Here we are in 2019 drifting towards the end of another console generation and somehow the Xbox One still sits with only two options for baseball fans, and neither one is in danger of being classified as a true simulation of the sport. Although I personally have found plenty of enjoyment in Super Mega Baseball and the revitalized RBI series, both easily favor an arcade style of baseball. While there is always room for arcade baseball, the simulation baseball fan is left either having to purchase a PS4 for Sony’s MLB series or a PC (and mobile) for Out of the Park Baseball — not the simplest of solutions for many.
If rumors are true, then those options will dwindle down to just one for Xbox One owners as many believe Metalhead (Super Mega Baseball) is putting aside their baseball IP and focusing on another sport, which has yet to be revealed at this time. So that leaves RBI, which is currently developed by Major League Baseball Advanced Media.
The developers of RBI Baseball have publicly stated that their title will always favor an arcade style and will never be in direct competition with that of Sony’s MLB series, which is fine, but there are still plenty of opportunities for MLBAM to move closer to a simulation, and still stay true to the original game’s origin. I wanted to look at some improvements with RBI that we believe could help bring the game closer to a simulation without abandoning its arcade baseball theme.
1. Add Button Mapping For Pitches
If you are familiar at all with the pitching interface in RBI, then you know that the game lets users decide the speed and direction of the ball using the analog stick. While that approach is fine for an arcade title, if MLBAM were to allow users the option to press a corresponding button to pick their pitch and utilize the analog to determine the amount of speed and break variation, I believe that would add a much more realistic approach without going full sim.
Another improvement in the pitching department would be the addition of each pitcher’s real repertoire, and while the process to do this is not an easy one, it would greatly enhance the user’s experience and overall enjoyment of the game. Arcade baseball or not, RBI Baseball is a fully licensed Major League Baseball game, and the inclusion of real pitches for each pitcher would blur the lines without detracting from the developer’s wish to keep the game’s arcade roots.
2. Additional Camera Options
MLBAM has done an incredible job of re-creating each team’s current stadium, but users are relegated to just a few options when it comes to seeing each venue. RBI has one batting/pitching/defensive camera, and it sits behind the batter at head level. While the camera angle does a fine job of letting the user witness all the action, the addition of different cameras to pitch and hit from would really open the game up, aesthetically speaking.
3. Replay Camera And Options
As I am a huge fan of posting game clips on social media, doing so with RBI Baseball can be somewhat difficult and quite redundant. Currently, there is no replay system at all, so to capture any of the action you must do so with your own recording options. Once recorded, each clip needs to be trimmed before being uploaded. Also, because of the lack of multiple camera angles, the clips and recordings always have the exact same look and feel to them.
In the day and age of developers utilizing content creators to promote their game, having extremely limited cameras and no replay system to speak of is unheard of, and quite damaging regarding social media content utilization. Multiple camera angles and a solid replay system would really help bring RBI Baseball up to par with other current-day offerings.
4. Update The Batting Interface
As of now, RBI requires you to swing with a button interface, with timing being the most important aspect to squaring up and barreling the ball effectively. While that approach to hitting is not an issue, RBI also requires you to utilize their analog stick to influence ground ball/fly ball opportunities with very little feedback to let the user know what they are doing right or wrong.
So my suggestion is simple, do away with the influence stick, let user timing and player rating(s) determine the outcome, and provide the user a real-time graphic that explains why a ball reacted the way it did coming off the bat. By no means does this update require an entire overhaul of the current system, and it would eliminate many of the complaints from the community in regards to hitting.
5. Deeper Franchise Options
RBI has made some nice strides regarding the depth of its franchise offering over the last few years, but the title still has a lot of room for improvement. I think it’s obvious we are never going to get full minor league rosters, nor will we get playable minor league teams and stadiums. That is fine, but I think we should still have Triple and Double-A rosters — even if those rosters are filled with a combination of real MLB-eligible players and fake players whose names and attributes can be edited. RBI’s quick pace of play lends itself well to a user getting in multiple years of a franchise, and the addition of full minor league teams and rosters would add longevity to a title that desperately needs it.
On top of additional rosters, RBI would do well to tweak its trade-engine logic, include real contract extensions and negotiations, and add a realistic draft option with players who can be edited. None of what I listed would be detrimental to the developer’s wishes to keep the gameplay firmly planted in its arcade roots, and more importantly, would open RBI up to a much larger base of users.
6. Improved Animations
Trust me when I say that the developers are fully aware of the animation issues that hinder the gameplay and are working diligently to correct those issues. The game needs a strong upgrade in almost every area of the animation department, including those in the transition category. Whether it’s the warping of a ball into a player’s glove, the lack of a dive and jump button, or several other animation issues, there needs to be a lot of focus in this area, and hopefully there will be. At times RBI looks and plays beautifully, and at others, it comes across extremely disjointed.
As a huge fan of the game of baseball, I welcome all types of baseball video game offerings. After playing RBI Baseball 19 for well over two months, I feel this is an extremely solid game of arcade baseball, but one that needs to be taken seriously by the powers that be. I believe that the developers that work on RBI are a truly passionate group of people and want to deliver a title that contains much more than what is being currently offered as of right now. Hopefully, the people that make these decisions will allocate more time and resources to the developers to help them develop RBI into a title that is embraced by the community and will offer baseball fans multiple options for years to come.