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Imagination : The Key To Realism?


Anyone picked up PSM3 this month? Well, there is an interview with EA’s Gary Paterson which has inspired this latest wee editorial from yours truly.

Funny thing is, it wasn’t the insight from my fellow Scotsman that has me writing this, but more so something the interviewer noted during Gary’s reply to the question about adding to the atmosphere in FIFA’s career mode that raised a wee smile from me as my mind wondered back to classic PES on PS2.

”I feel like gameplay’s getting harder and harder to improve on…and I think ‘matchday atmosphere’ is something we need to invest in. (We tell Gary how we invent ‘stories’ for our players in PES Master League)”

It is that in brackets above that resonated with me as a PES aficionado as it is something that even this 36 year-old man has been known to do in his years playing the game. I have to confess that in recent years such wandering of the imagination has failed to manifest itself in quite the same way as it once did when getting my fix of PES, though that is not to say the old grey matter can’t conjure up some flight of fancy. I started to think it was just middle age creeping in and the stark reality of life finally hitting home. This was a feeling I have not felt since…George Lucas took it upon himself to butcher my childhood in 1999. Bloody Jar – Jar and that whining little kid! Lucas might have the exact haircut I wish to proudly display in my elder years but even that magnificent towering bouffant fails completely to obscure the madness of the mind in which it sits atop. Seriously, a plot revolving around a dispute over a trade agreement is meant to be interesting how? To say I digress isn’t really going to cut it here, is it?

Back on topic, I can’t help but think that the re-vamp of PES’ Master League might be acting as more of a hindrance than help to my immersion in the game. I have no doubt that my own sanity will be questioned in much the same way I question that of a certain ‘Writer/Director’ (It still hurts!) but I ask you stay with me here before passing judgement.

I just think there is a degree of sterility about the way the both footy games go about their business regards the main ‘campaign’ modes these days. Sure, there is more authenticity and realism present but along with this comes a somewhat over-bloated experience. For me at least, part of the charm of classic PES’ ML mode was it’s simple, almost RPG-lite structure in which just seeing the players abilities increase after a match was enough to keep me going in itself and I filled in the blanks of the story of transfer negotiations, players failing to settle, board confidence and other off field matters without the actual game getting in the way. I could make it as deep as I wanted it to be off the field as the real story is surely always what happens out on the field. I believe that progression through an ML campaign in classic PES was less intrusive as it is currently but more importantly the basic videogame fundamental of escapism is dulled down somewhat when you are being prodded and probed by the game to deal with various matters between matches. I dunno, it just feels like I am asked to be an accountant for the club as opposed to being a manager who is questing to realise how the beautiful game should be played. I know fine well that in real life managers are in some part asked to oversee various aspects of the running of a club but isn’t that what a manager sim like Football Manager is for? Not that I am suggesting PES or FIFA have the same level of depth (though worryingly they aspire to be just that) but these games focus you would think is about the raw, untamed beauty of the sport and not the mundane chores that admittedly make it all happen. Let me concentrate on being the ‘’tracksuit manager’’ I yearn to be in other words.

I remember signing Ibrahimovic during the winter transfer negotiation period in PES4 (when the training mini-games were in place) and he repaid my faith by performing the square root of bugger all for the remainder of the season , so instead of selling him on I had him chasing the wonderful yet impossible to calculate geometry of Iniesta, Aissati and Nasri (who were all bloodied in a similar fashion!) in training the whole pre-season while saying to myself in a Brian Clough manner ‘’You’re a bloody disgrace!’’ daring him to get better. He ended up my best player the following season and arguably the most ridiculously talented player I have ever controlled in a PES game. This is how I want to connect to my team and get the balance right, not by looking at a bank balance and worrying if my scout is the right level. I think footy games are lacking in being able to inspire such a connection at the moment and ironically it may be because they are trying too hard to do just that.

Building a Legacy, Leaving a Legacy

If there was anything I would like to have a greater level of management with outside the first team squad it would be the youth team. Wouldn’t it pretty cool if between matches and basic tactical tinkering and/or transfer negotiation you could decide to train and develop them via quick 3min half challenge matches against your first team? It not only would allow you to see how good (or bad) the first teams cohesion is but at the same time you would be developing the youth squad. This would allow the user to make a better judgement as to who could make the step up to the first team due to you actually getting to control them in non-competitive circumstances against what should be better developed players. Surely this could only add to the immersion and makes you feel like you are building a legacy and more than just a club.

Something that has never been possible in PES’ ML is the ability to change clubs. Given all that I have suggested above were to be put in place – with the ability to leave it all behind and seek pastures new – not only would moving on be a tough choice but could also spur you on to do it all over again. What would make this even more of a wrench is if the ML landscape you created kept going. What I mean is that should you change clubs, with only limited options available (think a three 1st Div clubs, three 2nd Div. club, and three ‘other league’ clubs offer scenario) what you leave behind remains intact and part of the game world, with your former clubs signings and development all remaining in place. Suddenly you are pursuing your own legacy all over again! It should be noted I would have no sackings in place, just ‘game over’ if you mis-manage, so the urge to keep the game world you have created alive is always driving you on whilst making you very mindful not to get over ambitious.

I would like to hear others opinions as to what they think would be the ideal ML experience. If it happens to be what is already in place then it would be nice to hear some thoughts as to why that is. My own thoughts are that less can result in more, or that at least a change of focus upon other aspects of ML could make the experience more richer, deep and ultimately more rewarding experience us fans.

Huge credit again to PSM3 for keeping the torch alight during the ”quiet period” for us footy game fans.

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