% chance and won a Black Ball player.

This player went straight into my A Team:

Soon, Gareth. Soon.

How do you do, fellow kids?

It’s fair to say that I am not the greatest player of PES online – at the moment.

4 of these matches were what I would class as heavy defeats. I drew 2, and could have got something from the other 4 but for a touch of online naiveté. I suspect I will adapt and improve.

I must have played about 30 matches online in total now. I have still not seen a single goal scored from outside the box. I myself have not scored a single goal from outside the box (I have barely scored a goal…).

I very rarely see an opponent even attempt to shoot from outside the box. I still attempt loads, but I’m getting the message. The Guardiola Doctrine – don’t shoot from outside the box – is firmly entrenched in online PES2018, and that is a great shame. As we have seen already in the World Cup, goals from outside the box are a wonderful spectacle and they happen. In PES2018, online, they simply don’t happen.

All opponents do the sprint-pressure thing to some extent. Some are worse than others. There is no consequence to doing it. It demonstrably works. So why not do it? I quite agree.

All in all I continue to enjoy myClub despite, rather than because of, online opponents.

Squad management is a joy. The growth of my club in myClub is the principal pleasure of the mode. It’s a very Classic ML-style feel, for me anyway. Many an ML veteran player would take one look at the average pressure-whore online, and run screaming back to ML, or just to the offline single-player options on offer in myClub itself, which are plentiful.

One-off single-player vs COM matches in myClub start off on Regular difficulty, which is slightly disappointing and could discourage playing them, but they’re worth sticking with.

Win a few and the game upgrades you to playing on Professional difficulty, and then to Top Player, and so on all the way up to Legend, with proportional rewards for winning each.

Lose a few and you get ‘relegated’ in difficulty back down the ranks. It’s a decent system and one I’ve spent some time exploring this week – using my Irregular squad.

This 1-star squad is one that I would happily take into Master League itself if I could. (Now there’s an idea for a custom Challenge-style ML.)

I have been playing with the Irregulars in the offline vs COM matches, and getting ‘promotion’ with them through the difficulties as described above, then switching over to my main ‘A’ squad for an online match, and back again. An advantage of Squad-swapping in this way is that the stamina of the other Squad is automatically replenished, and vice versa.

I have got the Irregulars up to Top Player, and the games are very, very tough. This is more enjoyable for me at the moment than the online component.

I’m sure I will eventually ‘get’ online. I think it’ll involve changing my style of play. Most players do indeed ‘ping-pong’ the ball through the middle into the box, or down either wing and then across into the box, for a straightforward finish. They’re not good goals. Online, it doesn’t matter how that ball goes into the net, it just has to.

Since the screenshot at the top of the post was taken, I have started the next season in Division 11. My first opponent was that rarest of unicorns online: a MANUAL passing player. He comprehensively outplayed me and beat me 3-1. He was indeed really good with his passing – I suppose you would have to be, to have the confidence to take a manual passing game online.

The myClub adventure continues, but a fair few savage hidings have given me lots to think about.

Am I cut out for the Quest? Is it even a Quest worth being on? The answer to the latter, at least, still seems to be Yes.

Squad building, player individuality and growth, and an overall pleasing sense of progression: these are all strong elements of myClub, and continue to interest me.

I am bad, and I will simply have to git gud, as we youngsters say online.

Perverting the pyramid

In a development that will surprise nobody who has read the last few entries on this blog, I have played zero Master League on 2011 since a solitary session on the new PS3 last week.

Instead, the unlikely myClub story continues.

I have changed the name of the team.

Coventry City is very much a Master League phenomenon. The name and the custom kit rightly belong there.

I chose a new name for the club more fitting for the kind of adventure this feels like. PES Chronicles FC was the result. It still feels like a placeholder name. It doesn’t feel very ‘me’, somehow, to be waving a flag for the blog with the name of my online team. Think I’ll change it again soon.

I picked Fiorentina’s kit and badge to turn out in, even though the current version is far from the best version of the strip.

That lineup seen above is my 1-star Irregulars team. So far it’s my favourite team to play with in myClub, as it’s an exclusively offline team. I’m not brave enough to take them online yet, as I’m simply not good enough yet.

I took a break from the punishment of Divisions (6 losses and 2 draws in Division 11) to play a one-off Online match where the prize was a free Black Ball spin – a big deal for me as I have yet to get a Black Ball player. These are the créme de la créme of players in the game. The top players’ presence (and absence) really make a difference in PES online.

myClub is currently running a World Cup-themed feature that I just about understand. Basically, for this week, if you temporarily adopt the ‘skin’ of any World Cup nation’s team (in the same way that I have adopted Fiorentina’s ‘skin’), you get all manner of GP bonuses in your post-match kitty. I haven’t done it yet, and probably won’t do it. I’m bewildered enough with everything as it is.

My opponent for the Black Ball match was PAOK Thessaloniki, but he had taken on the kit and name of Nigeria to enjoy whatever bonuses he hoped to make.

Here are the two-minute highlights of the match. I’m in the deep violet kit, now, remember. You can see my hesitancy and naïveté from the very start. Fortunately, my opponent was not one of the clinical, ruthless finishers who tend to make up the average opponent.

A very, very lucky win. I created nothing in this match, no clear-cut chances, and I was reduced to taking the kinds of potshots you see me trying throughout. That effort with Torres at 0:40 might well be the worst shot attempt made by anyone online – or generally, in any football game – ever.

Online, I want too much time to play the same sort of game that I’ve been playing offline for 20+ years. An AI opponent will politely let you turn 180 degrees to lay the ball off to a teammate. The average online opponent won’t do that.

Stepping up to online play is analogous to what Championship players always say of adjusting to life in the Premier League. Suddenly, you lose a comfortable margin and your game is disrupted.

So this win was a fluke, an anomaly. I clearly didn’t deserve to win it, but my opponent fluffed all his chances. I did not fluff my one (lucky) chance, so the Black Ball was mine.

I excitedly rushed to the Hall of Spinning Balls, and I spun those balls.

And got David Silva (AMF, OPR 80, Level 1). Not the most energising result but with him being Level 1 he will level up to something much more than he is now.

Playing myClub means that I was soon anxiously scrutinising every single one of his stats. The PES database indicates he could level up to 95 for Ball Control. He’s on 87 right now and is not too shabby.

And that really is the most marked achievement of myClub. It makes stats, and how they manifest in players, seem to matter again. I haven’t drilled down into player stats this deep since the PS2 days.

I appreciate that some readers of the blog feel I skim over stats and the tactical side of PES in favour of the ‘big picture’ ML story. Some may wish I would talk formations and stats and skills in PES a lot more than I do.

They say be careful what you wish for.