We sat down with MLB The Show 19 game designer Ramone Russell to discuss new game modes and big changes that made this entry a grand slam!

Recently, I was invited by Sony to speak with MLB The Show 19’s Game Designer Ramone Russell. He revealed many reasons to get excited about The Show this season, as well as what to look forward to on the virtual diamond. Based on my early impressions, it looks like San Diego Studios has another home run on their hands. Read on for all the details straight from the game design and baseball guru himself!

Matthew Rondina interview with MLB The Show 19 game designer Ramone Russell

On most baseball teams, you’ll throw your worst defender at first base or in left field.

Matthew Rondina: Player Differentiation has been a big focus around many sports video games as of late from hockey to football to basketball. How does MLB The Show 19 bring this to the baseball diamond?

Ramone Russell: Some players play the game of baseball and they’re on the team because of the bat. They’re not necessarily the best fielder. On most baseball teams, you’ll throw your worst defender at first base or in left field. How do we make it to where a guy who’s playing left field who isn’t that great play different than, let’s say, a Gold Glove guy like Mookie Betts?

Bad jumps are one of those things. When a ball is hit to a player, if his fielding ability is low enough, he’ll get a bad jump. So how we make it dynamic is, the worse of a fielder he is, the more directions a bad jump can take. As he gets better, his fielding ability goes up, then we start to take away directions that he can get a bad jump.

MLB The Show 19 screenshot

If the gameplay isn’t great, nothing else matters.

MR: I’m excited for the big changes to the defense this season of The Show. What can you tell us about the overhauled defensive intelligence? How does it affect gameplay?

RR: If the gameplay isn’t great, nothing else matters. We’ve recorded hundreds of new throws, focusing even more on the catches, making them more efficient. The fielders have to be intelligent about who’s in the batter’s box and they respond in real-time to the hitter’s abilities.

A major exploit occurred last year if you have a fast guy in the batter’s box, say a Billy Hamilton or Dee Gordon. He’d hit a chopper to the shortstop or third baseman, you’d press up on the controller to try and go attack that ball, and he wouldn’t move. He’d sit there and wait for the ball to come to him, and you’d get mad and start screaming at the TV. You’d want to throw your controller, and the guy would end up being safe!

So what was happening is, when a ball’s put in play, our game starts sorting catches. We’re looking for the right catch to play, we just didn’t have enough catches for every situation in the game. So in MLB The Show 19, we’ve recorded hundreds of catches to fix this.

Furthermore, we have Situation Awareness 2.0; it’s a new defensive intelligence. What we’re trying to do is make great defenders like Matt Chapman, Andrelton Simmons and Mookie Betts really be difference-makers. These are some of the best defenders in baseball, so you want them to stand out in the game.

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MLB The Show 19 screenshot

Over time, we’ll create our very own difficulty level just for you.

MR: What are some insider tips you can provide our readers for this season?

RR: I would definitely recommend that everybody play dynamic difficulty where hitting is hard, like real life baseball. You fail seven out of ten times, and you’ll get called to the Hall of Fame if you can do that for 12 years. In The Show, it’s difficult because baseball is difficult. I highly recommend playing on dynamic difficulty because the game creates a difficulty level specifically for you and your skills. We evaluate every swing, every at-bat. Over time, we’ll create our very own difficulty level just for you.

MLB The Show 19 screenshot

If you can win games, you can get momentum. That momentum will heavily influence the simulator between the games that you don’t play.

MR: The MLB has been looking to speed up the game of baseball. It looks like your team has found its own way with the March to October game mode. Can you tell us a little bit about the new mode?

RR: In March to October, you’re only playing the key moments in the season for your team. It’s always going to be in the later innings of the game. When you win or lose a game, you’re going to affect what’s called the momentum factor. This factor is the drive, which causes your team to win or to lose during those simulated games. That’s how we bridge that gap. If you can win games, you can get momentum. That momentum will heavily influence the simulator between the games that you don’t play. So, every game that you play in March to October, is always going to be high stakes.

MR: What can you tell us about the Moments game mode?

RR: The other game we have is called Moments. What Moments is, is basically reliving, rewriting or recreating baseball’s most iconic past. So these are storyline moments. These are multiple things throughout a player’s career looking at this overarching goal or period in time. With Bryce Harper, we made a storyline moment about his rookie season.

For Willie Mays Hayes, it’s all about the things that he did throughout that career. We have the Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series run. In Moments, you’ll be playing these snapshots. It could be one inning, it could be an at-bat, it could be three games, it could be five games. Again, this is all about being able to play a lot of baseball and having this curated narrative experience in a short amount of time.

Matthew Rondina playing with MLB The Show 19 game designer Ramone Russell

MR: I have to ask for myself, and other Canadian baseball fans, are there any Toronto Blue Jays making the cut this year in Moments? Maybe an appearance by Smokin’ Joe Carter?

RR: Yes, Joe Carter, will have his very own flashback!

MLB The Show 19 screenshot

We always try to choose an athlete that represents the best things about baseball, or somebody who has a really compelling story.

MR: What’s the process for picking your cover athlete each season?

RR: Every year is different. We always try to choose an athlete that represents the best things about baseball, or somebody who has a really compelling story. For this year, for our global cover athlete, it was Bryce Harper, he was a free agent, he’s young, he’s a stud.

We knew there was going to be a really interesting narrative about his free agency and what team he was going to land with. So that is why Bryce Harper was on the cover of the game.

MR: In terms of the enhancements between the PlayStation 4 and the PS4 Pro, can you speak to some of the differences we’ll see between the two consoles?

RR: If you’re using a PS4 Pro, we have three different graphical settings: “balance,” which gives you a balance between high fidelity graphics and frame rate, “faster,” where we downgrade the graphics a little bit and up the frame rate for a smoother gameplay experience, and “sharper”, which focuses on graphics.

MLB The Show 19 screenshot

MR: Thank you very much for your time Ramone and congrats on the new game. Looking forward to playing lots of MLB The Show 19 this year!

A special thanks to Ramone Russell and the Sony Computer Entertainment Canada for hosting me to get an inside look at MLB The Show 19.

 See also: Best Video Games of 2018

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Matthew “Dapper Tux” Rondina has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. His gaming legacy began with the NES and he’s been playing on every platform he can get his hands on ever since. He has rubbed elbows with industry titans such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Shuhei Yoshida and Phil Spencer giving him an in-depth perspective on the industry. Whether adventuring with Mario, The Master Chief or Nathan Drake he’s always looking for great gaming experiences across a multitude of platforms. He has been covering interactive entertainment and esports on the web, in video series, podcasts and on international television. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and instagram @dapper_tux and join in on the fun!