The franchise mode concept is perhaps the greatest innovation within the sports video game genre. Adding online components has only made the option even deeper. In most games, the online franchise mode has noticeable limitations when compared to its offline versions.
It’s still early, but it appears that MLB 14 The Show is ready to buck that trend and unleash the power gamers pray for in an online franchise.
On Tuesday, Sony hit me with the details of the mode for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions of the game. It’s hard to find a crack in this virtual diamond.
Game developers Luis Martinez and Lance Leahy dished out the details in the mode. Here’s what they had to say about each aspect.
Per Martinez and Leahy, you automatically become the league commissioner when you create an online franchise. As you can see from the image above, there are several options and tweaks you can make in this role.
You can kick off a realignment initiative, change the schedule type, eliminate the designated hitter or have it used in both leagues.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this part of the information is the ability to use custom rosters in an online franchise. That, my fellow baseball fans, is a rarity in all sports games and should not be taken lightly. Most versions of online franchise modes restrict gamers to the default roster or the official roster managed by the game’s developers and roster updaters.
Being able to create custom rosters for you and your friends to use is pretty exciting.
As cool as this sounds, being the hardcore, never-satisfied sports gamer that I am, I had to ask about one other routinely ignored but important detail:
Will gamers be able to start their online franchises with a fantasy draft?
Per Martinez and Leahy, the response was:
Absolutely. Users can create a new online franchise with draft set to on … allowing 6-30 users to hold a full fantasy draft. Draft can of course be set to “Off.” Users can also upload any custom roster (they’ve created or pull one from the community Roster Vault) and start a league with it. Default disc rosters are also an option. We’ve made sure to make the system as flexible as possible.
This is excellent news. Quite honestly, the only thing that could curtail this aspect of the game is poor-performing servers. Cross your fingers and toes on that front.
Live Amateur Draft
Baseball’s amateur draft doesn’t get the hoopla that the NBA and NFL draft receives, mostly because it takes a while for even the most highly touted players to make an impact with the major league team. Because of that dynamic, it's even more important to scout well and have accurate projections on the potential development of prospects.
In MLB 14 The Show, each user-controlled owner will be able to participate in a live amateur draft. There will be scouting reports generated for prospects throughout the online franchise experience. To remain competitive, each user must pay attention to these reports and craft a plan to draft and sign potential stars of the future.
Per Martinez and Leahy:
“Without proper scouting reports, you’ll have a much tougher time trying to distinguish between future superstars and draft-day busts.”
The Full Minor League System
Fans of the series have been clamoring for this for years, but it appears gamers will finally get full control of an organization’s entire minor league system. The fact that this control is also being granted online is an even bigger plus.
Per Martinez and Leahy:
You’ll be able to move players up and down from Class-A all the way to the majors, set training assignments, and also pull-off trades with other teams. Our trade logic has been greatly improved as well, so forget about lopsided trades involving three top prospects for an average major league middle reliever.
The offseason is cut into two parts. In the first section, users manage the contracts of players on their teams by signing them to extensions or renewing their deals. There are arbitration cases and the aforementioned draft signings. The player contract-signing logic has been revamped, per Martinez and Leahy.
Now young stars are more difficult to lock up with long-term extensions. In previous versions, gamers could cheat the system and sign young players to cheap, unrealistic deals. I guess that still happens if your name is Mike Trout, but in most situations, that should never occur.
Contracts like the one the Chicago Cubs signed Anthony Rizzo to are much more the norm. That will reportedly be reflected in MLB 14 The Show.
The second part of the offseason is the free-agent signing period. It’s divided into rounds. Each user will get an opportunity to make their best offer for a free agent. Once that’s been completed, the commissioner can advance to the next round.
The players will either sign with the team or remain unsigned and available to bid on for the next round of free agency. The fact that these bidding wars will include human-controlled teams makes things even more fun.
Building a Legacy
Player cards will now include all the information you’d find on most bubble-gum cards. Draft classes, retirements, career stats and awards on the back of the virtual card.
In addition, league events and notifications will also be tracked on the cards.
The game is shaping up nicely on both PS3 and PS4. Stay tuned for more information leading up to the April 1 release on PS3 and the May release for PS4.
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