The RosterWhen you hear “fictional roster” you might not think of simulation sports. In fact, Bacon’s Fictional Roster (BFR) makes franchise mode feel more like simulation than ever before. As GM or manager in this world, you don’t know any of the players or their abilities. At first, you don’t even know the players on your own team. The need to scout players becomes very real. So there you have it, time to get real and start “meeting” your players. You might even want to watch “film” of your division rivals.
The BeginningIn its humble beginning in October 2016, the roster had just two teams, the Padres and Indians. The project started with the goal of recreating the Indians from the movie Major League and the Padres from the show Pitch. The movie and show didn’t have enough star actors to create two full teams. Therefore, Bacon had to create “filler” players to complete the two teams. He soon realized that he enjoyed creating the “filler” players more than the star actors. Fast forward six months and he had created over 750 detailed fictional players for the first official release on May 1, 2017.
Commitment to ExcellenceBacon’s created players are crafted with unrivaled attention to detail, both in aesthetics and player ratings. He has painstakingly refined the roster every year to arrive at the masterpiece we have today. Since the first two releases in 2017, there have been eight updates (these are more like twice-yearly roster releases with many new players added), with at least one more expected for MLB The Show 20. Look for this sometime in the off-season. It’s apparent that this man creates this fictional world with a commitment to excellence that’s unmatched. He has a deep passion for baseball and never stops thinking about his next creation. BFR is a gift to the community, it is something that’s fresh and evolving every season. Every spring there’s an excitement within the community as we await its release and the start of the baseball season. You can listen to Bacon’s interview with Ryan Hetzer, the host of Long Gone podcast from April 30, 2020; where he discusses his roster and talks franchise mode.
The UpdateBacon’s Fictional Update contains 2,555 created players, including over 200 new players. These are mainly “AAAA” type pitchers and positional players. They include longer-term prospects with higher potentials, in order to add more depth to the minor leagues.
“The idea is to continue to separate the really good minor league systems from the others and that just takes time to complete. I even added a few more ‘Easter Egg’ free agents for users to find. I always enjoy hearing what everyone finds and which players other people think are references.”The randomly generated minor league players from SCEA have been removed. “They have been replaced with as many created players as time aloud and “1” overall new pitchers and fielders,” Bacon said. To add to the realism, a few more “bad” contracts have been added. This adds another layer of complexity when managing your team’s morale and budget. The complete list of changes can be found on Bacon’s twitter feed @baconsfictional. The new players from this update are not included on the companion spreadsheet. The next one will be in March or April 2021, with the corresponding roster release.
The DrawWhat is the draw of a fictional roster? Why BFR in particular? It might strike you as being odd – but the answer to this question is realism. There’s a certain predictability that comes with the MLB roster. Knowing everything about a roster allows for exploits of certain situations – mostly without a conscious effort. That predictability diminishes the realism experienced by the GM. What attracts and retains gamers to this fictional world is the realism that is inherently established when the user doesn’t know the players. This more closely resembles the actions of their real-life counterpart.
Real GM TasksBFR adds immersion to the game in certain situations – one being the free-agent market. Because when you don’t know any of the players or their contracts, it will require you to put in work to really understand who’s available. You don’t know the league, you are forced to put in work (this is a good thing, it makes the game more real) and evaluate player profiles and understand the market – this is essentially a real GM task. Gamers can create the universe to their own specifications. You can even create fictional story-lines and share them online with the community on our Discord channel and at Operation Sports. To take it even further, imagine having a fantasy draft (talk about unknown) or re-branding with a roster that you know nothing about. Time to sharpen your pencil and do some scouting.
The UnknownGoing into a new franchise and not knowing a single player seems daunting. Not having expectations from MLB players that you’re familiar with adds to the challenge and immersion. This is at the core of what makes BFR so authentic. As difficult as this undertaking may seem, it’s also a refreshing approach to the game mode. Part of the challenge, and fun, lies within the need to scout so many new players. There is a real need to create scouting reports – deciding how to do that with a video game is an intriguing and fun endeavor in itself. That’s what I call realism and replay-ability. Another immersive and fun task is searching for “hidden gems”. While using the MLB roster you can’t do this because all the players are known. Also, when using the MLB roster, the need to scout is minimal at best, let alone making an actual scouting report – but maybe I just love baseball that much. Or I’m really that much of a sports nerd. Either way, BFR really does establish the unknown that managers and GM’s deal with on a regular basis. The Home Run Derby and All-Star game within a franchise are very fun when using BFR – the MLB names you know and love don’t mean a thing here. But if you’ve put in the time getting to know the players during the first half of the season, they won’t be as unknown when you get there. Therefore, that means you’re actually having an experience that more closely resembles reality – something that might not have happened if using an MLB roster.
Perfect Roster ComplexSometimes as sim sports gamers we have a tendency to obsess over the most minor of MLB roster transactions. Often, wanting our roster to include every single move in the Major Leagues. This can then lead to waiting weeks for a “perfect” roster to release before starting a franchise – this is the “perfect roster complex”. The MLB roster is always going to be work in progress, thus waiting for the “perfect” roster only serves as a setback. “[You] don’t have to worry about what’s happening in the ‘real world’,” Bacon said. BFR is here to save the day – no more “perfect roster complex”, no more frustration when a free agent signs with a division rival. The game is more fun now that you’re free from the worry of updating your roster constantly. It’s more fun figuring out the surprises and creating your own story-lines. For many, the roster has rekindled the passion they once had for the game…myself included.
The ProcessBacon began his work using the 2016 player ratings – it was simple really, he wanted to make bad teams better and good teams not as good. Now, in 2020 he has succeeded in making the teams balanced – without making specific teams stand out as dominating. “You need good players to be on good teams,” Bacon said. With that said, how do you make a full league of balanced teams? It doesn’t seem easy, but our guy has it dialed in. How does one decide where to put all these created players? Could it be as simple as: “If the Twins need a SS, I’ll just make them a SS”?
The Early processThat is actually similar to how he did it early on. Bacon said, “It was me trying to make all the player types I could think of and create some variation so they weren’t all five-tool white guys.” Initially, there were specific themes, but the lines have blurred as he has progressed further into the process. He doesn’t follow any specific theme when building an organization now, but he does try to maintain balance within the league at all times. This is not a small undertaking, the amount of organization required for this project is immense. You can’t just start throwing players together and hope for success.
Companion SpreadsheetTo create a variety of player models that are in BFR requires a high degree of organizational skill and precise record keeping. Thus, Bacon uses a master spreadsheet as a guide. He also uses it to analyze the different player types that he has already created. This is one of the reasons there is so much variety in all aspects of the roster. This sheet is more involved than the one he shares with the public. It has around thirty pages instead of just six. For example, there are specific columns for each player’s: cleats, country, walk-up music, pant style, bat, fielding and batting gloves, batting gear, catchers gear, neon gear, roster foundation, delivery, stance animation, pitch velocities, ‘other notes’, and quirks. The companion spreadsheet is a great resource that documents all of the current player’s details and ratings.
Process DetailBacon uses baseballreference.com and whatproswear.com to understand and help decide what ratings and gear to use when creating his players. “The archetypes themselves seem to merge, so a power hitter isn’t always slow or has low vision, while contact guys don’t always field great or run the bases as most speedy guys can,” Bacon said. To determine the overall team “rating”, for determining balance in the roster, he runs three simulated seasons of the franchise to see how things play out. He then goes back to make adjustments as needed. To create the fantastic variety in faces and ratings that we see in the roster, Bacon constantly adjusts them and says: “It’s always a work in progress”.
Classic Franchise WorkaroundFor some of the players, Bacon used what he calls the “Classic franchise workaround” to give them service time and career stats. He didn’t come up with it but has probably used it the most. Below, he describes how to execute it.
“The first step, create a player. Second, begin a franchise with CPU Roster Control ON. Then, just simulate ‘time’ within the franchise mode to generate stats, options used, and service time for your player. I keep close track of whomever I am creating so I check on stats and such every three months or so. Simulate as much time as you’d like and then export the player. You can repeat this process as necessary and the player will show up with service and stats.”The best part about this is when you simulate, the stats continue to replace the previous year’s stats. Therefore, they are always pre-whatever year the game came out. But beginning on MLB The Show 19, these stats began to only count forward. That’s why you can find players on BFR with stats from 1999 and sometimes earlier. Thankfully, SDS added the service time editor which has helped with certain issues Bacon faced. The issue was with a few players not being at a statistical total he liked.
The PlayersOnce you download and start exploring the roster, a whole new world of discovery begins. It’s like being a kid in a candy store – not knowing the star players. Finding out who they are, adds more realism to the experience than playing with the MLB roster. I realize it sounds counterintuitive, but a roster that is unpredictable is more like what a manager faces. Seeing and playing with these players is a very new and refreshing feeling that makes the game more fun. This roster is full of great players, hidden gems, prospects, and Hall of Famers. Again, the genius of this roster is in the unknown – the adventure of getting to know the players, the scouting, finding the hidden gems, and free agents. These unknowns capture the essence of the real-life MLB, therefore the experience feels more sim than fictional. Having no expectations of who will lead the league in homers or K’s adds a great layer of replayability to the game – the game doesn’t feel stale anymore.
Players to Watch ForThe real fun begins when you start your franchise and the statistics start coming in – seeing who the league leaders are and who’s getting the all-star votes. Without giving away all of Bacon’s secrets, a few can’t miss prospects include pitchers Davis Wasiliewski of the Cubs and Jack Enright from the Angels. Both seem to become great in franchise mode year after year. As for top hitting prospects, Sergio Rivera usually becomes a 40 homer a year player. Kazahiro Suzuki becomes an excellent .300+ average guy with great defense for the Washington Nationals. Below, Rivera takes a nice hack for a deep line out to center.
Standouts From My FranchiseHere is a couple of season award-winning players from my franchise. Caleb Pressley (1B) for the Pirates was the N.L MVP with 48 HR 119 RBI .290 Avg. in 559 AB. The A.L MVP was (SP) Will Palmer from Toronto, also the Cy Young 21-7, 2.28, 274 S.O. Bacon’s favorite RH hitter is Michael Mayfield, “He could be a 50/50 guy as the A’s DH in the first couple years of any franchise.” Take a look at Mayfield in action below.
Hall of FameA super fun thing happened at the end of my first simulated season. Ben Rouse & Chuck Souza were entered into the Hall of Fame. This made me curious as to who these players could have been modeled after. Bacon later confirmed that Rouse was built from Adrian Beltre and Souza’s stats are based on Carlos Beltran. “I didn’t do this often but this was another workaround I used to create some veteran players on the roster.”
BFR With Franchise ModeTo get the most out of Bacon’s Fictional Roster you will certainly want to run franchise mode. Spending time with the roster will undoubtedly make you want to play the game more. The players I mentioned earlier are just a small sample of what awaits you at your first all-star break. Just imagine the first Home Run Derby you play – it’s going to be a blast (pun intended). With the real players, you know what they’re capable of and because it’s a video game, things become predictable and not as genuine – especially when playing franchise.
Scouting in Franchise (BFR Only)In my opinion, scouting is one of the most fun aspects of being a GM with BFR. Again, not knowing anyone in the league necessitates this fun “task”. There is more than one way to scout players in the league. One way is to watch the CPU vs. CPU games in your franchise. This is good because you can see the player’s current stats during the presentation – adding to the immersion. Another way is to watch Bacon’s streams on his YouTube channel. Some might think this is nerdy (okay you got me), but It goes a long way in making the game feel more simulation than fictional.
Multiple SeasonsWhen I first started with the BFR I wondered how it would handle over multiple years in a franchise. What happens with the vacated roster spots when the retiring players leave? Does the game insert new generic players into the draft to replace those retired roster spots? “I think the roster is very good on franchise for the first five years mostly because of the major disparity in potential ratings. I feel being more pessimistic with potential ratings is best for the life of a roster like this because ‘D’ potential players can still be useful bench, platoon, or bullpen pieces for months or even years for some.” Unfortunately, retired players get replaced directly with randomly generated drafted players. Hopefully soon this will be addressed with custom draft classes. Bacon feels this may be the next step when the game comes to PS5 or PC. For now, there’s the option of completely editing these drafted players on your own – at least they gave us that.
Franchise SuccessI asked him if he has any advice for gamers so that they have the best, most rewarding, and successful franchise when using his roster?
“You definitely need to go into it with an open mind and knowing that you’re going to learn a lot about player types, ratings and even the cosmetics of each player. There are players who I created who I thought I would like a lot that didn’t perform as well as I thought they would. For anyone running a franchise, I would say to control just one team and build the best team you possibly can. I almost completely ignore overall ratings and value specific attributes so much more than the whole picture.”
BFR With Road To The ShowAnother fun, but less sim focused game mode is Road To The Show. Using Bacon’s Fictional Roster adds more realism to this game mode as you might have expected. The same theory applies here as to franchise mode – the unknown factor of the players creates a more realistic experience. My time spent in RTTS with the roster has been lots of fun. It’s a fresh new take on the mode; I enjoyed going up against guys that I didn’t know anything about. Like playing in franchise mode, this creates an opportunity to scout the competition – thus adding replay-ability and realism.
GM IssuesEven though the roster works well for the mode, it’s still not perfect. The problem of the CPU GM’s valuing overall ratings more than attributes hinders RTTS and franchise. This problem occurs most significantly with CPU team building, and especially with building pitching staffs. “I feel the overall values of drafted players in both RTTS and franchise are too often very high right out of the draft so it does skew the roster a bit,” Bacon said. This brings the games GM role into question. It’s a glaring problem, where forward progress and momentum don’t exist. It feels stale and unchanged year after year. Imagine if this game had just some of the many GM features and options that OOTP Baseball offers. Hopefully, with the power of the PS5 (keeping my fingers crossed for PC) we will see those kinds of options open up in MLB The Show. Bacon said, “I definitely want to see GM personalities or just a complete change in the game logic because it does need to be adjusted.”
Impressive AccomplishmentNo matter how you slice it, this roster is a creative masterpiece. The attention to detail in every single player is top shelf. If the sheer number of finely created players isn’t enough, go spend time with that companion spreadsheet I mentioned earlier. It helps him ensure that he’s building a balanced and realistic roster. It has over a million data points of information for your scouting pleasure. I asked him what it’s like in his head. It must be very creative and determined, I told him. Laughing he said, “I’m just thinking of the game of baseball whenever I can and trying to put out the best product I can through MLB The Show.” A very humble response indeed; he deserves praise fit for the roster gods. Another amazing talent that Bacon has is the ability to create variety in the roster. Even with the huge spreadsheet, it’s not easy to create so many different-looking players. That’s not to mention the variation on player types and skillsets. It’s hard enough to create one player that’s on par with Bacon’s quality – let alone a whole league worth. The hours he’s spent (too many to count) crafting BFR is simply astounding. That doesn’t include time spent testing his players and going back to tweak the most minor of details. Oh yeah – and he’ll also answer any of your questions on the Operation Sports forum or Twitter.
The FutureWith the release of next-gen consoles coming this holiday season, the future of MLB The Show is promising. Likewise, roster building and roster sharing will hopefully expand on these more capable systems. I don’t know about you, but the anticipation of what these consoles could do for the game gets me frothing. Imagine OOTP Baseball and all of its customization and depth. Now imagine crossing that with the gameplay and graphics of MLB The Show – isn’t that what we deserve? I know that’s never going to happen exactly as we’d want, but it’s something to strive towards.
More OptionsIf next year’s game makes it to PC, and roster sharing is enabled across and between all platforms, rosters would have even more potential to improve. A creative mind like Bacon is always thinking of what might be next. With the rumor of the game coming to PC, gamers are hoping for expanded user options. These will allow the user to create their own baseball universe. Bacon is one of them – he is very excited about the option to utilize a PC instead of the console for making BFR. He hopes that SDS adds more options for creation and editing to make it more efficient or simpler for whatever player edits he needs to make. Easily editing career statistics and options would be a nice improvement to the game. These are important additions that Bacon and the roster-building community want to see in the future. Also, he is hopeful that SDS will expand the rosters to include A-ball. This would allow him to continue to fill the rosters – that makes his day.
“I’m really hoping that there will be even more customization in the future. Especially with the rumor of MLB The Show coming to PC. I would absolutely love to be able to actually edit everything and really take that next step forward but I’m currently working within the constraints of the roster editor in the present model. I’m also hoping that the next generation may mean we get expanded minor league levels and therefore, I would need to again create more players to fill those open roster slots.”
A New DirectionBacon occasionally browses the vaults and by doing this has ended up in conversation with other community members. He has decided he could try to send this in another direction while also working on his base roster as well. Currently, he is working on an alternate version of the roster and will be releasing it at some point in the off-season. He did not give any details other than saying, “This will be a roster like no other that I have done but will still have the Bacon flair all of you are now used to.”
What’s NextNow that he has this established world, what’s next? There’s lots more that he’d like to see added to the game – and more that he wants to do in the future. At the top of the list are the following: editing options, a more realistic GM experience, and adding more personality to certain players. Also, editing career stat lines is a big one, especially since currently when you have a created player, they are blank. A favorite of mine, and of course Bacon’s, is the addition of a “career accolades & transactions” portion on each player’s card. “This would show draft or initial signing information and all transaction history. It would also state if a player was an all-star (at any level), whenever they led the league in anything or actual yearly and monthly awards.”
Progress Towards PerfectionBacon plans to continue working toward perfection. There’s still so much he wants to edit with the roster but it just takes some time. “I am a perfectionist with a lot of my work and I think that shows but I’m still working towards making the whole universe feel more complete.” I personally get motivated to attempt making a roster just by looking at that spreadsheet – let alone playing a game with his roster. The anticipation builds when I think of the unknown universe that’s undoubtedly being built at this very moment.
A Website for BFRI asked if he has plans or thoughts of creating a website for BFR or maybe a Discord channel. This could be a place for people to share stories, stats, and talk about players or their franchise saves.
“I would like to do this very much. If there is interest, I will definitely be more active on discord for further interaction. I’m currently very happy with the thread on O.S (MLB The Show 20: Fictional Franchise Progress Thread)…This could definitely be an alternative platform for sharing franchise and other stories about the roster.”