Tag Archives: baseball

I Cannot Believe A Sports Game Has Been My Big Time Sinker This Year

It’s not that I don’t play sports games. Ever since I was little, I loved playing sports games, whether it was NHLPA Hockey 93′ and Mutant League Hockey on the SEGA Genesis, Super Batter Up on the Super Nintendo, NBA Jam at arcades, NHL Hitz 2002 on the PlayStation 2, hell I used to play the NHL series for 4 years in a row online all the time during my Xbox 360 days.

But I burned out. Especially after playing the NHL games for so long and way too seriously, I destroyed my love for these games. Oh and EA Sports had a bit of a hand in that as well, hard for those greedy bastards not to be involved in some way. But for the past 5 years, sports games have been limited to at best 20-30 hours of me playing whatever the game has as an offline “Be a Pro” kind of mode, where I get to play my way up the ladder into becoming the greatest of all-time. Except…I never reach that point. I usually fizzle out of the games around halfway into my first season as a pro player. I get bored really easily, so playing the same thing over and over again usually does go over with me very well and I end up dropping the game pretty quick.

So imagine my surprise after picking up the newest copy of MLB The Show 18 on PlayStation 4. I played the previous year’s edition, probably put like I said before, about 20-30 hours into it. I didn’t hate it, I just can’t play those kinds of games for very long. Well, at least until this edition.

Some of the big names you can unlock through grinding in the game’s “Diamond Dynasty” mode.

Now I think it helped getting into the game a bit later than others, as I started the game in the summer, whereas the game launched at the end of March. But where the game really hooked me was its “Diamond Dynasty” mode, which to EA Sports players, it’s their equivalent to the various Ultimate Team modes out there. You start out getting a ‘meh’ at best set of cards, with no superstars in sight and you work your way towards building the best baseball team possible, using both present day and past players. Hell, there’s even a few “Future Stars” cards where you have beefed up versions of rookies that could potentially be huge stars in a couple years, for example the first one being the Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr.

You play ballgame after ballgame, whether offline or online, grinding out stats on various players and teams, collecting items to complete various collections and all of this unlocks bigger and better players to make your team even more lethal. Y’know, I’m not going to sit here and say it’s some revolutionary thing, but as a veteran RPG player, what this game offered me was perfectly in line with how I enjoy playing JRPGs. I level up, gain more stuff and I’m more powerful as I go on. In MLB 18, I play a few games, achieve either a one-game mission where for example I need to get 3 hits and 2 stolen bases in the same game, or perhaps a much larger long-term mission where I need to grind out say 50 hits and 25 doubles. I’m always working towards something in the end and that’s what ends up keeping me going. I’m not just playing for no reason, I’m continually working at something, with a goal in mind and a reward at the end. I have a full-page Excel document that has all the missions I’m currently working on, as well as missions waiting in the wings as soon as I have an open spot available. Clearing off missions for me is a little like spring cleaning, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment (yes that pun is completely intended, EA.) making that list a little smaller.

Admittedly, it also helps that I use this game as my “doesn’t demand my full attention” option when I’m listening to live shows, podcasts and more. I’m a podcast junkie, I’ve got at least 30 followed on my Spotify list and a third of them I’m listening to religiously. Maybe I’ll do a post someday about what I’m listening to and give you folks a few suggestions (hold me to this, I won’t remember…) that you might not have been aware of. But yeah, the game doesn’t really demand too much, so it’s a great multi-tasker for me, I can play the game and grind out a couple missions to completion and I can also listen to whatever I need to catch up on and just soak all that information in. I think that, large in part is how this game is working so well for me, because other games I’m big into like Destiny 2, Monster Hunter World and most single-player games where I want to hear everything, they don’t work when I have 3-5 podcasts I also want to listen to as well.

An example of the collections. Mine is a lot more complete than this.

What’s also made this year’s edition better for me is that unlike last year’s edition where I felt I got a respectable number of decent players. I got a couple of Diamond-level players, which is the highest rank, going from Level 85-99, but not many. This year, I’m literally less than 10 present day (or Live Series as they call it in-game) players away from completing the entire collection. Now if we’re talking other cards, I’ve still got a ways to go, there’s a lot of grinding left to do and I definitely won’t finish it all, but the fact I can look at my collection this year and not only see some progress, but a LOT of progress? When taking into account as well that I wasn’t frustrated or bored the entire way through thus far, that’s a major plus.

And the biggest part of it? I spent less than $40 to do what I’ve done. I got the game on sale and I haven’t spent a penny on microtransactions in the game, so to all the suckers out there throwing hundreds of dollars at fake currency just so you can own that extremely rare 94 overall Mike Trout? Suck it, cause I got one without praying for luck in a card pack (aka a loot box) or buying tons of stubs (the game’s currency) to get him. Patience and hard work pays off.

To those reading this that are actually familiar with the game, I’ve been playing the game on and off since June. I never played online and refuse to at this point, as the way people play and try to use every glitch in the book to win a single fake baseball game, it’s not worth it to me. I’ve done everything offline for mission grinding and in terms of making currency, I just slowly worked away at the game’s marketplace and grew my stub numbers over time. I think it helps that I’m so good at micro-managing things, so I was always paying attention to what I was doing and not getting suckered into spending the stubs I’d made through hard work on loot boxes that would’ve never gotten me anything. For example, any pack I’ve ever open has never landed me a Diamond card. Ever. So instead of hoping for luck to shine on me, I always set myself goals and limits that made it work. And to progress the way I’ve had, it feels pretty damn good!

In the end, I think the biggest help is that I am a baseball fan through and through. I played from the age of 6 until I was 14, now I’m back to playing Slo-Pitch Softball with friends and co-workers (I don’t mean to brag, but I’m actually super good. All those years training to be an anime protagonist paid off!) and staying healthy through that, along with other sports. But baseball is my bread and butter, it’s always been a big part of my life, so it’s not that surprising to me that if a sports game was going to really grab my attention this year, it’s a baseball game.

I think it also just has to do with so many other genres starting to dwindle with me. I’m completely Destiny-ed out, I’m finding it really hard to pick up the game and grind some more, even though I don’t necessarily hate the game. I’ve put over 2000 total hours into the series thus far, I’m burning myself out. Open world games aren’t grabbing me the way they used to, there aren’t a lot of great JRPGs out there these days (though I am waiting for Dragon Quest to drop in price…) and I’m also just waiting for games I want to play to go on sale, cause it’s harder and harder for me to justify paying full price for games that I’m not 100% sure I’m going to love.

So I’ll take a baseball game I paid about half-price for, being the game that’s been my time sinker this year. I always need one.

 

Saturday Morning Rant: “It’s Early”

“It’s early.”

Those words are ringing in my ears over and over again right now. I’m a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan and at the time I’m writing this, their record is 3-12. For a team that us fans anticipated and expected to compete for a playoff spot, this isn’t exactly the start we were looking for. At the same time, it’s even worse in our heads because the offense of the team is extremely lackluster. There are 196 batters currently listed for batting averages and three starters for the Blue Jays are in the bottom ten, in fact they occupy 190th, 191st and 192nd on the list. That is fucking horrendous.

But even worse, after I’m already pissed off about how badly the Blue Jays are playing right now, all I keep hearing in my ears are those two words I mentioned at the start: “It’s early.”, as in there’s 147 games left in the season, calm down, they’ll recover. Here’s the thing, folks, only winning 3 of your last 15 games is never a good thing at any time in the season, so why is it suddenly okay because it’s the start. If this was July and they had a 3-12 run, people would be freaking out, but because it’s April, it’s okay.

Here’s some math for you folks. For the Blue Jays to get back to being a .500 team, they’d have to go 78-69 the rest of the way. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Let’s add onto that. Last year, the Jays and Orioles were the two wildcard teams in the American League and they both had the same record of 89-73. Assuming that’s the bare minimum to make the playoffs again this year, the Jays now have to go 86-61 the rest of the season. That’s a .585 baseball team from now until the end of the season. Basically, the Jays have to win 2 of every 3 games for the rest of the year. I’m not the best at math, but I can see how difficult being a .585 team is going to be. The best team last season were the Chicago Cubs who were a .640 team at 103-58 and in the entire league, only two other teams played above .585 by the end of the season, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals and guess what? They’re only .001 above that at .586!

So with the lack of offense and the several pitching injuries already this season, I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable for the average baseball fan and Blue Jays fan to think that the season may already be over. Could they recover? Of course they could, but what are the odds now?! They basically have to be the best team in baseball the rest of the way through at this point and each loss that brings them further under being a .500 team alone pushes the bar even higher for the team to have to achieve in response.

In fact, right now the projection for the Jays to make the playoffs is at 15% and let’s be honest, the only reason it’s that high is because the AL East is a weaker division right now. The Chicago White Sox are 7-7 but are at 0.3% because everyone knows it’s either the Indians and maybe the Tigers in the wildcard spot. Upon checking another site, they have the Jays at an even worse 10.5% (they’re nicer to the White Sox at 7.7%) and I fully expect that number to drop further as time goes on here.

Sorry folks, but the Jays ain’t making the playoffs this year. Better pick a secondary team to watch this year. I’ll take Cleveland and watch Edwin Encarnacion actually see a World Series and quite possibly win one.

Game Spotlight: Super Mega Baseball

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If there’s any sport I love to play, it’s baseball. I played it all the way through my childhood, I play it again now in recreational leagues, so out of any sport, this is the one I love the most. And yes that includes being above hockey, which I’m pretty sure is an offense worthy of deportation in Canada.

But when it comes to baseball games, I really haven’t played a lot of baseball games since the SNES era of arcade sports games. I’ve said it before and I say it a ton now, sports games nowadays are boring as fuck, EA Sports has killed a genre of games that used to be thriving. You just don’t see a ton of arcade sports games anymore, games like NBA Jam, NHL Hitz, NFL Blitz, they just don’t exist anymore. You want a crazy, over-the-top sports game, you have to buy a Nintendo console and deal with Mario’s bullshit.

So when a game like Super Mega Baseball suddenly appeared on my PS4, I jumped at it full force.

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Super Mega Baseball is an arcade baseball game produced by Metalhead Software (Canadian!) where the American pasttime has been stripped down to its bare essentials. Instead of in-depth batting, pitching, fielding, infinite strategies and whatever else you have to throw into your “realistic” baseball game to make it passable at best, Super Mega Baseball keeps it simple. Every pitcher has the same kind of pitches, there’s no crazy defensive system, it’s like the old games. You run at the ball and you throw to the base. The game also doesn’t throw in random stuff like wind speeds, cutscenes to make it look like a real broadcast, hell there isn’t even any announcing where you hear the same 10 lines through the entire game. You just load up the game and play the fucking game! What a novel concept!

The only real complex thing is its difficulty system. You can just turn up the difficulty when it gets too easy, but what the system also allows you to do is tweak specific categories. Are you really bad at the plate, but a really good pitcher? Set the difficulty accordingly. Is the fielding way too easy? Turn that shit up! You can customize the difficulties of batting, pitching, running and fielding to the amount that makes every game just enough challenging for you without making every facet of the game a chore. So if you want to be able to hit 10 runs an inning and then challenge yourself to hold those ridiculous leads, turn the batting to 1 and the pitching to 99.

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In terms of the game modes, there’s not a whole lot of options, which sucks. There’s no online play to this game, multiplayer is strictly local which really sucks for me as I’ve played this game a ton. There’s just exhibition and season modes, no home run derbies, no playoff modes, nothing of the sort. Obviously in a game like this, a GM mode or a Be-A-Pro mode makes no sense, but to have just a little more than Exhibition and Season mode, it would’ve been nice.

What really sells the game though for me, is the ridiculous world and cast of characters they have. Some of the names of the players in the game (before you customize them, which I totally have) are fucking hysterical. Names like Rolf Steak, Hurley Bender, Holder Close, Theodore Stiffner. I love it! And having various team names like the Sirloins, the Platypi and the Herbivores are also kinda funny and they have their own specialties, some are power hitting teams, some are speedsters, some are pitching expers. I’m shocked that there wasn’t a power hitter though named Jack Ripper, so I fixed that real quick. Also, there are girls as well in the game, it’s not a boys-only club.

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I love arcade sports games and out of the ones I’ve played the last little while, Super Mega Baseball is the best of them all. It’s a great casual game to play a couple games in and then setting it aside for a couple days before coming back to it. And it’s yet to get old to me, I can keep ramping up the difficulty, change the characters, mess with their stats and keep the game fresh every time I play it. And I love it!

Game Spotlight: MLB Power Pros 2008

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Not every game that I spotlight is going to be your classic Game of the Year, a JRPG, a massive open world with an amazing story and all that fantastic jazz. Sometimes a really good game is just that, a really good game.

I’m also a big sports guy, baseball and hockey being my two vices in the sports world. But if I had to make a choice, I’d pick baseball, regardless of the fact I’d be deported from Canada for choosing any other sport over hockey. But my childhood was with baseball, I played it all the way through elementary school and continue to play it now in co-ed rec. leagues whenever I can.

Now sports games are hard to find in terms of being anything other than a “realistic simulator” like all the EA Sports games are. When it comes to baseball, there are games now like Super Mega Baseball and the returning RBI Baseball games that offer a more arcade-like style to a baseball game. But the most memorable non-realistic baseball game for me has been the MLB Power Pros games, specifically MLB Power Pros 2008.

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Originally a Japan-specific baseball series known as Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū, the MLB Power Pros series was the games’ first rounds in the American markets as well, trading in their usual Japanese teams for MLB teams and replacing real-life models for a chibi, bobblehead like look to the players.

The games are very arcade-like, but retain the simple realistic style that baseball games have. Out of any sport, baseball is the easiest to make like real life cause really all you have to do is have a ball being thrown and hit and then have people running around bases, there’s no contact to keep making new physics engines for, there’s not a ton of crazy rules to worry about, it’s very straight-forward. So while the gameplay is a lot like your average baseball game, the series works around that through its environments and its unique “Success Mode”, which is my favourite thing about the series.

Success Mode is almost like a Persona-style baseball story mode where you start out in the minors and work your way to the major leagues. During this process you have to not only play well, but decide how your player is going to develop, whether you want to be a power hitter, contact hitter, speedster, expert fielder and that’s just if you want to be a fielder, not a pitcher. There’s also potential relationships you can form amongst other things. The mode is really hard too, you have to have a decent game every game, otherwise you’ll find yourself getting fired from the club real quick. But the mode itself is a cute and sometimes funny story mode, something so unique from your standard sports game.

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There’s also the MLB Life mode that’s similar to Success Mode, but you’re in the major leagues and there’s a little more to do with less of a time constraint. If you managed to get your created player through Success Mode as well, he becomes available for MLB Life as well. It’s a fun mode, very unique from the usual Be A Player kind of mode that most sports games offer. This mode is literally the life of a major league baseball player, not just being a player and playing every game. You choose how to workout, you choose from a few hobbies to have, you can talk to everyone, like your teammates, agents, managers, even the ladies *wink wink*. There’s a lot to do and with the mode being very casual, it doesn’t tax you on same-y gameplay like most realistic sports games can.

If you like baseball and have either a Wii/WiiU or a PS2, check out the two MLB Power Pros games, but specifically the 2008 release. They’re super fun sports games, unlike the usually bland yearly releases that we see from other companies every year.

Enough With The “Sanctity of the Game” Bullshit!

la-sp-sn-texas-toronto-brawl-bautista-punched--001

I saw the events that lead to the bench-clearing brawl during last night’s Toronto Blue Jays/Texas Rangers game.

Now I’m a Blue Jays fan, so I’ll try my best not to be too biased here. Based on what I saw, I saw a team that has no balls and waited until the last possible moment to get revenge on Jose for his bat flip during Game 5 of their ALDS matchup back in October. If you had any amount of guts and/or balls, why didn’t you nail him in Game 1 of the season in Toronto? But no, you decided to wait until has final at-bat in the final game you’ll face off all season. Cowardly.

After Bush drilled Bautista, I think everything that happened was fine and understandable. Jose was pissed that they waited till the very end to drill him, so he decided he wasn’t letting them leave with the last laugh, hence the super-aggressive slide into second on Odor. Then of course Odor’s pissed off cause he nearly got seriously injured, so he took offense to that and ended up drilling Jose with a punch that normally in MMA would knock a motherfucker out, so give Jose credit for staying up on his feet after that shot.

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However, after all that I still have a common thought, regardless of what side I’m on with this brawl: I am so sick and tired of professional athletes getting all up in a tizzy over the “sanctity of the game”.

When Jose Bautista did his infamous bat flip in Game 5 of the ALDS, so many players, sports personalities, writers, everyone talked about how unprofessional Jose was and how it’s “ruining” baseball and the sanctity of the game. All I have to say in response to that, is grow the fuck up, especially if you’re a player saying this. You’re making millions of dollars playing a game, grow the fuck up, stop acting like a child by going “I don’t like that!” at something that you deem as unprofessional. And then when someone or an entire team retaliates to that very thing, it doesn’t exactly make you look much better, in fact you’re no longer the “bigger man” in all this. You’re now on Jose’s level, if that’s how you felt about him after the bat flip.

I’m so sick and tired of sports being treated like it’s a wealthy family’s fancy dinner party. You show up in a suit (one thing I despise about hockey, I think it’s a dumb “tradition”), you’re polite, you behave in a professional manner, all that shit. This isn’t a fucking ball like a dance, this is baseball, or maybe football, basketball, hockey, it’s a sport. Do the majority of fans who attend games treat it like a professional, business-class outing? No! They treat it like a fun, rowdy source of entertainment.

I really do hate this...
I really do hate this…

It’s all about the bullshit old man’s tradition that they smack into these players when they’re young and not jaded yet. Honestly, I really don’t understand this idea that you show up like you’re about to attend a business conference with the major stockholders of a company and then change into a jersey, striped socks, tons of armor (aka pads) and in the case of hockey, skates as you get ready to go out and play a game where you shoot a piece of rubber into a net while constantly hitting people and once in a while getting into a fight. I’m sorry Don Cherry, I love ya, but I’m 100% on the other side of the fence on this, I don’t care about the young kids looking good and professional in their suits. I’m a sports fan, not a businessman.

Going back to the baseball brawl, the same is true about the bat flip. Who gives a fuck if Jose did that, it was a great moment of pure emotions. Would have I been pissed if that happened with a Texas player instead? Technically no, I would’ve been pissed that we gave up the lead, not because he flipped the bat. These “professionals” need to fucking get over themselves and realize that there’s nothing all that professional about playing a sport, it’s only professional in name.

As a fan, I want to see those emotional moments. You can say whatever you want about the bat flip and the brawl seven months later, but you can’t deny it was entertaining. I want to see teams hate each other, I want to see players celebrate over-the-top, so long as it doesn’t delay the game. Most of all, I want these players to look like they’re having fun playing the sport they love. They’re getting paid a fuck-ton of money to do it too, they have little to no reason to be pissed off about anything.

So quit it with the professional bullshit in sports. It’s hard to find a reason to take you seriously when your sport also relies on alcohol as a major sponsor. Because being drunk is so professional.