Super Mega Baseball Interview and Trailer

Posted December 9th, 2014 at 12:00 pm


A new gameplay teaser trailer just arrived for Super Mega Baseball which is set to release next Tuesday for PS4 and PS3. This is a game that hopes to fill a void in the sports gaming genre, which over the past five years has been slimmed down to almost entirely league licensed simulation offerings. Scott Drader, co-founder of Metalhead Software the studio behind Super Mega, was kind enough to answer some questions that I sent his way.

In recent years we’ve lost most of the arcade-style of sports games. Where do you view Super Mega Baseball as fitting in? What elements would you say are “sim” vs “arcade”?

We’re definitely looking to fill an underserved segment – not so much arcade sports games specifically, but more so accessible sports games – and that distinction is reflected in the game’s design. Its presentation, pacing, and style certainly sit on the arcade side of things, but the core mechanics and simulation stick reasonably close to the fundamentals of the sport. Someone that knows baseball well is going to sit down and see a game of baseball that unfolds reasonably from a statistical perspective, but at the same time we’re not trying to simulate every element of the sport – we’ve drawn the line on simulation depth where going further would start to impede pacing or accessibility.

How well does the game represent the strategy inherent in baseball? There’s a misconception that games that don’t look like real life are then completely unrealistic in every regard. Some of my favorite games have been the ones with sim-based strategy but arcade elements surrounding it (The BIGS is an example I always like to use).

We wanted to avoid branding the game purely “arcade” precisely because of that misconception. I don’t want to overstate the importance of baseball strategy in the game – learning to effectively slug homers is far more important – but because the fundamentals of the simulation are in-tune with reality (ball physics, arm strength, player speed, etc.), those strategic elements come out naturally. There are right and wrong times to bunt, steal, or hit-and-run. You need to manage your bullpen, and decide when to pinch-hit for your pitcher, and so on.

How does being unlicensed affect how you approach designing the game? Are there any features that you are only able to provide because of that freedom?

Being unlicensed has made it easier to differentiate the game and to venture into some uncharted territory creatively. It’s not so much about new features being possible – we could provide more or less the same feature set in a licensed game – it’s more about being able to deliver something that genuinely looks and feels new, being able to appeal to a wider audience, and being able to throw in some parody.

What have been some of the development challenges you’ve faced? There aren’t many sports games from independent developers on consoles these days. The Golf Club and your game stand out from the crowd in that regard this year.

We came into this from a non-games software background and essentially started from scratch. We had a pretty decent grounding in building software, but there was a tremendous amount to learn about actually making games. Of course we were also lacking connections, so there was the significant challenge of assembling the network of people you need to build and ship a product in this industry. We bought ourselves time to work through it all by keeping costs down, working on some side projects, and stubbornly forging ahead on the project even when it felt like it was going to be impossible to finish. I’m massively looking forward to being able to approach our second project with some of these start-up challenges out of the way.

There’s no online play offered however Share Play on PS4 looks to be a way to face off against friends who aren’t close by. What went into determining that online play wouldn’t be a part of the product?

There was never a decision like “okay we’re not going to do online”, it was more that we always knew online would be too big of a feature for us to handle in the first version of the game – there was just too much else for our relatively tiny team to finish. With the game out there, we’ll be listening to fans about what they’d like to see next, and hopefully be able to consider adding some of the things that were not possible in the first version.

Can you explain what to expect out of the game’s season mode?

There are three lengths of seasons, each with different lengths of playoff series. They’re all shorter than real baseball seasons so they’re easier to finish. Season mode allows you to improve your team over time by levelling-up and hiring staff members than can coach or train your players. You’ll be able to measure your performance by analyzing your team stats, trying to top the league leaders, or trying to best your friends with the leaderboard scores. There’s also an overall measuring stick of your progress in the game – your Level – and I think we’ll see friends competing with one another on that.

What was the consideration given to pricing? At $20 how does the content and quality of the game meet or exceed that initial cost?

As a developer you have to find a price point that you believe your customers will feel is fair, while also accounting for the time and effort spent. The value proposition on this first release is simple – we’re offering something that, rather than being an incremental refinement of a familiar experience, is a genuinely fresh take on the genre and distinct from games you’ve played before.

Do you have plans for post-release content? I realize you may not be prepared to announce anything but it would be great to know how the game will be supported in the future.

With this being the initial release of the game, our first priority will be making sure fans are happy with the core experience. From there, we’ll need to prioritize between readying the game for other platforms, gameplay refinements, new features, and new content – how we distribute our effort across those activities post-launch will be driven largely by user feedback and demand.

The development team that worked on the game – can you tell us about its make-up, how many people were involved, backgrounds of those on the team, etc? How did everyone come together?

It probably sounds cliché, but it started with just two of us coding in a basement part-time, paying the bills with other work. We ended up finding our other team members one by one over time, almost exclusively through networking and local meet-ups. At peak, I think we had around 6 or 7 working at least part-time. Starting out, our background was in scientific/engineering software, though we were fortunate enough to find help from some serious industry veterans later in the project, especially on the art/content side of things. I’m thankful not just for their contributions to the project, but for how much we were able to learn through working with them.

How was the concept of Super Mega Baseball formed? Starting from scratch I’d imagine a bunch of ideas were tossed around. What was it about the game that materialized that made it the most compelling direction to go?

We had always wanted to work in games, and pretty quickly decided to make a more accessible and couch-friendly baseball game. We actually started with some pretty off-the-wall ideas. There was a time when the setting was going to be post-apocalyptic… like a new league forming out of the shambles, playing in destroyed stadiums… pretty absurd stuff. There were going to be power-ups like speed boosts and mega slides at one point too. As we started to develop the style and gameplay it became clear that the game would be distinctive enough with a ‘pure’ baseball theme, and that we didn’t need to risk making the game ultra-niche with these kinds of wacky twists. I still wonder what the game would look like today if some of those ideas had stayed in.

What do you think will surprise people the most about Super Mega Baseball?

It’s hard to gauge exactly what people are expecting, but I know people tend to frame their expectations in terms of their past experiences with other games. My hope is that people are surprised about how different SMB looks and feels from its predecessors. I hope the game quells a bit of the cynicism that’s out there in the mainstream gaming media around the incremental nature and lack of diversity in the sports genre.