A Ray of Hope for Baseball on Xbox One?

The Xbox One platform is loaded with a variety of sports games. Fans of soccer, football, basketball and even MMA, will find many options to experience their favorite sport in a virtual environment. However, if you search for baseball video games on Xbox One, you will soon hit a dead end. Other sports regularly get online simulations on Xbox One that are nearing perfection. On the other hand, baseball is hardly given any attention. Forget realistic games, even in the minigame segment, there is only a single baseball title to be found on Xbox One platform. This draught of baseball games flies in the face of the sports video game industry, which is worth billions of dollars. However, there could be a ray of hope for baseball fans in the near future. But before we jump into that, let us have a close look at what went wrong in the recent years for this absence of any worthwhile baseball title.

EA MVP Baseball

In the early 2000s, EA used to produce a series of MVP Baseball games for PS2 and Xbox. The last game under the series was published in 2005, which was discontinued in 2007. MVP was a cool game for its time and offered both arcade as well as simulation games. However, in 2005 Major League Baseball struck a deal with Take-Two Interactive, which prohibited EA from producing any more MLB games until 2012. Although EA tried to challenge this by making NCAA college baseball games between 2006 and 07, their sales were disastrous. After that, EA never touched baseball again.

Sega 2K Baseball

MVP was never a realistic experience. It was a simple whacky baseball game. But 2K was meant to be as realistic as possible, and it was. However, the game was fraught with so many bugs and issues that the developers simply couldn’t fix them in time. Any fans 2K had, had long deserted it and by 2013, it appears they had no reason to continue the series. They simply shut their baseball shop after the release of MLB 2K13. The main reason for this could be attributed to the years of success of MLB: The Show.

MLB: The Show

The series debuted with MLB 06: The Show in 2006 and was an instant hit. In light of Sony being the sole player publishing MLB games, they took complete advantage of this by releasing excellent installments to the MLB: The Show series. These games went about achieving simulating excellence with every passing year. Naturally, Sony kept the game confined to Playstation, which resulted in the present draught of games on Xbox One.

R.B.I. Baseball 14

This is what happened when MLB tried to save itself from extinction on Xbox with halfhearted efforts. Let me start by stating this – R.B.I. Baseball 14 is not simulation game. It is an arcade game and even as an arcade game, it fares very badly. The game lacks depth, has poor presentation, has excruciatingly frustrating defense and comes with limited game options. It is a nightmare to play this game. Yet, this is the only baseball game available on Xbox One presently. However, that is set to change very soon.

Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings

Canadian indie developer Metalhead Software has announced that they will be releasing an Xbox One version of their hit game Super Mega Baseball. Super Mega Baseball is a wonderful arcade-style baseball game that features excellent simulation environment. It is fast, gets the physics right most of the times, and has some good statistical breakdowns too. All in all, it is expected to be a treat for baseball lovers who own Xbox One.

The big hole on the Xbox platform has left a lot of room for making money for large game publishers. Although EA has had a rough experience with baseball video games, this gap in the market is too big to be left for the competition. We expect one or the other big publisher to soon make a move. However, till then, there is little hope for fans other than to wait for Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings

Annihilation Book Review

It makes sense that Annihilation is named after the trigger word created by the Southern Reach, enforced by the psychologist, to inflict suicide upon the biologist. This book–within the series of books detailing the encounters in a perplexing space called Area X–is written by a woman whose name was never revealed. The biologist takes us through her experience for what it is like to go on a top-secret government mission exploring creepy, abandoned woods.

The powers behind the exploration are as enigmatic as Area X itself. Southern Reach is a faceless rule that has driven eleven expeditions up until this one. The process of training its explorers is grueling and its explanations for strict policies are rare. Early on in the initiation process, the explorers were stripped of their names and given vague titles because their names were no longer relevant to the mission. (To quote the biologist in a state of disillusioned self-assuredness, “People who served a function didn’t need to be named.”) Among the stable group were the biologist, psychologist, surveyor and anthropologist.

annihilation book
Annihilation Book Cover

The psychologist was obviously hired by the Southern Reach, preserving a terse loyalty to them up until the end. Everything about her is premeditated, opaque, strange and difficult to read. She was always attempting to persuade and hypnotize the other explorers to keep them calm and on-task, per her duty as the peacekeeper. The psychologist often used hypnotic phrases to persuade them and after entering the tower for the first time, the biologist began to realize this. The psychologist is an embodiment of the Southern Reach and its ambiguous objectives.

We find out later that keeping a productive group dynamic in Area X is quite difficult. After inhaling spores in the massive underground tower, the biologist begins to see through the façade the Southern Reach attempted to build to create a uniform group of explorers. Over time, we see the biologist fighting an inner struggle of staying on her assigned tasks as a biologist (observing the strange flora and fauna,) and discovering points of deception and mystery within Area X. The biologist eventually comes into contact with an inexplicable creature she calls the Crawler. The Crawler howls at night and governs Area X with its multi-faceted, cilia-covered embodiment of all that Area X is—strangely human, strangely foreign and deeply unnatural.

Within a few days of reaching base camp, the psychologist leads the anthropologist into the tower while the others are sleeping to test how dangerous it is. The anthropologist is found by the surveyor and the biologist a few days later, killed by the Crawler. The psychologist goes missing after refusing to go back into the tower, perhaps to avoid question of the anthropologists’ death. The two explorers search for her, but to no end. The biologist travels alone to inspect the lighthouse and finds more journals than expeditions she was aware of. She also finds her husband’s journal, who had previously been a medic on several expeditions, which hints to where he may be residing, contrary to prior knowledge. She notices hours later that the psychologist has thrown herself off of the lighthouse edge and is slowly dying below. The biologist and the surveyor scuffle and the biologist kills the surveyor. And after a drawn-out and baffling encounter with the Crawler, the biologist limps away and out of the tower and reflects on her journey. She leaves off with the inclination to find her husband and rest in Area X.

This book takes us through the emotional trials and tribulations of going on an exploration, but it cannot give you much else. Because the biologist is so descriptive, she gives us an emotional map of how not to navigate exploring, leading with the heart. If perhaps emotionally preparing yourself for battle is enough for you, this book would be a great resource. If you read into her experiences and mistakes you can come to a multitude of conclusions. Going into a mission rife with double-crossing and deception is bound to end badly; Having too many emotional attachments to your mission (i.e. her late husband,) is dangerous to your mind and the mission; To know your friends and enemies is essential. Even in the face of death, being shot twice and infected with a peculiar glow, the biologist is cursing herself for not keeping better notes of her experience. Keeping a steady journal with perhaps less emotional details would be more beneficial in the long run.

I liked reading the biologist’s recollection of Area X but I found her anecdotes a bit distracting. She did do an excellent job of conveying the mood of Area X and her fellow explorers, however. I felt the trained, cold wit of the psychologist; the unwavering stare of the near-human dolphin; the ominous beating hum of the tower structure. If I were to read this to prepare myself for a mission, I would most certainly abort the mission. This book will mess with your mind and create unrest within you. No explorer should feel this way before a mission. It gives you a scenario of what not to do and how things can go wrong. This book also creates more questions than it does answers: How much does the Southern Reach already know and what is the goal of these expeditions? How can we learn from this experience without concrete answers?

Ultimately, reading this recollection of Area X is how you prepare for worst-case scenario governmental intervention and group dynamics of a mission. This journal will scare you straight into turning down any task with too many questions than answers as to why it is taking place. I suggest you read this book during the daytime and only if you have an interest in peculiar thrillers.

MLB Replay Rules

Official Baseball Rules 1976

One of the most significant MLB rule changes in recent years has been the expanded MLB replay rules that were implemented in 2014. Baseball has always been a game of rules and traditions, written and unwritten, passed down for generations.  Lots of things about the game have changed since the first Major League pitch was thrown in 1869, but this one challenges the flow of the game as well as some age-old traditions.

MLB Instant Replay Expansion

Replays have been used since 2008 in Major League Baseball to review significant calls such as fan interference on home runs for Post-Season and All-Star games.  When first introduced, these reviews had to be initiated by the umpire crew chief.  The expansion to this rule was introduced in 2014 and allows each manager one review before the 6th inning of all regular season games, as well as another review from the seventh inning on, but only if the first challenge results in an overturned call.  The umpire crew chief can still initiate a review at any time for certain calls.  Official MLB Replay Rules

I think it’s great to see Major League Baseball evolve and ensure that the right calls are made, resulting in correct and fair outcomes.  I’d be the first to complain if a bad call didn’t go in the favor of my favorite team.  But it’s definitely changed the pace and temperament of the game.

MLB Pace of Game

Watch as Phillies outfielder, Odubel Herrera, gets called out trying to beat out a routine ground ball to shortstop.  His first reaction is to call himself safe and point into the Phillies dugout signaling to manager Pete Mackanon to look at the replay.

Odubel Herrera Replay Rule

The manager then has to decide whether or not he should use his challenge which usually involves the bench coach getting on the phone with someone upstairs who’s already looking at a replay.  Once they do decide to use the challenge, the entire game stops!

MLB Replay Rules

Cue this strange scene where a pair of umpires and an MLB.TV intern look like they are suddenly stranded on another planet trying to communicate back to Earth with some bulky satellite communication device.  Couldn’t the crew chief just have a cell phone on him and get a text that says “safe” or “out”?

MLB Umpires Replay Review

The umpires aren’t even deciding anything, they are just on the phone with someone in New York City who’s looking at the replay and making the final decision whether or not to overturn the initial call on the field.  Is it really necessary to have two of them standing there listening to confirm the call?  Does the MLB.TV intern at least get paid to stand there like that?  It seems like a very unnecessary production.

There were a total of 4 replay reviews in this Sunday afternoon Phillies vs. Nationals game alone.  You can hear the frustration in the announcer’s voice when he realizes they have to sit through another one in the bottom of the 9th.  As this National’s announcer mentions, it’s not helping the pace of game issue which was something MLB was starting to do a decent job of addressing.

Baseball Traditions

Another aspect of the game that will be interesting to watch evolve is the tradition of the manager vs. umpire argument.  If replays are going to fix bad calls, will heated discussions between managers, players, and umpires fade out as well?  It’s been part of the game forever and there’s an art to arguing a call in a way that can motivate an entire team and stadium of fans.  It’s always fun to watch a manager or player get heated and argue a call.  You never know what’s going to happen!

Baseball Bugs 1946 Bobby Cox Ejection

Hopefully that tradition continues to be part of the game as the MLB replay rules evolve and become more efficient.  The technology is available and the process definitely needs to be sped up in a way that has less impact on game flow.