While SCEA revealed some of the framework to Online Franchise for MLB 14: The Show the company never explained the actual logistics of the mode. Baseball inherently presents challenges like the length of the season and time requirement to play games which necessitates chunks of them being open on the schedule for example – but then how are rotations, injuries, and fatigue handled when not playing games in any specific order?
Server issues, the need to actually play some of the games to determine if they’re functioning and reporting back properly, and allocation of time elsewhere within The Show have prevented deep progress in any online franchises from being made to this point but it was important to explain some of the basic details discovered and whether the mode appears to be promising or not. A follow-up article on how Online Franchise holds up through a season and the off-season activities will be written at a later date.
There are a number of great features for a Commissioner to have when running a league. That includes the various settings for Franchise one would expect plus the ability to sim games, reset a game’s results, and even assign a win to a specific team (unfortunately that one doesn’t provide any statistics). The initial roster uploaded upon setup of the league isn’t limited to the official one so bringing in custom rosters allows for more unique leagues. Having the “Round Robin” or “Divisional” structures, and the option of opening up all games to be played or restricting them to a series, was necessary for baseball to have any chance of success in a mode of this nature.
In leagues where games are open to play in any order it’s best to not think of them in terms of a schedule. Fatigue and injuries carry over game to game no matter the order they are played. That could be manipulated by some to create advantages but in leagues with friends hopefully it wouldn’t become an issue. It’s also neat to be able to play not just AI teams in practice mode but against user opponents online as well.
With all the talk about the necessity of shortening games what is even worse is investing significant time in playing them only to find the results didn’t save. In the first test league I’ve been working with the second game played was treated as though it never happened. “A league game between the Orioles and Mariners has failed to process correctly and was deleted”.
That was an hour spent playing a game to its completion with no apparent problems during or after and it was time wasted. In fact the “Franchise Events” page, which lists pretty much everything going on in the league, is riddled with those messages about the games not processing. This was after having to re-play game one when the server dropped out abruptly booting me from the game back to the menu. It’s reasonable to think any normal consumer would question returning to the mode after encountering those incidents.
Needless to say if people can’t trust that the results will be recorded they’re not going to even bother playing the mode. Also if they can’t play the other users involved in their leagues with any consistency there’s no reason for Online Franchise to even be offered in the product.
As far as head-to-head games within Online Franchise it’s probably best not to even bother right now. Rich Grisham and I attempted to complete a game three times last night and each one ended with a disconnect and hard locks of the consoles despite strong connections. Whether this trouble is related to Franchise specifically hasn’t been determined yet but online as a whole with The Show has been miserable its first two days of release.
The mode is certainly not as simple as setting up and maintaining an Online Franchise in Madden, NCAA Football, or NHL. However that can mostly be attributed to the complications in making it work for baseball. In that respect SCEA has done a good job of understanding the unique needs and offering options that deal with them.
None of that really matters though if games against other users are horrific experiences that may never reach completion and those against the CPU may not even be recorded in the end. Not only is this immediately concerning for those who bought the PS3 version but anyone waiting on the PS4 who had hopes of enjoying Online Franchise. Those consumers will have to consider it as there is no reason to expect the experience to be dramatically different on the new system.