Category: FMLive

A guilt-edged chance goes begging

It’s been another week with precious little action on other football games besides PES2008. Every Sunday is supposed to be Other Football Game Sunday on PES Chronicles, but I often have little or nothing to write about.

It’s getting too common for me to spend Sunday listing the other football games I could have played and saying why I didn’t play them all week. Or why I only played them for half a minute before running back to PES. If this keeps up then I might have to abandon OFG Sunday altogether—and all the signs are that it will indeed keep up. I’m still loving my Master League and I’m still loving the PSP/PS2 version of PES2008 (as I loved all of its predecessors; hence the blog). If I have time enough to play a football game then I want it to be PES2008, not one of the pretenders.

The pretenders, in case anyone is wondering, are all the football games that I’ve liked enough to have played and written about over the past 6 months—but not liked them enough to keep me away from PES for any length of time.

I feel an odd sense of guilt about neglecting some of them. Next-gen FIFA08, for one. I have really got to get back to my twin Manager Mode careers in that game, and soon—otherwise, inevitably, I won’t ever go back to it at all. And that would be a real shame. FIFA08 was and is a significant game in the history of console football games, mark my words. Nothing can be the same after next-gen FIFA08, for better or worse.

So I feel a nagging sense of guilt about not playing it. But when it comes to AGG (Abandoned Games Guilt), nothing can touch the monumental guilt that I feel about Football Manager Live.

FMLive—an MMOG spin on the single-player classic—is still in closed Beta and likely to stay that way for the forseeable future. I received an invite about a month ago and I was absolutely delighted. I never usually get asked to do things like that. After several days of intense play, I started to get very busy with a lot of very important stuff in my real, non-gaming life (there really is such a thing, it turns out). Something had to give, either PES time or some (or all) of my Other Football Game time—and I chose to sacrifice OFG time.

Before anyone poses the question, no, the FMLive Beta accounts are not transferable. I’ll be keeping my account. I might even look in and play it from time to time. But I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a great opportunity. It’s a shame, and I feel guilty.

From now on, I’ll only do an OFG Sunday if I’ve actually played another football game enough for it to be worthwhile. I don’t anticipate there being many OFG Sundays between now and September and the release of FIFA09.

But hey, there’s a whole PES-flavoured summer to get through first. Those seasons aren’t going to play themselves…

Stand by your PES, man

Another Sunday, and another quick look at how I’m getting on with any other football games that I might have played recently.

My newfound love for PES2008 in the guise of its PSP/PS2 version (*hawks and spits at the very thought of the next-gen version*) has led to a few casualties among my other games. Well, casualties is a slightly exaggerated way of putting it. ‘Games that I’ve stopped playing’ is what I mean.

I’ve got about a dozen great games on the backburner. I’ve got about another dozen very good games on top of that. I’m a games hoarder. Just looking through my drawer here, there’s a copy of Homeworld2 that I bought when it came out over 4 years ago. I still haven’t found the time to play it.

I’ve had an Xbox360 for a couple of months. Halo3 and Assassin’s Creed still haven’t seen any action for longer than about 30 minutes apiece. It’s almost criminal of me, I know. PES really does edge out everything else.

I’m most concerned about the PSP games that I’ve played a lot in the past but abruptly abandoned as soon as last-gen PES2008 came into and then took over my life. Disgaea in particular is one that I’ll really have to get back into soon. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Patapon. The list goes on.

But the foremost casualty has got to be FIFA08 on the PS3. EA’s remarkable football sim has been hit by a double-whammy: last-gen PES2008 is great, and the UEFA2008 demo has just come out. I’ve played UEFA2008 a lot this week, and now FIFA08 just feels wrong.

I played three games of my ongoing Dagenham & Redbridge career. I’m second in League 1and an almost certainty for promotion to the Championship at the end of the season. Within three seasons I should have Dag & Red in Europe.

I should be utterly transfixed by it all and, to be fair to FIFA08, a couple of months ago I was transfixed. I’ve been pretty open on this blog about something that most PES fans have found to be quite shameful to acknowledge: FIFA is pretty damn good on the next-gen consoles. It was and is a truly scary proposition.

But time passes and attitudes can change—in both directions (eh, Seabass?).

Suddenly, FIFA08 doesn’t seem so good. I pushed my players around the pitch rather listlessly. The scripting in FIFA08 now seems very obvious and very annoying. Scripting, for me, is when the game initiates any sequence of play that is predetermined. It’s most overt when the CPU decides to keep the ball and you just can’t get it off them whatever you do. Even if you make up your mind to foul them, they’ll know when to jink sideways, when to accelerate, when to stop, when to change direction. You can’t catch them. They’re demons in the corners of the pitch in particular, always getting their crosses in. Scripting in FIFA08 is a reality. It’s just different from PES scripting, is all.

UEFA2008 could be a very early glimpse of what EA has in store for us with FIFA09. Most striking is the camera: it’s the first true Wide camera in a next-gen football game. It’s disconcerting at first, and after half a year of making do with the existing next-gen games’ faux-Wide cameras, you almost think the UEFA2008 camera is pulled too far out. But it’s not too far out. It’s perfect.

Next is the gameplay. It’s a development of FIFA08’s gameplay, I now feel—not a retrograde step as I thought last week. The animations are smoother, the passing crisper. The shooting still feels anti-intuitive to me, but that’s probably the recent weeks of intensive PES2008 playing with my mind.

I won’t be buying UEFA2008. No matter how great its gameplay, I’m not attracted by its Euro2008 tournament setup. I need club football in a football game; international teams are only there for occasional amusement. UEFA2008 is an all-International affair, which is what it’s meant to be, so I can’t complain, really.

Maybe in June or July if I see UEFA2008 in a bargain bin for a tenner then I might be tempted. But otherwise, my next football game purchase will be the other side of the summer, in September. FIFA09 is only five months away. PES2009 is six months away. It’s going to be a tense summer, wondering what the respective studios are up to, although in all but a few cosmetic aspects I’d say both games should be already substantially complete right now.

In other other football game news, I downloaded the FM2008 demo on the Xbox360 but haven’t had time to actually play it. And I finally checked in again to the Beta version of Football Manager Live. After spending almost two weeks absent, I spent 30 minutes tweaking my team. I put some players up for transfer and bought a couple of others. Then I had to go. I didn’t even have time for a quick friendly (we’re between competitive seasons at the moment).

I simply don’t have the time for gaming—really, I’m not joking. I shouldn’t play games at all. I really, really, really have zero spare time. But I make time, I steal time, and I tend to want to use it to play PES. Everything else is just an impostor.

Show me the money

Another Other Football Game Sunday is upon us—and no, I still haven’t played Football Manager Live again all week.

That makes it about 10 days since I last logged in to play with my team and face off against another player live, online, the way its makers intend. All of my games have been taken care of by the AI.

I hope I don’t suddenly receive an email terminating me from the Beta test. Somehow I don’t think I will. It’s people like me—casual players—who’ll make up a significant portion of the game’s subscribers after it goes live. We must be catered for.

I have some time off work next week and I plan to spend at least thirty minutes playing FM Live every day. But I also have lots of other stuff to do next week as well, including a Very Special development related to PES Chronicles itself (see below), so we’ll see how that intention holds up.

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Just in time for OFG Sunday came the demo of UEFA 2008 on PS3. It’s also out for the XBox360 but I went with the PS3 version of the demo as that’s where I’ve played FIFA08 all year so far.

UEFA 2008 is a development of FIFA08, and an early taster—perhaps—of what EA has in store for us with FIFA09.

I’ve only had time to play a couple of the two-minute games allowed in the demo. First impressions are pretty good, despite what many would see as a retrograde step: FIFA08’s slow, methodical, love-it-or-loathe-it gameplay style has been tweaked backward, toward the old-style FIFA.

The same solid gameplay is there but it’s now a wee bit more arcadey, with ‘better’ player response times and ‘improved’ passing. I think that the UEFA 2008 engine—and, I predict, the eventual FIFA09 one—is a concession toward the anti-FIFA08 brigade.

Shooting in UEFA 2008 feels a great deal more satisfying, but it’s still not all it could be. Shooting is one aspect of FIFA08 that I have never really learned to love. It seems to lack the visceral ooomph-factor that PES shooting provides in bucketloads.

I’ll post more about UEFA 2008 after I’ve spent some more time with it over the coming week. These are just my very first impressions. I’ve spent literally minutes playing it.

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Here’s some news for everybody who reads this far down.

In a couple of days (a week, tops), visitors to this WordPress-hosted domain will be redirected to peschronicles.co.uk.

I bought the domain name months ago (no dot.com snobbery for me) and now I’m finally going to use it.

Moving to my own domain gives me total control over the site’s design and content. I won’t be keeping the current template, but I will stick with the basic three-column layout with everything roughly where it is now (First XI, Squad list, Top Posts, etc.).

In addition, I will be deploying some advertising. This blog attracts steady traffic—not enough to make serious money, but hopefully enough to cover my hosting costs. I appreciate that this could irritate some visitors, but the adverts will be discreet. Anybody who is really aggravated by advertising on the Internet should already be using Firefox+Adblock anyway.

I’ve got several ideas for how the blog could develop to include new kinds of content. As we move through this summer towards PES2009 I’ll be trying out various things, but the core content—daily chronicles of playing PES—will never change.

I’m announcing it now because I’m not an expert at these things. The new site might be a little—how you say?screwy for a while.

FM Live: an acid test

It’s Other Football Game Sunday on PES Chronicles again. This past week I’ve hardly had the time to play PES. If it wasn’t for Football Manager Live, I wouldn’t have played any other football game.

I’m playing FM Live as a Beta tester, i.e. for free. The full game is due to go live in a ‘couple of months’, according to the latest from the developers. It’ll be on a subscription model. All new players should get some kind of free trial period—just 7 days, I predict.

I’ve written before about FM Live’s surprisingly fresh and addictive and immersive feel. After several years playing the regular, offline, single-player Football Manager series, I would never have expected that an online MMOG version could work this well. But it does.

But what happens when, for whatever reason, I can’t log on and play for a couple of days—or weeks?

I’ve played several MMOGs, but always drifted away from them for various reasons. The most common reason was that I just didn’t have enough time for them. I’d return after days or weeks away to find that the ‘buzz’ had gone.

This week I only had time to play FM Live for a couple of hours on Monday, and then for a solitary hour on Friday. During the days I didn’t play, some of my fixtures went past the time period allocated for them to be played in. When one or both human players are absent and a match has to be played, the AI takes over on behalf of one or both teams.

I had two matches played for me by the AI. I won one and I lost one. I received emails detailing the outcomes of the games. Everything seemed satisfactory. I had half-expected to receive a sulky email from the FM Live people, asking why I hadn’t logged in to play the game they were letting me play for free. But I didn’t.

This is the way it has to happen. Very few people will be able to get online to play all of their games live. One of my games during Friday’s session was against a fellow Beta tester who told me that he logged in and played for an incredible 12 hours a day, every day.

I believed him—and his team showed the results of his dedication. I was trounced 5-1, although I picked up some great formation and tactics tips from my opponent (FM Live players are, on the whole, the mature, approachable sort). But the greatest advantage he had over me was in the area of Manager Skills.

In FM Live you train yourself, the manager. Your players benefit from the manager’s acquired in-game skills. One of the beneficial side-effects of being logged-in to FM Live for a long time is being able to start a new skill training as soon as the previous one has finished. My casual logging-in means that I’m still plodding through the very early ones—Youth Training 1, and things like that.

This coming week will see me just as busy with other things as I was last week. Maybe even a touch busier. I might only get to play FM Live for one solitary hour all week. The great thing about the game is that I’d pay money to play it for real when the Beta test is over—as long as I never feel out of control or unjustly penalised for irregular logging-in habits. It all remains to be seen.

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