MLB The Show 21 is due out in almost exactly one month, and the excitement has continued to build.
Sony San Diego has hosted Feature Premieres with more in-depth looks at the gameplay upgrades on the way.
Last week's Feature Premiere took a look at the MLB The Show 21's hitting and pitching systems, but this week the focus was on a Complete Fielding Overhaul with a massive amount of improvement across the board.
Learning from the community
Right from the beginning, we heard from MLB The Show 21 Product Development Communications and Brand Strategist Ramone Russell, and he was joined on the Feature Premiere by Gameplay Director Chris Gill.
As both of them explained, they spent a lot of time both playing MLB The Show 20 and watching streamers play the game as well, and this all played into the upgrades they chose to make for this year's title.
It's a great sign of how streaming can positively affect game development, especially for these ongoing franchises, as developers can now get a much better idea of exactly how things went wrong in the past so they can be fixed for the future.
Huge focus on new users for Xbox debut
MLB The Show 21 will be the first title in series history that won't be a PlayStation exclusive, and it looks like Sony San Diego is extremely aware of this and the fact that it should mean lots of newcomers to the game.
They specifically stated that newcomers to the game should start in beginner mode and choose the casual gameplay style, as they've made significant improvements to the onboarding system.
These onboarding tutorials will be much more prominent if those choices are made at the start, but it's important to note that players won't be stuck playing casual and beginner for MLB The Show 21.
For new players, once you've gotten the hang of things and feel the challenge isn't there, you will always have the option to update the gameplay style and difficulty as you're going.
New indicators and Rob Home Run mechanics
One of the biggest areas of improvement for MLB The Show 21 is a huge array of new indicators that show up on the in-game as you're playing.
MLB The Show 21 will have new indicators for route to ball, base for play, catch ball, enhanced tag up, extreme wall catch, rob home run, routine fly ball, and more.
Rob home run mechanics were especially targeted, with new arrow indicators and animations showing the player extending their arm over the wall to increase realism and help new players learn, but still keep a challenge for veterans.
Over a thousand new catching and fielding animations
Another big piece of what has been changed from previous years is that they've added "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of new defensive animations," and specifically said at a few points there are over 1,000 new animations across the board.
While these might not be as obvious to newcomers, veterans should see major improvements in catching animations that will make things look significantly more realistic and help make more balls catchable.
In the past, the title could struggle due to ball placement if there wasn't a natural catch animation built in, which would inadvertently punish the player only because the game couldn't handle that moment, but now these upgrades should remove that and put the challenge all on the user.
All about the strafing in MLB The Show 21
While even Gill and Russell acknowledged the addition of strafing might not sound huge at first, this improvement is actually a huge difference maker for those who have played previous installments and want MLB The Show 21 to improve.
In the past, players could struggle in the outfield while trying to catch a runaway ball or position in just the right spot because any movement of the stick would cause the player to take off running in a given direction.
The addition of strafing will add significant nuance to this, and is automatically built-in and doesn't require excess input, so players will have a lot more control to position themselves and make smaller adjustments to deliver in big moments.
Catcher pop time and stats added as new mechanic
The final big addition that was revealed is catcher pop time, which specifically deals with when a player is trying to steal a base and the catcher needs to react fast enough to throw and get them out.
This mechanic adds a whole new layer of stats for catchers based on arm-strength and their performance in real-life games, which will affect the reaction time when using different catchers in MLB The Show 21.
It's just one more small adjustment that should help make MLB The Show 21 more realistic, more friendly to new users, and more appropriately challenging to veterans all at the same time.
Improvement from the code up
While it wasn't covered in-depth throughout the Feature Premiere on Fielding, there was a mention by Gameplay Director Chris Gill that the actions they took to improve Fielding went all the way to the base coding level.
There's a level of technical nuance to that that they seemed to agree most viewers didn't need to hear, but it shows just how in-depth the work they put in to improve MLB The Show 21 has been.
Those under the hood updates and improvements to the coding, which likely involved extensive rewrites, form the foundation for all of the fixes we should see in MLB The Show 21 compared to previous years.