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Is Online Hitting in MLB The Show 18 "Broken" or Merely Experiencing Growing Pains?

MLB The Show 18

Is Online Hitting in MLB The Show 18 "Broken" or Merely Experiencing Growing Pains?

If you spend even a limited amount of time in the MLB The Show community, it won’t take very long before talk inevitably turns to MLB The Show 18‘s hitting engine. You’re liable to hear people on one end of the spectrum tell you that hitting is definitively and unquestionably “broken,” while those on the other side of the debate will say hitting is working exactly as intended and will immediately be labeled “SDS apologists” by those with opposing views. Because this has become an impossible issue to ignore no matter which side of the debate you happen to fall on, we’re going to discuss how we got to this point, what the perceived problems really are, and what does the future look like for hitting in the game.

HOW WE GOT HERE

The consensus seems to be that these current issues surrounding hitting initially started to arise with the implementation of more dynamic ball physics in last year’s game. More specifically, the criticisms were focused mainly on online play and especially impacted anyone that used zone hitting rather than directional (which, for most competitive players is pretty much everyone). Some of the more common complaints were that the feedback system would appear to indicate that being just late on a pitch was in fact better than being perfect as far as timing goes, or that you could pull a ball foul despite having great timing on a pitch, or that there were too many inconsistencies in the results of placing the plate coverage indicator right on the ball.

Prior to the release of MLB The Show 18, SDS admitted that their own analysis showed that batted balls in The Show 17 weren’t traveling as far as their real-life counterparts and emphasized the amount of stress testing they had done to make sure things were more realistic this year. But, of course, it didn’t take long after the game’s release for disgruntled players to build a case for the game’s hitting system not only having some of the same flaws as last year but entirely new ones as well that threatened to ruin the hitting experience. Here are some explanations of the more common gripes that have been made about the shortcomings in this year’s game.

THE ISSUES

PCI Moving On Its Own – An issue that was prevalent soon after the game was released, but has thankfully been patched, dealt with players noticing that their PCI would end up in entirely different places than where it was when they initially swung the bat. In some cases, this was accepted as a feature rather than a bug, as the PCI is designed to move some as a consequence of having poor timing. But before long, people were documenting that they could have good timing on their swing without moving their PCI at all and still have it end up somewhere other than the middle.

PCI is Too Large – As part of an effort to make the game more accessible to newer players, SDS made the PCI a little larger than last year and that increase is even more pronounced for hitters with a good plate vision attribute. While this is sure to help newcomers put the ball in play and reduce strikeout numbers across the board, it also caused the seemingly unintended consequence of having good hitters frequently make weak contact on balls precisely because they’re able to cover so much of the plate. It has led some to speculate that the vision attribute is actually working counter-intuitively to how it should be and punishing better hitters rather than rewarding them. Either way, a recent patch has reduced PCI size to a degree.

Pitch Speeds Are Too Slow – Along the same lines, SDS evidently theorized that having pitch speeds be slower than last year would make the game more inclusive, but it also upset more experienced players in the process. Many opined that hitting a fastball had become way too easy, and at the higher levels of play it was altogether rare to even see a fastball thrown as games devolved into a battle of low breaking balls. This also was subsequently patched to increase velocity across the board, though there are still some that argue pitches need to be faster still.

Solid Contact Is Inconsistent – This is sort of a holdover from last year and appears to now be one of the most common of all the complaints you’ll hear about hitting in MLB The Show 18. The community is filled with people sharing images and video of themselves squaring up a ball absolutely in the dead center of their PCI only to receive feedback showing that they were rewarded with weak contact and an underwhelming exit velocity.

Power Is, Well, Too Powerful – This one will usually be coupled with the assertion that there’s no way Joey Gallo should be a more viable option at the plate than Edgar Martinez in his prime, but it’s hard to argue with dingers. The prevailing opinion among this contingent appears to be that having someone with decent power is preferable right now to a hitter with really good contact numbers, thus rendering good hitters without a ton of pop next to irrelevant.

WHAT NOW?

The first step of fixing any problem is first admitting there is one. For their part, SDS listened to the concerns of the community and acknowledged issues with the moving PCI, PCI size and pitch speeds, and took necessary actions to correct them. The trouble, however, with addressing some sore spots that continue to be regarded in some circles as substantial is that feedback from the community can often be contradictory, and it’s hard to please some people without earning the ire of others.

One of the surrounding discussions that can’t help but be had during this current hitting debate has to do with skill gap. Specifically, how much chance do we actually want to be involved in our sports games and how much do we want outcomes to be based purely on user skill? If you perfectly square a ball up, should it then be expected to be a laser every time off the bat, or should the result also be significantly affected by the hitter’s attributes, the opposing pitchers’ attributes and, to use the dreaded term often employed pejoratively among the MLB The Show community, some amount of RNG (random number generator, or a roll of the dice, if you prefer).

While those that despise RNG may have to begrudgingly accept it as a necessary evil of crafting a simulation of a sports game, it would probably help matters some if SDS (and other developers too, for that matter) were a little more transparent about how much all of these individual factors actually impacted any given batted ball. But as they tweak the formulas and consider all the variables before eventually releasing a patch that attempts to find the most balanced experience for everyone (read: the one that will upset the least amount of people), we are left to try and figure out the idiosyncrasies of this hitting engine for ourselves. Some people will tell you that the best way to hit the ball hard is to try and get on top of the ball a little. Others will tell you that you need to try and swing just early for best results. One person will swear by the power swing while another will insist that this will only lead to more pop-ups.

Then just last week, a new patch was released that was accompanied by the most extensive set of patch notes to date, outlining not only what changes were being implemented, but also why they were being made (complete with helpful video). The biggest change included with this patch was extending the range of the PCI to allow hitters to reach outside of the strike zone for pitches. This adjustment appears to be the most significant one to affect the hitting engine this year, allowing for more variety in batted balls while also helping superior players show their dominance through their precise skills in squaring up a pitch. On the other hand, it has unquestionably made hitting harder across the board and has average players who are prone to slamming the stick to the edges of the PCI range (myself included) scrambling to re-learn how to hit without this bad habit.

Perhaps the best thing people can remember is that it’s unlikely hitting will ever be perfect. After all, it’s somewhat of an imprecise science in real life. You can hit the ball on the sweet spot and line it hard right at a fielder for an out or barely make contact and end up with a bloop single. It seems the only consensus within the community is a desire that’s as simple as it is ambiguous: make hitting feel right. That’s not to say that the expectation is that you will get a hit every time you put good wood on the ball, but it would be nice to sense that the ball came off the bat in a way that, by and large, accurately reflects how successfully you managed to time your swing and how well you placed your PCI on the ball. To put it even more simply, we just want to get what we give.

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  1. I'm sure that it's partly because I am old and out of touch, but I cannot see how anyone enjoys online gaming so much and how it's supposedly so much more important than old fashioned man on AI action. I don't have any problems with hitting in my franchise mode. I've got the setting pretty well, although I don't walk or strikeout nearly as much as most MLB hitters do. 
    HenryClay1844
    although I don't walk or strikeout nearly as much as most MLB hitters do.*

    If I had a dollar for every time I've said to myself "He's missed the strike zone 3 times now...don't swing" only to go on to strike out...I'd have paid for this game twice over.
    On a semi-related note, when playing online is the little slow down as the pitch is thrown intentional? I've only played against a friend online and it threw me off a bit when I first saw it. I assumed it was something to make up for the inherent lag in online play.
    Honestly, online competitive players for any game are the biggest whiners I have ever seen in my life. Honestly this whole generation of gamers attitudes towards gaming is "win at all costs". What this has lead to is an increase of developers striving to appease their cash cows and complete disregarding an actual representation of the sport they are trying to portray.
    I am strictly an offline player. I have not played a sports title for more then two months after release for more than 5 years because good sports games get patched into oblivion to appease the win at all costs online crowd. I recently went back to NHL 18 for a spell and didn't even recognize the game I was playing. Was a decent game at release but has since became a **** show that feels sluggish and unresponsive.
    You can directly correlate the downgrade on quality across all sports titles with the rise in popularity of card based online modes such as ultimate team and diamond dynasty.
    Unfortunately these game modes are the cash cow and these communities will directly shape gameplay for all future iterations of sports titles. This may be an unpopular opinion but the truth is I feel like these players do not care about a proper representation of a sport because of their win at all costs mentality. I just wish players would adjust to a games design and not complain and opine for changes everytime a new mechanic comes out and doesn't fit their play style.
    Broken. Without question. Obviously there is going to be some differences between the offline and online experience when playing users. I understand that. But at one point you could not throw a fastball. I played over 100 RS games, and went 60-40 and I maybe threw 3-4 fastballs a game. Everything was offspeed and breaking pitches.
    You could not strike anyone out (unless they were just bad and swung at everything) and the game is dominated by power. The PCI have been messed up since day one. Its not growing pains, its simply a bad experience that does not resemble the game of baseball and how it should be played.
    Then you play an offline game on franchise, which is what I primarily do, and the game plays like a gem.
    HenryClay1844
    I'm sure that it's partly because I am old and out of touch, but I cannot see how anyone enjoys online gaming so much and how it's supposedly so much more important than old fashioned man on AI action. I don't have any problems with hitting in my franchise mode. I've got the setting pretty well, although I don't walk or strikeout nearly as much as most MLB hitters do.*

    Ooooh. I'm getting so worked up reading this part I should probably go take a cold shower.
    It seems hard to call it growing pains when the hitting was at least sound in some of the previous versions online and they basically unraveled it and turned it into a knotted mess. In watching streams of this years version it looks unrecognizable to what I was familiar with. I have no clue what type of feedback they are using to mold the hitting game online but it looks misguided to me.
    I have seen these videos of guys 'squaring up pitches dead center' when in fact they are NOT. They are close to the center but it depends on if it's to the left or right, up or down.
    If you are using a wedge pci you will not understand this because you assume a bat is swung through the zone on a flat plane. it does NOT.the wedge pci is only a good representation of what the sweet spot LOOKs like in relationship to the bat. I can't believe I have to explain this but it's the #1 reason why people claim to 'square up pitches dead center' and get weak contact.
    the bat passes over the plate and makes contact with the bat at anywhere between a 20-45 degree angle.
    I'll give one example: Right handed pitcher vs left handed batter. Pitcher throws a 4 seam fastball low and inside. The batter will likely swing the bat through the zone at a 15-20 degree angle. Batter hits the ball for a weak line drive down the 1B line for a single. The PCI feedback shows the PCI completely above the ball, not even touching the ball!
    the batter hits it off the end of the bat but due to being early and having his bat vertically on plane with the pitch he shoots it into left and BECAUSE he is early the bat was tilted up and any contact with the ball anywhere would of produced a variety of hits EXCEPT a ground ball.
    just one example is all i care to give. i could go on but most of these guys complaining are too proud to admit they are doing something wrong.
    In a dev twitch stream of MLB The Show 18. It showed a hiccup after making contact with the ball. That was by design for online play. After seeing this I am glad I don’t play online. As that hiccup would drive me insane. Not sure how people deal with it after seeing. Has it been this way since MLB 14 😳
    Therebelyell626
    Honestly, online competitive players for any game are the biggest whiners I have ever seen in my life. Honestly this whole generation of gamers attitudes towards gaming is "win at all costs". What this has lead to is an increase of developers striving to appease their cash cows and complete disregarding an actual representation of the sport they are trying to portray.
    I am strictly an offline player. I have not played a sports title for more then two months after release for more than 5 years because good sports games get patched into oblivion to appease the win at all costs online crowd. I recently went back to NHL 18 for a spell and didn't even recognize the game I was playing. Was a decent game at release but has since became a **** show that feels sluggish and unresponsive.
    You can directly correlate the downgrade on quality across all sports titles with the rise in popularity of card based online modes such as ultimate team and diamond dynasty.
    Unfortunately these game modes are the cash cow and these communities will directly shape gameplay for all future iterations of sports titles. This may be an unpopular opinion but the truth is I feel like these players do not care about a proper representation of a sport because of their win at all costs mentality. I just wish players would adjust to a games design and not complain and opine for changes everytime a new mechanic comes out and doesn't fit their play style.

    I’d say the vast majority of players i play against in ranked are playing the game straight up. Do you get some guys who take advantage of things? Sure. But the majority do not. But thanks for your uninformed and overlay generalizing opinion.
    Also the exploits that online players have noticed over the last few years have resulted in changes to the game play that benefit both online and off.
    The reason you see online players being more vocal is their is no sliders for online play. So everyone is playing with the base product. When the base product isn’t working as it should they speak up. Online players can’t tune pitch speed or contact ability or fielders speeds. I’ve tuned my offline franchise to run like a dream. It plays phenomenal. Online on the other hand does not.
    If you don’t think there’s an issue with the base game hitting look at the average BABIP for online players. It’s WAY below what it should be. People aren’t asking SDS to tune the game to be more arcade. They are asking for something more true to life.
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports
    Skipped this year's version. Could see the writing on the wall last year. They're abandoning their core in an attempt to cater to some nebulous idea of a new player. Trying to make it okay for everyone usually ends up making it good for no one. You try for Coke Classic, and end up with New Coke.**
    *old man yells at cloud.jpg*
    I still think the best idea at this point is to allow for their changes to affect online without changing the gameplay offline. Rocket bunts, I've heard, are a fine example of how that might be beneficial.
    Mercury112491
    I’d say the vast majority of players i play against in ranked are playing the game straight up. Do you get some guys who take advantage of things? Sure. But the majority do not. But thanks for your uninformed and overlay generalizing opinion.
    Also the exploits that online players have noticed over the last few years have resulted in changes to the game play that benefit both online and off.
    The reason you see online players being more vocal is their is no sliders for online play. So everyone is playing with the base product. When the base product isn’t working as it should they speak up. Online players can’t tune pitch speed or contact ability or fielders speeds. I’ve tuned my offline franchise to run like a dream. It plays phenomenal. Online on the other hand does not.
    If you don’t think there’s an issue with the base game hitting look at the average BABIP for online players. It’s WAY below what it should be. People aren’t asking SDS to tune the game to be more arcade. They are asking for something more true to life.
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports

    So your upset that I have an opinion, but then immediately give your opinion after mine. So your opinion is more important than mine? Your right it's not fair for me to group all online players into one category. But go ahead and spend 5 minutes over the **** show that is the show nation forums.
    That is where the majority of the online competitive community is based. And quite frankly it makes the entire online show community look very childish. I am probably twice your age. I have been playing the show since '06 and have been lurking around these forums since around 2008. Some would say the operation sports forums are where the offline sim crowd resides, while the online competitive crowd usually hovers around the show nation. I have never seen the level of vitriol on these forums as I see over there.
    Is the online hitting broken this year? It may very well be. I wouldn't know I don't play online. But for you to say the online community isn't responsible for it getting to this place then you are insane. It is also quite ignorant to say that patching he game for online players does not effect offline players. How do you know that a certain tuner update combined with my sliders wasn't a good fit for the replication of baseball I was trying to achieve? Plus you missed the fact that I wasn't exclusively discussing the show in my reference to patching sports titles. I also referred to NHL 18 in my original post. The game was decent at release and since it has been patched into oblivion to appease online players the game doesn't even feel like hockey, and no combination of sliders are even remotely possible to fix it because it is so broken. THe point of my original post was "be careful what you wish for when it comes to patches". Games can be so irrevocably broken if tuners get to far away from the initial engine design that not even sliders can save the few of us that just want to play a game that feels like the sport it is trying to represent. That is why it is called an opinion my friend. You don't have to take it personal
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