Month: July 2018

Development curve

I have been playing nothing but offline matches vs the AI in myClub over the past few days. Somehow, if I’ve got a spare 40 minutes to get a match or two in before work, it feels wrong to spend any of that time on finding a human opponent. The good old traditional single-player routine still applies.

I have progressed offline to the Professional Stronger level. I just cannot seem to get the back-to-back wins required to ascend to Top Player Weaker.

I exclusively use my 1-star Irregulars offline. As you progress, you come up against progressively stronger teams, and my Irregulars have now run into a brick wall. No matter how I try, the Irregulars just cannot seem to break down the AI-controlled user teams that are stuffed with stars.

I went for my B Team instead, which I rarely use. This is a mixture of my Irregulars and my better players. 3 stars on a good day.

I met a team called Brasil. They only had one Brazilian player: classic Romario. The mode’s World Cup bonus thing is still going on. Earn more GP for re-skinning your club as a national team for the duration of the tournament. I haven’t dabbled, but I’ve played against plenty who have.

I won this with a David Silva hat trick plus one from Castledine.

Below is the Silva hat-trick. Goal 1 is a bit special. I didn’t really capture the best angles to see it. It’s a finessed left-foot curler from about 25 yards. The second is an easy header. The third is a great free kick that I thought I’d put too much power on at the time.

Player Development is 99% of myClub for me. I converted a raft of my top players into Trainers – including Bale, which was a wrench. He was my first big-name Black Ball signing, but he turned out to be as anonymous and Everyman-like in myClub as he was in Master League. Perhaps with persistence Bale would have emerged, as David Silva has now seemed to emerge. And to be fair Bale has never fit in with any of my manager formations (there is no WF position in any of them).

But there is no time left to persist with Bale. Time is a-crackin’. PES2018’s myClub has scant weeks to live… Unless PES2019 turns out to have ditched player development, in which case, PES2018’s myClub may have several months to live.

Bale converted into around 4500 EXP as a Trainer. That, combined with a fair few other players, was enough to slingshot Veldwijk up 11 whole Levels in one go:

The story of Veldwijk in PES2018 is soon to be interrupted, if all goes to plan with PES2019. Maybe.

Turns out that player development is the secret sauce required to make myClub palatable.

Will Konami now swipe this sauce off the table? We all know they could very easily do so and it would not be at all surprising. It’s really quite tense waiting to find out.

You kern not be serious

I finally got promoted to Division 10 in myClub.

Using my Irregulars! It was their first notable performance and victory online. I was as pleased and proud as could be.

Look at the odd kerning between the ‘r’ and the ‘o’ in ‘Chronicles’ and ‘rouge’. And between the ‘r’ and the ‘d’ in ‘Tardini’. Shudder.

My opponent here was just a 1-star team like mine, but he still had Hazard and Lallana in his team. The rest were the starting no-hopers, Vasilj and Hettich & co.

I think it was his very first game in the mode. I used Veldwijk and his strike partner, Zigoni, to torment the life out of him. I bombarded him with long balls and feasted on the knock-downs from my front two. I stood off in defence, let him play his ping-pong triangles, held my players in position, and then pounced when he lost patience and tried to play past me.

At half-time I’d had 6 shots, 3 of them on target. He’d had 1 shot off-target. I knew this match was set up for me to win it, but I often blink in sight of victory and end up losing.

Eventually my goal came from a through-ball that I kept calm enough to tuck inside the post with Veldwijk. A good touch for a big man.

And that was promotion to Division 10 in the bag. Using my Irregulars no less.

If PES2019 ends up being a go for myClub, expect an Irregulars storyline to feature prominently on the blog over the coming months. I would assemble a core squad of 60-something OPR players, close the door to any new players, and see how far they get. My Irregulars are the best thing that has happened to me in PES for a long old time.

I also took a look at my old Master League save. Just to see what it felt like now after a few weeks of myClub. In a way it was a false test, as I’ve spent a lot of time playing single-player in myClub.

There was one immediate and obvious difference. My Master League game speed setting is on -1 speed. In myClub, it’s locked to 0 of course, for both online and single-player matches.

The -1 matches on Master League felt like squeezing plasticine through glue. In a positive way. I noticed that my myClub weeks have made me less prone to hang onto the ball. This, right here, is why the growth of online gaming in football gaming is a net negative. It has had a deadening, pseudo-Darwinian effect on football gaming. Survival of the sprintiest.

I’ve remarked many times that even a poor PES AI plays a better and more wholesome standard of football than the average online player. I stand by that assertion. I’ve played enough online matches now to know that there are great players online, who can really make the PES engine shine. But they’re what, maybe 1 in every 5 opponents? And that’s me being rather generous.

myClub in PES2018 has a few weeks left to live – possibly. I could play on until the servers are deactivated next spring.

It remains to be seen if player development, via the accumulated EXP mechanic, is retained for PES2019.

We know Konami of old, and they are just as likely to remove player development from myClub in PES2019 on a random whim, than for any coherent reason. Although I can think of at least one coherent reason. The new transfer market would likely be unbalanced by the inevitable exploitation of player development.

But player development does encourage single-players to test the water, as I have done. A positive, you would think. Do Konami think so too? We shall soon find out.

Experience has taught us nothing

If PES2019 is going to be a thing in my football gaming life, it needs to feature the above.

The above screenshot is the post-match EXP-adding screen in myClub.

Levelling up.

myClub in PES2018 added player levelling as a core mechanic. Just as in Master League, players playing matches, and doing things of note in those matches, levels up those players.

You can slingshot chosen individuals, to a certain extent, by applying extra EXP in the form of Trainers and Special Trainers. I’ve done that with Castledine to get him into the low 70s OPR and notably improve his passing.

How much the stereotypical online player – the drooling, sprint-pressuring, Ronaldo-Messi-Neymar-loving player – knows or cares about this aspect of the mode is debatable.

I care very much about it. I would not still pick Castledine, and I would not be playing with a squad of no-hopers, if it were not for that romantic dream of seeing if they could be world-beaters one day.

So I trust the levelling-up mechanic will still be in the all-new myClub of PES2019. If so, I will buy, and play the game – and probably take a peek at ML too, no doubt. If not, then my former solid cast-iron Vow not to touch PES2019 at all, will come back into force. Simples.

The Konami experience of recent years has shown us that they’re more than capable of ripping out elements of game modes for obscure purposes of their own. Why would they remove Levelling Up from myClub, you might ask? I can think of a reason: they don’t want players like me ‘wasting time’ developing low-rated players when we could be spending real $$$s on top-rated players in the new ‘packs’ they’re introducing.

We shall see. I think, rationally, that it should be okay. Surely they wouldn’t be so petty. But bitter experience with Konami cautions me to keep my mouse finger away from the PES2019 pre-order page. Anyone remember Master League in PES2010 and PES2011? Who would have thought that majestic mode would ever have been sabotaged so cynically and ruthlessly? But it was.

Playing with my C-squad of Irregulars over the past few weeks has been a joy. They’re a 1-star team, even with the silky presence of my levelled-up Castledine and the likes of Kramaric too. I only wish I’d started with them from day 1 back in September. Where and what would they be now? I have wild dreams of them being able to stand toe-to-toe with one of the uber-teams in this mode. Imagine that 9-month story coming to fruition right about now.

This morning I fired up the console for a single-player match with my Irregulars. I’ve been stuck for two weeks on ‘Professional Stronger’. This is a difficulty-within-a-difficulty level that is peculiar to myClub’s single-player mode. All I need are two back-to-back wins on this level, home and away, to ascend to ‘Top Player Weaker’ – and so on up to Superstar and beyond.

But can I get a win on Professional Stronger with my Irregulars? Nope. I keep coming up against user teams (AI-controlled) packed with stars who dominate me and quench all goal-scoring efforts. I still average 1.5 goals per match, but can’t seem to shut them out at the back.This match was so nearly a 2-1 win for me, with some good chances missed at the end.

I will get there one day. This is a new, lighter way to play PES for me, which fits perfectly with my routine as it currently is. Work and general life are busy.

What of Master League? It might soon be time for me to take a curious peek at my old save in PES2018 – not opened since, when was it? April? Round about then.

Hodor Hodor Hodor

I have climbed back onto the myClub horse Online. After a week or more of playing all Offline.

It was in Divisions. I played 3 matches, which is about my limit, I think.

I find that playing online is rather stressful. It’s the sense of there being somebody at the other end with all their expectations and impatience. It’s peculiarly draining and anxiety-producing.

You know when you’re walking along a corridor with a door at the end, and you can hear somebody walking just too far behind you for you to politely hold that door open for them (because it’s impolite to stand there and make them run to the door)? And so you push through the door, let the door swing shut and carry on, but wonder if the person thinks you’ve just been rude for not holding the door (even though it would have been rude for you to hold the door and make them run to it)? That kind of burdensome social obligation is what I feel when playing Online. I’m just not mentally set up for interactions with other people in that way. It’s no good pointing out that this sense is all largely, or wholly, in my own mind. The point is that it exists.

If this whole myClub thing really lasts until PES2019 – if there is a PES2019 – then I will be a 50/50 offline/online player.

I was lucky with my opponents in these three matches. My first opponent (post-match stats above) was probably the best single opponent, in terms of him being somebody who played ‘properly’, that I have faced in the past few remarkable weeks. It’s rare that I am outdone on possession.

Note the number of fouls there. This was a full-blooded online match, albeit not quite as aggro-filled as most. Finishing with 0 fouls per side is distressingly common online.

What does a ‘proper’ online myClub match (by my estimation) actually look like? I recorded this entire match and might upload it later for perusal by the curious. It’s a huge file, though, and I have a slow upload connection, so I might not get around to it.

I really notice the difference with my new quality CB pairing – Hummels and Boateng. Having two black-ball defenders in the heart of defence is a startling change from having O’Shea and Aké there.

I limited all 3 of these online opponents to virtually no clearcut chances at all. The first opponent’s goal only came when I tried to walk the ball out of defence, as you can easily do against the AI, but which is often deadly against a human.

I next took my 1-star Irregulars Squad online to see how they’d do. My opponent was another 1-star team who had ‘Ibra’ on loan. I made four clear-cut chances in a first half that I dominated, but missed them all. Ended up losing 2-0, both scored spectacularly by ‘Ibra’. But it was another good match against an opponent who played mostly properly.

Next I switched back to my 4-star ‘A’ Squad. They’re pretty decent now. Hummels and Boateng at the back. Victor Moses and David Silva in midfield. Bale and Bacca up front.

I got a victory. I played a Uruguay player – myClub is still running a weird World Cup bonus system where players can re-skin their teams in national colours for various rewards.

This player was the least wholesome of the trio, but he was still a cut above the usual online opponent. Back and forth the battle went. I was outmatched in various ways, but I hung on and snatched a jammy goal in the second half. Then I switched to a low Defensive posture (2/5), held the line deep, and grimly hung on until the final whistle. He had a couple of half- and quarter-chances but my solid new black ball defenders withstood the pressure.

Here are two brief highlights – I’m the team in white. First up is a glimpse of the only clearcut chance he made, which he fluffed; and then comes my goal:

It was a jammy goal as I wasn’t aiming for Bacca with the return floated pass from Silva – it was meant to go in the middle.

And so I bagged my first win in Division 11, after 3 straight defeats. These new CBs are really showing up for work.