Smart Design Decisions Overshadowed by Reliability Concerns in Early MLB 14: The Show Online Franchise Mode Testing

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Posted April 3rd, 2014 at 10:45 am

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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.

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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.

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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.

  • Keith.

    Sure it’s not your PS3? Looks like the 3 Rich Grisham tried to play with you, are the only games he had trouble with.

    “Rich Grisham ‏@RichGrisham 13h
    5 online games of The Show tonight. 2 died midway thru, locked up PS3. 1 died at start. 2 made it to completion. .400 average. #HallOfFame”

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      The two he completed were not in franchise. Just basic online games (which he said were terrible performance wise even though they finished).

  • Keith.

    From OS:

    “Russell,

    I have been hyping my dad up about MLB The Show. He is a baseball guy and has never played a great baseball game before. I convinced him into a PS4 which finally gives him access to The Show finally. Long story short, we play together in online franchises like NCAA or Madden. This year since we are both on PS4, we have been doing the Madden 25 online thing.

    Will these same issues be present on PS4? This could be a major game changer for him considering he plays ZERO games offline. He is all about online human competition. So I don’t want to sell him on the game being amazing then he gets it in hand and online play is near impossible.

    Basically my question, is this something that can be improved before May 6th?”

    Russell:
    “Well it really depends on a few factors none of which I currently can answer with at this time.

    1. Will title update number 2 be live before May 6.
    2. In said update I don’t know how much of an improvement can be made. Because I can’t see into the future. Maybe it’s a big improvement maybe not so much. Maybe the big improvement comes in title update #3. Or in the worse case scenario a huge improvement never happens for this cycle.

    The online experience will most definitely improve over the next update or two I just don’t know by how much and the timeline currently.”

    • Bidwellz9 .

      lol russel is good at not giving any onfo but making it sound like he did.

      • jake

        This is so true.

      • Keith.

        I’ve been reading Russell’s info for 7 or 8 years now. Personally, I think he’s one of the best in the business, and am awfully glad he’s part of The Show’s team. You’re obviously entitled to your own opinions, though.

      • cextra

        Russell is half the time dismissive and rude to people with concerns, the other half the time says stuff that doesnt even answer questions. Its just the OS crowd who bow down to anyone from that company who panders to them. Hes just a PR guy who will say what he needs to even when its not true or ignore problems people want answers to.

        • Keith.

          I’d be dismissive too if I had to deal with the idiots that he does, year after year after year.

    • Casor_Greener

      Keith what does this ilustrate? The fact that online is trash?

  • jake

    With how shitty online has been for the show i knew better than to expect this mode to work.

  • Mike Query

    Online is terrible for every single game that comes out for the first couple of weeks, why do people even freak out and act surprised? Ill guarantee these guys fix their problems MUCH quicker than 2K did.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      EA Sports games don’t have similar issues. They can be criticized for a lot but they’ve done a great job with online features and reliability.

      • Keith.

        Not true. NBA2k14 hasn’t had problems with online in months.

        • Ryan Perry

          I’d qualify everything about Online Leagues in 2k14 as a ‘problem’.

      • Mike Query

        The Show is always laggy as hell online the first few days and then its always been perfectly fine for me after that.

        Not defending them per say, as the fact that they cant get their shit together in a timing is everything sport like baseball is quite frustrating, but they are better than anyone else when it comes to feedback and fixing their problems.

        If EA gave have the effort that the devs from the Show give over on OS and actually listened to feedback and answered questions, maybe people wouldnt despise that company and most of the games they make.

        I shouldnt say people, the 12 year olds that they make NHL and Madden for probably love it, as its geared for people who try to exploit the terrible AI and the do the same play or shot over and over, but no sim player can enjoy playing either of those games unless they have specific people to play against that arent douches.

        I cant really speak on 2k, as this is the first one ive bought in years just because I needed a ps4 game. But judging that ps4 game, the amount of headaches I get because of the crap that happens in that game or because of the million things they left out is a pain in the ass, expecially for someone like me with diminishing interested in the awful basketball they play in the NBA.

    • Bidwellz9 .

      the show never had good online, the entire cycle of the game, so this isnt new and people freaking out have a right

    • Keith.

      I agree, but 2K got their online problems straightened out pretty quickly, too. There was basically like a week where they had problems, but I haven’t seen anybody complaining about NBA2k14 online since January.

      • PPerfect_CJ

        Because that’s about the time everyone gave up and quit playing it…

        • Keith.

          You’d never know it from the amount of people in The Park, or from the monthly sales numbers.

      • CSaint

        A WEEK ??????? YOU ARE KIDDING

  • Nate

    Pasta you be hating for real. Didn’t see any post about offering a trade up to the ps4 for a discount. Or the fact that your game save will carry over to the next system. But you made sure to tell the negatives.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      Huh? First of all, that Gamestop deal isn’t a deal at all. You can sell your game for $40 within the first month its out.

      And full articles, podcasts, and hangouts discussing the save migration don’t count?

      http://www.pastapadre.com/2013/11/05/save-migration-to-future-titles-being-introduced-with-mlb-14-the-show

    • Keith.

      The Show added new dynamic hitting and fielding camera angles this year, a new dynamic difficulty setting, changes to outfield fielding, pitchers looking back runners with a new camera, new batting stances and a bunch of new animations, and yet here we are, almost 4 days after the game was released, and NONE of this stuff has received 1 word of mention. After all these years, though, I can’t say that I’m surprised.

      • ericcV

        So many websites are talking about these things you listed! Oh that’s right, none are, because they are so niche and there are bigger things that matter to talk about.

        • Keith.

          Yeah — online play’s so much more important than regular old gameplay changes/additions. LoL

      • Casor_Greener

        LOL none of that can be seen as real improvement

      • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

        None of those things have stood out to me in all the time I’ve played the game so far. In the two hour podcast the panel recorded last night all about thoughts on The Show, the only one of those that came up was Dynamic Difficulty so that one might be worth looking at further. Just because something is on a features list that the company puts out doesn’t mean articles have to be written on every little thing because ultimately they are not all going to be impactful. The focus has to be on what makes a difference whether it’s for the game’s better or worse to the general consumer.

        • Keith.

          Personally, all the things I mentioned have made a far bigger difference to my enjoyment of the game, than anything to do with netcode. I’ve always loved The Show, and the gameplay changes this year make it even better. Too bad there aren’t many reviewers out there who care about such things.

          • Casor_Greener

            Your obvious fanboyism of The Show destroys much of the credibility you established with your attack on Madden. You have to stop this nonsense and admit this game, although very good, has been slipping.

  • Rob

    So basically 2K, but with The Show?

  • Bidwellz9 .

    pasta your screening comments now? so your being selective with what readers see? no bueno my friend

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      Have been for like a year now and it’s worked. It’s extremely rare for a comment to be so over the line that I don’t clear it through.

  • BZE

    Welp. Not buying the PS4 version now since the main reason was to play Online Fran with some friends of mine.

  • HustlinOwl

    No more excuses in 2014 for online play to be as terrible as it has with this series and all reviewers continue to overlook this. With PS Plus required for PS4, us as consumers should not tolerate this faulty BS or SCEA needs to remove the PS Plus requirement to play online if it is going to be as bad as this.

    • Casor_Greener

      You knew the online would be trash. It’s all about offline franchise mayne

  • burjeffton

    Got the PS4 primed and ready to go. Just paid my $50 for PS Plus. A bad online experience isn’t going to bode well in 2014.

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