Published on February 26th, 2010 | by simeon0
MLB 2K 10 Developer Chat
By Alan M.
Recently we got to take part on a conference call with the developers of the new MLB 2K10 by Take 2.
Can you give us a quick overview about what’s new with MLB 2k10?
It’s coming out next week on March 2nd for Xbox 360, PC, Wii, PS3, PSP, and DS. I know that most people are concerned with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
versions, so we’ll mostly refer to that. To give you a quick background, this is the second year that this game was developed here at Visual Concepts. 2k9 was certainly a challenging year for us. We were all learning a new codebase and there were a lot of things we wanted to do that we just didn’t have time for. We were excited to work on 2k10 so we could add some of the things people have been asking about. We’ve made some huge gameplay changes that have a really big difference. For example, we now have the “My Player” mode which allows you to play through the career of an individual player. We have an “MLB Today” feature that is a new way to play the game, but we’ll get into that later.
How do you make the game feel different year after year (aside from roster changes)?
That’s certainly a big thing for us. We really try to sit down after each game is complete andfigure out what were some areas we weren’t able to tackle. It’s very important to listen to what the consumers have to say… we read the messageboards and all the reviews to figure out what people liked and didn’t like. We take all of these things and bring them to the table for the next year’s game.
How much of 2k9 is in 2k10? Was the game rebuilt from the ground up?
We completely rewrote everything from fielding, hitting, pitching, physics, ai, camera
views, and tons of new animations. We had a lot of work ahead of us because I don’t think anyone was happy with last year’s game.
How did Evan Longoria get on the cover?
That’s a fun question. We try to get someone on the cover who not only is a great player but an enthusiastic gamer. The great thing about having a guy like Longoria is that not only is he an MLB star but he’s a big-time gamer and he was very interested in providing input to improve the game. The biggest thing for us is talking amongst the developers and marketing team to figure out who best fits that bill.
What seperates 2k10 from other baseball games on the market?
There’s actually a lot of things that make it unique. The battle and realism of hitting and pitching is an obvious one. There are some smaller details, like in the career mode you know how far off you are from getting called off. The pitch and swing analyzer really show you what you did right or wrong in subtle ways (if you want to see that). Pitchers vs hitters, ai, physics and new animations all add up to make it different.
Jonathon, who is this year’s highest-rated player?
The highest rated player is Oliver Krumholtz. I’ts already stat-based. We take the stats of the last three years and we have a weight system and figure out the ratings based on that. If we don’t have enough data (like in a rookie player), then we have to do some research to figure out what kind of player he is.
What about the online features this year? Any DLC planned?
We don’t have any DLC outside of roster updates. In regards to the features in general… you can now play your franchise games against your friends. There are trading card teams you can play online. There’s also MLB Today.. keeping the rosters as up to date as we can.
Are there any drop-in/drop-out modes?
It’s not actually drop-in/drop out to where you can start playing someone else’s game in the middle of the fourth inning, so you have to start from the beginning. The biggest thing for us in tearing down the walls was to make online play easily accessible. Anywhere you are on a team-select screen you can jump to your friends’ list and invite them in to that game.
Right nowthere’s only one-on-one online modes. You can go into any game and simulate a half or full inning. You can also jump right in and take over from there.
Critics have noted how previous MLB games struggle with hitting. Is that one of the things you concentrated on this year?
It’s almost an understatement to call that a primary focus. We knew that the core gameplay
experience needed improvement across the board but in hitting and pitching. We created an entirely new experience.
Sean: What steps have been taken to help out pitchers?
We really just wanted to capture a realistic experience rather than trying to “improve” last year. We talked toa lot of pitchers and tried to make pitching as realistic as possible. There are different swing types and the ability to see what pitch is coming. If you press “X” after a pitch, then you bring up the analyzer that shows all sorts of stats. We’re not helping out pitchers so much as helping out the gamer who’s controlling the pitcher.
Jonathan: Pitching was simplified between 2k8 and 2k9. Is it even more simplified in 2k10?
We wanted to build on the simplified version of 2k9. You’ll never run into a situation where you’re trying to throw a slider and accidentally throw a curve ball. Now we can do a lot more with your stick gestures. If you over-rotate or under-rotate your curveball then it will affect that pitch.
What determines if the “batter’s eye” feature appears?
The problem we were trying to solve was that we’re trying to make certain players that were good inreal life about reaching base but didn’t have that skillset in the video game. The batter’s eye-rating drives the frequency of the Batter’s Eye. Guys that take a lot of walks have a higher Eye rating will see the Batter’s Eye more often.
Sometimes the fielders just stand there when they should be making an effort. Has the fielding AIimproved?
Absolutely. All parts of the AI have been rewritten. We wanted all players to moveintelligently… so they react but they’re not running into each other. If one guys is going to trigger an animation we make sure that another guy doesn’t get in the way.
What are the considerations that went into the fielding changes? What is the learning curve like?
The biggest learning curve is the ability to pre-load a throw. Unlike previous years, you can start pressing the throw button before your fielder has gathered the ball, and that will trigger quicker animations. The biggest issue for veteran players is learning how to play the game differently, but I think it’s a lot more fun.
Why did you add the “My Pro” features in this year’s game?
It really seems like across the board that career modes are becoming a popular thing. We wanted to add this mode last year but didn’t have time MBA also hade a “My Player” mode, and we felt like there was a hole we had to fill.
What makes it different from other “rookie to legend” career modes?
One of the big things is to really give you a bigger gauge of your progress. We wanted you to know where you’re at in terms of being called up to the Majors. We actually ahve a meter that shows how close you are, and there are certain set of goals to achive in order to get called up. Once you are called up to the Majors, you have a list of various goals in order to qualify for the “Hall of Fame”.
How to player ratings improve over time?
The focus is more on the in-game performance, so you’re definitely focused on what your player is diong in the game rather than advertising deals and contracts. We have a set of goals that help determine when you’re able to jump from the Minors to the Majors. You get batting, fielding, and base-running skill points, but it’s up to the player to choose which attributes to put in. If you want to make your players “Eye Rating” so you can see what type of pitches are coming, you can do that. If you throw all of your Batting points into your power rating to be a power hittter. If you want to be a speed demon, then you can assign points to that. It’s really up to the gamer as to how to mold what type of player you have.
Can you give an estimate on how long it takes to advance up to the Majors?
That can really vary. There’s so much flexibility in terms of how you want to play the game. You just play the game that your player is directly involved in. You can get through a game a lot quicker than you can in a basketball game, for example (about 5-10 minutes). You can also simulate games entirely to add to your player’s attributes, but it will take a bit longer. So the short answer is about 15-20 games, and how quickly you can get through them.
Acrobatic plays are the norm in previous MLB games? Has this changed?
We added hundreds of new fielding animations
We added a lot more “casual plays” rather than “high energy” animations.
Framerate and online lag was a big issue with 2k9. Has this been fixed?
We knew that there was definite room for improvement with the framerate and lag. We definitely made sure that we got the framerate up, because that’s part of the overall experience. Any time you get lag then that can take away part of that control. We optimized the game as much as we could to avoid this. We spent a lot of time on AI tuning this year and making it as realistic a game as possible.
Ben: How difficult was it to implement the MLB Today feature into the game?
I don’t know if “difficult” is the right word. It was challenging, but we were able to take what NBA (NBA Today) did and move it into MLB. If you’re out of the loop for a couple of days, then you can fire up your console and get updated with what’s going on in real life. The commentary will also reflect what has happened lately. If your favorite team just came off the sweep then the commentary will mention that.
Any thought of using MLB Today for Franchise play? The gamer would follow along with the season?
We talked about that but it’s a tricky thing. It ends up breaking down because you’re going to want to do things that will diverge from real life, like making trades. All of that dynamic commentary is happening will affect everything that’s happened in that season.
Can you give us more details on the $1million contest?
Yeah, it’s a really cool idea. Pitching in 2k10 has really changed this year and is actually much more fun than it’s ever been. There’s so much more control, so there’s more of a challenge in pitching a perfect game. It made sense to promote this new system with a contest where gamers win something cool. We came up with this idea of winning a million dollars for pitching a perfect game. We’re looking forward to seeing someone get that money.
Do you expect anyone to do it during the deadline? Why will it be difficult?
We do expect someone to win it, but it will be hard to do. It may not happen right away, but it will happen sooner or later. The demo is already out on Xbox Live, so people can start practicing now on how the pitching mechanic works. Pitching and Fatigue plays a bigger role this year and the pitching mechanic will change a little bit and your timing will get thrown off as your player begins to tire. If you think you’re doing awesome in the first few innings then that won’t be the case later on.
Will players who liked 2k9 like 2k10?
That’s a pretty broad question, but we all think the game has improved by leaps and bounds. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing a baseball game. The mechanics are similar as 2k9, so you’ll be reasonably familiar with this new game.
Sean: Is there a cap on the number of players you can edit?
Nope. No cap.
What kind of music can we expect this year?
You can actaully check out the entire list at 2ksports.com, but here are some of the bands we have. Jet, Iggy Pop, Black Crows, Social Distortion, Pearl Jam. We even have a song by Tantric which was chosen by Evan Longoria because he actually uses that in real life when he comes up to bat.
Is zone hitting in the game this year or is it all just timing-based?
To make all the physics as realistic as possible we had to focus on zone hitting but the timing is dynamic, but I don’t think you’ll miss it.
How has trading cards been changed for 2k10?
We really liked what we did last year so we wanted to build on that. We changed the players and cards, and the way you unlock them, but it’s mostly the same as 2k9.
What have you done to make the game fun for those who have never picked up a baseball game?
The hardcore guys will appreciate the depth that has gone into this year’s game, but anyone can just pick it up. In order to test that theory I had people play games only using the base swing. The buttons are laid out like a baseball diamonds, and the mechanics are simple, but it takes a lot to master the game.
What kind of guy was Longoria when he was helping you?
Part of the reason we picked him was because he was really interested in the process. We sat down and played some games with him. It was really fun to watch him come up to bat as himself. We got to spend a lot of time picking his brain, like what he thinks about certain pitchers and certain features that were going into the game. It was all really cool.
How will the $1 million winner be picked? By achievement or other sources?
It’s actually a pretty in-depth process. We have a lot of safeguards in the game to determine the legitimacy. There is an achievement tied to it, and basically people will have to record their game and send it in to us.
Will the Classic control mode ever be phased out?
No. Everyone has a different style of play that they prefer, so we’re going to leave those in.
What extra work was done to squash bugs?
The QA department did a really good job. They played the game day and night, so having everyone engaged helped knock out a lot of sneaky issues We feel pretty confident about the quality of MLB 2K10. The existing fans should love it, and this is the game to pick up even if you’re never played a baseball game in your life.