We know we’re going to be getting some form of MLB The Show 21 franchise mode news today (editor’s note: oops, maybe not, Diamond Dynasty got the teaser today), so I have been thinking about franchise mode as a whole in baseball games through the years. There have been a lot of cool things that have come out of baseball franchise modes, some of which has been lost to time in some regards, and there’s still plenty more to do with the mode in the future.
Options that helped add depth and immersion like franchise relocation and stadium upgrades are things we have seen in the past. One title even offered future stadiums, an option that allowed me to play games with current Major League Baseball clubs in renderings of what their future ballparks might look like.
That game was none other than the old All-Star Baseball series by the now defunct Acclaim Studios. All-Star Baseball brought an awful lot of innovative and exciting options to the table, but future stadiums were the tops for me. It let me imagine baseball beyond the year that was on the box and where my favorite franchise might be heading.
EA also delivered one of the more innovative options in its MVP Baseball series, and that would be the ability to relocate your franchise. You could also improve and upgrade your current stadium, which had a real impact on actual funds and fan interest.
Obviously, other titles in the past brought something unique and different to the table as well, but my point in bringing up these two titles specifically is that both delivered something that I considered to be forward thinking in a way that allowed me to place focus on the current year of my franchise while casting an eye toward the future. To me, this is how a company creates ownership and keeps someone wanting to fire up a franchise to progress year to year.
This brings me to the point of all of this and what I want to see out of the future of the MLB the Show franchise from SDS.
MLB The Show 21 Franchise Mode — And Beyond
SDS has already delivered some game modes and features that do exactly what I am describing across the entirety of the game. When it comes specifically to franchise mode, community creations and year-to-year franchise saves (which sadly are out this year) have been boons for investing in your franchise over a longer term.
But even though SDS has provided some of the best components ever seen in a sports-based video game, it’s time to push further and go deeper. The inclusion of community involvement, both in terms of creation and input, has not been lost on the powers that be at the front of the table for SDS, but more can be done to keep the franchise at the forefront.
What I Want
It is easy to complain or voice an opinion to a developer and ask for more, but much like being in a relationship with a significant other, being very specific often helps. With that said, here is what I want and am hoping to see from the MLB The Show franchise starting this year and moving forward.
Although not high on the list for some, this is a huge desire for me. I would love to see SDS deliver a detailed stadium creator that easily allows us to either build sections and piece them together, or be able to select from a large library of pre-made assets that are considered interchangeable.
With a true stadium creator that allows close replications of current minor league stadiums or Major League Stadiums from the past that have since been replaced, it opens a world of possibilities. An entire ecosystem can be explored and played in with stadiums that mimic either the minor leagues or past stadiums, while also enhancing the appeal of old-school roster sets from the community.
In order for a stadium creator to have a real impact though, it must be detailed to the point that current minor league stadiums and historic stadiums can be re-created with some semblance of accuracy. In addition, stadiums need to be able to be imported and shared across modes.
Obviously, this type of idea creates a lot of room for error regarding the implementation of a stadium creator, both in form and function, so the approach must be well designed. If this idea isn’t fully fleshed out within a couple years to this level of detail, I’m not sure that a stadium creator for just Diamond Dynasty has true impact over the long haul.
Logo And Advertisement Creation
I often talk about the level of immersion in many of my reviews, and there is a reason for that — it’s important. I believe it’s especially important in simulation sports titles. SDS obviously made strides with new sponsorship inclusions in MLB The Show 20, with the addition of authentic sponsorships like Delta at Yankee Stadium, Citgo in Boston, and Wintrust in Chicago.
What I want to see is the ability to create sponsorship advertisements and logos in-game and apply them to both MLB and MiLB stadiums. I want to see a Coke bottle on one of the advertisement plaques that sits adjacent to the scoreboard in Coors Field, or let me create a Budweiser logo to sit above the scoreboard in Busch Stadium.
It becomes even more important when it comes to the minor league affiliates and can be done by simply having open ad-boards around the stadium where created ads can be placed. By giving the community this option, it allows content creators to place authentic ads that they are familiar with and helps create something resembling real life without SDS needing to spend resources on every minor league park.
To be clear, I’m not expecting to be able to put the Coca-Cola bottle in left field at Oracle Park. This request simply relates to the advertisements that you would see on the outfield walls or things like the scoreboard in center field.
The one caveat to all of this is that I’m not sure if created logos for stadium inserts will/would be allowed to be created and shared on a console version due to legal issues. For example, in NBA 2K MyTeam, we can put ad boards in our created arenas, but it’s not so easy to do (unless you’re on PC) in the official arenas. Now, I could be absolutely wrong on this aspect as my expertise in this field is somewhat limited, but at the very least, it something we need to be prepared for if this option ever does become available to us as a community.
Fully Fleshed Out Minor League Affiliates and Systems
Obviously, with the addition of real minor league players, The Show has taken a huge step forward in creating a realistic world in terms of true organizational control. Also, the ability to now participate in key moments in helping mold the path of a team’s up and coming top prospects helps a lot — but we need more.
With the reduction of MiLB affiliations, it puts even more of an emphasis on each minor league squad and how it will be utilized now for the parent team. SDS needs a system that allows us to control all aspects of each level, including creating a Single A system that is more than a “dump and hide” system.
SDS needs a managerial and training option that lets us take control of real players from Single A and help determine their path in a more defined way. The game doesn’t recognize who the players are that are causing excitement in the front office in real life, at least by name, so we need a system that will allow us to do just that, but with some deviation and a built-in fault and failure percentage.
My personal take here is that if I could create an entire minor league system with accurate stadiums, rosters, uniforms, and advertisements, I would spend as much time controlling and playing the affiliates as I do with the big league team.
A lot of the community has been begging for and pleading with SDS to add more depth and realistic options to franchise mode in the MLB The Show series, and rightfully so. What I want is a bit different though.
I want the ability to create different layouts and structures for my franchise. Give me the option to create different divisions with a different number of teams to play in each division. Let me control what type of playoff system there is and let me decide on what teams play where in franchise mode.
If I want to re-create seasons from the past, it’s very hard to do when I am relegated to using the current structure with the current stadium. Once again, it kills the immersion, and interest is lost a lot quicker than if I had the ability to create a league that had two divisions with six teams, and the Pirates were playing in Forbes Field and Philles were playing in Shibe Park or Connie Mack Stadium.
I would also like to point out that with full franchise and league parameter controls, fans of NCAA baseball could also re-create a scaled-down version of an NCAA league with a round-robin playoff system that would mimic what we see in real life.
Of course, the system that would allow this would need to be created by SDS, but once it is done and fully fleshed out, the control and creation aspects all fall back on, you guessed it, the community.
What I Expect In MLB The Show 21 Franchise Mode
To some, my ideas might seem unrealistic. However, I would say there are games out there right now that offer much of what I described already, but they are considered simulation experiences.
This is all conjecture, but what I expect to see with stadiums, assuming the leak of the stadium creator is real, is a basic generic creator that will only allow the reshaping of an outfield wall while choosing the prevalent colors seen within the stadium interior.
At best, I think we also get to pick out the shape of the exterior stadium to represent maybe some of the circular cookie-cutter stadiums that were prevalent in the ’70s and ’80s, or choosing between a dome or open-air stadium.
I do expect to see a somewhat deeper experience in regards to how the MiLB is handled, as we have seen video evidence of how this will unfold in MLB the Show 21 already, but it will not be nearly as deep as I’m hoping for quite yet.
As far as franchise customization and an in-house logo and ad creator that can be laced inside each stadium, I do not believe there is a chance we see anything like that this year.
What The Future Holds For Franchise Mode?
The truth is SDS has been a leader and a follower when it comes to new content being included in each yearly release, and that is a positive. It reminds me of the days when multiple titles were released, and each company “borrowed” to help form the best experience it could within its title’s parameters.
Based on what I know, and the series now being available to folks on multiple platforms, I believe Sony has a very detailed plan for the future of The Show series. I do believe this plan includes a singular ecosystem that covers every mode and makes them almost interchangeable.
There are signs of this already as you’ll now be able to use your Road to the Show character across multiple modes, and I only expect this to continue. After all, we have seen something like this already in the NBA 2K franchise, and I expect the roadmap that 2K walked down to be a similar path that SDS will take.
By the time MLB The Show 25 rolls out, I hope creators will be able to create completely different eras of baseball, package together rosters, uniforms, stadiums, franchise layouts, and schedules, and let users download them and play them in their entirety the way they see fit.
A system like that would truly benefit both sides. Once this infrastructure is created by SDS, it allows the developers to simply tweak and add options in future iterations, and allows the community do the work of all the creations.