This is my favorite time of the year.
Spring is in the air. Or maybe that’s the pollen here in Atlanta?
Regardless, it is still my favorite time of the year because baseball is in full swing once again. There is something spiritual, ethereal even, about opening day. As we joyfully crawl out of winter’s bitterness and life is born anew under the sun’s warmth, so goes the beginning of the baseball season. For those that love baseball, the crisp and joyous feeling of Spring air is synonymous with the nation’s pastime. For those who played or continue to play baseball, that feeling is amplified.
I am in this latter group. Before I could read, before I picked up a video game controller, before I did anything else, I played and love baseball. And I played until there were no longer any options.
When that feeling in the air arrived… when Spring was just rolling out of bed and shaking the sleep off, a switch would flip in me. I would start to get antsy, antsy to find my way on a baseball field. Without even thinking I’d dig my equipment out of my closet and start breaking in my glove and cleats. I’d begin working the kinks out of my swing and let my hands get acclimated to the bat again. When I finally was able to get my hand on a baseball again, it felt as though that which was missing for months was always there.
As March fades into April, I still get these feelings. I still find myself feeling antsy, the desire to swing a bat all but consumes me. Sadly, those days are behind me. I can’t just grab the equipment and play a pick up game. Plus, I came to the stark reality as a teenager that I wasn’t going to be the starting first baseman for the Chicago Cubs.
I wouldn’t bring a World Series victory to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. My number would never be retired and looked upon in reverence by future Cubs fans. My name would never be spoken within the pantheon of baseball greats.
Well… not in real life that is. Hence my love for the MLB: The Show series from San Diego Studios. Hell, that’s why I love baseball games in general.
I have played baseball games for over two decades. From Bases Loaded and RBI Baseball for NES to Ken Griffey Jr Presents Major League Baseball for SNES and Triple Play Baseball for Sega Genesis to the more recent MVP Baseball by EA Sports and the HORRIBLE MLB 2k series.
Some games were hits. Some were huge misses. At some point between Acclaim’s All-Star Baseball for N64 and MVP Baseball 2005 (a truly marvelous baseball game by EA) I came across the early incarnations of the MLB series by 989 Sports (San Diego Studio’s predecessor). I was never a fan of these games. Player models were blocky and graphics were subpar even into the early stages of the PS3. Even the algorithm to calculate stats throughout a simulated season was poorly designed. A season would end where a created player with fairly good skill ratings would hit something like 38 home runs, but only 40 RBIs which meant the player was the king of the solo shot. The game just was not realistic. After about two incarnations I gave up on the series and vowed to never play another 989 Sports baseball game.
Even with the series moving over to San Diego Studios (early 00’s I believe) and adding the”The Show” component, the series fell off of my radar. With 2k Sports gaining full ownership of the MLB license, I suffered through several years of mediocre–at best–games. The fact that I had access to only a Xbox 360 did not help.
Then I moved in with my current roommate (who owned a PS3) and I was converted over to the Sony side. That was about the same time MLB: The Show entered my life again. I was perusing the nearby Best Buy and MLB 12: The Show’s demo was set up. The game made me stop in my tracks and I played several innings. I have been hooked on this series ever since. Not only is it one of my favorite sports games, it is one of my favorite games of all time.
San Diego Studios’ attention to detail is astonishing and the atmosphere of the ballpark is spot on. Best of all, the Road to the Show mode allowed me to live out my baseball dreams through a video game. Even more impressive has been San Diego Studios’ ability to improve upon the previous year’s incarnation; unlike a certain other sports series.
So when the PS4 was announced my mind immediately jumped to the possibilities of how amazing the next-gen version of MLB: The Show could be. All I could do was think about what the game would be like with the power of the PS4.
When early screenshots were released earlier this year, I was definitely impressed.
Now we have gameplay footage.
Such was my response:
Go ahead. Take the time to watch the videos and marvel in the beauty that is MLB 14: The Show on PS4.
The first video, seen below, simply shows off the stadiums in the PS4 version.
The most noticeable change is the immense detail in stadiums. With more horsepower at their hands, SDS were able to add and refine even the smallest things in stadiums. Much like other developers pay attention to the smallest details of a character’s face (SDS does this with player models also), the studio took just as much care with the stadiums.
Ballparks are just as important to baseball as the players on the field. Calling them cathedrals would not be hyperbolic in the least. Walking out to your seat and into the warm embrace of a ballpark can strike the same awe-inspiring feeling one gets when walking into the Notre Dame de Paris or the Haga Sophia or the Winchester Cathedral. Beauty and joy envelope you as the past, present, and future all converge on one magical moment.
San Diego Studios understands this. It is as though they too have experienced that magical moment, and seek to convey their own experience through designing the game’s ballparks. The studio already had this down pact as the ballparks improved with each incarnation over the last few years, but the PS4 takes it to a new level. Surfaces and objects that were flat and one-dimensional pop more than ever. Structures have more depth to them. You can even see some of the wear and tear in older stadiums. Suffice it to say, I was rather satisfied.
Then, as if my excitement wasn’t already at full tilt, a second video (an interview conducted by PS Nation) was released:
The above video demonstrates why I am so excited about this game.
Some may watch the video and not understand what excites me, but there are details that make it nearly impossible for me to patiently wait for the game’s release. Admittedly they are small details–details that most may overlook or find inconsequential–but they excite me nonetheless.
The lighting, in particular, is stunning. Watch the short bit of a night game starting at about the 4 min 30 sec mark. Do you see what I’m talking about?
Oh. You don’t? Okay. Watch it again. See that dull glow? The dull glow that comes only from ballpark lights? That’s it! That is what has me excited. Why am I so excited about a mundane lighting effect? Because it is not so mundane to me. That dull glow from the lights, that feeling that comes from playing under the lights can only be experienced or understood by those that have actually played under the lights.
It is an unexplainable feeling; an ethereal experience if you will. One that stirs up joy and excitement. For a game, just from a simple lighting effect, to incite fond memories of night games and to even make me feel like I am under the lights again, is simply phenomenal. A game studio’s ability to do just this illustrates the power and appeal of a brilliantly made simulation.
*Sigh* May 6th can’t come soon enough.
***Update 4/14/2014*** Playstation and San Diego Studios has just released the below video to show off the change in fielding fly balls. The ball marker is actually influenced by the player’s fielding rating. This may take some getting used to.
***Update 4/17/2014*** Playstation and San Diego Studios just released the below video this morning, showing off more gameplay footage. Check out the small things like individual blades off grass being torn up by a diving player. Look again at the details in the stadiums. Even look at the details of hairstyles, beards, and even the equipment. This game is beautiful.