I went through all four mid-season 2019 negotiation weeks without picking up any new players. I just don’t need them. I do all my important shopping in the off-season nowadays. Mid-season is ideal for newer teams that need to accumulate cash through the playing of games in the first half of the season. By this stage of an ML career, 13 seasons in, mid-season is just an annoyance that makes you have to temporarily disable autosave and press X four times to navigate through. There was a time when I looked forward to the mid-season negotiations period as a starving man looks forward to food, but lately I’m just glad to get it out of the way.
Game 16 was tough. My opponents were average mid-table fodder—I forget exactly who they were—and I went 0-1 down early on. I had to fight doggedly to get it back to 1-1, which was how it ended. I felt fortunate to have got the draw. At least I hadn’t lost. One of my aims this season is to remain unbeaten in the league.
Next was the second leg of the Division 1 Cup quarter final against Barcelona. I was 1-2 down after the first leg. At least I had an away goal to carry into this home leg.
It was another tough, tough game where I had to dig in and fight for everything. By the 80th minute nothing had happened for me in front of goal. I thought that was it—the Treble was gone for yet another season. In all this time I’ve only won one Treble, and that was a pretty lucky one. It’s getting embarrassing.
Then I got the ball out wide to Komol up front on the left. I haven’t mentioned Komol for a long time on this blog, but he has been and remains one of my most valuable players, even at the age of 31. In the year 2025 (#if man is still alive#) or soon after, I’ll be selecting an all-time squad of 22 featuring my best players in every position. Komol will have a strong claim to one of the front three positions. He’ll definitely be in the 22. Anyway, enough gushing about an imaginary computer game football player—he got the ball and ran in on goal at an angle. And slotted it into the far corner of the net, low past the keeper’s outstretched hand. I won the match 1-0, making it 2-2 on aggregate. I progressed thanks to the away goal, and thanks to Komol at the end there.
Next in this little trio of games I met Sparta Rotterdam in a league fixture. At the start of this season I absolutely battered them 8-1. This time the game was a rather more sedate affair. I scored early—a nice flicked header from Schwarz—but then had to endure the most turbo-charged, ridiculous spell of CPU God Mode since the last spell. Sparta got their equaliser from a corner before half time. Fine. I wasn’t happy about it but at least now the God Mode should be toned down, or even switched off completely. Right?
No, actually. I should have seen this game coming. By the 70th minute I was 1-3 down and there was no way back for me. The game ended and I’d lost my unbeaten league status (believe me, that hurt). I’d also conceded 3 pretty soft goals. I don’t think I’ll hit my target of conceding less than 20 goals this season either. Never mind—the Treble is the big one, and I’m still on course for that. Fingers crossed.
I moved on to the next games, as I always do, but the Sparta Rotterdam game had left a nastier taste in my mouth than usual. The CPU had pulled some serious funny business.
It seems the only way an experienced player of PES can lose a game against the current PES AI is due to shenanigans going on under the hood. Deep in the bowels of the programming code, certain things have to happen. Translated into plain English, the game thinks something like: “Right, Player 1 has won four games in a row now and scored lots of goals. Okay, I won’t exactly make it impossible for him to score goals in this next match against, ah, Bottom Club FC or whatever they’re called—that’d be far too obvious; no one would play Pro Evo if I did that—but it’ll be very unlikely. He was scoring one chance in three until now. Now he’ll have to really work to score one chance in ten. Hehehe.”
And that’s not all. As well as calculating hidden macro-difficulty levels on a game-by-game basis (what? too paranoid?), the AI has lots of other tricks up its virtual sleeve. From moment to moment in-game, it’s always watching, always assessing, always interfering.
My ‘favourite’ CPU God Mode moment is when it brazenly re-directs your passes to its own players’ feet. This is nowhere more apparent than when you are leading and the CPU wants to get back into the game. Obviously it needs possession of the ball to do that. The simplest way for it to get possession from you is not by tackling your players or intercepting sloppy passes. Nope. That’s too old school for the current PES AI. What it’ll do instead is simply make your most straightforward, short, ABC passes go to its player instead of yours.
Here’s an example illustrated by a sophisticated scientific diagram (left). In the diagram, the blue circles are my three attackers, streaming upfield on a counterattack. The red circles are the CPU’s sole two defenders. The upper blue circle is the ball-carrier. Here, faced with a defender in front of him, the natural and obvious thing to do is to play a simple through-ball to the central striker, who will then have a clean run-in on goal. It’s just a tap of Triangle in his direction. The diagram shows what should happen.
What actually does happen, time and again, is that the ‘simple, straightforward’ through-ball will not go the player next to you. Oh no. It’ll mysteriously travel four times as far in the direction of your other, more distant player, who just happens to be closely marked. And the CPU defender will say thank-you very much, and intercept the strangely over-hit and misdirected ball, I have marked this occurrence on sophisticated scientific diagram no. 2 (right) with a cartoon explosion and a humorous KER-POW! Because I’m just so wacky.
During the nine months that this blog has been going, several recurring themes have emerged—scripting is one of the major ones. But it might seem that I’m a lot more annoyed about scripting/God Mode than I really am. If the frequency with which I return to the topic in my posts is any guide, I spend 90% of my time whilst playing the game just frothing at the mouth and heaping curses upon the hapless head of Seabass & Co. While it’s certainly true that I do heap those curses upon the poor fellow, it actually accounts for roughly 2% of my playing experience. Not 90% or more…
There are several good reasons why I keep returning to the topic of scripting here on this blog. First and foremost, it doesn’t belong in the game. I think we can all agree on that (those of us who agree that it exists, of course). PES would be a better football game without the AI’s God Mode. PES was a better football game without it. I’m sure that scripting existed to some degree before PES4, but I never really noticed it. I don’t recall it being a hot topic of discussion and debate among the PES community back then (in the mists of time…). But it is now.
The second major reason why I keep banging on about scripting is that it furnishes me with something to talk about. Let’s face it. The daily chronicling of how I play a computer game is only interesting—if it’s interesting at all—if I come into conflict with the game, or with myself, or with both. Without conflict I’d have nothing here. Scripting is the narrative dynamo that drives my entire blog. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But it’s not much of an exaggeration.