MLB 09: The Show had 40-man rosters, but they didn't always work correctly--a fact the game's producers are quick to own up to. For example, if one of your players went on the injured reserve list, the game still counted that player as a member of your roster--meaning you couldn't replace him with a free agent or a minor league call-up. That has been resolved in MLB 10 at the behest of the vocal minority of diehards who live and breathe baseball as well as baseball video games. This time around, players you put on the IR will not count as a roster spot and can be replaced as in the real game.
That's a good example of the kinds of small but crucial adjustments Sony is making to its game this year. But in addition to the small details, the developers at Sony San Diego haven't forgotten the big things--such as how the game presents information to the player, which, in a stat-heavy game like baseball, plays a big role in how players understand and enjoy the game. For MLB 10, that means giving the player flexibility on what information he wants to see and what he wants to ignore. As the manager of a team, you'll be inundated with information on your team's finances, player transactions, and so much else. This year, the game will let you subscribe to the kinds of information you want to be notified of so that you can effectively ignore the rest. All of your team messages will be available in the message hub, but you have to "subscribe" for subjects to receive notifications of new messages.
MLB 10 will have 30-player Franchise mode, which will allow an unprecedented amount of control for players in their franchise. The system required an overhaul of sorts for how profiles are handled in MLB 10, and the result looks to be a very flexible system. For example, in addition to controlling your favorite team in all its minute detail, you'll be able to set things up so you can deal with lineups and injuries for every other team in the big leagues. That way, if Derek Jeter breaks his finger midway through the Yankees campaign, you'll be able to go to the Yanks' lineup and modify its lineup to reflect this--even if the Yankees aren't your franchise team. Franchise mode will also include a fully functional waiver system in MLB 10, including additions like waiver periods, trade waivers, and more. Producers estimate they had about 90 percent of the waiver system in last year's game, but baseball fans who love to dive neck-deep into the complexities of waivers should have a field day with this stuff.
The presentation in the MLB: The Show series has always been sterling, with a sharp broadcast look and the three-member announcing team of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Rex Hudler that continues to offer some of the best commentary in all of sports gaming. Those elements will be in full effect for MLB 10--including lots of new calls from Vasgersian and company--but it won't be the only way to watch the game in action. New for MLB 10 is the so-called real-time presentation, which dials back the metric ton of television broadcast overlays for a more natural look at the game, and there are lots of cutaways to different players on the field in between innings or between plays. For example, during a routine out at first base, I watched as the base runner made his way back to the dugout, being careful to walk around the pitching mound in the process.
You have two real-time presentation options: one with replays and the other without. What's interesting is that the camera cutaways are often sensitive to the context of the action on the field. For example, if your shortstop makes a boneheaded drop on a routine grounder, the presentation might cut to a replay and then to a cutaway shot of the shortstop on the field. In all, real-time presentation might not be a back-of-the-box feature designed to sell a few million extra copies of the game, but with the hundreds of animations that were captured to give the game its lifelike feel in between the action, it represents the lengths to which the developers at Sony San Diego have gone in order to provide a more complete baseball experience.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the final installment of our weeklong look at MLB 10: The Show.