MLB 2K8 conference call recap

Posted February 22nd, 2008 at 4:32 pm


Earlier today I had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with producer Ben Brinkman of 2K Sports’ Major League Baseball 2K8. I took notes throughout the call which went on for over an hour and have put together a summary of the more notable responses and themes.

Overall the focus this year was on adding significant depth along with the gameplay improvements. They needed to add content to a good playing game. Some of which includes the new pitching, hitting, and fielding mechanics, new batting and pitching AI, 90 playable minor league teams, and the trading card feature. The game also has a more interactive feel as opposed to last year where at times the user felt detached from the experience.

The demo is in submission now so we’ll probably see that next week or the following week. He didn’t give any specific details on what it entails except that the Red Sox are included. So from that it’s safe to assume that the opposition will be either the Rockies or the Indians.

The new pitching system is something Brinkman feels people will find intuitive once they get familiar with. They knew they needed something new in this area and using the stick for the motions feels natural and more like actually throwing. It also makes it so there is a lot more variance on where the pitch goes and you can’t just continually have pinpoint accuracy. He compared this innovation with the introduction of the pitching meter in MVP 03. There is the ability to switch back to old controls (listed as advanced vs simple) if anyone wants to although he feels most people won’t have that desire.

There is always the concern of balancing innovation and difficulty with making sure the game is accessible. He thought the first few tries at the new pitching actually turned out too difficult and they adjusted that as they went along to where it is now. He thinks it’ll take a little practice but after 5-10 minutes most people should start to get a feel for it. They also have the ability to practice your pitches and it’ll give feedback on what you’re doing and there is also a tutorial. He thinks it’s important that you get the sense you’re improving as you continue to play the game and not that you can master it right away. The new pitching mechanics seem to represent that belief.

Hit variety has been drastically improved and hitters will represent their real-life counterparts much more realistically. They knew that last year’s game was home run and single dominated so they worked a lot on fixing that. One way is that fielders don’t always take a perfect line to the ball so there should be more hits that get through the infield.

Baserunning AI has been improved so they won’t just run into outs anymore. There is a new double play system with multiple new positional specific double play animations.

When it comes to framerate the exact quote was that the game is “up around 60fps pretty consistently. We wont get down to 30, ever”. So it seems that the videos that show some choppiness especially when fielding are representative of what to expect. He didn’t sound incredibly confident about the state of the framerate.

Going into the call I didn’t really have a strong opinion of the trading card system either way. The first I heard of it my impression was it sounded gimmicky and targeted towards the really casual type gamers. However now having heard a lot of the detail on it I’m pretty excited about the feature. It has the feel of 360 achievements but with the added dimension of competition. The goal of it is to provide an incentive to continue playing the game. So the cards are earned through various events that happen in the course of playing the game as well as the difficulty setting corresponding to the tier of card received. Probably the coolest part of it is that you can take your cards and put together a team which can then be used online. You can even make your own uniforms, select a logo, and name your team. There will be trading card downloadable content with the first such instance of that coming around the release date.

Roster updates won’t come every month but he did state they had goals for putting them out around the following events: release day, opening day, All-Star break, trade deadline, second trade deadline, playoffs, and end of season. There is no 2K Share feature.

The Wii version hasn’t been promoted or previewed much if at all but we got a few details. It has most of the main modes with the exception of the trading cards, minor leagues, and online functionality (no online play or roster updates). The Wii version provides a different experience as more of a pick up and play type of game that goes for fun factor. However it still has the goal of being a sim representation of the sport. Brinkman talked about how much fun they’ve had with the game head to head and thinks the controls work well.

Brinkman feels they’re right where they had hoped to be in his “3 year plan”. The first year was setting the foundation gameplay wise and this year adding the depth while continuing to improve the gameplay. Next year they can take all those things and really flesh them out.

After listening to the call I think there is a lot to like about this game. But as I’ve stated before a lot of it really needs to be experienced to know how well they work or ultimately if they’re fun. So hopefully the demo comes sooner rather than later but regardless I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it.