MLB 08 THE SHOW Weekly Update: Gameplay/Situational Awareness

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Play Ball! Batter Up! Back, back, back, back, gone! Whatever your favorite baseball slogan… The “Boys of Summer” will be back soon, and after an off-season of blockbuster trades and free agents mega-signings, we’re sure you’re as anxious for the season’s first pitch as we are.

And, while the real-life season is just getting ready to warm up, the MLB team at the SCEA San Diego Studios are busy putting the finishing touches on what many already consider the best baseball game available, MLB 08 THE SHOW. It’s due to hit shelves on March 4th as the only officially-licensed first party baseball game exclusively for PLAYSTATION 3, PlayStation 2 and PSP.

Each week leading up to launch, we’ll be bringing you a new entry in the MLB 08 THE SHOW blog series, highlighting key features of the game.

Hello all, my name is Chris Gill, the Senior Producer in charge of Gameplay and Animation for the MLB franchise. This year our main focus was to make sure that not only was the gameplay solid, fundamentally sound and fun, but that all the players on the field behaved, situationaly, like they do in the big leagues, before, during and after the play.

For example, how they get ready in their pre-pitch stance, adjusting just slightly before the pitch to get in to position. How they adjust their positioning based on the hitters tendencies. During the play, how they approach the ball, the type of run they use, the angles to the ball they take, the way they play balls off the wall in the OF, the tags, the hot shot over the top plays, all of which are based on the current situations. You can play this game over and over and see plays you’ve never seen before.

Situational awareness is a term we use a lot here at the studio. For example, a routine fly ball hit to the outfield with no runners on and no outs. The OF knows he doesn’t have to hurry, so he performs a casual catch and throw back in. That same outfielder knows that when there’s a runner on first in that same situation and the runner goes half way, there’s no immediate threat, so he will perform an animation that’s a little quicker, than the first example but still semi casual.

The third case of course is when a runner is tagging up and you have to throw him out. In this situation, the OF will get behind the ball and make more of an urgent crow-hop type throw. This is just one example of our “situational awareness” that we use all over the game all the time.

Our infielders know how much time they have to perform certain types of animations as well. If a guy like Molina hits a ground ball to the SS, he knows he has plenty of time, the animation will reflect that. If Ichiro is running down the line, he’ll obviously have to get rid of it much quicker. For those of you that have played our game in the past, you know we have an enormous amount of animations in our game and we just keep piling them on.

This year, we added over 500 more gameplay animations. That number doesn’t even include the presentations, personal pitcher deliveries and batter stances (including their own personal walk up sequences). The pitcher batter duel is also an area where we put a lot of focus. Personalizing pitchers breaks, how they attack the batter/user and the adjustments that the pitchers make based on the users tendencies all were improved upon.

The overall idea is that when you walk away from playing our game, you’re going to feel like a big leaguer. We’ve worked diligently to not only make it look realistic but “feel” good as well. You’re going to see things in MLB 08 THE SHOW that you’ve been waiting on for a long time.

Stay tuned… we’ll have a new blog entry next week.

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