The last time I played FIFA, it included teams called “Moss”, “Wil”, and “Guingamp”.  In the quest for ego gratification I spent many hours looking for patsies in the Norwegian and Swiss leagues, and among the ill-designed national teams of places like Gabon.  This dates it as FIFA 02, a year-old copy, since that was the last edition that included generic unlicensed national teams, and 2002 was the last year Moss was in the Tippeliga.  I have become addicted to FIFA 11 as well, though not quite as much because I don’t have classwork to avoid. It’s much more complex of course…stochastic procedures mean you never know exactly where your shot will go, or what the computer opponent is going to do.  Or what the referee is going to do. Basically, you can’t be Arsenal against Barbados, steal the ball on every opposing kick-off, dribble up the wing and pass to Henry for a goal 28 times in two five-minute halves. Maybe you can score 28 times in 10 minutes [probably against one of the League of Ireland teams], but not 28 identical goals.

Moss fans watch their lads lay the smack down on Bodø/Glimt.

At first, it was hard to shoot.  Every shot went over the bar.  And it was hard to tackle.  The only time I was obviously doing anything was after the blue button slide tackle, so I kept doing that, and boy did that lead to a lot of yellow cards.  Red cards pretty much never happen at Amateur difficulty level, though.  And slide tackling is never necessary at amateur level either, after your first couple hours of play.  It’s great to have different referees with different degrees of strictness for fouls, but it would be exciting to have more risk of yellows and reds.

I started out as Bolton and played other Premier League teams, losing close games.  At Amateur level every opponent is going to fail to score on virtually all its shots, unless you’re playing Inter or Germany.  But I couldn’t score either, and I couldn’t tackle.

Then I trolled Europe looking for patsies, and started winning 3-1 and 4-1. Charleroi is a particularly dismal all-around team, with the black-and-white stripes giving them the Generic Opponents look you want in your patsy.  Strømsgodset and Nordsjælland are good choices if you want to experiment with something without worrying about having 30% possession. Or if you want to compare how different teams behave in your hands. I liked being Lokomotiv Moscow, not so much Schalke.

How dare the beeves of Hereford stymie the noble Toffees?!

English low-level teams seemed way too good despite one-star ratings. I played as Everton exactly once and lost 2-1 to Hereford United, as Louis Saha missed 15 shots and the rest of the team missed 16. ADO Den Haag kept winning the ball and eluding my defensemen [They’re 7th in the real-life Eredivisie right now after being 15th last year. How did the EA programmers know?]. Playing against N.E.C., or as I call them, Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie, wasn’t fun either. The red, black and green shirts blinded their opponents with luxury, and a guy named “Vleminckx” scored twice [he currently leads the Eredivisie in goals, with 15. How did the EA programmers know?]. The much-acclaimed Dutch coaching and discipline really pays off in the cyber-universe.

Then I switched from being Bolton against horrible teams, to being Inter against mediocre teams. The 4-1 wins turned into 8-1 wins as I suddenly controlled people who could pass between three defenders and outrun everyone, and I figured out tippy-tap passing [and switched to 10-minute halves]. Returning to England, I thought it was time for equal opposition, and started a Premier League season with Bolton. The first two games I lost 4-0 and 5-0 and never had a shot on goal. The first game I was not suspicious, but after the second one, in which Maynor Figueroa dribbled through my entire defense and Hugo Rodallega scored on a bicycle kick, I realized the difficulty had somehow changed to Legendary. Still only 5-0! We didn’t disgrace ourselves! We looked that bullet square in the banana, and we blinked a finite number of times.

At long last, let’s try life as an inferior team. Cardiff City, versus Dundee United.  Should be a challenge.  Ended up winning 12-0 with seven different goalscorers, despite Danny Drinkwater’s red card. Whoa. Cardiff versus Bury… 5-0.  5 goals, 5 assists.  Bolton versus Oxford United [wait, that’s not a challenge] … 8-1, and the only game so far with assists credited to the keeper. Stop letting your defensemen go so far up when you’re attacking, cyber-Oxford cyber-manager Chris Wilder.

After a few more games to practice tackling and heading [Inter 11-0 Charleroi, Arsenal 14-2 Aalesund], it was time to start a sustained challenge. A season with one of the worst teams in a league with at least two teams clearly superior to them in every way. After four games I would finally leave Amateur for Semi-Pro, but the details of this season will have to wait until our next instalment.

Of course I would never judge a book by its cover, but a cursory GIS for Björn Vleminckx makes him look like kind of a jerk.

Captain Potter’s log, January 20, 2011.

Recent accomplishments:

Became able to push the button I want when I want, instead of panicking and using the wrong motion.  Have not used the Xbox for anything since Beautiful Katamari.

Became able to basically win the ball from any opponent whenever I want.  This is what finally made me increase the difficulty level.

Current playing strategy:

Offense:

  • Blue button: lofted ball that usually goes near somebody.
  • Yellow button: accurate pass that can get intercepted.
  • Green button: inaccurate pass with some zip on it.
  • Red button: shot.  You must hit the red button for no more than 0.0001 second or it’ll sail over the bar, unless you have an empty net.  In your half of the field, hit the red button for a clearance so the opposing goalkeeper can have it.

Defense:

  • Blue button: slide tackle, almost guaranteed to be a foul.
  • Yellow button: subtle tackle, not much different from what happens if you just run into someone’s path.
  • Green button: block tackle.  Works very well.
  • Red button: N/A

Throw-ins:

  • Blue button: long throw with a runup.
  • Yellow button: short toss.
  • Green button: short toss.
  • Red button: ?

Things I need to remember to do:

  • Get to the point where someone other than a center-back can be Man of the Match without scoring four goals.  I typically end up with Zat Knight as MotM in an 8-2 game. Once Gary Cahill got a red card and was still MotM.
  • Use LB and RB.  LB plus red button is a chip over the keeper.  I am ~0-for-30 on these so far.  RB does something.
  • Figure out what the different buttons do when you’re jumping for a header [other than the obvious red button to head it toward the net].  I think the green button is for chesting the ball but that may only be possible when you’re uncontested.  Blue/yellow: ?
  • Use the blue button to cross it in from the corner toward the penalty area.  This works better when you double-tap it.
  • Come up with more than one corner-kick strategy.
  • Figure out how to take penalties.  There are three different things to control, none of which bear any relation to anything else in the game, and all are crucial to avoid missing the goal by 100 feet.  Being the keeper during penalties is easy.
  • Figure out how to control the keeper during game play.
  • Figure out the names of the buttons, though calling them by the colors should be good enough.
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