Category: PES Chronicles

How do you do, fellow kids?

It’s fair to say that I am not the greatest player of PES online – at the moment.

4 of these matches were what I would class as heavy defeats. I drew 2, and could have got something from the other 4 but for a touch of online naiveté. I suspect I will adapt and improve.

I must have played about 30 matches online in total now. I have still not seen a single goal scored from outside the box. I myself have not scored a single goal from outside the box (I have barely scored a goal…).

I very rarely see an opponent even attempt to shoot from outside the box. I still attempt loads, but I’m getting the message. The Guardiola Doctrine – don’t shoot from outside the box – is firmly entrenched in online PES2018, and that is a great shame. As we have seen already in the World Cup, goals from outside the box are a wonderful spectacle and they happen. In PES2018, online, they simply don’t happen.

All opponents do the sprint-pressure thing to some extent. Some are worse than others. There is no consequence to doing it. It demonstrably works. So why not do it? I quite agree.

All in all I continue to enjoy myClub despite, rather than because of, online opponents.

Squad management is a joy. The growth of my club in myClub is the principal pleasure of the mode. It’s a very Classic ML-style feel, for me anyway. Many an ML veteran player would take one look at the average pressure-whore online, and run screaming back to ML, or just to the offline single-player options on offer in myClub itself, which are plentiful.

One-off single-player vs COM matches in myClub start off on Regular difficulty, which is slightly disappointing and could discourage playing them, but they’re worth sticking with.

Win a few and the game upgrades you to playing on Professional difficulty, and then to Top Player, and so on all the way up to Legend, with proportional rewards for winning each.

Lose a few and you get ‘relegated’ in difficulty back down the ranks. It’s a decent system and one I’ve spent some time exploring this week – using my Irregular squad.

This 1-star squad is one that I would happily take into Master League itself if I could. (Now there’s an idea for a custom Challenge-style ML.)

I have been playing with the Irregulars in the offline vs COM matches, and getting ‘promotion’ with them through the difficulties as described above, then switching over to my main ‘A’ squad for an online match, and back again. An advantage of Squad-swapping in this way is that the stamina of the other Squad is automatically replenished, and vice versa.

I have got the Irregulars up to Top Player, and the games are very, very tough. This is more enjoyable for me at the moment than the online component.

I’m sure I will eventually ‘get’ online. I think it’ll involve changing my style of play. Most players do indeed ‘ping-pong’ the ball through the middle into the box, or down either wing and then across into the box, for a straightforward finish. They’re not good goals. Online, it doesn’t matter how that ball goes into the net, it just has to.

Since the screenshot at the top of the post was taken, I have started the next season in Division 11. My first opponent was that rarest of unicorns online: a MANUAL passing player. He comprehensively outplayed me and beat me 3-1. He was indeed really good with his passing – I suppose you would have to be, to have the confidence to take a manual passing game online.

The myClub adventure continues, but a fair few savage hidings have given me lots to think about.

Am I cut out for the Quest? Is it even a Quest worth being on? The answer to the latter, at least, still seems to be Yes.

Squad building, player individuality and growth, and an overall pleasing sense of progression: these are all strong elements of myClub, and continue to interest me.

I am bad, and I will simply have to git gud, as we youngsters say online.

Perverting the pyramid

In a development that will surprise nobody who has read the last few entries on this blog, I have played zero Master League on 2011 since a solitary session on the new PS3 last week.

Instead, the unlikely myClub story continues.

I have changed the name of the team.

Coventry City is very much a Master League phenomenon. The name and the custom kit rightly belong there.

I chose a new name for the club more fitting for the kind of adventure this feels like. PES Chronicles FC was the result. It still feels like a placeholder name. It doesn’t feel very ‘me’, somehow, to be waving a flag for the blog with the name of my online team. Think I’ll change it again soon.

I picked Fiorentina’s kit and badge to turn out in, even though the current version is far from the best version of the strip.

That lineup seen above is my 1-star Irregulars team. So far it’s my favourite team to play with in myClub, as it’s an exclusively offline team. I’m not brave enough to take them online yet, as I’m simply not good enough yet.

I took a break from the punishment of Divisions (6 losses and 2 draws in Division 11) to play a one-off Online match where the prize was a free Black Ball spin – a big deal for me as I have yet to get a Black Ball player. These are the créme de la créme of players in the game. The top players’ presence (and absence) really make a difference in PES online.

myClub is currently running a World Cup-themed feature that I just about understand. Basically, for this week, if you temporarily adopt the ‘skin’ of any World Cup nation’s team (in the same way that I have adopted Fiorentina’s ‘skin’), you get all manner of GP bonuses in your post-match kitty. I haven’t done it yet, and probably won’t do it. I’m bewildered enough with everything as it is.

My opponent for the Black Ball match was PAOK Thessaloniki, but he had taken on the kit and name of Nigeria to enjoy whatever bonuses he hoped to make.

Here are the two-minute highlights of the match. I’m in the deep violet kit, now, remember. You can see my hesitancy and naïveté from the very start. Fortunately, my opponent was not one of the clinical, ruthless finishers who tend to make up the average opponent.

A very, very lucky win. I created nothing in this match, no clear-cut chances, and I was reduced to taking the kinds of potshots you see me trying throughout. That effort with Torres at 0:40 might well be the worst shot attempt made by anyone online – or generally, in any football game – ever.

Online, I want too much time to play the same sort of game that I’ve been playing offline for 20+ years. An AI opponent will politely let you turn 180 degrees to lay the ball off to a teammate. The average online opponent won’t do that.

Stepping up to online play is analogous to what Championship players always say of adjusting to life in the Premier League. Suddenly, you lose a comfortable margin and your game is disrupted.

So this win was a fluke, an anomaly. I clearly didn’t deserve to win it, but my opponent fluffed all his chances. I did not fluff my one (lucky) chance, so the Black Ball was mine.

I excitedly rushed to the Hall of Spinning Balls, and I spun those balls.

And got David Silva (AMF, OPR 80, Level 1). Not the most energising result but with him being Level 1 he will level up to something much more than he is now.

Playing myClub means that I was soon anxiously scrutinising every single one of his stats. The PES database indicates he could level up to 95 for Ball Control. He’s on 87 right now and is not too shabby.

And that really is the most marked achievement of myClub. It makes stats, and how they manifest in players, seem to matter again. I haven’t drilled down into player stats this deep since the PS2 days.

I appreciate that some readers of the blog feel I skim over stats and the tactical side of PES in favour of the ‘big picture’ ML story. Some may wish I would talk formations and stats and skills in PES a lot more than I do.

They say be careful what you wish for.

We Vardy said a word

And I’m back. On Master League. On PES2011. On a new-old PS3 that will hopefully last a good long while.

This return came a day or two later than anticipated, after a PSN ID snafu that delayed matters until I’d ‘turned it off and turned it on again’ enough times to appease the PSN fairies. It wouldn’t let me complete the installation of the backup until I’d signed in first.

Or so I thought. Turns out I was doing something wrong, as ever. You know those people in supermarkets who loudly berate the self-service checkout machines as if the machines are to blame for everything? I was like that for a while.

It was good to get back to this sight:

Although, to be perfectly honest, I could not shake a lingering feeling that the real action had now moved on elsewhere, to the quasi-ML-like environs of the long-cursed, but somehow strangely compelling, myClub.

I know. I didn’t like the feeling either.

Hmmm. I hope that feeling doesn’t persist. I enjoyed this session back on Master League, playing PES as I still believe it was meant to be played. Relaxed, controller in hand, lolling around with a mug of tea at my side and a podcast on in the background. No stress. No compulsion. No requirement to be anywhere at a specific time. Just open-ended, idyllic PES gameplay.

Strange, then, that I constantly felt that tug of Veldwijk and co. over on myClub.

Anyway – I trounced Gijon in this match. 4-0, my biggest win of the season by some way. Was it the result of spending a week and a half up against the whirlwind sprinters online? Possibly.

That result lifted me up to the heady position of 11th.

I think now that I have effectively avoided relegation this season. Only a calamitous collapse in form will drag me into the mire now.

I won’t be upping the difficulty to Top Player, for the simple reason that my pre-condition for doing so was not met. I was not in the top 10 at the halfway stage of the season.

And now I must take a quick look at the current parallel track of my football gaming.

On Tuesday night just gone, in a not-unprecedented turn of events, I met up with a regular commenter, Paul, for a couple of myClub friendly matches online.

One of the burning questions I had was: can other players see my Edited custom kits and badge in myClub? Some said ‘yes’, other players can see Edited kits, but I failed to see how that would ever be countenanced by Konami and Sony. The potential for abuse is too obvious and would be pounced on with delight.

Before we got going, I took a screenshot of the view from my PS4 before the match:

There on the left is my player in one of Coventry City’s many old classic strips (made by Paul himself). And there is the badge, too (ditto).

Meanwhile Paul was screenshotting what he could see at his end. Here is what was on his PS4:

And so there we have the simple, conclusive proof. Other players do NOT see any part of a custom kit, and they do not see a custom badge. They see the club name only.

My opponents all see the Burton Albion kit and badge. That’s the club I overwrote in Edit mode with my Coventry City before Master League got underway last September.

Here are the edited highlights of the two matches Paul and I played – Game 1:

A win for me (including a howler from Paul). Strange thing, while playing this match originally, it seemed to me that I had the upper hand, but the feel I got while editing it was that I had been fortunate to win. 2-0 grossly flattered me. Paul edged me on possession, despite all my keep-ball tactics, and created more chances.

And Game 2:

A win for Paul, and again he exceeded me on possession. I had loads of shots but couldn’t score (and I really bottled that late one-on-one). Paul protected his early lead and took the result.

Honour satisfied, we went our separate ways into the night.

Over the coming summer weeks, I will be making myself available for occasional one-off online matches – in myClub, or in PES2018’s general online mode – against anybody reading these words who wants to play. I will post details as and when the occasions arise.

I didn’t wanna see the Gordon Milne tonight

This summertime’s torrid affair with myClub continues. It’s one of those ‘If you had told me 1 month ago that…’ situations.

And the penny has finally dropped.

I believe that I now ‘get’ myClub.

Like many long-term single-player players and also many older players (a Venn diagram that could be almost a circle), I never have ‘got’ the Ultimate Team and myClub modes.

I mean, just take this screenshot:

What does it mean? What does it represent? What gaming value does it have? What kind of footballing and PES philosophy does it embody? What am I going to do with that team, and those players, that has any meaning or purpose?

It turns out that there’s quite a bit of meaning and purpose in myClub.

Look at the name of the manager. Top left. KELSEN.

That’s the Kelsen, the GK of Defaults fame.

What’s he doing here? Well, last week the game offered a series of Old Default stars as special managers.

Okay. What does that mean?

The manager role in myClub is very important. It defines a squad’s formation and tactics. In this case, Kelsen offers a 5-2-1-2 formation (you can switch to a detailed formation view that shows the fine-grained positioning).

After suffering a few proper thumpings online (not many, but still too many), I wanted to adopt that seemingly ultra-defensive formation for my squad, so I duly snapped up Kelsen in the Default manager sale. 22,000 GP. Not cheap.

You can only play with the formation your manager offers. It’s a seemingly arbitrary restriction that has a gameplay value. In order to play with different formations, you have to make multiple separate squads – there seems to be no upper limit to how many – each with a separate manager.

I presently have 3 managers assigned to 4 squads within my Club. I currently have about 35 players shared between the four, all in differing permutations.

I am aware that this still isn’t clear. The uninitiated are still puzzled.

Okay. Stick with me. Here’s my main squad, the straightforwardly named Squad 1:

Torres up front next to Bacca is as frustrating and enigmatic as in real life, but is decent enough to keep his place until Veldwijk is trained up enough to take over.

This is the first time I’ve been able to put together a First XI without a Default in it, but note the subs’ bench still has them.

Castledine is on the bench, but I want to develop him and all my other young players. Player development in the form of ‘Levelling Up’ after a match, as in Classic ML, is a huge element of myClub in PES2018. It’s new this year. For me, I’d go as far as to say it’s what makes the mode worth playing. It’s the clincher.

Yesterday I spent an entire session on the game creating a squad of low-rated players and playing a few matches with them (offline).

This is all happening within the same club  – Coventry City. The multiple squad system within one club is a baked-in feature of the mode. You’re meant to play it, and enjoy it, like this.

The Irregulars, I call my new no-hoper squad.

I assembled them by using all my spare Scouts, one after the other.

And I used Dominguez, my so-far favourite manager, for this squad too.

Look at that rabble.

Note the keeper on the bench. The shrewd choice in myClub is to include a reserve keeper in every squad. I never used to in Master League. But very often in myClub you get to pre-game and find that your first choice GK is red-arrowed, at which point it’s too late to swap in a reserve keeper if you haven’t got one on the bench. No dipping into the rest of your player pool is allowed. The squad is the squad.

Now we’re getting to the meat of My Case For myClub. (I know. Unbelievable. This is almost Ian Paisley-Martin McGuinness/Trump-Kim territory.)

I spent a session putting the above lot through their paces in an offline Cup competition. I haven’t got the figurative balls to take them online yet, but I could.

I have started to bond with The Irregulars in an unbelievable way. Zigoni up front next to Veldwijk is similar to the latter, and so far slightly better. Each of the other players stands out in a weirdly unexpected way. The online database of all these players indicates Zigoni might develop to be top striker.

I am aware that I still have not really answered the key question.

What is this all for? What is it all about? What does all this messing about do? What is the point? What do I get from it all?

I think I get it now.

It’s all about the players – the in-game players, not the human players, although they’re significant too.

It’s all about your own identification with your players and squads and managers, and the surprising story that automatically develops when you take them – and yourself – off on an adventure into an unknown land.

Players in myClub definitely feel more individualistic than in Master League. Every slight edge counts. Torres has been the blandest, most nothingy striker in nuPES ML over the last few years, but in this myClub adventure, so far, he’s been distinctive in positive and negative ways. Flashes of his old brilliance, with spells of frustrating anonymity.

This, right here, is the appeal of myClub for a Master League aficionado.

In a curious way, myClub is a more self-contained, self-centred, and all-about-your-own-personal-gratification mode, than Master League ever has been.

It’s about the connection between the human player and the virtual player(s).

The same thing as Master League, except in a much more focused, streamlined fashion.

It’s a Pokemon mode for PES, in a way. I mean that wholly positively.

Would all this have convinced me, just two weeks ago?

No. It might have intrigued me – hearing from me, the arch-sceptic of all things online and all things myClub, that there is unexpected value in it, and even something almost Master League-like.

But on its own it would not have convinced me of anything. It is something that the player has to experience for themselves.

I got promoted from Division 12:

Did this feel like an achievement? Hell, yes. It very much did. Look at that sequence of results. I TOILED for this.

I won my first – and so far only – victory of myClub in game 9 of the 10-match season. It was a crazy game that I wish I’d recorded. The other player was a Bournemouth club with a similar-rated set of players to mine. (I have been fortunate with the matchmaking so far. Only about 3 players out of 15 or so have been obnoxious sprinting pressure-whores.)

Things were tight with chances at a premium. He seemed to be a player much like myself. I.e., interested in playing rather than button-mashing. I fluked the winner midway through the second half. A goalmouth scramble presented the ball at Castledine’s feet 5 yards out, for him to joyously side-foot it into a mostly unguarded net.

I held on for the win. My opponent’s quirk was that he loved to run with the ball, which was a refreshing change from all the tika-taka merchants who had preceded him. He was unfortunate not to at least draw this match.

Here is my updated global rating after the battle (yes, Sancho_Smith is my PSN username; no, you won’t be able to ‘Add’ me):I am the 109,443rd best player in the myClubverse.

I took a look at the top guys out of interest. The current #1 ranked player has about 4000 matches under his belt.

And so to my second season in myClub – in Division 11. I will have more to say about this on Friday – which will be half about myClub, and half about Master League on PES2011.

I have a new PS3 and it is fully restored to the condition of the old. It took most of a day, but it is done. This is why you make full backups of everything.

I will be honest. This myClub thing has been totally unexpected. Totally.

Will it draw focus from Master League? Inevitably, at least for now, yes it will.

And the future? What does this mean for PES2019. Is there a chance after all that I will be there on release day, ‘spamming’ the servers, or whatever the yoof lingo is?

God help me, yes, there is a chance of that.


APPENDIX

Here are a few snippets that I couldn’t fit into the above ‘Apologia for myClub’, as it turned out to be.

First, a Special Agent opening. Yes – I have been merrily spinning balls.

Most readers will have seen this kind of thing on YouTube or Twitch over the past few years, and many, like me, will have shaken their heads. How can this be happening? Where is the glory of PES in this?

But you do get to a place where it is interesting, and dare I say it, fun, to press a button and watch a virtual roulette wheel in action.

The only way to sign new players in myCub is via the Agent system. I was awarded a Special Agent for winning an offline Cup competition.

Casemiro. I was initially pleased, but he just doesn’t seem to fit into any of my squads, and he doesn’t gel with any of my Managers. That affects Team Spirit, and this is a massively important factor in myClub. So much so that Casemiro rarely plays. A bit of a waste.

How about if you want to sign a particular, individual player?

The only way to sign a named player in myClub is to use combinations of Agents. The game awards Agents, of varying quality, quite liberally. To get a particular player you either combine the ones you already have, or bid for the ones you need in the Scout Auction House.

E.g. I really, really wanted to sign Lars Veldwijk, one of the stars of my Master League campaign. Some myClub players want to fill their ranks with Ronaldo and Messi, asap. Many, though, don’t. I am one of the latter group. I won’t turn down the ‘slag’ players, as they’re picturesquely called by some, if they ever come my way. (I can always fill one ‘slag’ squad with them and happily play with others.) But my vision thing for myClub is of a range of quirky squads put together for my own private needs.

The only way to get Veldwijk was to combine two Scouts: one for FC Groningen, his real-life club, and one for South Africa, his place of birth.

I possessed neither Scout. I got the Groningen Scout relatively easily. 3000 GP in a quick auction.

The South Africa one was a bit tougher. I ended up bidding a maximum of 8000 GP, and having to wait 13 real-life hours to see if I won.

Here is a minute-long video showing how the signing happened from the moment I won the Auction bid:

Note that the spin was a formality. I had effectively zeroed in on Veldwijk by use of the appropriate Scouts. The game itself gives you a thumbnail tutorial on this, but not a very impactful one.

This Scout system in myClub might be the quirkiest PES feature since PES2009’s ‘giant pointing transfer arrow’.

Word has it that PES2019 will feature an orthodox transfer market, no doubt complete with Ultimate Team-style player-controlled auctions.

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