Category: God mode

The squirm that turned

It was business as usual in my next batch of games in season 2020 of my Master League career. I won several more games in a row (after winning my opening three games) to give myself an almost perfect start to the season. I was top of the league, three points ahead of my nearest challengers, Espanyol.

Hang on… Espanyol? I haven’t even been aware of them for the past several seasons, much less noticed them actually doing anything of note in the league. I think it’s possible that they’ve spent the past season or two in Division 2, and this is their first season back in the top flight. But I’m not sure.

Whatever, the fact that they’re up here now at the start of the season, breathing down my virtual neck at the top of the table, means precisely nothing. Zilch, zip, nada. At the end of the season it’ll be me and Valencia in first and second place at the top of the table, with the next-nearest team in 3rd place about 10 points further behind. That’s the way it’s been for the past 6 seasons and that’s how I expect it to be this season. Over time things will change and other CPU teams will come to the fore, but right now it’s too soon for Espanyol to be considered serious challengers. We’ll see at the end of this season if my prediction holds true.

The undoubted highlight of my second batch of wins was a dazzling hat-trick from Del Piero, playing out on the right up front. As my other great players all get older—Camacho is 30 this year—the comparative youthfulness of players like Giggs, Kim Cyun Hi, and Del Piero gives me hope for the future of my team, regardless of who I end up getting to replace them in a few seasons’ time. I’ve already checked on Gerrard. He’s still an active player for Barcelona, at the age of 40. I don’t think he ever plays for them nowadays, but he’s still on their books. The crazy thing is that his stats still look pretty good for a 40-year-old. Lots of reds and yellows. I’m positive Gerrard will retire at the end of this season, which should mean he’ll pop up as a Regen in the mid-season negotiations next season. (Message to self: do not blithely skip the mid-season 2021 negotiations. Be sure to get the 17-year-old Gerrard. Message ends.)

Del Piero’s 23 now, and plays about as well as I have ever had any player play for me – up to and including PES5’s Bergkamp. It’s too early to start talking about this Del Piero as the best-ever player for me in PES2008 so far. There are at least four ahead of him in the queue for that honour (Camacho, Bradley, Komol, Maldini, a few others). Del Piero’s truly stellar performances are for now pretty unpredictable. But he’s just getting better year after year. His hat-trick was one to die for, with two long-range efforts from wide positions, and a scrambled header from a corner showing that he can mix it up in the penalty area when required.

My winning run just went on and on. As well as my usual aim of winning a Treble, I have a couple of secondary aims as well: go through the whole league season unbeaten, and concede less than 20 goals whilst doing so. I’ve tried to do that for the last few seasons and come close, but never quite made it on either front. I’m going for those secondary goals again this season.

All I have to do is keep taking the lead in games, and winning them—and the unbeaten run, obviously, will take care of itself. It’s when I get into the dangerous territory of drawing games that I risk the CPU sneaking a winner.

Happily I kept playing well until game 9, winning them all. It was one of my best winning runs in Master League. Komol got himself a neat little hat-trick in one game.

Then, in game 9, I encountered the mighty Real Betis. They’re definitely a newly-promoted team, and are riding quite high in the league. That means little at this stage of the season, but I was still wary. They ticked all the ‘upset’ boxes—a lesser name, newly-promoted, doing well in upper-mid-table…

Yes, the ensuing game was a bit of a joke. I know I’m harping on about scripting again, but really, after a certain point it’s the only way the CPU can seriously compete against a human player. And it shows.

I took the lead with a finely crafted strike from the man of the moment, Del Piero. I could and should have put the game beyond any doubt—I acknowledge this. The only way to snuff out the CPU’s God Mode and prevent that famous last-minute equaliser is to get yourself the cushion of two goals, not just one.

But I couldn’t expand on my lead, and as the game moved toward its climax I sensed what was about to happen. Real Betis were playing it around, and frequently squirming through my best tackles.

I hate the whole CPU ‘squirm script’. It goes like this: you tackle the CPU player, but he squirms free (sometimes he squirms free from two or three of your players). Then you slide-tackle the same CPU player, and your tackle wins the ball. But your player stands there doing nothing while the ball rolls loose. Sometimes, your player will take a step back to allow the CPU more space to recover the ball. The CPU player—whom you tackled cleanly and successfully—recovers the ball and resumes his unstoppable run toward goal.

After several game minutes of that kind of thing, you know what’s going to happen. It happened: Real Betis got the last-minute equaliser and the game ended 1-1. Yes, I should have scored another goal earlier to make the game safe—but did I miss my chances, or did the game miss them for me? Failing that, I should have just defended better—but what about that whole squirm script?

There seems to be little the human player can do about that. If the game wants to temporarily disable your player(s) to give the CPU an advantage—and there can be no doubt that it does do this—there is manifestly nothing at all for you to do except put up with it.

Never mind. A draw was always going to come along eventually. That league table still makes for good viewing from my perspective.

Shenanigans Wake

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.

Mewling and puking

I won game 15 of my season 2019 campaign. Coming up to the mid-season break, all three of my main ambitions for the season are on course.

I want to win a Treble of League, Cup, and European Cup. That’s the main one. I’m still in both Cups and I’m six points clear at the top of the League. I also want to remain unbeaten and to concede less than 20 goals all season in the League. That last aim is looking dodgy—I’ve already conceded 10 goals—but the other aim of remaining unbeaten is still viable. My record right now is played 15, won 13, drawn 2, lost 0. Looking at it realistically, I’d be delighted with just a Treble. The other two would be bonuses.

Yes, the Treble is definitely where it’s all at this season. I must not trip up again like I did last year. One bad game in the Division 1 Cup cost me everything last season. It’s in the Cups that a Treble is at its most vulnerable. You can afford to have a bad League game, or even several bad League games. The title is a marathon, not a sprint. But conceding a bad goal or two in a Cup match can lead to Game Over as far as the Treble is concerned.

After game 15 in the league I had one more game before the mid-season negotiations It was the first leg of the D1 Cup quarter-final. My opponents were Barcelona and the match was at their place. I prefer it that way around, as it gives me a chance to rack up an away goal or two before the second leg, and frequently make it a formality.

I went 1-0 down early on. That was disappointing but by no means disastrous—if I could get a 1-1 here, at minimum, it would still be a good result. The way I’ve been playing this season, I felt I could still come back to win the match and take a commanding lead into the second leg. Barca have never been any great shakes in my Master League.

Giggs had been unfit for this game and I was playing Del Piero out there on the left up front in his stead. Cole was playing in Del Piero’s regular place on the right. Why not simply play Cole on the left? Because he doesn’t have the celebrated ‘Both Sides’ capability. Yes, I frequently do play players on their ‘wrong’ sides, but I try not to, and it depends on the player. The swapping-around of players before a Master League match can get very involved. Early in an ML career—with the Default squad and for a few seasons after—you find yourself fielding half-fit players a long way out of position. Later on, when you’ve got a big squad full of great players who can play almost anywhere, it’s hardly ever a problem to fill every position with a fully-fit megastar.

I rallied strongly to make it 1-1 with an absolute peach of a strike from Del Piero on the left wing. It was one of those goals where you only have half a second after receiving the ball to get the shot away before the CPU defender closes you down. The ball curled inside the far post out of the Barca keeper’s reach.

Then Barcelona hit me with some seriously formidable God Mode. I’ve always said that I accept and even agree that, occasionally, for the sake of a good football game, it’s necessary and desirable for the CPU players’ abilities to be boosted. What I have never been able to accept is the simultaneous reduction of my own players’ abilities—or, in some cases, the blatant withdrawal of the basic footballing ability to kick the damn ball…

Barcelona scored another goal during their God Mode period. It turned out to be the winner, and it may well cause me to miss out on the Treble, and I’m not happy about it. The goal came about during a spell of Barca pressure. I was defending sturdily enough, when the ball fell just inside my box at the feet of my DMF, Prieto—one of the most talented and solid players in the entire game. I pressed X to pass the ball to my right-back. Nothing happened. Okay, I thought, I’ll just hoof it clear, and I pressed Square to do so. Nothing happened. A Barca striker—it was Rooney—nipped in, pinched the ball from the motionless Prieto, and scored.

What can you do? Wait for PES2009 and hope against hope that there’s a new AI in town, is what you can do.

I’ll have it all to do in the second leg—but at least I have that away goal. That’s something to build on.

Pack up your Trebles

Ouch—the Treble this year has gone. I’m out of the European Cup.

I’m very disappointed. I’ve still got the Division 1 Cup and the League to go for, but it feels as if the season is over. The Treble is my major target and I’ve yet to win a proper one in PES2008. Although I did win it last season, it was a decidedly suspect win that I don’t really count as a proper Treble. With a few games to go in season 2016 I was about a million points behind Valencia. They conveniently managed to drop just enough points to let me win the league on goal difference in the last week, thus completing the Treble. Hmmm, I thought at the time.

And it was Valencia who were involved again this season. This time they had a deciding hand in denying me the Treble. So I suppose what’s gone around has finally come around.

They’d already beaten me 1-2 at home in the first leg of our European Cup quarter-final. Those two away goals were massive for them. In the return leg, I knew I had to score at least two away goals of my own regardless of anything they managed to do.

I’ve mentioned a few times before just how formidable Valencia are in my Master League. They seem to be as good as Real Madrid and Barcelona put together and then doubled. Valencia are fast, strong, skilful, and lucky when they really need to be (the finale of season 2016 excepted, of course). There’s rarely any need for the game to handicap me when I play Valencia. It seems their players are good enough on their own not to need me to be handicapped—the way all games should be.

I took the lead in the away leg. It was early in the first half. Another goal would win me the tie. But taking an early lead was the worst thing I could have done. One of the PES series’ long-standing niggling faults is that computer teams playing cup ties don’t properly recognise and react to the whole two-legged setup. If they win the first leg by a couple of goals, for example, and you take the lead in the second leg—but you’re still behind on aggregate—they’ll react just as if they’re 1-0 down, without any regard for the aggregate scoreline. In real terms this often means you face a supercharged, God-moded CPU that never lets up until it has ‘equalised’. I’m no programmer, but I don’t think it’d take more than a few lines of programming code to fix this irritating problem.

Valencia went completely medieval on my ass. They scored two goals by half time to make it 2-1 to them on the day, meaning I now needed to score two more goals without reply to win. And there could be no extra time. It was a tall order. I groaned out loud, attracting some funny looks from the lunchtime crowd in the restaurant at my workplace.

I never got my goals. I conceded another one instead, late on in the second half. It was one of those miserable games that miserably ends your pursuit of the Treble. Other Treblers (is that what we’re called?) will know the exact sinking feeling that I had as the final whistle drew near and even the faint mad hope of some wild miracle started to recede. It ended 3-1 to Valencia on the day, 5-2 on aggregate. I’d crashed out of Europe with a whimper.

In the Division 1 Cup I sailed through to the semi-final without any difficulties. But it feels pretty hollow now. I really do set my heart on a Treble every season. In the league, things are also going moderately well. Sitting five points behind Valencia (grrr) in the table, I met them in a bruising six-pointer that ended, predictably, in a stalemate 0-0 draw. A few games later they’d dropped points against other teams and I was just 3 points behind them. But then I had a torrid game against Real Madrid. Usually this is a guaranteed win for me, but I think Real have been reading the blog. They’ve taken offence, or something. They were unusually spirited and resilient. I struggled to get a 1-1 out of them. Valencia won their game, and so they take a 5 point lead again.