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MLB The Show Fielding Logic

The Code

A “code stack” is a phrase used discussing programming language architecture. In gaming, we experience many parameters of code when we play on the user interface (G.U.I.) level. Sony San Diego Studios has been building on a foundational gameplay engine for years.

This article explores the animation branching technology used to build the gameplay fielding engine in MLB the Show ’19 and ‘20. This analysis is based on gameplay testing only.

The developers at Sony are creating digital baseball worlds — they need as much flexibility and customization as possible.

It is in the realm of possibility that SDS uses a mix of C++ and Python to build their flagship baseball title.

C++ is extremely useful in building engines and logic from scratch. For a game to operate and function the way we want, it is likely C++ was used in the underlying locomotion engine. The developers at SDS are creating digital baseball worlds — they need as much flexibility and customization as possible.

A.I. can be programmed using the Python language in most settings. Python allows developers to write with simple yet powerful syntax. Less syntax requires less memory, which results in more responsiveness. (SDS has yet to confirm with DreamCode Games this is the language of choice for their new animation library.)

The syntax, or characters used to write the code, have to be light. Heavy languages and code can result in input delays, i.e., animations that fail to execute on time. This is something we have seen in the 2K sports franchise which has more animations than it knows how to handle. It is likely that their programming syntax needs to be cleaned up.

Python can be developed to simulate neural networks of the human brain. The language is scalable and modular, perfect for building animation libraries and swapping them in to existing frameworks. With 1,300+ animations added in ’19, SDS may have developed a proprietary fielding animation library with this versatile language.

A.I. logic is presumably stacked on top of the locomotion layer. This would not be uncommon. For example, Tesla utilizes a combination of C++ and Python to develop their autonomous driving system. As the stack builds, it is vital to have a solid foundation.

The developers at SDS are creating digital baseball worlds — they need as much flexibility and customization as possible.

Challenges arise when a foundational string of code, or foundational library has bugs to contend with. Building a code stack on top of imperfect logic will result in bugs that not only glitch, but can break core gameplay elements of the title.

The Show ’20 advertises a complete gameplay overhaul. New fielding tech. was introduced in 2019 and it is unlikely an overhaul was done to the entire code stack a year later, as suggested on Sony’s website

While there is no doubt that The Show ’20 has had programming upgrades, we have seen a number of new fielding bugs arise. This confirms new logic has been added — but this is not, however, determinative of a complete gameplay overhaul.

On-Field Results

Javy Baez slides to field the ball cleanly in The Show ‘20.

Overall, SDS should be commended on their animation branching. The footwork in the field is a joy. It is efficient and helps eliminate base-running exploits. Fielders are light on their feet and unleash straight vapor on their throws from acrobatic angles. The depth of the animations is comparable to the animation library found in the 2K franchise — it takes many logged hours to find new animations defenders can make, but they are there.

As a result, we never know what kind of throw Javy Baez will unleash from his arsenal next.



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Writer, Jurisprudence Doctorate, Sports Gamer, and “Technologist.”