PES 2010 is a big deal for Konami, and so it should be. Having been dethroned as the king of football games by FIFA 09 a year ago, there's an awful lot at stake. PES Productions entered a period of soul-searching as it began to understand where it had gone wrong - and how to put it right again.
If anything positive came out of last year's disappointing effort, it's that it inspired a new determination within the PES production camp to listen to people a bit more, and take on board feedback more than ever. With that in mind, Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka and European team leader Jon Murphy approach a recent face-off with the press at an event in France in a rather unusual way.
Rather than sit and field the same old questions, Seabass and Murphy direct the questions back at the press in a series of roundtable sessions as part of a new process of "listening and learning and improving". Rather than telling us the same old story about how it has improved AI, tactics, and team realism, the team uses its PES European Finals gala event in Nice as an opportunity to garner opinions from a wide cross-section of the very same people about to go and write reviews for the upcoming version. Although, well, Editor Tom's doing ours. [Sorry about that. - Ed]
"This year and, of course for the following year, we're going to continue this listening, learning and improving process as an important step for PES Productions and the PES series," Seabass tells us. "Of course, we have so many ideas in advance of making the game. However, it is also important to get feedback from the users and the press to make the game better."
Seabass and Murphy are keen to press the assembled for what we think of the new Team Style and Player Card system. As you'll remember from our hands-on, Team Style allows players to tweak various elements via a slider system, allowing you to press harder or hold your ground in possession, or fiddle with the defensive line, while, in the words of Seabass, a Player Card "is like a combination of pure additional skills and the ability to drill down into the individual rather than the whole team and make minor changes to how the individual plays within the squad."
The reasoning? "In previous titles," says Seabass, "there were so many segments that you had to undergo when you were changing the playing style of the team. You'd have to adjust this one... this one... then down this one!" He motions. "It was really complex when you wanted to play [in a specific way]. That's the reason why we introduced the card and slider systems, because it simplifies highly complex settings into one or two things."
You can't help admire the principle of the thing, but the feedback probably makes for uneasy listening, with the majority of the assembled hacks unsure of what tangible difference tweaking with Team Style or Player Cards makes - a problem that most players will almost certainly face.
To the average player, we reason for our hosts, the problem is that game offers no real feedback, and you don't have anything to compare it to unless you're a hardcore player and can instantly spot a difference. Most players, it's felt, will be intimidated into settling for the default settings and never even delve into the interesting new features on offer - however beneficial they may be. Indeed, Seabass admits, "It may be true that the casual gamers will not use the slider and card system." But, he insists, "even at the default setting, it is a way to enjoy PES 2010".