Category: Winning Eleven

Wired for sound

And that’s that—I have now finished with the demos for both games. There’ll be no more demo playing for me.

Between now and full release I might play the odd one or two demo matches here or there if I’m feeling frisky, but otherwise I am now officially waiting for the full releases. Both will be qualitatively different experiences from their demos, and the matches will mean something. I can only take so many Exhibition games.

I’m stunned by some of the demo exploits I’m seeing on the forums. People who have played hundreds of matches, and who will play hundreds more yet. How will they avoid demo fatigue, or even contempt? Perhaps they won’t avoid them.

I estimate that I’ve played about 50 matches on PES2012 (demo 2) and 20 matches on the FIFA12 demo. In both cases it’s been enough for me to like what I see. I’ll now wait for the full game(s). FIFA12 is just a week away; PES2012 won’t be much longer.

I was teetering on the brink of mail-ordering a Euro copy of PES2012, but I’ve decided I can wait after all.

Particularly if I’m able to get my hands on an early copy of the PC version.

I finally got to play the PC version of the PES2012 demo 2. It ran beautifully—a little better than PES2011 ever did, truth be told.

I made sure to play a couple of matches of the ‘vanilla’ version first, by way of orientation.

I enjoyed two of the best matches I’ve played on either of the PES2012 demos, period.

First I played Spurs vs Rangers, on Regular difficulty, with passing assistance set to 0. I also left the game speed on 0 for this one.

The game speed felt perfect, the passing was perfect, the gameplay was just perfect. I lost 0-2, not because I wasn’t trying—I certainly was trying—but because I underestimated the AI. I had chances galore but couldn’t finish.

The keepers were terrible again, mine in particular. Neither of Rangers’ goals were a result of his eccentricities, but it’s still more than a little demoralising.

That’s the word for PES2012’s keepers as they are now: demoralising.

The only reason I’m not throwing myself off a roof about the PES2012 goalkeepers is the prospect of them being fixed in the final game and/or in a Day Zero patch.

My second match was Inter vs Bayern. I cruised to victory 3-0, with the butterfingered Bayern keeper contributing two of my goals. Again it was an absorbing match. It was a pleasure just to knock the ball around, looking for openings.

After my two warm-up games I installed one of the Demo 2 expansion patches that increases the playing time and adds about a thousand extra teams. I used Jenky’s patch, obtained via EvoWeb forums.

I played Liverpool vs Man Utd, 15-minute halves, Professional difficulty.

As ever, it was a thrill to suddenly be playing PES2012 with different teams, and in a longer match.

Sadly, I had some technical problems that marred the experience. Graphics were juddery and, most distractingly, I had no sound at all.

After playing one half I quit to the desktop to investigate. For a few years I’ve been one of those nose-in-the-air Macintosh people, so my PC skills are rusty. But I still know enough to have a root around and try to fix common issues.

Could I restore sound to my PC? No, I could not.

I uninstalled the patch and the demo. Then after trying the most obvious fixes I went into device manager and attempted to reinstall the soundcard drivers. Somehow that went wrong. Not wanting to waste any more time, I decided to hit the nuclear button and went for a System Restore, which did the trick.

For the record, I’m not sure it was the PES2012 expansion that did it, although that’s the most likely culprit as the problems happened immediately after installation.

Bloody PC gaming. With its updates and endless technical wrinkles. It’d be the greatest gaming platform ever but for this kind of thing.

Before shutting down the PC I had to have a few matches on two other installed games: PES5 and WE9LE.

It’s always instructive to look back at the old games. See where we’ve come from, and where we’re going, and if it’s worth going there.

I played two matches of my ML career in PES5, and two of my ML career in WE9LE.

WE9LE is the better ‘pure’ game of football, no doubt in my mind, but on this occasion, I enjoyed PES5 more.

PES5 is plagued with incessant fouls, yes—picky fouls by later games’ standards—but wasn’t that very feature the making of PES5? Didn’t its fouls make players play with more restraint than in any other PES game? Producing a legendary game of football in the process.

Late last night I found myself firing up the PC for another sneaky few games of PES5.

It occurs to me that PES has been a successful, indeed legendary games franchise because of the self-expression that its gameplay encourages. You can paint pictures on a canvas and create majestic moments that lift you above yourself and the game. That’s the genius of PES, really.

So, what will I be doing between now and next week? Playing PES5(PC)—or maybe PES6(360)? Either or both of those will more than tide me over. This time next week, I’ll have FIFA12 (ShopTo and Royal Mail willing). I will be very interested to see what all the Career Mode buzz is about.

Playing the field

With regret, I must bid goodbye to my Master League in WE9LE. I remain a big fan of WE9LE itself. It’s an inspired version of the best-ever PES game, PES5. But even WE9LE’s most ardent admirers would acknowledge that the fan-patched game just isn’t configured for single-player.

The hard core of fans who have kept the game alive for several years now are hard at work on a new patch. It’ll be interesting to see what it does for Master League.

One thing is for sure: I will never be an online player. With WE9LE, as with any other football game, it’s single-player or bust for me. No multiplayer. No time, no inclination. Not now, not ever, no way. It’s a sign of the times that this stance is almost literally inconceivable to many gamers. But that’s how it is.

I’m also in a period of loathing towards PES2011 again. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s one of the worst PES games I have ever played. As bad, in its own way, as PES2008(PS3).

I played a short session in which it seemed that every contact between players triggered the stumble animation. Every time a player received a pass he seemed to do the step-around (or ‘Pirlo turn’). It was just ugly and awful and tedious. Everything bad I have ever said about PES2011 was true a hundred times over.

By now I know it’s best to just walk away when I feel the familiar PES2011 disgust building up, so I did walk away. That was a couple of days ago. I last played WE9LE on the same day. Since then, my only football game action has been 20 minutes of Championship Manager 01/02 on a USB stick at work.

This really must be my ‘bittiest’ football gaming year ever. Since January—which saw the beginning of the end for me and PES2011—I’ve been moving around, never staying still. Right now I’m basically floating free until the 2012 games make their appearance.

And do you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m on summer vacation.

There is one football game I really do want to play for a solid week or two. That game is FIFA11.

The end of Septemeber is just weeks away, when I traditionally do an end-of-year review of the principal football games. I haven’t yet played FIFA11 enough to be fair to it. I plan to remedy that. But I won’t force myself to play something I don’t want to. If FIFA11 repels me, I’ll let it, and my end-of-year review will just have to be unfair. This is a hobbyist’s blog, not bleedin’ Gamespot

I’m still working on the book, although I dislike 90% of the 15,000+ words I’ve written so far. It may have to go back to the drawing board again. That means the book might slip to December/January or even spring of next year. (‘Spring of next year’! Is there anything more unimaginable, right now, than spring of next year?)

And I’m unashamedly playing other games. Dwarf Fortress. A few XBLA games that I’m catching up on. A bit of Civilization IV (not Civ V; Civ V is the PES2008 of the Civ series). All the PC faffing about has led me to Steam, and to Dungeons of Dredmor (on the Mac too), and to a 4×4 space indie strategy game called Star Ruler, and much else. I’m playing Tactics Ogre on PSP. I’m reading several books at once. I’m watching some of the TV shows and films I’ve been saving up for months. I’m also working 40 hours a week. I’m >this close< to running away to become a hermit in the wilderness. The only thing stopping me is the recognition that, essentially, I already am one.

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.

Is this the real life?

That’s Litmanen there, looking a bit furtive in his latest WE9LE appearance. He’s still only 18 in my ML ‘world’, and a long way from being the player he will become. In his so-called real life he peaked in his late 20s, I seem to recall. That’s a very long time away.

I doubt I’ll still be playing this career in 10 seasons’ time, but you never know. It all really depends on PES2012. If PES2012 goes wrong—and let’s not kid ourselves that it’s impossible for PES2012 to go wrong—anything could still happen.

There’s a new, better patch for WE9LE due later this year. I’ll be very interested to see what it does for the single-player game.

Also in my WE9LE midfield is Aaron Lennon, who could be said to have peaked in his real-life late teens. He’s probably my most valuable player, consistently, from match to match. I have the most shots on goal with him, and even score one or two as well.

WE9LE’s impressive shooting model continues to fascinate me. Long-range goals are so rare that they’re a truly precious commodity. Creating a good enough opening just to attempt one in WE9LE is almost an achievement in itself. I played a match of PES5 for comparison and was able to fire off the shots almost at will.

It’s still only season 3. Progress has been very stop-start, not least because of a PES2011 side-project, and certain other projects too.

I passed the 10K words mark for the book yesterday. I think I’ll aim for 40-50K as a first draft. I’d like it to be a relatively short, intense read. Nowadays I love books that can be read in several hours spread over a day or two, not weeks. It’ll still be a (hopefully) good book-length read, but not a major George R.R. Martin-type of commitment. (Another thing to distract me, there. I’m a fifth of the way through the 1000+ pages of A Dance With Dragons.)

Truth be told, there is at least 1 day per week now where I don’t play any football game at all. Sometimes 2 or 3 days. This would have been unthinkable just a year ago.

Does this signal a permanent change in my behaviour? I don’t think the urge to play football games will ever leave me, but you never know. What if something else comes to take its place?

I’m still playing the mighty Dwarf Fortress with a kind of passionate obsession I haven’t known since discovering Civilization II more than a decade ago. I’m putting in 5-hour stints on the game on my days off work. I care about my thriving dwarf fortress more than any of my football games right now, and that’s the truth.

And just now, while procrastinating over the writing of this post, I was having a look at Football Manager 2011 on Steam. Thinking: should I? I want, I want… etc. With everything else currently happening, there’s no way I’d want to play FM2011 for more than 20 minutes or so, so what am I thinking?

Where does it come from, this greed for games we’ll never be able to play properly? I think it’s a peculiarly recent phenomenon. I don’t remember being afflicted by it until around 2009 or so. Before then, I got one game and played it and finished it, and then moved onto the next thing. But things are not like that any more, as the dozens of unplayed and barely-played games on my phone will also testify. Curious.

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