Baseball’s preeminent video game series is about to offer some interactive history lessons.
"MLB The Show 19," slated for release March 26 exclusively for PlayStation 4, unveiled a new game mode this week called Moments. The addition to the critically acclaimed franchise allows players to recreate various feats in the history of the game.
Ramone Russell, community manager and game designer at Sony Interactive Entertainment, noted to amNewYork during a private demo last Thursday in Manhattan that the "MLB The Show" fan base had been asking for more varied offline experiences than the staples Road to the Show (RTTS), a career mode, and team sim Franchise mode. Thus, Moments was born.
"The community wanted the situations. They didn’t exactly know what it was [that they wanted]," Russell said. "It’s like [a] faster horses thing. ‘Oh, I want faster horses.’ No, you want a car. It just hasn’t been invented yet."
Moments will task players with achieving specific goals, such as hitting back-to-back home runs as father-son teammates Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. memorably did in a 1990 regular-season game. The challenges can range from a single at-bat to a lengthy series of games. Completing Moments will work toward unlocking players and equipment to be used in modes like RTTS and the online centerpiece Diamond Dynasty.
These Moments won’t be limited to repeating history. Fantasy scenarios will be made available, as well. That includes pitting the legendary Babe Ruth against modern pitching, playing out the scenario newly minted New York Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino brashly asserted last year would consistently go his way.
Russell said Moments will be regularly supported throughout the upcoming season with new challenges for players.
"In 2019, when stuff happens in real baseball, we can put those Moments in the game," he said.
Other additions to the latest iteration include more layers to off-the-field interactions in RTTS, tweaks to fielder reactions and adjustments to the difficulty scale. The lowest difficulty tiers are now more accessible, while those who seek a greater challenge may get their wish on the hardest setting, Legend. Russell said the decisions were motivated by gameplay data the developer tracks.
"We knew most people weren’t very good at hitting, but what we found out last year was people are worse than they think they are," Russell said. "Which is incredible, because I’m bad at the game, but I’m actually way worse than I even know.
"And, on the flip side, what we found out was the game on the top end wasn’t hard enough, so we had this two-pronged issue," he continued.
In this year’s edition, Russell noted that Legend difficulty will feature increased pitch speeds to help ramp up the challenge. Conversely, pitch speeds are now slower on the lower settings. In addition, swing timing is now a greater factor at the plate than before, downplaying in part the role the Plate Coverage Indicator (PCI) mechanic plays in making good contact.
Russell said the development team has seen that the results of the adjustments for accessibility are working as they hoped.
"What we’ve seen in all of our tests is people have started to get better at the game," Russell said. "So, that’s been wonderful."
Additionally, Sony was not ready to lift the lid on another new offline mode, which will be revealed in the lead-up to next month’s release.