Baseball is a team sport. Of course, if you play MLB The Show 20 or any of its previous iterations, that might not be entirely clear considering it’s the last of the AAA sports titles without some sort of way to link up with others to play games unless it’s against each other. Granted, it’s not exactly feasible for developers to spend valuable resources creating a full 9-vs-9 MLB The Show online team play user experience that would perhaps thrill only a niche of hardcore baseball purists. But by now, even Madden has figured out a way to allow people to play together by focusing on the skill positions.
So how can MLB The Show do the same?
The ideal way to have people play MLB The Show in a group would be in a 4-vs-4 environment. With this number, it would be possible to divide how users come up to the plate and space them out on the bases in a manner that keeps everyone engaged. While in the field, this would allow everyone to play a vital role in keeping runs off the scoreboard for the opposing team without anyone falling asleep because there’s barely anything to do. Let’s take a closer look at how this would break down for everyone.
MLB The Show Online Team Play – Hitting
There’s no question that hitting is where it makes the most sense to have four be the ideal number with which to try and generate some offense. Obviously, there are only three bases that can be occupied with runners so it’s just basic math that only a maximum of four users would need to be doing anything at any given time on offense. This would be fairly easy to execute, with each user taking a turn to bat one after the other regardless of which player happens to be coming up to the plate. Because there would be four users and nine players in the lineup, this would make it so that everyone would be able to use a wide variety of the hitters throughout a game rather than just using the same ones over and over again.
This would create some interesting scenarios as well. Say the first two hitters of an inning get on base. At this point, there would only be two users left to take turns trying to get those teammates home. The rare but exciting scenario would arise where you have three users juicing the bases and another likely nervous one at the plate trying to drive them all in. What if there was also no one out when everyone got aboard and then one user has three outs to try and cash in those runs? Can you imagine if this poor soul then struck out three times in a row to kill a rally? Between that and a grand slam, the wide array of potential outcomes are sure to make for some nerve-wracking but invigorating at-bats.
Aside from that, there would be plenty of strategy to discuss between the batter at the plate and the baserunners, and the great thing is there would be no need for any confusing signs to be relayed from a third-base coach when you’re all presumably talking over mic. You could let each other know when you wanted to try a straight steal, hit and run, sacrifice or even when you want a user to take off from third for a squeeze play.
MLB The Show OTP – In The Field
This is where things get a little trickier. At least some of the solution as to where to put four people when out in the field seems pretty intuitive, but there’s likely going to need to be a little flexibility in roles and, perhaps in some cases, even a new mechanic or two added in order to make sure everyone feels like they are contributing equally to the team’s success.
One of the easiest ways to divvy up responsibilities while keeping everyone on their toes would be to have one user handle all infield duties and another user taking control of all outfielders as needed. With a pretty even split generally between ground balls and fly balls (depending on the pitcher of course), this should ensure that everyone gets in on the action regularly without having to do too much standing and waiting around for a ball to get hit your way. This would also create some added excitement on plays that involve an outfielder-to-infielder relay exchange when trying to gun down a runner at the plate. If developers were to maybe add collisions between fielders (a realistic element that’s never really been in the game), you would then even have to worry about calling for balls or risk having an infielder and outfielder smash into each other and the ball fall in for a hit.
Elsewhere, obviously one user would need to take command of whatever pitcher is on the mound. This person would be tasked with locating pitches as consistently as possible while trying to avoid serving up any meatballs, getting too wild or walking too many batters.
But by having the fourth user work in tandem with the user who’s controlling the pitcher by assuming the role of catcher, it would make for the ideal way to approximate the integral role of the battery in the game. The catcher could potentially be the one selecting the pitches and location that the pitcher throws the ball. Perhaps the pitcher would be allowed to “shake off” pitches that he doesn’t like, but it would ultimately be the catcher who controls a lot of the decision making from behind the plate.
To make things even more dynamic for the catcher, it would be nice if the developers were able to add some sort of pitch framing mechanic that would come into effect on any pitches on the margins of the strike zone to help turn balls into strikes when done correctly. Between all of this and gunning down anyone trying to steal a base, things could be plenty interesting behind the dish.
As you can see, there are clearly ways to make MLB The Show online a team sport that makes sense and would be a blast to try. Down the line, it would be great to see a future in which an esport version of the game involves squads of four people going up against each other in tournaments. But until SDS gives us a chance to get a glimpse at this dream, we’ll have to be content to imagine what such an endeavor would even look like for the time being.