Before jumping into this explanation, please understand when referring to baseball video games we are referencing the MLB The Show series. In no way is 2K Baseball close to being as good as The Show. That is a different point for a different day.
Today we are focusing on comparing MLB The Show to any other sports gaming platform out there. The top competitor is actually soccer/futbol but in the United States you will be hard-pressed to find anyone that knows how transfers and team management works in soccer (present party included). If it seems that I am coming from a somewhat biased perspective it is because I am. The best selling games in 2012 have been the more popular titles of course, but are they really the best? No.
The Show has been one of the most consistently high-quality and true simulation sports games over the lifetime of this console generation. SCEA (the developer of The Show) has been one of the most highly rated sports gaming developers because of the quality of The Show. Between the actual gameplay and the depth of modes like Franchise Mode as well as the new Post-Season Mode there is little more to be desired. However, that is where The Show really shows why it is the best sports game out there with so many details like ball trajectory and other physics based implementations that you will start asking where it is in other games like Madden.
While The Show is by far the best baseball game when competing with the awful 2K Baseball, its only competition in terms of quality comes from EA Sports’ NHL and FIFA games. The one thing you will notice is that baseball, hockey and soccer are all ‘niche titles’ with relevance to a select number of people in the United States. Baseball has been dying a slow death in terms of popularity among sports fans. That may be a big reason why The Show flies under the radar when compared to games like Madden and NBA 2K (which are typically the higher selling sports titles in the U.S. every year).
The trend of baseball gaming has been on a down-slope as far as game sales go. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the fact that if you enjoy baseball and want to play a great video game version of the sport. Go out and buy a PS3 if you don’t have one (as this game is only available on the PS3 console) and get The Show. It is that good.
Why Is Baseball Dying?
I am of the opinion that baseball was both saved and destroyed by steroids. The 1993-94 strike made many fans turn their backs on baseball. It wasn’t until the home run explosion between 1996 and 2001 that people started to care about baseball again. Say what you want about the ‘purity of the game’ but steroids brought fans back and brought more money to owners as attendance went through the roof. Then, as if someone called the cops to bust up a great party – the Mitchell Report destroyed the game from the inside out.
The legacy of steroids in baseball goes back to the 1980s where there was a tremendous boom in the overall use and production of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). This is also the same time period that saw the beginning of Free Agency (players were able to look for new teams as their contracts expired). While this was something that happened a few times before, it became quite normal as the 1980s and 1990s came and went. This should make you consider the motivation that players had to use PEDs – it was about the ability to command more money in their contracts. If a player like Barry Bonds could increase his output as a batter from an average of 25 HRs during his time with Pittsburgh to 39 HRs during his stay in San Francisco, why wouldn’t he use what he could to demand more money? The same goes for players like Alex Rodriguez who could be on his way to a Lance Armstrong collapse in the coming weeks.
People suspected that players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were on some sort of PEDs as they started having numbers pile up that no one had seen in the history of the game. Why is it that some fans were so appalled when the report came out. Many people started making these players they all but worshiped at one point into pariahs to save face in some sort of non-existent social witch hunt.
I am not suggesting that steroids should be legalized or that they don’t artificially inflate statistics. I will demand that society takes a look in the mirror and honestly asks what they want from entertainment. Society doesn’t want purity in sports. Society wants to appear concerned about safety and legitimacy while demanding more power, speed and violence. We are living in the greatest example of hypocrisy in entertainment and the only thing we can do is edit our video game rosters and change every player’s ability rating to 99 – call it digital steroids.
Now that the autumn rush for shooter games has come to a close and we are firmly in the doldrums of the gaming year there is a serious question that must be asked as we get closer to not only new consoles… but closer to the limit many gamers have for lacking creativity.
Whether you are playing Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield or even Gears of War. You are most likely playing a game with a 2, 3 or 4 after the primary namesake. This is a problem on many levels and the obvious issue stems from the idea of pumping out sequels more regularly than Hollywood can push out another Saw movie. As for the other issues signifying the agonizingly slow death of shooter games – here are a few:
Fans Are Getting Bored – The entertainment industry has one primary component to making money and that is paying customers who are actually interested in what is being offered. Call of Duty was able to grab an entire generation of gamers with new styles of playing a shooter – primarily the online component. Halo snagged the XBox crowd with a great story and then some of the most successful multiplayer experiences ever put on a console. They still sell in the millions when release day comes, but gamers are slowly finding their way to other titles than the popular COD series especially. This isn’t to say that the sales are bad for COD or Halo, but the idea that a cash cow will last forever does not make a lot of business sense.
Desensitized – Killing people isn’t as fun or novel as it used to be. We have witnessed so many tragedies on TV it is becoming rather difficult to surprise anyone. Some thought that blood in Mortal Kombat was too much ‘violence’ but now, years later – MMA is being pumped up like the Roman gladiator battles. We have had shootings at numerous schools over the last 14 years. Why is it that within a few weeks… and sometimes days – we are already moving on to something else? The answer is simple – we just aren’t shocked anymore. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had a section where you shot up an airport full of civilians. Black Ops 2 lets you butcher enemies with a machete. We have fatalities in Mortal Kombat and execution moves in Gears of War. Violence is old hat… it is expected and desired like someone’s morning coffee fix.
Poor Parenting and Little Kids – When I reached adulthood and started paying bills I started to notice a few things had changed in terms of my view of the world. The first was that I had become crotchety and easily annoyed by nonsense (which I think had been in my persona long before adulthood, FYI). The second was that I couldn’t stand what I viewed to be a sudden change in parenting and discipline of children. I will save you the ‘back in my day’ comments and leave it at this – if a game is for ages 17 and up, otherwise known as being rated M for ‘Mature’… your CHILD should not be playing it. Not to mention, if they are on a microphone talking to other gamers around the world – you might want to listen to the language they are hearing and using outside of the game sounds and in their headset.
Now that we are firmly into the high speed internet age and online functionality has become almost synonymous with every game on the market (including the ubiquitous ‘patching’ of games). The issue many sports gamers are running into is that they are pouring $60+ into games that come out every year with minor improvements/changes and roster updates. This has caused sports gamers to generally ask on occasion why developers like EA and 2K won’t simply release a cheaper update to the game every other year or so instead of requiring the purchase of new software every single year.
The most obvious responses are ‘…because people are buying the games in droves” and “Why would you stop milking your cash cow when it is obviously still producing results?”
The issue at hand in the coming generation of consoles is that they will be largely focused on digital content more-so than even these current consoles seem to be. While the PlayStation Store and XBox Marketplace are doing well and provide services to subscribers/gamers it seems like only a matter of time before you will have to start buying certain content by sections rather than a full-fledged title.
Some games like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo could potentially be sold in three different ways.
Offline Story Mode/Campaign
Full Game (Online and Offline Content)
This isn’t the first time that something like this has been suggested. You can go to virtually any rumor mill site for gaming and read about an industry analyst talking about the likelihood of a game like Call of Duty charging people to play online. The issue that gamers should be considering is whether or not they are happy with the current state of games. Whether or not you are paying extra for maps, add-ons or even avatar clothing you have to appreciate how smooth the transition has been between the PS2/XBox to the PS3 and 360 in terms of online interactivity and microtransactions like coins for Madden Ultimate Team.
We will soon be entering a new realm of digital content distribution. Considering the actions of developers in the last 18 months, you shouldn’t be surprised if you will have options to buy games by piecemeal or some sort of full-game combo.
If you disagree about the outlook or attitude towards some aspects of games (such as story mode/campaign) you should ask Battlefield or Call of Duty gamers if they have played more than 45 minutes of the campaign mode.
The fact that Battlefield has a disc for campaign mode on 360 says a lot (even if it is simply due to space)… my campaign disc has been in the system for less than two hours – total.
The majority of traffic to NoobTubeTV over the past year has been for information on all things ‘Madden’. This year will be interesting if you consider the release of the XBox 720 (or whatever they will call it) to be on the top of your anticipation list. Regardless of what you are looking forward to in football gaming this year, Madden is most likely on the top of your list.
Madden 13 is a game that came out of the gates strong with some new direction to Franchise Mode with the new Connected Careers Mode. Some gamers hated this move and the direction of earning XP for players through on field production. Other gamers enjoyed this new move for realism in player growth during CCM. Either way you fall on this argument you will notice that it was always part of the hype machine after the Madden 12 cycle finished with the Super Bowl.
With the Super Bowl (and the new Madden Release Date announcement) only a few weeks away you should be fully prepared for the onslaught of Madden hype from EA Sports.
Some of the hopes for improvement in Madden 14 are –
More customization of playbooks and depth charts/players – CCM cut off a lot of user creativity as it all but removed player editing and roster editing from the mode.
Better OLine and DLine Interaction – This is something that is called for and demanded by the Madden community every year. EA supposedly made this better by using the strength ratings in Madden 13, but given the constant issues with defensive linemen not getting proper sack numbers and the strange ‘Pancake Block’ stat for OLinemen, it is questionable as to whether or not EA knows anything about linemen at all.
Smarter AI Decisions and Gameplanning – Why do CPU QBs get away with clear intentional grounding? Why does the CPU call a HB Draw while down 5 points and 55 yards from the endzone with 17 seconds left? Why does the CPU call a Timeout with 1:01 left in the 4th quarter?
More Realistic Injuries – We have been calling for this for years. The bottom line is that real time physics means nothing if injuries are random.
Robert Griffin III essentially ripped his knee in half during the Redskins’ loss to the Seahawks. He is now out for at least 6-8 months and outside of the discussion about whether he should have been playing in real life we are asking if it is ‘In The Game’.
Madden Football has continuously disappointed in the realm of realistic injuries ever since Roger Goodell became the Commissioner. While they may have some limitations because of their exclusive monopoly license with the league it is still a major issue that is rearing it’s head as one of the most popular players is possibly facing a career ending/altering injury.
Hit detection in Madden has always been spotty at best. Almost everything in the game is pre-determined by animations that are being triggered. There is a specific animation for face mask penalties, fumbles and interceptions. All the while they are marketing Madden’s ‘new’ physics engine as groundbreaking and amazing. EA pushed for consumers to see that “No tackle will ever be the same”… play the game for a couple days and you will see this is false. Physics have improved immensely between Madden 12 and Madden 13, but the biggest part of football has been missing or random at best.
Injuries occur in Madden 13 if you turn up the injury slider. However, the biggest problem with this is that every injury in Madden is random and is certainly not determined by physics or tackles on players. Take a look at some of the sacks that occur in Madden 13 and witness your own defender getting hurt during a sack and the QB never getting hurt. Is this a sign that under the hood EA has added injury prevention to QBs?
After seeing RG3 get hurt and then tear his LCL and ACL on a play where he didn’t get touched, it makes Madden fans wonder where the injury realism is in the game… and if it will ever be ‘In The Game’.
One of the best parts about the holiday season is the release of new games. From Halo to Call of Duty and through the gauntlet of other adventure games like Assassin’s Creed and Hitman we are usually spoiled with a treasure trove of games to sink our free time into. Typically, you will see a dramatic slowdown in the summertime because most people are on vacation or outside getting in shape for the beach (PS – You should be starting that now).
The second best time of the year for gamers is March. March is the typical month where you will find that games have been pushed to in order to avoid competing with big-money/big-name titles like the Call of Duties of the world. This year we have quite a few games coming out that should prove to excite almost every genre of gamer from late January through March.
The first game we have to look forward to is Company of Heroes 2. CoH2 is continuing the franchise that puts real-time strategy into World War 2. Real-time strategy is a simple concept that can (and does) get rather involved as you get further into the
game. The general way of looking at this is from the base understanding that you are a commander telling troops where to go and what to do rather than just pointing and shooting. Company of Heroes is a great game for anyone that is a fan of WW2 history or simply a fan of RTS games. This game is for the PC, so be sure that you take a look into the system requirements before jumping into this title. If you need a game that will give you the ability to play online against others or simply go against the CPU and try to work on your decision-making and strategic abilities you will get that and more with Company of Heroes 2.
The best part about strategic games is that they aren’t always some sort of battlefield commander genre. One of the best franchises ever has a new direction coming this February in Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance. Revengeance is taking the Metal Gear franchise in a new direction with an old face for fans of the series. Raiden made his presence known in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The downfall to this was that many fans (especially American fans) of the series were let down that Solid Snake was only present for the first part of the game before making a cameo in Raiden’s portion of MGS2.
Why was Raiden disliked by American gamers? He was designed as a long-haired blonde twenty-something (already sounds a bit feminine, right?). Not to mention the fact that he didn’t have much of a personality. Even Solid Snake (the ultimate non-emotional ‘Mr. Mission’) had something more to him than Raiden’s almost whiny persona.
Now that we are getting closer to March at this point – why not focus on the most anticipated title of 2013 – Grand Theft Auto 5.
GTAV is going to blow the minds of gamers everywhere when it releases (or rather – if it still releases) in March should break almost every sales record. This is going to continue the trend for free-roaming violence with a decent storyline for people itching to get out and enjoy the chaos brought on by warmer weather. If this game is delayed yet again, you should expect it to release in May. This would simply continue the same trend that other Rockstar games have created over the last few years – namely Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire.
The latest rumors of Microsoft having intentions of announcing the XBox 720 during E3 are almost as surprising as the fact that Madden 14 will be announce during the Super Bowl. A lot of gamers like to sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the next big thing to happen in gaming. The issues that comes with this latest set of next-gen console rumors are many, but we will start with just a few. After that we will pour some sugar on top for the hopes that many people have for what could prove to amaze gamers.
What Could Disappoint?
1. Poor Hardware Design – The Red Ring of Death and the Yellow Light of Death are now synonymous with bad console design and ventilation for GPUs (video processors) that get more powerful and hotter as they run. While both consoles (the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3) were able to eventually fix some of the design issues the numerous consumer issues will not be easily forgotten.
2. Release Day Games Will Be Bare Bones – For those of you unfortunate souls that got Madden 06 on the XBox 360 it will be fairly fresh in your head how terrible bare the game was as it came out for the 360. The worst part about the excitement of a new console is that once you start paying more attention to what is lacking in sports games the more you will resort to playing the game on your older console.
3. More Lazy Gaming Development – If the 360/PS3 generation will be remembered for anything it will be for the complete dependency on patches for almost every game. Some games were rendered unplayable by some bugs. Other games were had glitches that simply made gamers laugh. The moral of this sad story is that now that many gamers have the ability to download patches console developers are using this as a crutch to release half-cocked efforts for millions of consumers.
Madden 14 – You Already Know It’s Coming
We will start with the acknowledgement that Madden 13 has been the best Madden game released this generation. While there have been numerous issues with broken CPU AI and some of the animations – it has been a decent game after all is said and done.
The Madden series has proven to be one of the more hit or miss titles during this generation of consoles. What should worry Madden gamers the most is how much the game has started to fall into the depth of corporate decision-making and microtransactions. Madden 13 had some new physics added but it was so overexagerated at times that it could almost make you wonder if you were playing some sort of war game with small nuclear explosions.
Madden 14 will be announced during the Super Bowl as it always is and that is really the downfall of sports gaming (and now even FPS games). Developers know that many gamers will be okay with some annual polish to the same game they have played for years. EA Sports is starting to become the first of what will be many studios to move to a complete assembly line structure of putting a new stamp on an old product.
What Could Be Great?
The one thing many people are hoping for is a movement towards smarter AI and better physics in games as they come out. While no one should expect release date games to be among the best that the console will ever have, there should be hopes for new consoles to come out with games that will make us put our old consoles in the closet (or on eBay).
We will talk more on some of the hopes and dreams for the next console once they start leaking more than just pretty pictures.