Month: August 2019

This Is Cousin MacAdder

Good news – the silly season on the blog is over.

It seems to have gone on for longer and been sillier this year. That’s because it has gone on for longer, and it has been sillier…

This summer I’ve been busy with work and some other matters, and not had much time at all to devote to the blog. Doing a twice-weekly blog takes up a significant amount of time. A month or so ago I almost mothballed the blog until September. The last time I took that sort of step, though, I enjoyed my leisure so much that I ended up taking a whole year off, and I didn’t want to run the risk of being tempted to do that again.

So I went with all the posts about me playing, oh, ‘This Is Football 2003 whilst riding a unicycle’, and that sort of thing. Cheap as chips.

I would like a short break before the new season begins, so I will have the next two Fridays off. I will continue with once-weekly Tuesday posts until the last week of August, when I will return to twice-weekly with my End of Year Review of PES2019 and a look ahead to PES2020.Yesterday, prompted by a comment from a regular commenter, one Uncle Turf Esq., I acquired a ROM of International Superstar Soccer for the PlayStation2. And played it in PCSX2 on the PC. And recorded the footage, which is below.

England versus Scotland, of course. I didn’t bother upscaling the graphics or making any housekeeping tweaks offered by PCSX2, so this is a bit blurry and there are occasional glitches:

ISS(PS2) is a sort of second cousin to the mainline ISS-PES series that we know. Definitely a non-canon effort, this was a port of ISS64 from the Nintendo 64 – itself a somewhat legendary game on that platform.

I remember the PS2 version coming out at the time to the indifference of the already-large ISS-PES community. The gaming press at the time was almost entirely print-based, awarding every PES game a routine 10/10 every year from PES2 to PES6, and quite rightly so. Back then you tended to have one game and you played that game alone.

So this International Superstar Soccer port pretty much died a death in the UK and European market, although it was more popular in the Japanese and North American markets, which was the intention.

I found myself enjoying my one match on ISS(PS2) a lot more than I was expecting to. The mechanics are surprisingly solid, although I never did quite get to grips with the passing system, as can be seen. The first goal I conceded – quite early on – was a poor one from my perspective, but it shows the AI dribbling and taking people on.

I never scored, and barely had any meaningful shots, not getting my first proper shot away until I stopped trying to sprint-pressure, as in modern games, and take my time.

All in all, I would rate this fleeting encounter with ISS(PS2) quite positively, and I was not expecting to. A very playable game, perhaps even a touch more playable today than the ‘official’ games of the time. The design elements from almost two decades ago (such as that big blue free kick arrow) do feel prehistoric now, but that sort of thing charms rather than bothers me.

In other news, I have finally put in my PES2020 pre-order, after kidding myself for a few weeks that I might be able to become a PC gamer. I’m a console man through and through, and I have of course plumped for the PS4 version again this year. Which doesn’t mean I can’t also go PC, though, particularly if the retail PES2020 is watered down to the point of blandness, of which there is a high chance.

I’ve gone with my supplier of the past two years, Simply Games, who dispatch the quickest of any online retailer in my experience. I’ve worked out that I could get PES2020 as early as Friday 6th September, or at least over that weekend. Which would actually not be totally welcome, as I will be hectic with work, but I’ll take it. If it happens.

And that really is the end of silly season on the blog. Back to Serious Season with immediate effect.

NO Friday post for a couple of weeks, remember, so I will return with a new post next Tuesday.

Which will be taking us back, for a couple of weeks of continuous play of The One True Game..

Back to the Golden Age of football gaming.

Back to a time just before everything started to change.

Back to the only real football game that has ever been made.

A foul please, Carol

FIFA19’s turn today to get the ‘full match on a non-standard control setting’ treatment. Semi-Assisted passing and shooting.

This is the opening match in a pre-season tournament in Season 2 of Career Mode. You can see me fiddling with the settings beforehand, and playing some of the pre-match minigame. The music from that few seconds got this video a copyright notice from YouTube. I’ll remember to edit any future FIFA vids to avoid that annoyance.

I enjoyed the first few minutes of this match, which even saw me get a free kick in shooting range, a true rarity in this game. After that I felt things degenerated into a turnover-tussle. It’s that feeling of continuous hypnotic flow that is FIFA19’s great weakness.

FIFA needs the return of solid collision mechanics. An AI fouls slider would be nice. It would also be nice if EA were as chatty about fouls as they are about literally everything else to do with their game. ‘We’ve fed this back to the developer’ is still, so far as I am aware, the only thing EA ever says about AI fouls. A classic brush-off line.

Not that its cousin across the aisle is doing much better on that front, of course. Watchers of the footy gaming PES skies over the last 24 hours will have seen the most predictable event since, uh… Damn, I hate it when I can’t think of a funny example after setting up a construction like that.

The predictable thing is the start of the climbdown on fouls in PES2020. The protesting anti-voices have had their way, and now no matter what anyone says – NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS – I’m calling it: PES2020 retail will be just another nuPES on the fouls front.

Yes, there’ll be the usual early reports from release week where somebody plays their first match and there’s, like, 3 fouls for both sides! Wow! And so on. But generally, it’s going to be 1 or 2 fouls per side – on a good day. Even the most foul-friendly nuPES (2019) has many matches ending 0-0 on the fouls front.

I am so tired of talking about fouls in modern football games. I have a feeling F1 racing game fans don’t have to wonder where their crashes are. I bet snooker game fans frequently go in-off. And platform game fans will often miss a jump and fall to their deaths. Incredible that football game fans in 2019 are missing an entire dimension of that sport.

So no, the discussion about what Konami might or might not do is moot. It is null and it is void. I’ve seen a lot of talk on the forums that a subtle scalpel could be brought to bear, and the fouls will be improved, not simply eliminated. ‘Oh, maybe they’ll tweak it so that X, Y, or Z.’ Oh dear God no. No, no, no, no, no. Fouls are gone, and that is the end of it. I’d actually prefer it if there was no more pretence on this front.

Anyway, I believe that 4 weeks today, or over that weekend, all the pre-orders will start landing on doormats. Which for me is a ‘bummer’, as I believe the kids still say, because it’s the following week I’ve booked off work. I would only have an hour or so to sample the game over that Sept 7-8 weekend. It’d be nice to have it ready to go on the Monday morning through.

And I know Carol Vorderman hasn’t been on Countdown for years.

What’s the name of the game

I’m still in the process of pre-ordering my copy of PES2020. And here is a sight to warm the cockles. Searching Simply Games for ‘efootball’ produces the result you can see here. Zilch. Nothing.

Sadly, searching ‘e football’, with a space, does produce the PES2020 result. Boooo.

That gap between ‘e’ and ‘football’ is as strange to me as the one that so many people put between ‘PES’ and its year. I will always render the name of the game as PES2019, for example, whereas the majority seem to prefer ‘PES 2019’. I don’t know which is right and which is wrong or why. I only know what I like.

(P.S. I still haven’t preordered. I’m dithering this year over whether to go PC or stick with console. It’ll almost certainly still be console, but I’m allowing myself the luxury of taking time to choose.)

I’ve played another few demo matches, and that is now the end of the demo for me. The only reason I will now put on the PES2020 demo, on any platform, for the rest of time, is if somebody discovers an Easter egg of some type hidden in the code, which is of course most likely on the PC platform.

The 5-minute demo on the PS4 is no longer of interest. So I now wait with the rest of the PES-facing world to see just what disfigurement Konami can wreak on PES2020 between now and September 10th (or thereabouts).

It’s a shame that this is the outcome so many times when taking a shot from outside the box.

HitThePostOrBarFromRange2020 would still be a better name than eFootball.

I’ve continued my manual passing and shooting experiment on PES2019. My Cercle Brugge career is now well into Season 17 within the Master League world as a whole. I was with Coventry until the end of Season 15 of course.

I swooped for Jarvis from my old club, picked up Emre Can from my own Youths, and got myself a few other journeymen. I’m enjoying it.

In another innovation, I have started playing with drastically reduced HUD elements. I saw a South American YouTuber muttering in Portuguese over footage of his own beloved Master League. He had turned off every single screen overlay, including the scores.

I have not gone that far. Here’s mine below. My player is just in the act of making a pass:Scoreboard top-left. Translucent radar bottom-middle. Nothing else. The strategy and ATT/DEF level markers appear for a couple of seconds when changed. It’s enough.

I couldn’t do without the scoreboard and radar. I like to orient myself within a match in time and space.

The biggest change here is the elimination of all on-screen power bars for passing and shooting. Remember the fuss when the little arced power bar first made its appearance in PES2011? ‘Surely they can’t stick with this,’ we complained. ‘It looks stupid,’ we grumbled.

Funny how quickly that under-player power bar became part and parcel of the visual grammar of football gaming. Doing away with it feels like a pleasing step back to classic PES days. And truth be told, our passing and shooting nous is all in the fingers anyway.

As a pleasing bonus, removing the on-screen power bar also removes it from the Free Kick view, making a system that at times is a touch on the easy side, that bit much harder. Since removing the HUD power bar I’ve got about 10 free kicks in shooting positions on the PES2020 Demo and on PES2019, and have fluffed them all. Normally I’d have scored about 3 or 4 of them.

My manual passing and shooting experiment is starting to wane a little. I am still relishing the sheer bloody difficulty of it, but it does take the wind out of my sails to work a great chance only for my 20-year muscle memory to take over and cause me to hit the corner flag with the resulting shot.

Here is a full 10-minute match, full manual, reduced HUD:

It’s all a matter of training of course. Sticking with it.

I’m in two minds here. On the one hand, PES on manual settings is fantastically hard and rewarding when it comes off, like a footy game Dwarf Fortress. On the other hand, I know that come mid-September, with the evenings drawing in, I’ll want the pipe-and-slippers experience of having my normal Master League trajectory…

I’ll see how it all goes.

Filthy casual console-playing assisted-passing peasants

PES2020 PC Demo, Me as Arsenal, and the CPU as River Plate. Top Player. I think this is actually an 8-minute match as I was messing about with the Sider time editor.

No great goals on show here, and the more I play this demo the more I do like it, but there’s a rule in PES Land: adepto coniuncta est quoque tertius ne demo.

Don’t get too attached to a demo.

The fouling model in this demo WILL NOT SURVIVE TO SEPTEMBER. This is simply how it is. In fact, part of me wonders if this demo is Konami’s get-out card. After this, they can ultimately do what they really want to do – remove fouls, barring a token one or two – and say that it’s what the userbase wants.

I played the first half with my customary settings of PA1 and Basic Shooting. But excitingly – for me at any rate – I switched to PA0 and Manual Shooting for the second half. I’ll refer to PA0 and Basic Shooting as ‘Manual’ for brevity’s sake from now on.

I’ve played a bit on Manual on PES2019 over the past week, but I’m still finding my feet and so there are a few misplaced passes – more than a few – but see the passage of play in particular between 5:00 and 6:00. It neatly encapsulates much of what makes Manual so entrancing.

It’s growing on me. I’ve flirted with Manual on and off since PES2013 – I recall quite a few people here all trying it at the same time, but ultimately heading back to PA1 because, well, that’s what makes footy gaming enjoyable.

Manual makes gameplay more realistic, in terms of looking for space, going easy on the Hollywood passes, taking players on, and making the most of opportunities. As in reality, things don’t work a lot more than they do. The question then, of course, is: is this kind of ‘Realistic’ what we really want?

In a movie, realism would see us following the characters through all the details of their mundane days, with excitement only happening occasionally. Manual in PES is sometimes like that. It takes the usual formula of a PES match – 70% action, say, with 30% legwork – and neatly inverts it. Sometimes. As that passage of play between 5 and 6 minutes shows, there is a smooth flow that can be achieved when you know what you’re doing, which is a place I sometimes think I might get to, but am clearly not at yet.

The next most interesting passage of play – the good and the bad of Manual – comes between 7:00 and 8:00. I’ve cued this up here:

You see me misplace a simple pass out of bounds. And then really get hold of the ball and play football. I think about but decline to play various risky passes (which would have been automatic no-brainer passes under PA1, done without even thinking), and finally I work the opportunity… I was especially pleased with the aerial pass at 7:21. You really have to mean such passes and crosses on Manual.

I work the chance, only to get excited and drag the shot pitifully wide. The ‘aiming lozenge’ really is the size of a tree trunk in the middle of the goal.

This is likely to be all just a silly season bit of fun. But I have completed Season 16 in my Cercle Brugge campaign using Manual settings. I have even gone all hardcore and turned off the passing meter HUD elements. So I might be donning the hair shirt and going all PES Fundamentalist here.

I’m still a member of the filthy casual assisted-passing peasant brigade, but I’m peeping over the wall into the silent Manual compound. What do they do all day in their white robes?!

Here’s a goal at the end of a 1-minute segment from a Cercle Brugge match on PES2019 (on Professional). First, for balance, a wayward shot indeed from me, and then a counter-attack from me (with the player HUD off, but the player nameplate shows the gold-coloured passing and shooting meter, lest there be any doubts). I was happy with this, a rare move on Manual indeed: