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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The Downfall of Potential Ratings In Sports Games

After more than a few years playing through numerous Franchise Modes in Madden, MLB The Show and NBA 2K it is apparent to me that the only truly important rating for a young player in Franchise Mode is ‘Potential’.  It is also one of the more argued about topics on sports gaming forums as well.

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I have found that in simulating multiple seasons of MLB 18 (as well as older iterations) that the primary decider for a player becoming a superstar is potential.  It often has nothing to do with performance or statistics – take a look at the performance of some older players like Nelson Cruz as you play through a few seasons.  While they are still performing at a high level, they will suddenly see a huge drop off in ratings like contact and power as they age by a year… even if they hit 50 home runs the season before.

I have noticed that players with A potential are almost certain to be a lock for being s superstar in all three sports games.  Madden has a bad habit of making their franchise overall rating system as broken as anything else they put a number on in terms of ratings.

In the end, my view of the Potential Rating is not that it should go away completely.  I believe it needs to be molded to fit each game and sport.  Players generally fit into a few different categories of being high potential.  While Andrew Benintendi is no doubt a top level young talent, I don’t see him the same way I see Aaron Judge.  I believe that potential needs to be weighed more towards player type and player role in all sports games.

It shouldn’t be as simple as saying Player A should be a 99 Overall and Player B should be a 91 Overall in terms of potential.  There are some truly once-in-a-generation athletes like LeBron James that defy almost all limitations and are great at almost every aspect of their respective sport.

While a baseball player might look like a 5-Tool prospect, the reality of this is usually that they will be more like a 2 to hopefully 4-Tool guy.  As we play through more seasons of our favorite sports games it becomes easier to focus on the potential rating as the most important number by which we judge a player… unless you are talking about age… quite possibly the most lopsided and biased determiner of ratings decline in any version of a sports game.

Although we are able to edit the ratings of players manually in many of our Franchise Mode experiences, we shouldn’t have to take over where the number crunchers have failed us.  It is really as simple as applying a new descriptor to each player that highlights their role to a team.  This should be a fluid and dynamic description that also serves as a way to lift morale for players on the team.  I would like to see the death of potential ratings as numbers and have them become more in-tune with how we look at the changing landscape of players in every sport.

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.)

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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.

2018 – The Year of the Sports Game Boycott

It seems that sports games have been lost to the same dark side that we have seen first person shooters and real-time strategy go to as well. 

Madden, MLB: The Show, and NBA 2K8 have all resorted to becoming nothing more than digital card pandering pieces of binary garbage.  They have polished the graphics and added content to their Ultimate Team/Diamond Dynasty/MyTeam card collections instead of real improvement to the core game itself.  For a few years I could understand the change I was seeing.  I could compartmentalize the fact that I simply wasn’t their target audience. 

Thanks largely to Twitch and YouTube streamers/content uploaders that open packs for the voyeur fandom to gawk over we have lost what was once the potential pursuit for true sports gaming simulation.  I must give some of these guys credit, as they do have a certain pizazz to the way they carry themselves online.  I even watch some of their videos – they do make it look like a fun experience.  That is all great and wonderful until I get inspired to try my hand at online PvP against some random guy with a name like XxHitThatLoud420-69xX.  You realize quickly that they play the game by using money plays and exploits.  Suddenly, this potentially fun experience has you wondering if you’ve stepped into some effed up version of The Matrix.  Just as you get ready to play a different game you realize that you don’t care if you lose this game because you don’t plan on playing it again.

Say what you want, but All Pro Football 2K8 proved one thing when they released a game with legendary NFL players.  The same can be said for current players depending on the year as well.  Some gamers love creating their own version of Dream Teams and I am one of them.  I remember doing this back in Triple Play 98 when I would put Griffey, Frank Thomas, ARod, and others all on the same team.  It became a habitual thing to do each year, but in the end I still wanted to play a challenging baseball game. 

I happen to come from the generation of sports gamers that can remember Dr. J vs. Larry Bird on Atari 7800.  I also remember Tecmo Bowl and Bases Loaded through Bases Loaded 4.  RBI Baseball 94 was the first game that introduced me to the concept of playing a full season – I never finished one, but damn, it was pretty cool to have that option and even see the potential grow into franchise modes in other games.  When they finally started to present us with multiple seasons and stats it was a dream come true. In all honesty, the graphical improvements were secondary for me after a while.  I loved what Madden had turned into by Madden 2005.  Hell, even MVP Baseball 2005 was one of the better games I had ever played in terms of – that was a year to remember when it came to EA doing some truly amazing work. Now it’s as if they have sold their souls and there is no looking back.

It seems that Franchise Mode has gone the way of the dodo in recent years.  It is still present in all of these games, but it is a shell of itself.  Much like Kobe and Jordan at the end of their career – you can see flashes of what they used to be, but in the end they just aren’t performing like they once could… and it’s sad.  Madden Ultimate Team and MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty have essentially powered their way into a position that is most likely permanent and will eventually completely destroy innovation when it comes to gameplay and franchise mode.

This isn’t something I say lightly and it isn’t something I want to be known as an acceptable issue. 

I do want those of you reading this to look at 2018 sports games with a critical eye and take this opportunity to speak with your wallet.  It is time to demand the product that we have been denied for years.  I urge you to avoid pre-ordering any sports game this year. If you are going to buy the game, look for it second-hand in hard copy form.  Do not pay the full retail price if you feel compelled to play them.  It’s time for these companies to feel the only kind of pain they understand – financial.


PlayStation Plus or PlayStation Minus?

It has been a long while since NTTV has been updated in any way.  So, with that and with the recent milestone of 200,000 views I am happy to be back and filled with excitement for what the next chapter will look like for NTTV.  With that said, this first update is one of frustration and dare I say – hope – that something good will happen for PS4/PS+ owners.

As we get ready to enter the best part of the year in gaming (Fall/Autumn) there are a few things to look back on and applaud from the first 2/3 of the year.  One of the big things that happened was the improvement of Battlefield 4’s servers and the quality releases of expansions/DLC.  BF4 is starting to show far more staying power than Call of Duty these days, and that is a good thing.

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However, there are some other aspects of 2014 that have been lacking up to this point.  The biggest disappointment so far has been PlayStation Plus for PlayStation 4 owners.  While the network is relatively what we expect it to be in terms of solid gaming and online connectivity.  The aspect that they introduced a couple years ago of giving free games to PS+ subscribers made me step up to the plate with PS4 and become a subscriber as well.  Although they have provided decent games to PS3 owners in the past, the same cannot be said for PS4 owners to this point.  The free games with PS+ on PS4 have been rather insulting up to this point.

One of the most infuriating comparisons was in June when PS3 owners of the PS+ service) and got a chance to download NBA 2K14 and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time for ‘free’.  These are major releases that at one point commanded a typical retail price point of $40-60.  What did the PS4 owners get?  Trine 2 and Shooter Ultimate.

Chances are good that you are asking the same question(s) I asked when I saw these as the games being offered.

“What in the holy hell is Trine 2?  When was there ever a Trine ONE?  Why are they offering a bunch of garbage indie titles on their new console and great games on their old console?”

Like Frozen – I tried to let it go.  However, as a gamer and subscriber to the PS+ ‘service’ I simply can’t do that anymore. The biggest reason behind my spoiled brat ‘gimme gimme gimme’ attitude with free games being offered has come out at this point (because believe me – I know they don’t have to offer jack shiznit if they don’t want to) is because I am starting to think that I bought a luxury sports car with an 8-Track player and crank-down windows when it comes to the PS4/PS+ combination.

There has been little reason for me to have the PS+ service other than playing Battlefield 4 online.  I also currently own Fifa 14, MLB 14: The Show and Killzone: Shadow Fall.  Perhaps the biggest indicator that Sony has a problem is with their very own AAA titles like Killzone – which they release and then forget about.  They should have offered it as a free game with PS+, but instead we are stuck with indie arcade titles like Fez and Stick It To the Man.  Are you serious?  This is almost so insulting it is funny.  Except, I’m not laughing.  I am quite pissed off to think that I spent money on a service that is giving me the equivalent of throw away SNES titles and acting like they are doing me a favor.

Sony’s own original idea of offering free games to subscribers has been taken by Microsoft and no is clearly being used to destroy Sony’s ‘service’.  It is as if Skynet has simply become Skynet Gold and it is laughing at the old version of a good idea that is clearly out of it’s realm.

Sony, you have a problem.  It is about time you start re-evaluating your PlayStation Minus service because you are quickly turning into the laughing stock once again.  As for your garbage ‘free’ games that you oh, so graciously present to me and my fellow idiot subscribers – I will download them and I might even play them for three to five minutes.  However, I am only downloading them because they are there – not because I want them.

MLB 13: The Show Starting To Feel Like Madden?

For the longest time, MLB: The Show has felt like the one sports game you could count on to ‘get it right’.  They focused on all the tweaks, gameplay improvements and other nuances that can really only be noticed in baseball.  Then came the news that MLB 13 is going to have fans vote on the cover athlete.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it will be one of three players – Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera.  The only other wild card I might throw into the mix is Stephen Strasburg simply because he is the only pitcher people seem to care about.  (I am still laughing about the ‘plan’ to hold him out of the playoffs.)

Regardless, we are entering into an area in sports gaming that EA Sports has made rather notorious with their Madden cover votes.  Should I react with such distaste about something so ‘minor’?  I am sure you are thinking something along those lines – such as my favorite line… ‘You mad, bruh?’.  Yes, I am.

I expect more out of The Show.  The closest they came to being like EA was shutting down old servers for rosters setting up poor online services altogether.  Now they are going in the direction of fan input for cover athletes?  This is the slippery slope my friends… I don’t think I want to see what will be next if they keep going this direction.