The Joy Of The PES Kit Editor

by | Dec 21, 2018

I live, it’s reasonable to say, a fairly busy life. I work around fifty to fifty-five hours a week, have two young children and try to keep on top of this place, including recording a podcast once a week. Most evenings, I don’t get to sit down and take a breather much prior to eleven o’clock at night. From half past six in the morning until eleven at night, seven days a week, I am, broadly speaking, busy. Getting a little down time, however, is important, so that hour or two after the kids have gone to bed, I’ve eaten, perhaps written something, and attended to all the other things that I need to attend to over the course of a normal day, is precious.

How to spend this time, though? Watching the television or otherwise zoning out for a while is relaxing, if a little passive, and increases my chances of falling asleep on a sofa and waking up, confused and quite possibly angry, at four in the morning with an imprint of the material reddening my face. Attempting to read a book at that time of the night is more likely to keep me awake than anything else. Sometimes I need something that will stimulate my brain, but not too much, lest I spend half the night staring at the bedroom ceiling when I have work the following morning. Sometimes, I need the Pro Evolution Soccer kit editor.

Football kits, I think we can all agree, are A Thing nowadays, as demonstrated by such websites as Kit Bliss or Historical Football Kits. Indeed, there seems to be no limit to the niches into which people can fill with football-related ephemera. Ever idly thought about the possibility of building a stadium out of Lego? FC Brickstand has got you covered. Ever pondered what it would be like if bands used the conventions of football badges when creating their logos? Bands FC has already been there, done that, and is already selling replica shirts. There are people already out there, designing football shirts for bands, stadia out of plastic blocks, and creating football kits from parallel universes that never existed.

Being in my mid-forties, I’m of the first generation of people for whom having a computer at home was a feature of childhood and, much as our parents might have hoped that I would learn to code, teach myself advanced accountancy, or otherwise put my ZX Spectrum to productive use, my teenage years were all about games, and it’s something I’ve never – and, importantly, have never felt the need to – outgrown. Put simply, for all the criticism that games and gaming have come in for over the years – usually at the hands of people who simply don’t understand the medium that they’re dealing with – gaming is something that adults do. Whether we do so in an adult manner is, of course, a quite different question.

Over the last thirty-five years or so, the market for football games, once a varied vista of the good, the bad, and the completely terrible, has boiled down to three major franchises. For those who fancy trying their hand at management, there’s Football Manager, a franchise which has existed since the very dawn of the home computer age, The modern incarnation of the game, however, is famously a time sponge, and time is one thing that I don’t have very much of. This leaves, in a football sense at least, two options. On the one hand, there’s EA’s epic FIFA series of games. They have the official licenses and the veneer of the fully-polished product, but they can be difficult to love, such is the corporate feel that comes with all those licenses.

On the other, though, there’s also Pro Evolution Soccer. There was a period, at the beginning of this century, when PES was the purist’s game. FIFA had all the licences, but PES had the game-play. This all changed just over a decade ago, when EA finally overhauled the in-game engine for the FIFA series, and for a while it looked as though PES might not even survive, especially when the first versions of the game to appear on the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 in 2008 were released to mixed receptions. Somehow, though, the franchise keeps plugging away, with the game-play still justifying the price tag, despite the fact that unlicensed team names such as East Dorsetshire (Bournemouth) or East Anglia Town (Ipswich Town) provide considerable hilarity to those who come across them.

On the whole, of course, this lack of official licenses is A Bad Thing for the PES franchise, but the law of unintended consequences does step in at this point, for the likes of me. Because PES has so few licensed teams (and, in all honesty, playing matches as East Anglia Town whilst internally screaming “I AM IPSWICH TOWN, TRULY I AM” isn’t exactly an ideal experience – Ipswich supporters can insert their own jokes here), the game has a sophisticated in-built editor which allows the user to change not only the name of the teams, but also to edit their kits.

This is a necessary tool, because the kits that unlicensed teams have in PES bear practically no resemblance that their real-life counterparts wear. Manchester United’s current Adidas monstrosity may well be the worst Manchester United kit of all time, for example, but it’s not a patch on the burgundy nightmare they wear on PES 2018. It’s likely that the game’s manufacturers, Konami, have little choice but to do this in order to ensure that they’re on the right side of copyright law, but the effect is that to play in the Premier League on PES, you’re going to have some work to do first, although there are option files online which one can download directly to one’s console with a USB stick which will do the job for you.

For some of us, though, the PES editor has become something quite different. For an hour or two a night, two or three nights per week, I’m Bob Ross, quietly dabbing at my palette and comparing different widths of pinstripes, shoulder flashes, and sock designs. It’s relaxing and therapeutic, and nothing more. I’m not producing great works of art, not producing any form of art. For that period of the evening I can sit and lose myself in something strangely absorbing, which requires attention but doesn’t really matter. I’m not obsessive enough to lose myself completely in it, but I can at least empty my head for a couple of hours at the end of a busy day and lose myself in something that doesn’t matter in any way whatsoever to anyone, myself included. When your life can feel at times like a pressure cooker that’s about to explode, it’s a valuable resource to have at one’s disposal.

Of course, there are decisions to be made. Should I keep it clean, removing any traces of modern football? Without a copy of the Pantone Matching System to hand, what are the exact correct colours for each club? Each component of a kit – shirts, shorts and socks – is sub-divided into areas that can be swapped for up to sixty or seventy different options, and as such there are thousands of different combinations that can be reached. A certain amount of restraint is, therefore, required on the part of the designer. It’s very easy to go overboard, to add a stripe too many or go an adornment too far. It shouldn’t need to be mentioned that “more” doesn’t have to mean “better”, but this is definitely a medium that leaves one open to the possibility of going too far.

It’s possible to change the home kits, goalkeepers kits, and the stylising of the names and numbers on the backs of shirts, but it’s also possible to add third kits, fourth kits and more and here, of course, the budding kit designer can let really their creativity run wild. If you’ve ever wondered what West Ham United might look like in a luminous lime green change kit, here’s your chance. Alternatively, it’s perfectly possible to give the devil that sits on your shoulder a bit of a run out. Fancy giving Manchester United a third kit of sky blue shirts and white shorts or Spurs a change shirt of red with white sleeves for your own childish amusement? No-one need ever know (unless you write fifteen hundred words or so about it on a website, that is.)

Oddly, it’s the goalkeepers kits that feel the most difficult to design. Old man that I am, I continue to find it difficult to visualise goalkeepers’ shirts in any colour but green and, of course, it’s important to not make the goalkeeper’s shirt look like an outfield player’s shirt. This, however, is more than counterbalanced by the ability to create third kits from scratch. There are some clubs – Manchester United, for example – who already have a prescribed third kit (all blue, in their case), but the majority don’t have anything memorable or iconic enough to not replace with something that would most likely get you chased into the sea by a pitchfork-wielding mob were you to actually unveil it in real life.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re tempted, aren’t you? You feel a bit dirty for thinking it, but you rather fancy designing a brand new kit for the team that you support and then playing matches against other teams, don’t you? Well, we’ve got you covered. If there’s one person I know who is obsessive about this sort of thing, it’s 200% podcast host Edward Carter, so I asked earlier today for his top five hints for budding PES kit designers, and he said:

  • You need to establish a proper white and a proper black, the default ones in the palette are too grey.
  • It’s easy to forget about markings (numbers and the players’ names on the backs of shirts) and emblems (badges) in the excitement: DON’T.
  • There is a difference between a blue shirt with white stripes and a white shirt with blue stripes. The central stripe on a striped shirt is the stripes colour, so a white shirt with blue stripes will have a blue central stripe.
  • Three colours per design unless you have a really exceptional excuse. (Editor’s note – presumably a club only having two colours is an acceptable excuse.)
  • There’s a way to make almost anything as long as you’re creative with the templates and willing to take your time with the colours. Ultimately the more time you spend making sure it is right the greater the rewards will be, endorphin-wise.

As for me, well, it’s five to nine on a Friday night, I got the children to bed on time, and I’ve even had the time to finish off an article for the website. This one, obviously. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the PES default guy, who looks like an extremely pale and freckly Kevin de Bruyne, peering at me from over the top of the laptop screen. Manchester City – sorry, “Man Blue” need a new kit, and I need to resist the impulse to make their change kit red shirts, white shorts, and black socks. It’s time for some me time.