It has been a few weeks since Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata’s interview with PES’ silent maestro Shinji Enomoto, in which the focus was primarily to discuss the franchises debut on Ninty’s new 3D enabled handheld, yet entered into territory which sparked interest and discussion amongst series fans.
An excerpt from the Enomoto interview :
Iwata: In a sense, “PES” is a real life’s work for you.
Enomoto: Yes. Even though we’ve been doing this for 10 years, I don’t feel as though we’re even close to capturing real football.
It is the very last sentence in this little snippet from the interview that has piqued my interest somewhat. Within the community there was some concern as to what Enomoto was saying; as though there was some form of admittance that PES is way off and it suggests the development team are struggling behind the scenes. I look at it differently as I believe that the fact he states that it is in the ten year history of PES – the game being known as PES that is – that they have never gotten close to realizing in full the beautiful game, in his opinion. It is something that is arguably cause for optimism as opposed to concern…though maybe not when he starts talking about staff performing mo-cap! Some things we really don’t need to be hearing regarding development, Enomoto-san.
First of all we must consider that ‘’10 years’’ of which he speaks. This is a ten years that has blessed us with a massive jump from PES2 to PES3, the introduction of player development in PES4, the oft considered series pinnacle and by extension arguably the finest football game ever created in PES5 to go along with the pin sharp(still!) and dripping with customization options offering that was PES6. It is quite a claim from Enomoto to say they haven’t come even close in this timeline all things considered, no? I defy anyone to say that at the time when a PES3, 5 or 6 arrived that there wasn’t a moment – or a constant feeling – that bar a few wee features and gameplay elements here and there that the game didn’t just about have it all.
Secondly and probably more importantly is the frame of mind shown by Enomoto. The last thing you want to hear a developer say is that there might be nowhere else left to go or worse, proclaim that they have flat-out aced the beautiful game in videogame form. I mentioned this in the latest podcast but in any profession the moment you start to think you have it perfected, it usually is the very same moment that it all starts to unravel. Sound familiar? Enomoto is merely serving notice that he and the team are only too well aware of the recent trials and tribulations that have faced. Let’s be honest here – even a developer who is rather satisfied with their efforts isn’t going to go screaming from the rooftops that this is how they feel.
The Question Remains
So all that aside, time to pose the following question :
What is missing from PES that has one of its producers offer the opinion that they have not even come close to the real sport?
I am sure we could all reel off countless omissions from PES or any football game that are missing but the challenge it would appear is how to implement some of these omissions into a videogame representation of the sport that a) aren’t intrusive to the overall flow, b) can actually be woven into the gameplay mechanics and c) genuinely add something to the overall experience. When having a think about this myself I decided that pretty much anything is fair game, though I did set the boundary of leaving things like game-modes and editing aside for the time being as although there is always going to be ways of expanding such assets, I really thought it best to concentrate on the simulated 90mins alone. That is not to say things like player attributes, tactics and strategy are out of bounds however.
Below are just some of the things that spring to mind when asking myself the question. Please note I am not saying they would work necessarily, I am merely trying to give examples of what might be missing. It also hints at my plain wrong appreciation of the dark arts of the sport…. Mwahahaha!
- Manual/Live Man Marking – it is one thing assigning man-marking duties via the formations screen, it is quite another implementing a manual user controlled man-marking mechanic into the control mechanics that has a balanced risk/reward system in place. I was thinking a pressure sensitive press and hold of L2 could see you ‘stick’ to a player with varying degrees of aggression and proximity. Hold down too much and for too long you end up fouling the player due to you getting a little too ‘’up close and personal’’. Think about the possibilities this would have in set-piece scenarios. I have always felt trying to mark players has felt a little loose in control and we all know that these kinds of tussles exist in the real sport. It should also be finally noted that if PES were to ever get a ‘run prompt’ function then this might offer a viable counter.
- Shielding/’Shepparding’ – Can really be utilized all around the pitch this and not just for defence duties. Again, this could be assigned to a trigger with pressure sensitivity playing a part which allows the player to shield or ‘sheppard’ the ball out or to simply just block off would be attention as you close in on a stray ball.
- Shirt Pulling/Professional Fouls – The ability to get ‘niggly’ in other words. This could be set under the man marking mechanic mentioned previously but is a little more devilish as it involves you taking out your frustrations on a player skinning you in a 1 v. 1. Obviously comes with consequences and *whispers* like the man-marking mechanic might make diving that little bit more of an option. It is obviously wrong but it exists in the real sport. It is ‘missing’ but do we want it?
Attack/ In Possession
- Running the Ball Off – What I mean is the ability to not so much pass to a team mate in close proximity but the ability to run the ball off to them. This sort of exists but is more by accident than design. It happens all the time in the real game and in midfield and on the wings in particular.
- Manual First Touch – Assigning a controller input that allows the user to instruct a player to jump and try to chest the ball down to use an example, as opposed to having to hope the player does it or just press pass or shoot in order to ensure contact with the ball. ISS Pro 98 on the N64 had this in place and it was magnificent as it could be used for flicking the ball into the air and turning when receiving a grounded pass or to jump and chest into a particular direction when meeting a high ball which was at the users discretion as to when to use it.
- Natural Flair in First & Second Touch – Posted missing somewhat since the PS2 days, a greater variety in how players receive passes, especially airborne passes, with the artists of the real sport displaying something out of ordinary if time and space permits. I also think that right now every football game practices an overly orthodox method of first touch in which players immediately look to get the ball on the deck. Simply watching any football match from across the globe you see some players keep the ball in the air with their second and even third touches when receiving a high ball. I think it was the great Pele who once said ‘’every player should have a first touch, the second is the more important’’ though I cannot source it unfortunately so you will just have to take my word for it. Maybe it was me and I am a football philosophy genius! In all seriousness maybe there is scope for such moments of incidental brilliance to be realized using the index card system and technique stats. Allow the game to surprise me more than what either it or FIFA do currently. Not everything needs to be engineered by the user and a little mystique wouldn’t go amiss.
- Player Comes Short – In all the discussion about off the ball movement I find it odd that this feature of the real game is seldom mentioned or suggested. Having a button prompt that instructs a player to come short and make himself available for a backwards/lateral pass would add tactical depth surely and could be more of an asset than having your DM blindly venture forward with reckless abandon and instead have the focus on ball retention first.
- Captain Influence – Is your captain a keeper? Have this influence organization in set-pieces. Should they be a defender maybe this could improve defensive line organization and if they are a midfielder they could influence passing and pressing. Forwards who are captains could display more work ethic and receive a stamina boost or prove to be more talismanic. All this could be dictated by a captaincy rating or stat so as it is kept in check somewhat.
- The Love/Hate Player – In just about every game played in real life there is a player who is loved by their own support and despised by the oppositions. More of an atmosphere thing this but having say Ronaldo booed with his every touch in an away fixture or a Gattuso cheered on after a crunching tackle in a home game would add something to the proceedings I feel. This could be something that evolves in an ML campaign with say a former player coming back to play against you with another club only to inspire disdain from your home support or say a goal-scorer getting a huge cheer from the fans as he is substituted or makes his entrance. Lots of possibilities here.
- ”Ole!” – C’mon! We all would love this to gradually surface with every successful pass in a long period of possession, especially when in a winning position. We have the boo’s that that bellow when the away side maintain possession so why not.
Passing It Over
Well, that is just some of what I feel might well be missing from the real sport at the moment with regards to football videogames in general. Again, it is not for me to say that these ideas would be a qualified success or even work in any way, shape or form. I do however feel that Enomoto has given us fans something to get our teeth into and perhaps think outside the box a little regards what could make a more complete game that is closer to reality.
It would be great to hear others thoughts and ideas on the subject of what is missing from footy games in general and I would encourage any answers to the question posed to be submitted either using the feedback section on the forums – in which you would need to look at offering a fully detailed explanation – or by replying via the comments section found below. I look forward to seeing what others come up with, though must stress such feedback will more than likely have missed the PES2012 feedback shipment and will be for the future….providing your idea is not something like using a barrel instead of a ball as that will never be considered. Oh, wait.