Franchise Mode – Play The Game Or The Game Will Play You

It really doesn’t matter which sports game you are playing. The moment you start Franchise Mode you had better be ready to make some moves in your omniscient role as owner/general manager/coach/manager/player. If you aren’t controlling every team in the mode you will see the CPU make some trades and sign some players that cause you to wonder if there was a glitch in The Matrix.

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I recently started a new Franchise Mode in MLB The Show 18 with the Orioles and had planned on going through the season with the primary roster from a combination of my NoobTubeTV Roster and OSFM. Once I made it out of Spring Training I thought I was ready to rock. I was going to set up a trade block just in case a team wanted to make an offer for a few of my players. I decided to take a look at the Transactions section just to see if any moves had been made by the CPU. There were a couple… but one made me rethink my entire approach.

MLB 18 Trade Reds

The Reds traded away their top prospect, Nick Senzel. Not only did they trade their top prospect with ‘A’ Potential, but they traded him in the division to the Cardinals for a first basemen in Rangel Ravelo that is 25 with ‘C’ Potential. As much as I could chalk this up to the Reds being the Reds, I had a moment that made me realize that trying to keep my roster moves ‘realistic’ would only hurt my franchise experience in the long run. This isn’t the case if the CPU keeps trades down for the most part, but when there are big trades that involve top prospects for nobodies – it’s on like Donkey Kong!

I made my own moves soon after I saw the Reds trade. Seeing that the rumors already have the Orioles shipping Manny Machado by the trade deadline this season (in real life) I decided I would pull the trigger earlier in the season – and I would add a few other players to my rebuild of Baltimore.

MLB 18 Trade Orioles

Some of the elitists on sports gaming forums would be shouting from their ivory towers as wanna-be experts that these trades would never happen. Guess what…? They did and it has been fun as hell to play my Franchise over the last few games with this remodeled Orioles team.

I managed to trade Machado, Britton, and Davis to the Rangers for Nomar Mazara, Roughned Odor and Ronald Guzman. Yes, it was a steal when it comes to obtaining young players that I be the bedrock of the Orioles for a few years. Yes, I feel like this could happen in the real world (why not?). I then also made a trade with the Nationals to bring in a prospect to eventually take over for the absense of Machado in Kieboom. You could say realistically and be correct in the statement that I basically rebuilt my entire roster during the first week.

Yup, I did – and that’s the point. Franchise Mode is YOURS. You don’t have to abide by anyone’s rules if you don’t want to. For myself, I like to play through mine like a story. I have all sorts of different ideas for how I want to see my team develop for my initial three year contract. Everyone should have the same view on their own franchise mode. I think having some house rules is always a good idea. I do have another Franchise Mode that uses my original house rules for MLB 18 (with the Reds of all teams!) and it is a great time as well.

The point of all of this…? When you play sports games from the franchise mode perspective you have to take every moment with a grain of salt. I have had all sorts of crazy things happen…

  • 700 yard passing game by DeShone Kizer
  • 5 HR game by Carlos Santana
  • The Browns won a game

The world is a crazy place. Don’t get upset when your franchise loses its mind – roll with it and make it your own crazy world.

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MLB 18 The Show – Sliders and Rosters

This year I will not be waiting for the OSFM Rosters. I will be using rosters for Franchise Mode that incorporate the top prospects with limited ratings changes and special attention to the potential ratings of these new players.

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After simming through to draft day a couple of times I found that there are usually between one and a maximum of three players with 99 Potential in any draft class. I would argue that it should be rare for there to be three with that top rating… 95-98 should be just as rare in my not so humble opinion.

By midnight tonight I will also have sliders uploaded to the MLB Vault under the name ‘NoobTubeTV Sliders v1.0’. The roster will be named ‘NoobTubeTV Opening Day Roster’. This is primarily because I don’t find a lot of value in having completely updated rosters from June 15 if I have to start every season on March 29… it doesn’t bode well for the in-game rosters staying where you want them to be if you have CPU Trades turned on in this case.

I have also switched my batting camera from Fish Eye to Strike Zone 2. This gives a bit more immersion and makes it fun to judge balls and strikes. I have come to love this camera angle for Franchise mode.

Pitching difficulty has always left me a bit irritated because I can’t tell if it’s actually only for pitching or if the CPU batters are also more difficult. While I don’t particularly enjoy striking out 16 batters every time I pitch, I also don’t have a lot of joy when it comes to Legend difficulty and CPU batters hammering 10 home runs a game off of me. To that end, I have decided to stick with dynamic pitching difficulty at this point with the slider left at default for adjustment.

I have also gone to my house rule of pitching until I allow a CPU Run. This makes sure that I start every game batting and pitching and if I want to get those big strike out totals and such, I have to earn them and hope I shut out the CPU in the process. I have only managed to do this twice over the course of 15 games so far.

The three strike out rule with walks and home runs to counter-balance those outs has also given me a lot of fun games and more walks than I can remember in past iterations.

Speaking of more walks, I have been having a heck of a time trying to get the pitching sliders to function in a way that will allow the CPU to give me more reason to take pitches. The first couple of games I played felt like three out of every four pitches was a hitable strike. I have since changed the sliders around in a way that has produced a lot of fun at-bats.

Speaking of fun at-bats. I am all for having ‘realistic stats’ and gameplay. However, I noticed an incredible lack of hitting on the user side with All Star difficulty. I would have hits timed well and with the default hitting set to zone, I would also have location perfect… only to have a weak grounder or a popup. It felt realistic for a couple of games. Then it eventually felt cheap as the CPU would have the same contact for line drives in the gaps and seeing eye grounders. This has led me to adjust the first sliders to benefit the user in a way that gives a bit more solid hits and forgiveness for what I believe is a continued timing issue in MLB. This has been well documented by the community of MLB The Show and I prefer to change my sliders instead of complaining about it in forums.

The only aspect of this I have noticed is that I am seeing a lot more triples than I had back in MLB 17 (or any iteration of The Show). I have also noticed that it gives me a lot more long fly ball outs and feels appropriate when looking at home runs. I will most likely make an adjustment at some point when they undoubtedly patch something in the game and break the functionality of my first slider set. That’s how it goes in sports gaming – you deal with the little things that annoy you so you can have a great time.

Speaking of a great time, I am truly enjoying the game this year and hope SDS continues to listen to the community the way they have been. Look for the Opening Day NoobTubeTV files in the MLB Vault in the next few hours. Here are the slider adjustments as of today if you don’t have internet to download the uploaded file.

Slider Adjustments (All other sliders are default unless stated below)

Human Batting

Power +2

Timing+1

Foul Frequency -1

Solid Hits +1

Human Pitching

Starter Stamina +1

Reliever Stamina -1

CPU Batting

Contact +1

Foul Frequency -2

CPU Pitching

Starter Stamina +1

Reliever Stamina -1

Control -1

Strike Frequency – 1

Pickoff -1

Fastball Speed +3

Offspeed +3

Global Settings

All Errors +1

Fielder Speed -1

The Next Logical Step Is PsychoLogical – Franchise Mode’s Biggest Need

It exists in a sort of infancy stage.  Sadly, it hasn’t grown much in over a decade.  Let’s take away the possibility that player morale and attitude might be something that Player Unions don’t allow.  (I have grown to believe that sports game developers have been denied the ability to give attributes for attitude, motivations and other psychological aspects to real players in their games – this is by no means a researched fact, but simply  my opinion.)

Madden 2005 had player morale and contract holdouts.  They have since done away with that aspect… no one is shocked.  MLB The Show has an entire section for player morale where they give happy or sad faces for anything from salary happiness to location happiness and some others.  This is a good step, but they haven’t developed it much beyond making it accessible and fun to look at for those of us that long for depth and story to drive our experience as a way to pursue longevity in franchise mode.  This isn’t the point of the article today.  The point of this is to give some solid input towards making Franchise Mode a truly great experience that will go for multiple seasons.

User Psychology 

The first aspect I believe should be considered in any franchise mode is how the user develops their in-game character as an Owner, GM, or coach.  Your choices to trade star players for prospects should effect everything from the morale of other existing players on your team to the coaching staff and even other players in coming seasons as you go through free agency.  I would love to see this in order to make users take the concept of trades with a grain of salt.  If the user makes these moves and signs certain players with ability that also lack productive morale it should reflect in contract negotiations and even bench player morale.

It’s time to make a connection between the user and the team they are running.  I think it might even be effective to implement more of the media questions that Madden has at certain points of the season, but make them into multiple interactions that start with an interview to get a baseline of your psyche as you begin the franchise.

A Real Story Mode

While I’m not asking for something like the Madden Longshot or the NBA 2K Story Modes I do think there is value in developing a story or a world to surround your franchise mode.  Even if this world exists soley in your head, it is something that I believe adds to the experience.

Agents

I don’t think it would take much to implement this to go along with Morale.  It might even be an easy way to get around my theory that actual players don’t want a game to say they have ‘bad attitudes’ or that they ‘only care about money’.  Let the morale take effect with team management, player performance, coach decisions, etc.  That leaves a lot of interactions and fun to be had with fictionalized agents and agencies.

These are just a few ideas, but it’s about time we start demanding more depth to a mode that continues to grow stale with every year that Ultimate Team, Diamond Dynasty and such.

MLB 18 – Franchise Mode House Rules

The first rules I generally set for myself in any sort of Franchise Mode involves trading and player acquisition. In my last post, I talked about the sim gameplay aspect of using directional batting – after trying this for the last couple days, I firmly stand by this suggestion. The team management area of franchise mode is what drives me to have the most fun with the game. It can also lead you towards a short-lived journey if you don’t set up some rules to prevent you from dominating a less than stellar CPU AI when it comes to trades and team building.

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Trades/Free Agents During Season

  1. You have to select the players you want from a specific team before offering your own player(s).
  2. You may make one trade in the initial Spring Training (Two trades in following spring trainings).
  3. You are permitted one trade before the All Star Game and it must not occur until at least May 1.
  4. You are permitted two trades after the All Star Break.
  5. You can only sign a free agent during your first season if your team suffers an injury on the MLB level that requires 60 Day – DL.

Scouting Prospects –

I generally prefer to take the scouting aspect as a personal project, but the more I look at how MLB 17 runs things, I tend to believe that leaving scouting on Auto allows your scouts to actually do what they will do based on their ratings. This also prevents the user from figuring out how to find all of the Top Prospects with ease.

In-Game Rules

There are only a couple basic rules I set for myself for MLB The Show. First, I believe that user control generally makes for a better performing team overall. Once you get settings/sliders that provide you with optimal challenge and enjoyment it is crucial to set up a system that you can follow without second guessing your rules.

Here are mine for MLB 18.

  1. Pitching/Defense – Once you allow the first run you must Quick Manage the remainder of the defensive halves of each inning until the 9th inning. If you wish, you may use your closer if there is a save situation.
  2. Batting – You get THREE strike outs per game. These can be offset if you draw walks. If you strike out twice and then draw a walk you can subtract one of those strike outs. Once you strike out three times you must quick manage each half inning your team is at bat until the ninth inning. You can also allow a home run to reset all strike outs.

That’s it… pretty simple in the scheme of things. You will find that your season will progress a bit quicker and you will have a bit less direct influence on the simulation feel of the stats, etc. Also, I have found that this rule gives me a better eye at the plate because walks give me a real goal to offset strike outs.

There are more updates coming. Baseball season is finally here… even if it is 30 degrees outside.

MLB 18 – Franchise Mode Batting – Directional FTW

As we approach the release of MLB The Show 18 I believe this is a discussion that needs to happen for the sake of many that will be starting a Franchise Mode in hopes of seeing a more realistic performance from their batters. (This does not take sliders into consideration as I believe that has more impact on what happens after the bat hits the ball… this isn’t totally the case with User Timing and Foul Frequency – just go with it.)

mlb-the-show-18

I have been using Zone Batting for most of my MLB 17 experience. After finishing a couple seasons with two different teams I felt that Zone Batting providing me with more personal immersion in some ways, but it took away from other aspects in terms of franchise mode in general.

Zone Batting (for those that don’t know about it) is when the user controls the eye/swinging zone (Plate Coverage Indicator – PCI) of the batter in the predetermined area of the strike zone with the left analog stick. As the pitch approaches the plate the user then moves the PCI to the correct area and either swings with the Right Analog Stick or presses the swing button of choice.
The other batting style I have used in the past is Directional Batting. It takes the PCI out of the picture completely for the user. Using this type of batting you simply press the left analog stick in the direction you’d like the batter to hit the ball if contact is made. This leaves much of if not all of the actual contact and overall hitting to be determined by the batting ratings of the batter in question. This is why I feel that a debate is necessary in terms of which aspect provides a more simulation experience from the point of view of batting.

This year I will be conducting my franchise batting exclusively with Directional Batting. As much as I love to have my team dominate and win with a lot of home runs, etc. I also think a Franchise’s longevity is based on the immersion of player development and performance. More ratings come into effect when you take away the user implementation and I argue that that is a good thing for modes that generally require a bit more thought in team building and player ability than user ability.

Taking the use of the PCI out of the picture is only a part of what I will be doing. This season I will also be taking away the ability to ‘guess the pitch’. Again, I want my players to perform based on their abilities and other such things that will hopefully cause me to take a bit more time in deciding who I want to draft, sign, release, and/or trade.

I managed to take the Athletics and Reds to a 2017 World Series primarily because I was good enough with zone batting that it didn’t matter what a batter’s ‘vision rating’ was. I hit over 30 home runs with 6 of my 8 position players during the Oakland Franchise. I am excited about the prospect of taking multiple seasons to build a team into a contender. I have yet to decide which team I would like to use. Up until this point, zone batting made it a bit easier no matter who was on my team. Directional batting will change everything this year, and I look forward to sharing a new NoobTubeTV feature with all of you once MLB 18 comes out.

—- As an aside, I fully support using Zone Batting in Road to the Show and in all Online formats as the interaction is a bit more user focused in and of itself.

New Rules, The NFL, and How You Are Ruining Sports Games

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With all their new rules you’d think Bill Maher was the new commissioner of the NFL… don’t get that joke?  Either I am the Dennis Miller of gaming commentary and online personas or I am just old and lame.
I am starting to think that Madden has hit that slope as well.
Seeing that the draft is coming up and the NFL is as popular as ever it seems like they would be pushing more and more to make their monopoly on football video games a more true representation of the game on the field and on television.  Then again, maybe they are when it comes to all the rule changes that seemingly gut the NFL of any sort of toughness under the guise of ‘player safety’.
In Madden it is nearly impossible to injure a player by hitting them harder (which is basically 80% of the injuries in the league). In Madden your players can’t get unsportsmanlike conduct penalties because that type of thing isn’t in the game either.  So, the new rule of two penalties for being an arrogant taunting jerk with a big mouth has no place in Madden to begin with.
This is why I constantly wonder when the madness will stop.  When will 2K or another publisher pour in the resources to give football fans and football gamers a different option from Madden?  I have been on this journey for over a decade demanding a true competitor to Madden and the football gaming monopoly. 
I am starting to wonder if I’m alone out here on the digital gridiron.  Everyone else seems happy to play two-hand touch on Madden and I am stuck wondering why I waste so much time playing a Franchise Mode for the sake of having a ‘new’ football option every year.
This might be why I am looking forward to MLB 16 more and more.  At least SCEA goes above and beyond to truly add depth to their game every year.  Madden has seen their top guys leave over the course of the last few years and with that they haven’t grown or done anything new.  They have invested in Ultimate Team because gamers seem to have more money than they know what to do with.  So in many respects, if you are playing Ultimate Team you are part of the problem as well.  I’d say this goes for Diamond Dynasty players on MLB, but now that SCEA has made it so you earn packs as you play the game rather than simply giving the option to buy more (which you can also do)… maybe they are similar afterall.

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Maybe I am just like Mugatu and I have taken crazy pills somewhere along the way.

Why MLB The Show is King In Sports Gaming Quality and Why Baseball Is Dying

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.

Kiss your career good-bye, Alex. You’re done.

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.

The Three Musketeers

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.