Pro Evolution Soccer | The Tech – A retrospective & a look into the future

Retrospective

After an entire generation of average PES games, we’re on the verge of witnessing the biggest and perhaps the most dramatic change in terms of the tech in the series. It’s a known and widely accepted fact that PES games were never about graphics or animations, but instead about what fans saw as fluid and realistic “game-play” of endless variety. But when you fail to adapt and keep up with the technical changes in the industry, you risk disappointing your fan base with a mediocre product.

That’s exactly what happened with the PES series on the last console generation transition. Mr. Shingo “Seabass” himself admitted back in 2009 that the game was still using programming mechanics from the Famicon era. And while those archaic methods seemed to work for the following generations, it quickly became clear that it was one of the major culprits of the series downfall on what we today call the current generation of gaming.

For instance, PES 2008/2009 had a fundamental problem everyone could pinpoint: The locomotion animations were completely unnatural. Some people assumed this was due to the fact Konami didn’t use motion capture, when in fact they have been using it since early days of 3D gaming (and a game the magnitude of PES wouldn’t exist without it). While the quality of the motion capture actors might be questionable (with rumors spreading around that time that Konami staff were doing them), the biggest problem was the process of translating the motion capture into the game’s dated animation engine.

In 2010 Konami tried to tackle the problem but clearly didn’t have the technical knowledge (or enough time to obtain it) to find a compromise between a game that moves well and a game that is responsive enough to be playable. Even with the announcements of increasing man power working on several aspects of the game, the core of the game remained the same. We ended up with several iterations of the same “broken” core that always felt very dated and became less and less satisfying.

PES2008

Granted that similar events occurred all over the non-western game developing companies, and Japanese developers seem to have suffered the most, because while clearly lagging behind on everything that constituted a PS3 or a XBOX360 game, they were always reluctant and ultimately unable to admit that something drastic needed to be done.

The PES series is one of the best/worst examples of that. While EA Sports was building a new engine to start a new generation with a bang, efficiently pin-pointing what they were doing wrong and what the competition was doing right along that process, Konami let themselves relax with the quality of their product by underestimating the resources and time needed to produce a proper “next-generation” game.

Mr. Takatsuka was often pragmatic in his interviews about the first 2/3 games of this generation, stating that he felt they weren’t prepared at all for the technical challenges of the at the time “next-generation games”. PES 2009 almost “didn’t happen” because of that, giving the fans a clear indication that something wasn’t right and that they probably considered spending a “year off” rebuilding the game from scratch, but the fact that it didn’t happen might mean that  they were pressured to deliver a yearly release “no matter what”.

We all know how that turned out, nearly all PES games this generation have felt somewhat unfinished and that might be the reason why, trying to fit proper and substantial changes on a game that was born broken in an unfeasible amount of time.

The bright future

This time around we’re looking at what should be a clean slate, starting last year with the addition of Kei Masuda as the new lead producer and the announcement of a new office opening up in London and the nomination of Mr. Adam Bhatti as Community Manager, along with the announcements that the game will be using a combination of the fantastic Fox Engine as the foundation + the great middle-ware Havok physics engine, which could easily mean one of the best sports games tech-wise, if both of them are treated right.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen enough proof of how good the tech actually is. With its stunning graphics, a MASSive, always-on physics system and impressive lifelike animations, all with an extra wow factor: It’s all running on current-gen hardware! It’s almost ironic that they would turn it all around on the few last breaths of PS3 and XBOX360 and release exclusively to them.

While some might feel disappointed that PES 2014 won’t be released on the PS4/XboxOne, it’s a good indication that they absolutely don’t want to risk a bad “generation starter”. The fact that the new engine(s) are easily scalable to other platforms and gaming gens, it doesn’t mean that you should immediately do that.

PES2014 Engine

Although they seem to have all the tools and man power they need to build a great next-generation game, if their goal is to make the game the best it can be, then they need time to know the new hardware’s potential, and rushing one release so close to the other would be a terrible, considering the past experiences…

And while great technology doesn’t automatically mean a great game, it’s undeniable that this is one game that desperately needed a technological revolution.

All these factors result in a clear statement of intent and reveal a completely different attitude towards the gaming world and gamers themselves, that even skeptics will be forced to agree with: They don’t want to make the same mistakes again; they aren’t afraid to use/share in-house tech or even outsource licensed engines to make the best game possible in terms of tech; they recognized the need for fresh blood, ideas and knowledge leading the way forward and, ultimately, that they’re ready for the next generation of consoles.

What to expect next – 2015 and beyond

In strictly technical terms, there’s a lot to guess about what the future of PES holds, or even what a next-generation game of PES will play, look and move like. In fact, there’s a lot we don’t know about what it means to be a PS4/Xbox One game.

In terms of the existing game developing technologies/technologies the difference is currently nowhere near the jump from PS2 to PS3, but there’s a few major differences we can surely expect, considering how old the current-gen hardware is compared to what’s in the shiny boxes coming out at the end of the year, that will likely apply to PES as well.

With much more powerful CPU’s and GPU’s there will be a massive jump in texture resolutions, polygon count and all-things real-time rendering (Lighting; physics simulation like clothing and hairs, etc). The most interesting and relevant improvement to a sports simulation game is the possibility of having a much more capable AI, with more and faster routines.

One could also get excited at the prospect of having “machine learning” on games, but that would be a very, very wild guess at this stage.

Thanks to @_JoaoCampos for writing this piece. We’d love to read your thoughts on PES and its future, so get in touch in the comment section below

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One thought on “Pro Evolution Soccer | The Tech – A retrospective & a look into the future

  1. Pingback: PS4 vs. PC: Viewpoint of Indie games developer | Game News Next-Gen

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