MLB 2K9 Conference Call Recap

Posted February 20th, 2009 at 8:32 pm


Earlier this afternoon I had the opportunity to participate in the media conference call for MLB 2K9 with Lead Features Designer Erick Boenisch and Gameplay Producer Jonathan Rivera. Along with Chase from OS we live blogged the call. You can catch the transcript here.

I also wanted to write up a recap to go accompany the live blog. These calls usually provide a good overview of the game as some of the attendees have not followed the pre-release progress and the questions reflect that. Still there is always a good deal to discuss after them. Continue on to read my full recap.

First to get the biggest news out of the way they stated that the demo will be out next week. There was no further clarification as to the dates or what the demo entails. So it could be next Tuesday for the 360 and Thursday for the PS3, or they may both end up getting it on Thursday.

The studio move to Visual Concepts has been a highly discussed topic and a reason for optimism. They stated that they didn’t feel any pressure, that it was more excitement at getting to take over the title and implement their ideas into it. What they focused on was centrally the gameplay but also making the game more accessible, fixing the framerate, franchise mode, and the presentation. Their aim was for authenticity.

The framerate was stated to be at 60fps, and they were much more confident in their statements regarding this than last year. I don’t have the feeling that the framerate will negatively affect the actual gameplay as they specifically stated 60fps when the ball was in play. Last year when the claim of 60fps was made it was much more general and the tone gave away that there was a problem looming.

VC started over with the franchise mode making sure they had a good base to work from. After that they were able to incorporate things such as an all new player progression system, more realistic stats, and player ambitions (some examples being playing time, money, location, team prestige, winning).

The topic of “meatballs” came up and they seemed to be as frustrated with that element as everyone else was. So those are out. I don’t believe I remember them detailing what a mistake pitch now does though. It won’t be the meatball situation regardless where you are severely punished for any mistake made.

What is it about MLB 2K9 that separates it from the competition? According to them it is the pitching and hitting controls that use the right analog stick. I enjoyed some aspects of the right analog pitching, though my main issue still will probably be having my hand out of position when I need to react quickly to a ball in play. I’ve never been a fan of the swing stick but at least they did remove the pull back timing requirement. What concerns me is check swinging, which they stated is not changed from last year and would remain very difficult to do.

The real time presentation came up at different points, everyone is probably familiar with what that is all about after watching gameplay videos. Other areas mentioned that tie into it are the dynamic crowd which will react to specific situations and the new commentary team that provides a fresh feel to the game.

The Inside Edge feature that has been in the game for a couple years was mentioned and I got the impression that this was how they were explaining off the complaints about the CPU swinging at every strike. As I stated in the live blog I don’t know how everyone will feel about that as the reasoning behind it or as a potential way to attack a CPU batter and see them taking pitches.

2K8’s online play was arguably the worst performance wise of any sports title this generation. Naturally this was brought up and they believe that online will run close to the experience offline in most cases. I can’t help but remain pessimistic before playing myself though since they discussed all the improvements that had supposedly been made in the conference call for NBA 2K9’s online and we know how that one turned out. All of 2K’s titles have really struggled in the last year with online play so they’ll need to break that cycle before anyone can feel confident about it. I do think that the improved framerate in general will probably be a factor in better performance though.

Online leagues have been improved with the return of flex schedules (one example) as well as the interface. I’m also glad that they got the video highlights and screenshot uploading in too. However the complaints about having no ranked lobbies has not been addressed as they’ve kept the same structure that NBA and NHL 2K9 had due to the Team 2K competition. Overall though If they get the lag worked out I like the potential of this being a fun head-to-head game.

MLB 2K9 follows the NBA franchise by introducing Living Rosters. This is being completed in the same manner as the NBA 2K9. Updates will come the same day in cases of big transactions, and less frequently (maybe weekly?) when there has not been any major transactions. With the number of players in MLB vs NBA, the constant shifting of lineups, frequent trips to/from the DL list, and the movement between the majors and minors this appears to be a much larger undertaking. It’ll be interesting to see how well it is handled.

The trading cards were talked about on a couple occasions.I actually like the cards for what they attempt to do, whether they succeeded with the improvements they made this year vs last we shall see but they did address many of the complaints with them. You can take card teams online but can’t use them for leagues.

While MLB 2K9 had the World Baseball Classic included, 2K9 does not. The definitive no didn’t provide much hope for it to be offered as downloadable content either.

The PC version was asked about and it is similar to NBA 2K9. It is a 360 port and doesn’t have any online elements to it. For $20 anyone who enjoys gaming on the PC would probably be able to get good value out of it. The goal is to grow the baseball gaming market and it was something they were able to produce relatively easily.

In probably the most awkward moment of the call a question regarding the Wii version was posed. After a few seconds of silence it was stated that Visual Concepts does not develop the Wii version and they had no idea of anything about it. Obviously that isn’t a good sign for anyone who was hoping that the Wii would be getting a quality offering this year.

Coming out of the call I think that we’re looking at a much improved product. I enjoy the flow that is being provided by the real time presentation and the gameplay looks to have the fun factor back. Obvious concerns right now would be the CPU swinging at every strike and online performance. The demo next week is one of the most intriguing ones I can remember considering the circumstances and will play a big part in how confident consumers feel about the product as we near release.