The Sports Desk – Breaking Down MLB The Show 18's Debut Trailer
The first trailer for MLB The Show 18 has dropped, and it's chock full of details. We talked to developers at Sony San Diego Studio before the trailer was released, and their comments about some of the game's features are on display in the new trailer, from better tagging to catchers reacting to dropped balls.
Legends Like Babe Ruth
The name speaks for itself, and he's not the only addition. The trailer includes the likes of Troy Percival, Lee Smith, and Don Sutton, and also shows Legend teams. Although it's unclear exactly how they're represented in Diamond Dynasty, whether they're part of challenges, can be used in head-to-head, etc.
Road To The Show Takes Off
One of the things we want is an improved Road to the Show mode, expanding on the groundwork laid by the previous title. While the trailer only shows an airplane ride, any new locations and situations for the mode are certainly welcome. It also looks like there are some tweaks to the player creator.
"We redid our entire tagging system," says Chris Gill, senior gameplay producer. "We deleted that code and started over again, and one of our very best engineers worked on that for quite some time. It's more accurate, and I'm talking the stationary tags, the setup tags at the bases, and running tags from every angle. Tags out of catching a ball, so if I'm fielding a ball and a guy's running by me we can facilitate all the angles. Barehand and glove tags..."
Animations, Catchers & A.I.
The team talked at length about shoring up exploits in online play, including getting stuck in animations. Although this is just a trailer and not online play in the wild, the team is working to make players smoother and smarter. Hundreds of new animations where added to catchers alone to make them more efficient and react better to dropped balls, and this was done in other areas as well. "There was quite a few exploits you could take advantage of," says Gill. "We looked at that. We paid attention to that. That was our focus. Aside from that, we [got new] animations in every part of our game. Catches, throws, the fielding more advanced. We work on the logic as well. We don't just choose one thing each year. We kind of need to keep building at the lower levels to make sure that we don't turn into spaghetti code. We have to clean it up and we want to be more efficient in everything we do. So if a guy's running to first base, and they use a throw they shouldn't use, that's very frustrating for a user. Things like that have been shored up."
Feeling the Emotion
"We focused a lot on emotion this year," says Gill, "So, you'll see stuff in gameplay as well as post-play. We're moving away from the canned-scene kind of stuff, and trying to incorporate everything into real time." The team wants both players and fans to react appropriately, differentiating between a homer in the first inning from those late in the game, for instance. In the trailer you can also see players communicate with each other. When I asked Gill whether the game's emotional component takes into account larger contexts such as players going on streaks from game to game or within a single game, Gill wouldn't say much. "We'll I'm just going to say we worked on it. We're going to come out with more of this when we come out with our [live] stream on presentation, so I'm not going to expose too much of what we did."
In a broader visual sense, the trailer does show emotional touches such as bat flips and Yankees fans cheering from the custom Judge's Chambers area celebrating cover star Aaron Judge.
What Didn't You See In The Trailer? Online & The New Swing Analysis
For the first time in the series, the team held a closed alpha that compressed the development schedule but which the team felt was very important to try and avoid the online launch problems of previous games. The team says the alpha was very helpful. "Really for us it was breaking down all those pain points we saw last year at launch," says Jason Villa, senior producer. "There were certain numbers, there were certain gameplay situations that we knew were slower than desired. Something that comes to mind is game processing." This refers to servers registering the stats when games are completed – a task that was a problem for last year's launch. Villa says that spreading the processing across multiple servers for less bottlenecking will definitely help.
The team's online work isn't done with the pre-release alpha, either. "One of the things in the pursuit of making the launch more successful is making the problems we may encounter at launch more visible, more solveable, more understandable," says Villa. "There's less moving parts with our approach this year. Problems should be solved and understood a lot quicker than in the last few years."
The alpha – which produced data of a million at bats – also helped gather feedback with the game's hitting. "That stuff is really critical for us," says Lance Lahey, senior designer, "to help us tune the game and get the player experience feeling right, because there's sort of two components there – the feel of hitting and what you expect and your perceptions, and then there's the backend tuning that we do to make sure we're making the most realistic baseball simulation on the market. We're really hitting to feel competitive so that if you and I are playing a game, if I have end up having more hits than you or doubles or triples or home runs, it's explicitly because I am a more skilled player."
To that end, MLB the Show 18 upgrades its swing analysis HUD. "We really focused a lot on the hitting feedback systems this year to try and communicate all of the things that go into, 'Why was this a line drive?' 'Why did it have a certain exit velocity?' Or why did you hit a ground ball as opposed to a fly ball? We're really trying to expose as much of the back-end logic that sort of drives the hitting engine to the user, in really sort of easy-to-understand feedback components. We have a new visual one this year that's focused around timing to try and give people a better sense of how our timing system has always worked. Because it's one thing we've noticed through the years is that people who aren't super in-tune with baseball don't have a great understanding of how timing works in baseball."
MLB the Show 18 is out for PS4 on March 27.
For for more on the game, take a look at this previous Sports Desk entry covering some of the areas we hope it addresses.
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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.
EA Sports continues to build its non-yearly UFC series, layering in more career mode and gameplay depth. UFC 3 is now available for PS4 and Xbox One.
Here's an excerpt from Brian Shea's glowing review:
No game captures the calculated-yet-violent spirit of mixed martial arts better than UFC 3. The rush of entering the Octagon with the sole purpose of topping your opponent is well represented through both gameplay and presentation. The UFC brings multiple martial-arts disciplines into each fight, and you must always be on guard against both ruthless knockouts and technical submissions. Fights often turn into breathless affairs, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Just because you're winning the fight doesn't mean a single well-placed uppercut or takedown won't turn the tide in your opponent's favor.
You can also watch Shea and flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson play the game.
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week
Rolling Stone's Behind-The-Scenes Account Of The Doomed Development Of Madden NFL 06
Electronic Arts Ecstatic About Continued Success Of Ultimate Team Monetization
EA executives also talk about the World Cup, whales vs. new UT adopters, esports, and more.