It was a good year for The Show as it continues to be the best console baseball game on the market. And as you’re likely aware, it’s really the only console simulation baseball game on the market. So let’s discuss the most popular modes and what they offered us in 2016, with some hopes for 2017 as well.
Before getting into modes, let’s discuss gameplay. The Show already has had some of the best sports gameplay coming in to 2016, so it’s not to say that it is not good — it is very good — but from a year-to-year improvement standpoint it didn’t feel a lot different. However, that can sometimes be a good thing as no one really wants a rebuild of the gameplay engine.
Nonetheless, here are some improvements I hope to see with gameplay in 2017:
- Line drives go through your OFs far too frequently. In my most recent online game, we had a total of four out of 10 line drives hit to the OF go straight through the OF without an animation happening. When the animation takes, even on a far more challenging play over the OF’s head, it was caught.
- Most of the animations that we see by the AI or with auto-fielding simply are unobtainable when manually controlling your fielders.
- Too many animations, meaning that as soon as a ball is hit, I immediately know whether or not my IF has a shot to get to the ball. There’s zero suspense.
- It is far too easy to throw strikes and to not walk someone, even with slider adjustments down to 0 for pitch control and consistency. This is especially evident in online play against another human. There needs to be some sort of differentiation between missing a pitch out of the zone (needs to increase) and missing a pitch with a meatball (could use a slight decrease).
- It seems hit variety will continue to receive attention in 2017, according to the teaser trailer, but having hits curve down the line, for example, seems evident of hit variety lagging behind a bit in this series. Hopefully we’ll see some more bloops and bleeders for hits as well.
- Defensive adjustments need to be easier and quicker to manage, and the AI should utilize more than just the default adjustments.
- Speaking of adjustments, make me want to shift against Chris Davis. As it is now, if my human opponent can’t pull the ball, why would I bother shifting? This is a tricky balance, but it would be nice to see MLB players follow their own hitting styles a bit more than they do currently.
We saw some new additions to franchise mode such as the new morale system, 20/80 rating scale, deeper stat tracking and more. There were, however, issues with the importing of carryover saves when it came to utilizing the new stat tracking, and it was odd to me that the 20/80 scale was only used for amateur players — not professionals — when the majority of baseball scouting is of professional players in the majors and minors.
There still isn’t much interaction happening within franchise mode, and while the radio show’s enhancements were nice, it seems that in 2017 we should be seeing more in a mode such as this, especially with a morale system in place now. The Show definitely offers more than Madden or NHL in this regard, to which franchise interactivity is nonexistent (NHL) or in menus so mangled (Madden) that it’s not worth the time to decipher.
Here are some improvements I hope to see within franchise mode for 2017:
- Statistical engine needs adjusting, mostly for the way pitchers and bullpen are handled.
- Bullpen pitchers need to be used in the right situations, and not just removed when they are tired or have let a runner or two get on base; they should be removed after a success as well.
- Improved stat tracking was a welcomed addition, but now let’s see more of it and tie it into the interactions and presentations we hope to see in franchise mode. Real baseball broadcasts are LOADED with this, and it is often all visual, so no need for a huge team of broadcaster updates, etc.
- Carryover saves must work flawlessly. Otherwise, there’s no point in a game so stat-driven as baseball.
- Player morale was a nice addition, but let’s work in some interaction like we see in NBA 2K’s MyGM. As it is now, I’d have no problem signing a guy like Milton Bradley as there’s simply no worry of a team cancer in franchise mode.
- Player fatigue needs to be separated from durability. Players need far too much rest, and most guys don’t need 1-2 days off in a given week just because they also happen to be injury prone.
- In 2017, it’s unacceptable to not have a fully functional, fully featured, 100 percent match of offline franchise mode compared to online franchise mode.
- Also allow for custom leagues to be created, including league size, unique baseball rules (think eras) and even leagues that can be run using Diamond Dynasty cards complete with card talent level restrictions, duplicate card rules, etc.
- Expansion mode with Diamond Dynasty customization access.
- Stadium builder — available in custom and Diamond Dynasty leagues as well.
This mode is a lot of fun, and it is very popular. I’m probably in the minority who miss the days of the all-fictional rosters, but here are some improvements I hope to see within Diamond Dynasty for 2017:
- Does anyone even play Conquest Mode after the first month?
- Bring back fictional players and cards, but keep it challenging where it’s much tougher to really max out such guys, Instead, teams would have more specialized players/depth, and the developers could even utilize a mode similar to NHL’s EASHL players where each style has certain pros and cons and can’t be altered much, if at all.
- They could then release different models throughout the year to keep things fresh. Also, not all “leadoff speedsters” would be exactly the same — each card drawn could be slightly better or worse, and even could have hidden abilities where you have you try them out to see if you found an upgrade at SS, for example.
- Allow for “fictional only” to be an option in matchmaking.
- Allow for private Diamond Dynasty leagues where commissioners can also set card-level limits, and even the ability to block duplicate cards.
- Online play in general needs to clean up the fielding animations.
Road to the Show
I didn’t play a ton of Road to the Show, and perhaps I’ve already noted some of the reasons why. With interaction being surface level, and issues with the sim engine, this mode could benefit from upgrades already mentioned. However, if we isolate this mode, it’s always been a really cool concept, and one of the last solo modes worth playing, similar to NBA 2K’s MyPlayer.
Here are some improvements I hope to see within Road to the Show for 2017:
- Look at how much more depth we see in NBA 2K’s offering of its MyPlayer mode. Perhaps deeper interaction will help RTTS.
- Is RTTS ever really much of a struggle? Perhaps the biggest challenge is the boredom of having to fight through the minor leagues before getting promoted — the same struggle each and every iteration of MLB The Show.
- Utilize the fixes to franchise above.
- Road to the Show still has the potential to be one of, if not, the most popular modes in The Show (NBA 2K’s most popular mode has been MyPlayer), but it needs to develop more than warning-track power and start hitting some bombs.
Concept Recommendation: MLB eSport
Perhaps this belongs up with Diamond Dynasty or RTTS, but I feel what can push this game over the top and make MLB The Show the best sports offering would be to include a mode such as NHL’s EASHL or NBA 2K’s Pro-Am. Whether we go full 9-on-9 or perhaps 3-on-3 where one player controls OFs, one controls IFs, and one controls P/C, is certainly up for discussion. Maybe both? Regardless, we’re overdue for this mode.
This eSports concept is the type of mode where card trading modes meet with franchise mode. It’s the perfect marriage, and with the proper depth and control (imagine leagues of 9-on-9 of say 10 teams, or leagues of 30 or more teams), we could truly begin to see a simulation of the real life sports we watch on a daily basis in terms of following, or even the recreational leagues we play in ourselves in terms of participation. This is where those two worlds will meet.
The future of sports gaming is in the community-building aspect. We see it already in RPGs and FPSs, and when you look at the followings that real life sports teams garner, there’s no debate that the opportunity is there.
So what are you hoping to see improved for MLB The Show ’17? If we see an eSport offering from Sony in 2017, how would they overcome the challenge of keeping a 9-on-9 mode interesting for folks standing in the OF while a patient hitter works the count full and keeps fouling off pitches to the backstop?