There was a lot riding on the mega stream today highlighting MLB The Show 23 franchise mode, March to October, presentation, and commentary. Two of the roughest elements of last year’s game were the commentary and franchise mode. Beyond that, March to October has been an interesting idea that still struggles at times due to its restrictive rosters and how it fits in with franchise mode. After today’s stream, I would say I’m feeling okay overall about the direction of MLB The Show 23 and beyond.
Let’s jump into all the details.
MLB The Show 23 Franchise Mode And March To October
The majority of the time spent discussing March to October and franchise mode related to all-things MLB Draft. With that in mind, I just want to run through a couple other particulars that were touched on before covering that aspect of things.
The “Ohtani rule” should now work. You can have a player like Ohtani start the game as a pitcher and still keep him as your DH after he’s done on the mound.
Player potential was tweaked in the logic system as players at or near their “top” potential were being overvalued in trades — not much room for a player to improve anymore
This also meant tweaking player potential in general and working on the player rankings league-wide to make sure talent evaluations mimicked real life a bit better.
The MLB Draft has been moved to its “real” spot in the middle of the MLB season rather than taking place after the season ends.
The Top 50 prospect rankings have gone through a logic tweak so teams value those players more. On top of that, you can track your transactions during the postseason/offseason rather than your league history basically disappearing after a certain point in the season.
The new Postseason format is locked in and had knock-on effects elsewhere the development team had to correct.
In other words, the trade logic had to be tweaked so teams now recognize they’re still in the playoff chase.
There’s new logic for tiebreakers as well.
Market sizes were updated so a team like the Padres now is considered more of a “major” market team and has a bigger budget.
On the topic of trade logic, there has already been some concerns about how much better it will be because of a couple trades that flashed by during the stream. The one being discussed a lot on OS is the Andrew Painter for Jake Cronenworth deal. Painter is one of the top-rated pitching prospects in all of baseball (Phillies) and Cronenworth has been a 4-5 WAR player the last two years as he heads towards his age-30 season. Out of context, we just have no way of knowing how either player was doing this season (or teams for that matter). These sorts of one-for-one deals where a position player gets traded for a top prospect are rare, but I would say to not go too crazy one way or another as of now.
SDS has had issues properly valuing potential cost-controlled stars in trades, especially in terms of then trading them for solid middle infielders, but it’s just one data point without the full context. Trade logic aside, the other “concerns” we’ll need to see more about come launch relate to bullpen logic and general roster/lineup logic. I have the same “rule” for all these logic components: trust but verify. Even if SDS went out of its way to say it had fixed XYZ logic issue, you have to gauge it for yourself in the full release.
At the top, I just want to say I think it’s heartening to see SDS focus on at least one aspect of franchise mode and really try to improve it. Outside of 2K Sports with NBA 2K, I just don’t think any of these other major companies are prepared to overhaul all of franchise mode in just a single year. Whether it’s resources, development roadblocks, or whatever else, 2K is the only one we have seen in the past handful of years truly tweak the entirety of the mode in a single year.
On top of that, I think it’s good to hear that March to October and franchise mode are basically one-to-one with this feature. The concern has been that SDS’ resources will be split between the two modes and then neither improves enough. If they’re more just working in concert with each other, it makes the future of both modes feel much more sustainable.
Starting with the prospects themselves, the prospect generation logic has been completely overhauled so the draft is no longer full of guys in their mid-20s. It’s going to be a majority of players between the ages of 18-19, and then we’ll see those undrafted younger players get recycled and re-emerge in future drafts. It’s not a “full” draft so it’s still just a handful of rounds you’ll go through, and that’s one of a couple liberties SDS is taking to sort of “game up” the draft so it’s a little more engaging.
The other “big” liberty I would say SDS is taking relates to how an “interest meter” is being utilized. They spent a lot of time talking about players maybe not signing, but there are very few of these instances these days in the first round. The interest meter can dip if you lowball a player, or if you’re showing interest in too many players it can be hard to solidify some of your picks wanting to sign with you. I understand the point of all this because you have this three-week window to lock up your picks based on the money in your draft pool, and it’s more fun if there’s uncertainty. But outside of taking a player “below slot” to use some of your extra funds to go over slot later, or knowing a player will only accept “slot value” or a bit above, things mostly go by the book now early in the draft.
Regardless, I think I would rather SDS go this route because it’s probably just more fun. I do want to doubt whether I can actually sign a player, and I do want to feel pressured to ignore a couple other players to make sure I get the one top player signed.
Some of the smaller “nice to have” elements relate to relievers basically never going in the first round anymore. If a player gets his physical, he is automatically guaranteed at least 75% of his slot value, which is true to real life. At the same time, a player can choose not to get his physical, and there are injured players in the pool you can risk drafting without knowing their full medicals.
All the new screens that have been added look nice. There’s an OOTP vibe for sure to some of it, and it also feels somewhat familiar to things like NCAA Football or EA’s NHL series. You have three scouts rather than four, and you send them out with particular priorities over three months or so to look at positions, particular players, or portions of the country. The more scouting progress you have on a player, the more the “fog of war” is lifted. However, the “fog of war” is not truly lifted until after a player signs on the dotted line.
This means various parts of your information will diverge from other people’s information. Your big board will mostly align with the MLB Draft rankings in Week 1, but by Week 4 it’s likely you might have some prospect at #3 on your board while he might be at #11 on the public big board. In addition, your scouts have different strengths and weaknesses, so the grade your scout puts on a player is going to be different from the grade another team puts on that same player.
I will say as I watched all this, I did wish and hope for the days of online franchise returning. Recruiting in NCAA Football was fun on your own, but it went to a whole other level when you were competing with others online. That said, it’s not like most of these players would immediately make an impact on your team the next year like they do in college football a lot of the time, so it’s a little irrelevant.
Getting back to the fog of war, again, a player you draft who is injured may end up being way more injured than you thought — or it might be just fine. You have potential ranges and overall ranges, and while those narrow based on factors like age and the amount of scouting you’ve done, the ranges only ever get so tight. Players will fall outside of these ranges at times, and so you do draft busts and diamonds in the rough.
The last little thing to mention is the draft only pauses after you have selected a player. At every other time, that clock is ticking.
All in all, this was good to see. Franchise heads will still have plenty to grumble about in terms of legacy issues or other components of the mode likely not being touched this year, but this is a huge step up for what was a truly dreadful part of the game. It’s not revolutionary or doing much we have not seen elsewhere, but this is a major leap for one component of franchise mode. If SDS takes the time to upgrade one big component of the mode each year, I think they can win people back over time. From here, it’s just hoping that these new additions work and they commit to doing something like this each year of development.
Presentation And Commentary
Commentary And Audio
Presentation and commentary were the other big part of this Feature Premiere. Presentation did seem to come out looking better than the commentary, but that could also just be the nature of a stream. You’re not going to really be able to sell all your audio improvements as quickly as you can wow people with some new visual spice. Still, I can’t help but feel a little concerned about commentary while being mostly confident about the presentation direction overall.
To me, the issue with Boog and Singleton last year was not so much the content, but the way it never felt very interesting. It was repetitive and surprisingly buggy at times, but my bigger concern was that the repetitiveness was so obvious that it was strange nothing was done to sort of plan for it in certain areas. The walk-ups were the most egregious example last year (“kind of a throwback, no batting gloves”), but as a community we had a good laugh making fun of how repetitive those were as well when Vasgersian was around. In other words, it felt like a “nothing was learned” moment or “nothing can be done about this” moment.
Regardless, a lot of the “right” things were said today. There’s going to be more of a focus on “dynamic” commentary that plugs in to how things are changing in your franchise/season (awards won, years pro, season-specific content about the year you’re having), and then also more around “analysis” of your team so that the commentators mention if you’re making a lot of first-pitch outs or chasing a lot out of the zone. Oh, and more create-a-player names were recorded as well.
They’re also adding in that conversation content in more depth, and they’re adding to more modes like Mini Seasons and the new Storylines mode to give those life, too. The best-case scenario is some of the weak points of the commentary through the years for both Vasgersian and then the new crew still just came down to a lack of recorded content, and that will all improve as we get deeper into the life of this new team.
Beyond the commentary, I’m excited about the other audio elements. We’ve heard some of the new bat sounds and fouls off an ump’s mask in the Tech Test, and those sorts of small things add up. On top of that, a lot was made about the general crowd reactions and team-specific chants being in the game. If the crowd is “smarter” this year on top of the sweeteners and all that good stuff being improved all over the stadium and diamond, it’s going to add a lot to the game on its own.
A lot of the visuals added this year remind me of stuff that Madden has been focused on the last couple years. We have exterior shots, and we also have this new “stage” that will be used to showcase players and other things like that:
I actually don’t care much about this stuff one way or another. They’re nice things to have, but it’s more how they end up getting used that matters. I think one valid point that’s been made on the forums is the exterior shots don’t look that amazing, and it’s not overly interesting visuals versus maybe just using “real” footage if you could get that licensed. There’s a space issue (in terms of how many GBs it makes the game) and all that which comes into play, but I tend to agree that I’m not sure the payoff for the amount of work that maybe went into creating these exteriors is worth it when you can see cool stuff like what the Cubs are doing with drones.
And I hate to be that guy downplaying something a lot of people probably worked really hard on, I just mean to say maybe priorities for the art team could have gone elsewhere in this specific instance. But I do think the “stage” and a lot of the other visual elements showcased show great potential. There’s a new Milestone look that should get plenty of action:
And I really like what was said about more player emotions and having more of those “cutaway” scenes where we see fans or players getting angry or being ecstatic about things that just happened.
On top of that, they have continued to separate the two main “themes” for the broadcast elements, so the “national” theme got more heavy graphics and all that, and then the “regional” theme doubled down on making things feel more like a local broadcast with how they handle their UI elements. In addition, when you’re wearing the City Connect uniforms, they will now change the UI colors to match up with them on that day. Lastly, the jumbotrons got new videos so they’re freshened up as well.
All in all, I think presentation came out looking strong today. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be best in class yet and beat out NBA 2K, but if the in-stadium audio is a lot better and we’re getting more player emotion out on the diamond, I think those are the biggest wins that could occur beyond the obvious visual upgrades and all that good stuff.
That’s it for the major Feature Premieres. I’d say besides the Road to the Show updates that were showcased a couple weeks back, everything has been relatively promising for MLB The Show 23. I came out of today not being “wowed” but feeling like the developers “get it” in terms of what we’re looking for in the grand scheme of things. Whether they can meet our expectations or not year to year is always the question, but I at least feel more confident about the direction of things after today’s stream.