Category: Konami

Merry Patchmas, Mr Scrooge

I hope that 1.02 brought everybody whatever they wanted in its seemingly infinite sack. I was already adjusting to the 1.01 gameplay, as Monday’s rather gushing post showed. What I still hadn’t adjusted to was PES2012’s shooting, but I’ll get to that.

I’ve got to the end of Season 1 in my Master League career. The division top scorer list, above, is probably my one bright spot in a tough, tough season. My main man, striker Stephen Twigg, continued to bang in the goals throughout all the ups and downs.

I started the season on Regular difficulty on version 1.00. Then moved to Professional difficulty. Then moved to version 1.01. Then to version 1.02 with about 10 matches left. I ended the season as I began it, back on Regular difficulty, getting hammered by the AI.

Here’s  the final table (pardon the amateur image editing required to fit the entire table into one picture):

I notched up more wins than usual for a season 1, and scored a few more goals than usual. But I ended where I always end in season 1 of a Master League: bottom.

The overall season outcome was West Ham taking a close title. I didn’t have one player in the Best XI—not even Twiggy made it.

I spent most of the last third of the season without Ruskin. The stalwart left back is one of the most important Default players there are. I mostly used Xechinto as a left back. My injury list was off the scale at one point. Ruskin won’t actually be fit again until a long way into next season. I’ll be going shopping for a left-back in  the transfer market.

I declined to renew Dodo’s and Lothar’s contracts. They’ll be off in post-season. I’ll get rid of a few more too. I’ll probably have to sell some better players to balance the books.

I’d love to keep a hold of Shimizu. The little bastard is now up to 81 OVR with the supporting stats to match. But I still often struggle to do anything with him. If I get a good enough offer that would solve my financial woes and enable me to get several other decent players, I’ll take it. But I’ll try to sell a few others first.

All my staff are already at Level 1—no upgrades at all—so I haven’t even got the option of cutting them down to basics. It’s going to be a tough financial window. But I have survived them before and I will survive this one.

Ewolo, my sturdy DMF, has been a diamond. Here he is scoring a lovely thumper (on Professional on ver. 1.01):

I won’t sell him. Not least because he’s in his late 20s and anything I get for him would be negligible.

Finally, patch 1.02 landed on Monday and I installed it that night. I saw no difference in the shooting, which disappointed me so much that I didn’t really focus properly on the rest of the game until the following day.

Over the past few years we’ve seen some remarkable hysteria in the PES community. I still cringe to think of how it became a settled fact in many people’s minds that adding custom kits to PES2011 altered the core gameplay. Back in PES2010, a minor DLC update prompted waves of adulation for the subtle gameplay changes that it made. (It didn’t make any.)

So I’m always very, very, very cautious and sceptical about alleged changes brought about by patches. I’m like Scrooge when it comes to these things. Patches? Bah, humbug!

Typically, the 1.02 update has been credited with making so many changes that you’d think an entire new game had been released. The myth-making is running at full tilt, with the latest grand theory being that 1.02 is the actual, final game that Konami didn’t have time to release in October.

Sigh. All we know for sure is what Konami say. 1.02 is a gameplay update, but they’ve been very cagey as to exactly what’s been updated. No doubt there’s a lot of shrewd calculation there. They know that many people will see what they want to see and be happy.

But… I have to say… For probably the first time, I think I’ve caught the spirit of Patchmas Day. I am usually like Scrooge when it comes to these things, but I feel like capering down a snowy street singing joy to the heavens.

The game feels better. I probably see and feel only about 20% of all the things being claimed for patch 1.02, but it’s enough to make the game feel better. Less annoying uber-defensive AI is the most obvious change.

And suddenly, the game difficulty levels feel as if they’ve been rebalanced again. I might have to go back down to Regular for at least the start of season 2.

I’m still very dubious about the shooting, but there is possible light at the end of the tunnel.

The Running Men

Where would we be without a pre-release wobble or two? A period of wailing and gnashing of teeth? That period is now!

Anybody following the PES forums yesterday, as I was, will have seen discussion of an alleged new ‘issue’ spotted in the PES2012 gameplay videos coming out of Gamescom.

You’ve got to see it to believe it. Without further ado, take a gander at this illustrative video, helpfully annotated by its creator (YouTube user mintysandwish):

The alarming thing is that you can watch literally any video from Gamescom and see the exact same problem in all of them. Go and have a look now. It’s real.

I know that not everybody can watch streaming videos from work and other places (I’m in that deprived club too).

So, briefly, this is the alleged issue: in the Gamescom build of PES2012, whenever a successful ground pass is made to a team-mate, the passing player automatically sets off on a scurrying forward run.

That’s every outfield player in every position on the pitch. Even the CBs. Again, watch any Gamescom video and see it in action.

To save you some time: the forward runs are definitely NOT player-initiated. They’re not due to over-use of either the one-two mechanic or the new ‘trigger run’ feature. They’re not even caused by the currently old-school R2 trigger-run. One of the teams in the above clip is a CPU team.

The forward runs happen every single time following a completed pass, for both teams. Watch a few Gamescom vids at random and observe. I spent nearly an hour doing so yesterday. That shit’s universal.

When the news sank in, I went a bit Arthur Fowler. Then I calmed down a bit and began to see the picture rationally.

This is either a trivial bug and therefore nothing to worry about, or it’s a new feature—and even so may still be nothing to worry about.

The argument raged on EvoWeb and WENB forums until the wee small hours. (If you want to catch up on the row, as turbulent and bad-tempered as you’d expect it to be, I recommend starting on EvoWeb here, and on WENB here.)

Many were convinced that every player who played PES2012 at Gamescom was spamming the L1+pass button, or had painstakingly edited the tactics to make the AI more aggressive, or had all done something to make the forward runs happen . Patently, none of those theories are true. This forward runs thing is potentially a problem, we have to admit.

Or potentially not. It’s all very well being a worrier, but I haven’t actually played the game yet.

Encouragingly, those who have played the game are bemused about the ‘forward runs bug’. It’s not an issue to them. They don’t remember noticing it, and most encouragingly of all, it’s not visible in most of Konami’s publicity reels using other builds of the game—as is also shown in the embedded video above.

This time next week, we’ll have played as many games as we like on the demo. If the forward runs bug is a real thing and we find it to be a real problem, I would hope there’s time for Konami to fix it (without wrecking the game) before release, or at least within a week or two of release.

But there’s that small, insistent voice inside me that says: Remember the stumble animation. Remember the step-around. Remember what they did to PES2011 when no one was looking…

The knowledge of good and Pro Evo

Today sees the appearance of news and impressions of the forthcoming PES2012. The NDA that Konami had in place will expire as this post is published. I’ll be absorbing the details over the course of the next few days, like everybody else. And like everybody else, I’ll be fervently hoping that this time, this year, we get a PES with more answers than questions.

Yesterday morning I played PES2008 on the PS3 for the first time since 2008. I wish I could say that it’s a better game than I remember. Sadly, it’s a worse game than I remember.

I didn’t play it because I’m looking for a football game to play right now. I’m definitely not looking for one. I could easily play any or all of WE9LE, PES2011, FIFA11, PES2009(PSP), and PES6(360). Each of them is enjoyable in its own way and will easily carry me through to October.

No, I played PES2008(PS3) because I’m revisiting my PES past for a certain side-project that I’m working on. I wanted to remind myself of what that game was like, not in my memory but in the nuts-and-bolts here-and-now.

As I opened the PES2008 case and took out the DVD, I looked at Michael Owen and Ronaldo on the cover. I considered how their separate fortunes have risen and fallen, just as PES’s fortunes have risen and fallen. Everything will come to dust.

First of all, the game had to update itself. Updating took a few minutes—the patch was above the 100MB mark. I watched the progress bar, thinking, just how many times has that particular update been downloaded in recent years? Is anybody out there still playing this game? Still buying this game? I like to wonder about such things.

The PS3 edition of PES2008 originally came out with horrific technical issues that required such a hefty patch. It’s a debatable point whether PES2008(PS3) should ever have been released at all, but it definitely should have been delayed.

My first impressions of PES2008 back in 2007 were actually pretty good. It has to be remembered that in 2007 there was none of the gloom that surrounds the series nowadays. PES was the nectar of the gaming gods, and that was all there was to it. There was no doubt. We were only ever going to perceive the best it had to offer. It would take something pretty hideous to unbalance that viewpoint.

PES2008 was our serpent in the Garden of Eden. After its appearance, nothing was ever the same. It introduced the notion that PES could be bad. Not just problematic, not just intermittently annoying, not just occasionally infuriating, but bad.

I know that PES2008(PS3) has its fans. I can appreciate that evaluating games is a matter of opinion, that there is no objective right and wrong.

In the case of PES2008 on the PS3, I humbly beg to differ.

The graphics are terrible, worst that PES6 on the 360, which came out the year before. The gameplay is the stiffest version of Pro Evo ever. Stiff and unintuitive and on rails and glitchy and… I can’t go on. PES2008(PS3) just isn’t worth it.

Yesterday morning, I became frustrated with it quite quickly. I also very quickly recalled the wonder dribble mechanic. This was where any player with above-average stats, no matter what their position, could dribble around entire teams and put the ball in the net, on Top Player. It says much (or nothing) for PES2008(PS3) that I was able to do this quite easily.

I played a few Internationals and then quit, feeling a great sadness.

PES2008 was the game that changed everything in the PES universe for the worst. It shifted our paradigmatc relation to the series the wrong way: down, into a darker, more uncertain place.

And it was even worse on the PS3, pre-patch: a technical calamity like nothing we could ever have dreamed a professional multinational games company would ever put out. It was the Hindenburg and the Titanic rolled into one.

The years since have been a painful inch-by-inch crawl back up from the gutter.

On this day, a day of looking forward and hoping, it’s worth remembering where we’ve come from, the depths to which the series sank in its darkest hour. PES2009 was better than PES2008. PES2010 (my favourite next-gen PES so far) was better than PES2009. PES2011 was better than PES2010. Now for PES2012.

The pattern is clear. There is rational ground for hope that PES2012 may just see the series get back to where it once belonged.

His name is Robert Paulson

Happy Christmas! Or it might as well be, considering that it’s already August. Where did that summer go? Blink now, and when you open your eyes it’ll be September and we’ll be playing the PES2012 demo. Which will be much better than PES2012 itself, probably.

I’m taking a semi-official summer holiday from football games. I am still playing them—I’m always playing them; that’s the point of the blog—but currently I’m not playing them much.

It makes sense to have some downtime from a beloved pastime, which is what football games are for me.

If you’re into astronomy, say, there’s simply got to be a time when you’re not out in a field in the middle of the night with your good eye glued to a telescope. If you’re literally always doing it, you’re not an astronomy-lover, you’re just crazy. Hobbies and pastimes and passions need good periods of downtime so that they can be themselves.

So it’s with a clear conscience that I’m doing lots of other things. Work is underway on a certain ambitious piece of writing, of course, but I’m also reading a few good books and playing Dwarf Fortress and other games. Generally I’m just, uh, chillin‘, as I believe the kids still say. It’s ace!

I’ve played another few matches in my WE9LE career and a few Exhibition games in PES2011. Of PES2011 I have not much to say, except that I hope whoever it was at Konami who thought the stumble animation was a good idea has been fired. I’m really not joking about that. I genuinely hope they’re at least no longer working on anything to do with Pro Evolution Soccer.

It must have happened something like this:

Summer 2010, Konami HQ: “PES2011 is one great game of football! But, hmmm…. What would improve PES2011? Well, every time another player brushes past your player, your player is sent into a lengthy stumble followed by a dazed pause! The fans will love it!”

If that imaginary scenario wasn’t bad enough, the following then had to happen:

Late summer 2010, Konami HQ: “I’ve looked at your idea, and yes! Let’s put that GENIUS stumble thing in the game right now, on the eve of release, even though it’s not in the demo that everybody is currently loving so much. What a great surprise it’ll be for the fans!”

So, yeah, my Exhibition games on PES2011 have not been trouble-free. PES2011 has not been trouble-free, it’s fair to say.

My end-of-year reviews of PES2011 and FIFA11 are due at the end of next month(!). PES2011’s overall out-of-10 score won’t be anywhere near the 8.5/10 I gave to PEs2010. (I’m under no illusions that it matters much to anybody, of course. And I will play a good bit more of FIFA11 before passing judgement on it.)

WE9LE, for all its unavoidable last-gen clunkiness and inelegancies, handles superbly. It rarely feels as unfair and halting and awkward as the next-gen PES games at their worst.

The striking thing for me is that I can say all of this and still look forward to PES2012 with a strange kind of gasping desire. What’s that Stockholm syndrome thing all about again? Or is long-term PES fandom more akin to the Cult of Apple?

By the time my next post is published on Wednesday the current embargo on PES2012 playtests and previews will have been lifted. We’ll be deluged with news and impressions and hopefully some videos. They should give us some idea of whether 2012 will bring the Rapture or just another Jonestown.