MLB The Show 17 comes out on PS4 in a little over a month, and we're just starting to dig into some of the new gameplay offerings and myriad details for the year. We talked with game designer Ramone Russell about a few of the things we can expect from the game, including Diamond Dynasty, smarter A.I. (as well as more less-than-perfect-but-realistic), new ball physics, the importance of animations, and more.

New Ball Physics/Hit Types

  • The video below shows off some of the new hits in the game thanks to the ball and bat actually interfacing as a round bat hitting a round bat – instead of it simulating a ball hitting a flat wall. "It has vastly increased the hit types possible in the Show moving forward," Russell told us. "This year you are going to see hundreds of thousands – up to a million – new hit types. It's completely opened up, and I say that with extreme confidence."
  • The team is currently analyzing the hit types the new ball physics has produced to make sure the results are realistic. The developer at San Diego Studio performs overnight tests where the game can relatively quickly play thousands of games over an eight-hour period to produce the number of singles, home runs, etc. the team can then compare against real-life data. So far, even with all the new hit types, the results are realistic says Russell.
  • Things affecting the ball physics and behavior: The location/height of the pitch, ball speed, where the swing is, the height of the batter, angle of the bat, velocity of the bat, spin of the ball, and more.
  • Russell says he doesn't think that you'll feel/notice the new ball/bat interfacing when you're hitting, although your timing will affect the ball and how it comes off the bat.

A.I.

  • Players had non-perfect routes to the ball last year, but the team thinks the multitude of new hit types and ball behaviors will add even more non-perfect routes and actions for fielders.
  • Players are smarter and understand context more, which the team has dubbed "Humanity A.I." For instance, a fielder knows he has to get to the ball and get it out faster if Billy Hamilton is at bat because the A.I. understands how fast Hamilton is. Conversely, you'll see throwers take more time with the ball if they feel they have it. When players rush throws, the game takes that into account when it's calculating the accuracy of the resulting throw.
  • In a recent livestream, the team says it is also working on fielder context so that the pitcher gets over to first base more, there is less confusion between him and the first baseman, and to avoid the looping throws on potential double plays.

Animations

  • The game has over 1,000 new gameplay animations, including non-perfect/mistake animations, which the game didn't have in the past. 
  • Fielders perform running catches and the subsequent throws from multiple branching points (which happen sooner), as opposed to just a single point last year. This generates different animations as well as being more forgiving if you miss a branch point. Thus, your catch and throw animations for fielders will be more varied and smooth.
  • Russell estimates that there are somewhere between 25-50 new home run swings. There are also more outfield animations at the end of the game (like the Red Sox's Win, Dance, Repeat, which has been mo-capped), team-specific handshakes in the dugouts and at the end of the game, and rituals for crossing home plate.

Diamond Dynasty

  • More missions are available, including early missions to get you started such as when you make a team. Everyone can do these and not just a set number of entrants.
  • New mission types include time-limited missions like doing something in the next 24 hrs. to get a card, packs, piece of equipment, etc.
  • The live content team will update every Thursday.
  • Programs are what Russell calls "the long game." These are various missions you complete over a longer period of time, but which dole out rewards based on certain percentages. For instance, the Diamond Program can't even be fully unlocked until the All-Star break. There will be a few different Diamond Programs through the year.
  • Events are weekly themes where you play with restrictions. This means that low-rated players you may have ditched previously may have some value. The game's first event is Wild Wild West where you can only use players from the Padres, Dodgers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, and the Giants. Other events planned (they will be introduced every few weeks) include only having lefties, rookies, etc. Events have a rating salary cap to force you to make further choices with your lineup.
  • Events will have some rewards that don't show up in any other mode.
  • The dev team will drop in Conquest-specific missions that could change how you approach the map from day-to-day. There will also be more rewards in the mode.
  • Head-to-Head play includes seasons which could last a week or a month. Every season has a theme with tiers that have their own rewards.

Graphics

Click each comparison picture for a better look.

  • Some of the work done on the faces in particular include: Sweat effects, new skin tone lighting and textures, and eyes with more depth and life. The latter includes getting the eye shapes right. "Hopefully," says Russell, "we lost that ghost look."
  • The shadows on players' faces when wearing caps were faked last year, but in 17 they are from real lighting sources.
  • Uniform detail has also improved, including a slider for sleeve length.
  • Russell says the team is doing something for PS4 Pro, but can't talk about it yet.
  • The screens above and their noticeable detail aren't the product of new face scans. The improvements are inherent in the work done this year. Face scans in general are done during spring training and implemented in the following year.
  • The grass patterns in 2017 are no longer faked like in 2016. They change realistically depending the camera angle and how the light is striking the field.
  • More licensed equipment has been added.

Player Creation

  • The old 17 heads used through the years are gone and have been replaced by 49 heads based on different archetypes. "You won't see any more of those monsters," says Russell.
  • There are 22 new facial hair sets, including some modeled after players such as Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel.
  • The number of hair styles has been expanded (mullets, mohawks, rat tails, African-American hairstyle types, etc,), including old-school hairstyles.
  • The team is doing different body modeling for the game to represent more body types. This includes a new husky body type and sliders for hips, glutes, shoulders, and spine length in the player creator.
  • Player-specific animations can be mixed and matched, so you could have one guy's home run celebration with another's batting stance.

Retro Mode

  • It's a one-button exhibition mode where you can move the pitcher on the rubber and batter in the box like old-school baseball titles, and while pitchers can't select their pitches, they can select speed (down on the analog for fast/up for slow) and move the ball around left/right in mid-air.
  • The mode uses old-school sound effects like a slide whistle during hits and in the menu screens
  • Ken Griffey Jr. adds some comments from time to time.
  • Some player animations are included such as players breaking their bat after striking out.
  • Retro mode uses the same physics as the rest of the game.
  • Throws to the bases use the X button/d-pad, and not the face buttons.
  • Pitchers do not need to be warmed up before they are brought into the game.
  • There is no replay in Retro mode.
  • On the recent gameplay livestream, the team says there are some easter eggs hidden in the mode.

Other Tweaks & Improvements

  • Russell on MLB The Show 17 and eSports: "I can't say anything about that subject at the moment."
  • Environmental factors such as the time of year and temperature affecting balls are for all parks, not just certain ones like in the past (like Coors Field).
  • The new optional catcher throw meter for pickoffs featured in the video contains a green sweet spot that shrinks/grows based on the catcher's arm accuracy. The red area shrinks/grows based on the catcher's ability as well as the running ability of the runner. Hitting the green is obviously good and red means the throw is off target, but a green won't always produce an out, and a yellow can still produce one. Where you are in the meter simply refers to how good the catcher's throw is.
  • Russell wouldn't elaborate, but he says the balancing of the cat and mouse aspect of catching a runner between the bases, is being completely redone. The livestream did mentioned that pitcher step off timing for pickoff throws varies, so it's not like they do it exactly when you take off to steal.
  • Ball placement in the throws is being tweaked, as Russell says the ball placement for the accurate throws is off a little.
  • Apart from some of the bugs and exploits mentioned in the video (including players throwing too hard on close throws), Russell says that in MLB 2016 bunting was too easy, guys were too lazy on some throws, and players could get sucked into the wall when retrieving the ball too close to it. The animations around the walls in particular are being redone, as is the shortstop animation for getting runners out.
  • The tutorials have been totally redone.
  • Players played out of position will be punished in terms of their ratings and effectiveness.
  • How much new commentary is in the game? This much: 

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Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

2017 TEAM UPDATE FOR NASCAR HEAT EVOLUTION

Daytona and the start of another NASCAR season is just around the corner, and to celebrate, DMRacing and developer Monster Games are putting out a 2017 team update for NASCAR Heat Evolution.

The update is available on February 21 for $9.99 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and lets players update the game's roster of drivers, sponsors, the schedule, and paint schemes.

While 2017 is a year full of changes for the real-life sport, this update is more focused on rosters than rules. As such, aspects of the real-life season such as the stages format for races are not included in this update. Publisher DMR hasn't officially announced the next NASCAR game, but has stated that it intends to release a NASCAR game annually. So, we're sure the new rules and changes for 2017 will be available in a different title in the future.

Some of the changes in the update include:

  • New team rosters including the absence of Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle; the inclusion of the new Toyota Camry model; and Stewart-Haas Racing's switch to Fords.
  • New drivers such as Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, and Ryan Reed, as well as new rides for the likes of Landon Cassill (#34), Matt DiBenedetto (#32), and David Ragan (#38).
  • New paint schemes and sponsors, including Monster Energy's sponsorship of the Cup series (formerly the Sprint Cup), and 5 Hour Energy.
  • The 2017 Schedule

I tried the update for a little bit, and when you go into the game it first asks you which year you want to play. If you choose 2017, the game's online multiplayer and challenges are NOT available. Race, Championship, and Career are selectable, however. While the new paint schemes cannot be played in the 2016 branch of the game, you can switch back to last year, and your speed points, level, and unlocked tracks follow you no matter which year you select. The Career mode does, however, start over.

In other NASCAR Heat Evolution news, on February 10th, the Pit Pass 5 DLC is available featuring paint schemes such as Tony Stewart's last ride and much more.

Note: The new start/finish line at Phoenix isn't coming in real-life until 2018. A reference to it has been removed from the original story.

 

PROJECT CARS 2 ANNOUNCED FOR LATE 2017

Slightly Mad Studios has officially unveiled Project Cars 2, and while the sequel aims to replicate the first game's simulation-based racing, multitude of different racing series, and plethora of options, it's also trying to push itself even further.

While all the game's features have not yet been announced, the one big game-changer so far is the dynamic weather system that combines a 24-hour day/night cycle with different weather conditions across the seasons. Conditions change as you race, demanding you adapt to previously dry curves that are now wet, as well as the fact that they may be wet in different places and affected by other cars and changing levels of track debris. Adding this up across different track surfaces (including snow), and you will constantly adapt as new challenges arise on the track from turn to turn.

Project Cars 2 will launch with over 170 licensed cars, which is a big step up from the 60 that the first game debuted with, and PC 2 includes new and old vehicle types and series, including Rallycross and IndyCar.

The game also claims to have "the largest track roster of any console racing game ever" (no specifics given), and has VR headset support (Vive and Oculus for now), and triple-monitor 12K support on PC.

Project Cars 2 comes out in late 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

 

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.

NBA & NBA2K Announce eSports League 

EA Sports Clarifies FIFA On Switch, Sort Of  

Madden 17 Ultimate Team Draft Champions Gets Update 
Includes new QB round, updated pools, and more.

EA Fines & Deducts Points From Madden Bowl Winner After Racist Comments 
Also, check out EA's official statement here

Racing Title GTR 3 Coming In 2018 

Demolition Derby Title FlatOut 4: Total Insanity Announced