Discussions about a sports game can sometimes be hard to have in a large group online because there’s a lot of inherited knowledge that comes with millions of hours of gameplay among folks at a place like Operation Sports. It creates an environment where you have a lot of passion, but also a lot of pent up frustration if many people are experiencing issues that have happened a bunch of times over many hours. When there is more than one “major” issue, it makes it even harder because things get scattershot and focus can be lost in the criticism and tracking of the issues.
So what I’m doing here is simply trying to compile and aggregate the fielding issues currently causing problems in MLB The Show 20. I’m going to talk about them in-depth (when necessary), offer some opinions on how to fix them in some instances, why they might be happening, and also detail “bugs” that I would not consider bugs in some of the clips.
That last bit about what’s a “bug” or not is obviously the part that will be up for debate at times, but I’m going to explain why I don’t consider certain things “bugs” in these breakdowns because I want to try and really hone in on the major issues and not get lost in tangential problems that fall more into “as designed” categories and don’t need to be fixed this instant.
Lastly, I’m just focused on the baseball and player interactions in the field here. I do know there still might be some underlying problems with “pure analog fielding” when using the throw meter — and some other things along those lines — but throwing problems are not the big discussion point right now.
I’ll group the problems into categories: most common issues, situation-specific issues, legacy issues, non-issues and issues introduced via patches. I will only cover the “most common” issues in part one because it’s the most pertinent and easiest to detail, and everything else will be covered in part two, which is also being released today.
Most Common Issues
This is Josh Bell, an already weak defender, in his secondary position tracking a ball at a dead sprint. He gets to the spot where the ball should be landing but then nothing happens. This is a bug that should be fixed. In a perfect world, there are scenarios where Bell does not make that catch and it’s understandable. It’s not an easy play and Bell is not great in the outfield — he was moved to 1B for a reason. However, you at no point as a user feel in control of the event or how it plays out because nothing triggers animation-wise. Something has to trigger.
Here is a zoomed in look at the underlying issue from another clip:
I believe that is Joey Gallo, a much better fielder than Josh Bell, having the same problem. I highlight this clip to show that there’s no head tracking, which is another (smaller) problem for users. Head tracking sometimes happens in the game and sometimes does not. Head tracking matters because it allows the user to know the player is actually following the play.
That no animation triggers when you get to the landing zone is the core issue, but without head tracking you get no visual notification that you running after the ball even matters at all. As you run to the spot, there is nothing telling you if the fielder is even engaged in the play. So then you get to the landing zone indicator and still nothing happens. Whether head tracking is consistent or not is sort of irrelevant for this year, but the point is it would help users know if they’re tracking the ball or not.
This is not an easy play over the shoulder, but the fielder swivels his head around at the last moment and you can feel the lock-on happening at the spot. This is traditionally how the game works when you make catches. Head tracking occurs right at the end, you feel a slight loss of control as you suction into the landing zone spot, and the catch is made.
Here is the inverse in that situation:
Again, this is not an easy play for an infielder to make while covering a ton of ground, so I don’t have an inherent problem with the catch not being made, but no animation triggers and no head tracking ever occurs, which is the unacceptable part.
Continuing on to other permutations of this issue:
It’s one thing to be at a dead sprint on a lot of these plays and then have to stop on a dime and make a play. Those are hard to make as any fielder in real life, albeit it’s not been that way in the game — last year it still didn’t really feel like ratings mattered sometimes (someone like Frank Thomas was way too good at 1B, good outfielders made questionable plays while bad ones didn’t in ratios that did not always add up). However, it’s another thing entirely here to simply be trotting to a ball — feathering the stick to arrive about when the ball does — and you still get no engagement. I find this to be the more egregious issue because the user is specifically trying to jog rather than run to control how he gets to the ball to make it easier on the fielder. Again, nothing auto-triggers to suck you into an animation like we’ve grown used to in the past.
I would relish the chance to make timing and how you get to the ball matter more in the long run (i.e. slowing down before you get to the spot or taking proper angles to fly balls), but I’m not expecting that right now. I would also love if there was more difference in outfielder speed and most outfielders could not cover insane amounts of distance and make grabs perfectly most of the time, but that is also a wish for another day. For now, it’s perfectly fine if the auto-animation simply triggers when you get there and then is weighted by ratings and such — like it was previously — before a catch happens or does not.
This is the same deal as the 1B example. This is a bronze fielder so it would be one thing if he was at a dead sprint and then missed the catch when an animation triggered, but clearly he is jogging to the spot and then no animation triggers at the landing zone while he never looks at the ball.
The last example from this portion is to show you can sometimes be so on the spot that the ball will hit you in the face while nothing triggers. This is just to further prove that whether you’re dead on the landing zone or not as the ball arrives is not the problem. There is clearly something happening under the hood that is not allowing fielders to react to the ball at times. Again, on some level this could be by design, but there’s no visual feedback so it just makes it seem like the game is not responding rather than being something more designer-driven playing out.
Finally, here is where everything works fine, but I want to explain why these plays are causing dread for some people.
Right now, when running to the ball you just don’t know if your player is noticing the ball or not. Again, a lack of head tracking did not feel as scary in the past, but now since you don’t feel like you’re locking onto the landing zone spot sometimes, you feel like you just don’t know if your player is going to look up and catch the ball or not on these medium difficulty plays.
Above, I’m sprinting but I get to the spot with adequate time, but there’s no real transition animation into catching here. You get to the spot, and then just have to hope for a moment that your player will look up and engage the ball.
Overall, it feels like you’re “snapping” into place rather than transitioning into a catch. This “snapping” is not new. In the future the series could really use some more in-between animations as you transition from jogging/running to slowing down and looking up if you arrive at the spot before the ball arrives. I also would not be opposed if the developers wanted to get away from the “suction” feeling on catches and instead put the onus on the user simply staying on the spot as the ball arrives. Either way, that’s not something you tackle in a patch.
Please Pick Up The Ball, Friend
The next set of clips can sometimes mix in with the above issue to create a cacophony of errors on a single play. It’s rare both happen on the same play, but it can happen. Some of these clips involve things that I would consider “as designed” and acceptable mixed with the clear bug. I’ll point the differences out.
First up, this is the infielder version of the issue:
The ball is smacked into the shift and the infielder makes a nice dive to keep it on the infield, which is all good so far. The problem is the infielder does not notice the ball right next to him, and then runs over the ball once before picking it up during his second pass.
On some level, this ties into the outfielder engagement issue in that there’s no head tracking or looking at the ball at any point, so you never know if the fielder even notices the ball on the ground or not from a visual standpoint. In addition, there’s no indication you’re about to pick up the ball or not because there is no transition animation of looking down at the ball or bending a knee to scoop up the ball until you’re already locked into the animation.
For now, it’s fine to lack the transition animations, but the point is the fielder needs to pick up the ball and grab it when you run over it. Would it be nice to get an idea of whether or not you’re going to pick up a ball as you approach it via head tracking and transition animations? Yes. However, it’s not what we need right now to fix the basic issue.
Like the last clip, the first part here is fine. It’s a little odd the indicator is not really where the ball lands, but you sort of know that’s going to happen because the off-the-wall indicator also kicks in here. Plus, the game still triggers an animation that fits the situation and makes it all look seamless enough. The obvious problem is the outfielder providing backup misses the ball. The user expects to scoop up the ball as he runs towards it, and thus has to make a wide turn to come back to the ball once he misses it. This turns a triple into a home run, and so this version hurts much more than the infield version where no one was on base.
Much like with a lot of these issues, I would not even have a big problem with the backup outfielder missing the ball, we just need an animation to trigger. Here is an example of the good and bad playing out to prove that point.
The first part of this play is fine to me as the outfielder tries to cut off the ball down the line and whiffs. This is an old animation that veterans have seen, and I think it’s acceptable. The point is you clearly saw your outfielder reach down to try and pick up the ball and he just didn’t. Then the next part happens, and it’s the ongoing issue that is not acceptable. The outfielder has to run over the ball twice before picking it up.
Again, mixing the good with the bad here. I take a garbage angle to this low-sinking liner and get what I deserve by missing it. An animation plays out (great!) that shows I whiffed, but then nothing triggers until I run over the ball twice (bad!).
One more time mixing the good with the bad. This one I want to take a little more time to discuss because there’s a little more nuance to the “good” part before the obvious bad. I do think on some level some of the issue with fielding right now has to do with exit velocities. Here is a perfect-perfect as the ball gets destroyed and sent to the outfield at 110 mph. The fielding engine perhaps is not perfectly built to handle these rockets, and that could also be why animations are not triggering sometimes.
Regardless, while the animation that triggers here is an old one that I would love to see updated to provide more variety and accuracy in relation to where the ball actually goes in relation to the fielder, the point is the defender here starts to get locked into a general area and can’t change course enough to make the catch. This works as designed to me and is fine. Catching a 110 mph liner is not going to be easy there for a silver defender, and this is not a new component to The Show’s fielding. When it’s working properly, if you go to a spot too soon and stop, you’re going to have trouble speeding back up to make micro-adjustments. This is to make your initial decisions matter more, so if you misjudge early you should get punished on something like this.
However, then the standard bad happens where the outfielder can’t pick up the ball immediately.
In part two, we’ll go into other categories of fielding problems now that we’ve covered the major “most common” fielding problems in the game right now.