O Dresden Fortuna

Early July. The football gaming world is in hibernation mode. So of course it’s time for me to sample FIFA19’s notorious Ultimate Team mode.

Why ‘notorious’? Because Ultimate Team was the first mode of its kind on the scene, back in FIFA09, I believe (the Internet is vague). It’s 10 years old this year (probably). ‘Ultimate Team’ is still a byword for everything that’s profoundly wrong with football gaming in our time.

The focus on big-name stars. The absolute farce of being able to have an instant squad of world-beaters. The pressure to take things online and play against so-called ‘other people’.

Ultimate Team puzzled everyone. What is it for? What does it do?

Whatever else it was for, it helped create a new dynamic that has steadily undermined all football gaming over the past decade, culminating in the abomination of ‘eFootball PES 2020’.

Now that my statutory anti-online foaming at the mouth is out of the way with, on with today’s shortened show.

I picked a squad, a badge, and a strip almost at random. Dresden Fortuna the club. Holland the badge. Andy Carroll my free Gold player. Reus my free loan player. All very very familiar from a certain other mode…A genuine question that I would love to know the answer to: how haven’t EA sued the backside off Konami over its UT knock-off, myClub? Konami didn’t just copy the basic idea of Ultimate Team. They copied its entire appearance and function too.

Here is my very first goal – a nice fast breakaway and finish. Always great when you play the pass that puts the player through on goal, and then finish it off.

I won this opening match 3-0 and was happy with the rewards.

I played another one after it, and won that 1-0.

As usual, FIFA19’s general gameplay rarely disappoints me. It’s absorbing, intricate, interesting.

The AI could be a little more aggressive, and there could be a few fouls here and there to break up the play and offer something else to do.

When will single-players ever be catered for again in general gameplay terms? An ‘AI aggression’ slider would seem to be the obvious solution, and perfectly in keeping with FIFA’s famous customisation ethic. But so far, nothing. And EA very interestingly observes a Great Silence on the whole topic of single-player fouls. There’s more evidence for the existence of Bigfoot than there is evidence of EA taking the matter seriously. So I’m not holding out any hope.

Will I play Ultimate Team again? I could do, but probably won’t.

I think it might be time for me to put my PC installation of PES2019 through a proper week or two.

It’ll at least be an interesting summertime test to see if I do have it in me to be a PC football gamer. (Spoiler alert: no.)

Updated: 5th July 2019 — 11:50

35 Comments

  1. NG – what has happened is that the rules of the competition have been gamed. Basically every team plays every other team – the ‘group of death’ is also the ‘group of sleep’ to copy usual WC parlance – and the top four after 9 matches go through to two semi finals. Obviously points is the first team separator but then given cricket’s ability to offer ‘no results’ due to weather they have ‘net run rate’ in place of where football would offer ‘goal difference’. Net run rate is complicated to say the least as it involves average runs scored per over minus runs conceded, etc etc – and means a team can win some games convincingly but miss out if they are hammered in the others. Adding to the confusion is that a team may bat first or second, the team going second clearly can’t score more runs than the team batting first so it impacts their run rate. Basically it all added up to a scenario where New Zealand knew they couldn’t beat England batting second but contrived to score very slowly as long as they didn’t lose wickets as they knew it would mean Pakistan had to score 400+ in their final game. Had Pakistan batted second in that game they would have had no chance of doing this as it would mean the opposition must have scored 400+. Thus it came down to the toss of a coin for who bats first as to whether Pakistan stayed in the World Cup. No breaking of the rules but damn those New Zealanders, the spirit!!

  2. NG – Like you I thought it was Fifa 09 that UT first showed its ugly face but a bit of digging has revieled that it first appeared in the UEFA Champions League 06/07 game where there was a Ultimate Team mode.

  3. n-G – Nice FIFA-y goal. The fact you are playing Ultimate Team and not MyClub suggests FIFA is indeed a very good game this year.

    I’ve still not gone back to FIFA 19 after my random league and I have no plans to at the moment. I’ve also come to a suitable stopping point on my return to PES5 with this happening this very morning…

    View post on imgur.com

    That’s the League, FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League all won in seven glorious seasons. PES5 certainly stands the test of time with only a slightly passive AI (only 13 goals conceded again this season) and non-existant offers for players in ML as negatives.

    I still had Jaric, Ivanov and Ruskin in my team this last season and I’ll miss Pappin, Schilacci, Gambino, Yamada and Hunemeier. Until the next time.

  4. Uncle Turf –

    a team may bat first or second, the team going second clearly can’t score more runs than the team batting first

    What the actual… If this is related to weather then I think I understand, but if not, we clearly have different understandings of ‘clearly’. In what sporting scenario could a team going second in a contest have no chance of scoring more than the team going first?! Cricket in a nutshell. The seeming arbitrariness of much of the rulebase is part of why I have never gelled with it.

    Darryl – I uncovered some sources saying a version of Ultimate Team was in FIFA92 or 93 (!). At that point it was quarter to twelve and I had no time to check, so I went with the vagueness.

  5. Shed – many congratulations, PES5 on 6* is still a hard enough game for that to be a wonderful haul of silverware over the course of 7 seasons. Funny how all the years since PES5 have made its AI seem more passive than it did at the time (and it did to me too). I play PES5 on 5* and it’s tough enough for me right now.

    What’s with that ‘British Premiership’ lark? Is that the OF you’re using, or your own coinage. Makes me want to vote for Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, and Yorkshire independence, so it does.

    I think I might be done with FIFA19 for the year. It’s been a great month or so, an eye-opener in lots of ways.

  6. n-G – I’m playing PES5 on the PS2 with my original memory card. That British Premiership lark would have been from an option file I installed back in the days of those frangled X-port things.

    While I rather romped to the title with the tightest of tighty defenses, I was outscored by just about every team in the top half of the table. Defences are tough to break down in PES5 – which makes free kicks and penalties all the more welcome of course.

    After a break, I might go to PES 2011 on the PS2 to see how the later classic era PESes evolved from the best-of-the-best. That should take me up to PES 2020 demo time, although I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen of the game so far.

  7. NG – that was an error, I should have said the team batting second can only score 1 more run than the team batting first, because once they do they have clearly won, clearly. They win by the number of wickets remaining. Think golden goal and minutes remaining. The point remains though, if Pakistan needed 400 yet Bangladesh batted first and scored 200, Pakistan can not progress in the tournament. Simple really, but obviously prone to manipulation.

  8. NG – was it even worth the hassle and time of setting up UT if you only played 2 matches and that’s it?

  9. Shed – I wonder where that British Premiership thing came from back in the day. Some overseas contributor probably.

    Uncle Turf – ah, I get it now, and if they did play on past the ‘Golden Run’ run, it would be up to the already-beaten team in the match to play properly to make everything fair, and that would create a whole new set of issues.

    Paul – yes it was worth the hour I spent on it in the end, but I have no appetite left for anything much now. Between now and the eF-PES2020 demo I might only play an hour or two of something per week, and that’ll be my usual summertime fiddle with other PESes now. First stop will be that pimped-out PC installation of PES2019.

  10. Turf – Great post and fully concur with everything you have to say about the flawed net run rate system. Surely there must be a better alternative. However, I have always been of the opinion that the cricket authorities are mad. When was the last time that we had two world cups with the same group formats. Along the way we have had super six and other such bullshit.

  11. Cheers Darryl, yes, you’re right, while other sports are getting on with building their fan base the ecb have been through two reorganisations, umpteen chairmen, managers, selectors, competition ideas etc and compounding it are the ICC who don’t seem to be able to counter the ‘journeymen for hire’ approach to all these t20 leagues. Just imagine if instead of joining Real Madrid Eden hazard said he’d play for Chelsea till Christmas, Madrid up to march then finish the season with Paris. Or how about if he was still Chelsea’s player but he didn’t ever play for them a la Ben stokes at Durham. I feel like t20 was a genius idea from some marketing guy and yet they’ve completely squandered the goodwill. It’s bloody awful up here – invariably lukewarm summer evenings, struggling through traffic to have some kids in hot pants throw tshirts into the crowd while thirty seconds of awful music accompanies each wicket in a 150 run flop.

    I did it, I put skyrim on last night. And I couldn’t remember the controls! I’ve decided to see the war through, joined the legion and then will start anew, without the dragons (does anyone other than Werd even have a clue what I’m babbling about…), maybe as a travelling minstrel who is handy with a bow.

  12. Turf – I’m a big Skyrim fan, I put a ridiculous amount of hours in on the PS3 (that and Red Dead are probably my top two games of all time!). Then many moons later I did the PC version, but I think I installed one mod too many and things went a bit tits-up. Picked up the PS4 version a couple of Christmases ago but haven’t been able to get into it with the same vigor, and I’m not sure I ever will again. It’s still in the drawer though…

    You can turn dragons off? Why would you do that??

  13. Turf – the Civil War was one of my favourite parts of Skyrim. Didn’t care much for the Thieves Guild and the long list of quests that came with it and the anti-climatic rewards for becoming the Guild Leader.

  14. Tommy – you don’t turn them off (although no doubt there is a mod), it’s simply if you don’t go into the first dungeon to retrieve the thing they never appear as you never know the legend. Although that doesn’t help with plot line of the intro which reveals a dirty great dragon…I like it as the game becomes more a survival if you play dead means dead, rather than a fantasy quest. Once you have a lot of shouts you are virtually untouchable.

    Darryl – that’s good as I’ve never done any of the civil war, I’ve simply left them to it while I went dungeon hunting. I’ve also got dragonborn and dawnguard that I’ve never done, and I’ve never completed the assassin storyline. It’s more the ethical choices that put me off. The thieves guild are shitbags and rather than lead them I want to kill them, you can’t though with so many of the npcs which means I’m doing work for the very people my follower Mjoll thinks are beyond the pale. See also the companions.

  15. Turf – Net run rate is even more bizarre than that…

    “A team’s net run rate is calculated by deducting from the average runs per over scored by that team throughout the competition, the average runs per over scored against that team throughout the competition.
    In the event of a team being all out in less than its full quota of overs, the calculation of its net run rate shall be based on the full quota of overs to which it would have been entitled and not on the number of overs in which the team was dismissed.
    Only those matches where results are achieved will count for the purpose of net run rate calculations. Where a match is abandoned, but a result is achieved under Duckworth/Lewis/Stern, for net run rate purposes Team 1 will be credited with Team 2’s Par Score on abandonment off the same number of overs faced by Team 2. Where a match is concluded with Duckworth/Lewis/Stern having been applied at an earlier point in the match, Team 1 will be credited with 1 run less than the final Target Score for Team 2 off the total number of overs allocated to Team 2 to reach the target.”

  16. Literally every post on r/WEPES now is about MyClub. We are doomed. Doomed, I tell ya!

  17. It’s inevitable. Give yourself to the dark side of Retro-PES. Accept Seabass as your savior and you’ll be fine.

    Sorry, eRetro-PES that is.

  18. Chris – thanks for that as you have hurt my brain now. I knew net run rate was complicated, so I have treated it the same way I have with anything in my life I have found complex and that is ignored it. If you are good enough you shouldn’t be even entertaining the idea. This is something I have always admired about the Aussies.

  19. Chris99 – cheers, I stuck the ‘etc etc’ in as the full description is so mind blowingly insane. I didn’t know it exactly till they were discussing it on tms during the eng-nz game and no one defended it. I think even now someone would have to tell you the situation, I’m not sure you could work it out yourself without coloured pencils, a calculator and a leather bound Victorian ledger. In the same broadcast I heard that stern had been added to duckworth Lewis but I didn’t hear what his contribution has been. At least dls feels like the best they can do but even then it can be a ridiculous spectacle killer – Paul would no doubt point to that time the South Africans had to hit 22 off one ball!

  20. Anyone suffering Insomnia should read these comments – instant cure.

  21. Well I’ve been following the Women’s Ashes, and what a bowler that Ellyse Perry is. Surely England can’t come back from this. If there is to be any hope, Tammy Beaumont & co. will have to rediscover their batting mojo. *lines read out at gunpoint*

  22. Find it incredible that there’s women’s cricket!!! women’s football is bad enough but cricket !?!?!
    oh my f***ing lord, how to take something so inexcusably tedious and make it even worst.

    Thank god for Wimbledon, some sport on Tv worth watching.

  23. And ironically the women’s and mixed doubles has been more exciting than the men’s. 😉

  24. Someone dispatch an under-butler to Paul. I think he’s eaten a dodgy batch of caviar.

  25. Only because of the 15yr old Coco Gauff Lloyd, the rest of the matches have been pretty much standard fayre.

    Chris99 – Hate caviar.

  26. I once netted on one side of the sports hall at Durham while a county women’s player was bowling in a net a couple down. She would have been comfortably the fastest and most aggressive bowler I’d ever faced had I swapped nets. Which I didn’t.

    You’re right though NG, I think they’ve had it already. Don’t know if they’ve just been off their game or whether the team changes have knocked the balance but for me cricket teams seem remarkably susceptible to even slight alterations to the starting 11. It’s slightly odd as everyone does their batting/bowling thing individually and at that level you’d assume that X can field at Y at least nearly as good as Z. I know some players bowl and bat better than others but you can’t compare the impact with football when losing a player like Messi would clearly alter Barca’s (and other players) games completely, and yet when e.g Roy was injured England seemed to really struggle. It’s probably the mental impact – footballers being much thicker than cricketers….

  27. Really not interested in the rise in popularity of the women’s game in both Football and Cricket as I feel like it is being forced upon us. I saw about 15 overs of the Women’s Ashes as I was at my Mum’s on Sunday and there was nothing on TV.

  28. It was at least nice to see a different sort of football this summer, and I find my appetite whetted for the start of the season. Anti-VAR Crybabyism is going to be massively entertaining. I can already see the refs’ association signalling that its use will be sparing – they know full well the kind of chaos that will engulf them otherwise. My favourite mini-game of watching referees wilt under the various levels of psychological pressure is going to step up a notch. (Scenario: a clear penalty is given to Team A thanks to VAR. Team B and its fans go into full-on meltdown mode. 5 minutes later: another clear penalty should be awarded to Team A by VAR. It’s another stick-on penalty! But Team B and the ground will explode if it’s given! What does the referee do? Exciting times ahead.) And there is the football itself of course. Plus eFootball PES 2020 too!

  29. Nice idea but remember the holding in the box furore? A rash of penalties in August and September, virtually nothing from October onwards.

  30. Uncle Turf – but what an August and September it’s going to be! Another ingredient in the Anti-VAR Crybaby stew will be the unwritten rule and expectation that no team can have more than 1 penalty per match, and that if a team has had a few penalties in recent matches, they can’t have one in the next match – and so on. Watching the conflict between all of that and VAR is going to be joyous. In the Women’s World Cup it took on average of just 27 seconds to render a VAR decision (TWENTY-SEVEN SECONDS) – and then an average of 90 seconds for all the players to settle down and the game to resume. I anticipate the 27 seconds staying the same, but those 90 seconds will be a little bit longer…. The main Anti-VAR Crybaby moan will be about the games stop-starting all the time, but an average 27-second interruption is nothing. It’ll be the players and coaches causing the stop-starting, and potentially crowds too.

  31. Daryl – You’re right – the Ultimate Team style of trading cards was in the Champions league game first. It was really good as well because you could only earn them by playing. So I remember it scratching the itch until PES caught up on the XBOX 360 PS3 Era.
    Without the monetization, the whole trading card idea is a good one. When you bring in an online market place and real money it becomes corrupted then corrupts the core game.

    Does anyone think PES will ever go back to the non-realistic transfer style of the old days? Where you got a set amount of money for a win? Made each match matter so much. I need to win the next three games to get this left back and so on.

  32. prsgame – God, that style of ML reward ‘money’ for winning and drawing – and even scoring goals – was so good and so rewarding. Anyone know of a PC mod that could do this today?

  33. I don’t think they should bring back the old style of ‘points’ but should definitely use the idea of risk/reward in a modern day style.
    Arrange up to 3 pre-season ML friendlies, with money awarded for win, or draw, and more money is awarded depending on the ranking of the team you play.

  34. Paul – It would be a retrograde step indeed to go back to Classic ML finances – an unlockable bonus extra is the most they could do, I think.

  35. Ng – Not suggesting they completely change the transfer/finances mechanics back to retro PES, just incorporate some ideas from it into the modern day game, such as the money awarded for friendlies, reintroduce control over hiring staff like physios, coaches, scouts etc, quite a simple re-introduction but would have such a big immersion effect.

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