Month: January 2018

The Moan Ranger

Season 7 moves into its final third with me in the FA Cup semi-finals, and still sitting pretty in 3rd.

I’m very excited at the thought of maybe taking home a shiny trophy this season, then tussling for the Treble next. It’d be a fitting swansong to PES2018 and nuPES in general. I’d love to finish with a bang instead of a whimper, and wave nuPES off into its multiplayer future with something like regret instead of relief.

A few busy life and work days forced me into a mini-break from all gaming over the weekend. From Thursday to Sunday, I played nothing at all, so when I switched on PES2018 yesterday morning (Monday morning), it was like a breath of fresh air.

These are the absolute best times with nuPES, I have always found. Playing it after a few days of not playing it.

When I don’t play any of the nuPES games for a few days, whatever the reason, their undoubted positive qualities overshadow all the reasons why they’re not good PES games. For the first match or two, I forget what’s so unPES about nuPES, and just enjoy the very decent generic ‘FIFA with a garnish of PES’-style football gaming that’s on offer.

I loved it. Looking at all the bright, pretty colours. Pinging the ball around, fashioning chances, scoring goals. Old-school PESheads really are a pampered, spoiled bunch, with stratospheric expectations. Sadly, those expectations are grounded in reality – the reality of PES as it was – so, uh, whatever, you know?

Two solid sessions, high on the enjoyment factor. PES2018 is like a meal that is best consumed when an appettite has been worked up by not playing it for several days.

And I scored a long-ranger! Sort of. My only previous long-ranger on PES2018 came along very early on, back in early October last year – remember this? – so it’s been a long wait for my next.

As can be seen, the build-up play is a bit ‘gamey’ (leveraging PES2018’s one-touch ‘fun’ aspect), and the placement of the long-ranger is too low in the net to be really satisfying, and it’s probably on the cusp of being a medium-ranger anyway – but to hell with it, I’m calling this a long-ranger and I’m loving it. This really pleased me late last night:

Alas Schmidt and moans

Things are heating up nicely in Season 7. 3rd after 26 matches. A 5-point cushion to 5th. The league leaders are 20 points away, so not even ML league table scripting at its worst/best will haul me up there this season.

But a Europa League finish at least is pretty much guaranteed. A Champions League finish is highly likely. Once again I will miss out on competing in the Europa, which is a shame, but it means I’d get to compete for a Treble next season. I’m well on track for next season – Season 8 – to be my last, as planned.

In my most recent session, late on Thursday night, I scored this direct free kick:

I’ve had N SCHMIDT for about two seasons now. That is literally the first time I have ever noticed him on the pitch. He plays quite often too, as he’s an 82-something rated AMF with good supporting stats. Alas, so are hundreds of other players in this game, all of them pretty much the same as each other.

He curls that free kick up and over the wall very nicely indeed. The way things work in nuPES, that might well be the only memory of N SCHMIDT I ever have.

I’ve had about 3 shooting-range free kicks so far this season – and I’ve scored them all (with different players).

Free kicks in PES2018, it turns out, are quite easy. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why there are so few of them. If we did get an average of 1 free kick in shooting range every match, it would be an almost guaranteed goal every time. Maybe that was noticed in testing, and the nuPES panjandrums decided it was yet another reason to cut back on the fouls. Balancing, balancing, balancing.

In comments on the previous post I mused about how much I am looking forward to breaking nuPES’s conditioned hold upon me.

Every year since 2015 I have picked up a sub-standard PES game – which still happens to be a decent football game – and spent months playing it. Months that I could and should have spent playing a traditional PES game instead, with traditional PES values and respect for the single-player – or even FIFA (whispers: nuPES with polish).

The automatic routine has to end, and it will end with PES2018.

Last night I had a very good session on the game. Context is everything in Master League and I am at a stage in mine where every match feels meaningful. Every point and every goal really counts. I sigh and groan and cheer as the match events unfold. In a session of 4 matches I only had one of ‘those’ nuPES games. 1000mph. End-to-end. There wouldn’t have been a single stoppage if it wasn’t for half-time.

The other 3 matches were pretty decent, actually. Still few fouls, and little player individuality on show, of course, but nuPES has almost taught us to be satisfied by such meagre offerings. I’m getting out of nuPES before there’s any real danger of being converted.

Which all sounds like an extended whine, but it isn’t. I’m really excited about getting back to truPES when PES2018 comes to an end. (Reminder: the last bit of this season, and one more after it, and I’m done.) There’s so much to choose from in the series’ back-catalogue. I have a feeling in my water that truPES will only go from strength to strength.

The Snickers Man

Holding steady in the top 6. A reasonable chance of making the Champions League. A few too many draws, but I’ll be disappointed if I don’t at least finish in the Europa League places. PES2018 Season 7 is ticking along very nicely indeed.

A good sign is that I have other games to play (my various Civilizations and XCOMs) and other things to do (plenty of books to read and TV to watch). But I am choosing to play PES2018 instead.

Context is everything. I had a dental appointment yesterday morning. Just a check-up, but beforehand I always worry incessantly that I’ll need a tooth filling or two. I struggle to cope with needles and numbness, and having to lay still while strangers loom over me, one of them with hands at my mouth. Pain is almost the least of it.

But I got the all-clear. When you walk out of a dental surgery as a middle-aged man with nothing to worry about for 6 months – which might as well be a hundred years away – the world looks very different to when you went in. I was buzzing. The sun was bright. Food and drink tasted great. Everything was wonderful – including PES2018.

I went home and played some PES2018. And had a great time. So good, in fact, that I want to praise PES2018 (before I bury it around the end of February).

PES2018 is a good football game. That’s what it does right. Plain and simple. No, it’s not a good PES game, but that isn’t PES2018’s ‘fault’, in a weird way. PES as we knew it was effectively retired after PES2014 hit the skids. It’s taken me four years to accept the truth. PES of the PS2 and PS3 eras is no more.

Let’s imagine that PES never existed in the past, and that PES2018 appeared on its own, out of the blue, without any historical context.

What would we think of it?

We’d be blown away by it!

If we didn’t have past-PES to compare, PES2018’s bare trickle of player individuality would seem like a lot more than it is.

The odd foul here and there would seem like just enough. (We’d have nothing to compare no-fouls to. No PES5 in this Mirror Universe, remember)

The offline career mode might seem a bit basic, but we’d be loving that too. ‘Nice to have a straightforward and simple managerial setup without all that player interaction and training rubbish, eh?’

Essentially, nuPES only seems like a poor effort because I so vividly recall everything that came before it. So I’m constantly wanting nuPES to do things that it’s not designed or intended to do. It’s designed and intended to be a fast-flowing, fun game of the year 2017-18. And it does that very well. PES2018 as a standalone football game – called Super Soccer Pro, or something – would be a secure 8/10 or even 9/10 computer game.

It’s only when I assess PES2018 as a PES game that it’s as weak as dishwater. As a PES game, PES2018 is a 5/10 effort at best. (Sneak preview of my end-of year score, there.)

But what if I stopped assessing it as a PES game and just played it for what it is?

That’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days, and particularly yesterday, post-dentist, it felt pretty good. I was up until 2am playing. I scraped through to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup after going down to 10 men against Millwall and staging a heroic comeback from 1-0 down.

Yes, all my players still feel almost the same as each other and there’s barely any interruption to the merciless ‘flow’, but I can get past that. When you stop wanting PES2018 to do what Golden Age PES did, the game works.

‘So! Does this mean you’re reconsidering your decision to boycott PES2019…?’

Groan. I’ve got 9 months of this.

Old timey wimey

I’ve had a great idea for how Pro Evolution Soccer might be saved for old-school players. More in a tick.

I’m played 5 matches since last time – 4 draws and a solitary win.

The draws either finished 0-0 or, if I took a 1-0 lead, the AI eventually got its goal and then the match finished 1-1. I’ve no specific gripes about being rubber-banded by the AI. It’s been the same in PES for years and always will be. It’s one of the things we agree to look at through half-closed eyes and pretend not to notice. The price of admission is our willing suspension of disbelief.

Forced draws seem to be part and parcel of Top Player with the team I currently have, at this juncture of my trajectory with PES2018.

The 5 matches were all played in a single session. They were notable for being a run of matches without a single AI foul in them. This is not rare for me.

While playing, I noticed that there were as usual many instances of contacts that instinctively should have been called as fouls – for me and against me – but instead the player went through that animation where they rise to their knees and spread their arms wide in the universal Ref! Ref! gesture.

Like this:

I noticed that these instances – Ref! Ref! – happened roughly 3-5 times per match.

Hmmmm.

A simple idea for Konami: give us the option of making every single instance of Ref! Ref! an actual foul.

Everywhere on the pitch, at all times, give us a Settings menu option to Enable these moments as actual fouls.

This would also yield a penalty (at both ends) in a decent proportion of matches, and a respectable number of general fouls per match. Too many? No. Better that than few, or none as is practically the case now. And you can turn it off if you don’t like it.

At a stroke, the no-fouls and mesmerising flow (not in a good way) that plagues nuPES would be resolved. Old-timey players like myself would be appeased.

And the online masses don’t even have to know it’s there.

It would take 1 line of code. It’s a simple workaround that would silence almost every gripe there is about nuPES, because as I have pointed out many times, no-fouls is just one surface symptom of the ‘frenzied flowing fun first’ philosophy that has taken over the series.

If Konami were once again to ‘allow’ fouls (I can’t believe it’s got to the point where we’re almost literally pleading for Pro Evolution Soccer – Pro Evolution Soccer – to include a basic feature of the sport, but there you go, that’s what’s happening), the insane end-to-end lurching is resolved. Player individuality is massively resolved. Hardly ever getting to take a free kick in shooting range is resolved. Never getting a bloody penalty – resolved.

Those who don’t like it don’t even have to know the option is there. Let them continue in their blissful button-mashing trance states, online or off, as they please.

It could work. I know it could work because the greatest ever PES game – PES5 – was the greatest ever partly because of its stringent fouling model. The player eventually had to ‘give in’ and play in a certain way. The proper PES way.

I can think of several objections. Such as:

‘Quite a few of those Ref! Ref! moments aren’t meant to be fouls – the point of them is to represent the way real-life players appeal for everything, justified or not.’

Well, they all do look and feel like actual fouls to me, but even if you’re right, I’m saying to ignore that for the sake of the computer game we’re playing. There’s a higher need. Make every Ref! Ref! moment a foul, regardless of whether it’s ‘really’ one or not, and suddenly we have fouls back in PES, and proper rhythms to a typical match, and even player individuality. Not to mention regular shooting-range free kicks and a smattering of penalties. Worth it, surely. It’s a net positive.

The only thing that can salvage PES is to split the online game and the offline game. The only sensible way to do that would be something like my suggestion.

Without something like this, PES will haemorrhage old-school players in massive numbers as the years go by. The online players will doubtless prop the series up, but only the truly deluded will believe that PES remains anything like the series of the first decade of this century. I think I have done well to hang on this long. PES2018 is scheduled to be my last-ever new PES game.

So how about it?

To recap: give players the option in Settings to switch those moments where a player does the whole Ref! Ref! thing to ‘Ref calls a foul instead’ (for and against you). Leave that switch off by default, and the onliners won’t even know it exists. And the old-timey players can get on with playing a PES more like the one they expect. At a single stroke, the majority of our gripes are resolved. With just one line of code. Otherwise, PES hurtles headlong into the multiplayer micro-transactional abyss.

Simple. Easy. Effective. Necessary.

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