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'MLB 07: The Show' (PSP/PS2/PS3) Developer Interview

by Andrew Hayward on Feb. 16, 2007 @ 6:46 a.m. PST

MLB 07: The Show looks to continue its reign as the most valuable player in the category by incorporating an all-new feature set and innovative gameplay enhancements. We sat down with Sr. Designer Eddy Cramm, who gave us some insight ...

WP: State your name, rank and occupation!

Eddy Cramm, unranked but with a lot of upside, Sr. Designer.

WP: How close are you to wrapping up the various versions of MLB 07: The Show?

EC: We have put the finishing touches on both the PS2 and PSP versions of the game and are currently full steam ahead to get the PS3 version ready for baseball season.

WP: What kinds of non-visual differences can we expect from the three versions of MLB 07?

EC: Well, that could be a long list, but the first thing that came to mind is the changes to gameplay. Although there was a lot of positive feedback in how the game played, we still saw areas where change would really impress. One of my personal sticking points from last year was that the game still seemed a little too "hit it hard or don't hit it at all." So a pitcher only felt he could have success if he struck out the batter.

But how do we convey the success that pitchers like Greg Maddux have? Or ground-ball pitchers like Brandon Webb? This year, we made changes to make the reactions of the bat meeting the ball more accurate. If you are ahead of an outside change, you will roll it over and hit an 8-hopper to the 3B. You will flare a jam shot, etc. So now, you can still beat a batter by K-ing him, but you can also beat him by outthinking him. It won't take long for people to appreciate the difference. That is my personal favorite, but there are other things as well. Lots of improvements to animations, commentary, A.I.

WP: Is MLB 07: The Show for the PlayStation 3 being built from scratch, or is it an enhanced version of the PlayStation 2 iteration? What can you tell us about it?

EC: It is a bit of both. There are a lot of aspects to the game that carry over very well. Basic gameplay and A.I. don't change that much from platform to platform — baseball is still baseball. But learning to utilize the power of the PS3 and seeing what it can do is utterly amazing. The graphics are incredible. Animations and audio have some similarities, but with the increase in memory and power the PS3 has opened up, there's a whole new level of detail that we could not do on the PS2, so we are taking advantage of that. The advantage that we have is that we are building on a very solid artificial intelligence and game mechanic foundation, so we can pay a lot of attention to taking advantage of these areas that the more powerful system really shines.

WP: The PlayStation 3 version is currently listed to ship in early April, about five weeks after the PS2 and PSP releases. Is that timeframe pretty well set, or could there still be delays?

EC: We are on schedule.

WP: Tell us a bit about the enhancements made to the "Road to the Show" mode.

EC: Road to the Show is a completely new way to play a career mode. Instead of a traditional mode where you play the game and follow the path of your player as a side project, Road to the Show revolves everything around your player. The game will fast-forward to situations where your player is involved in the action. Plus, when the situation calls for it, you will receive "goals" from your coach asking you to do anything from "sacrifice the runner to second" to something simple like "don't get picked off." These goals help keep you in your coaches' good graces and allow you to improve your position within the organization.

But probably the most unique aspect of this mode is the perspective. The camera positions itself behind your player whether in the field or on the bases to see what your player would see. Watch as you round 2nd base on a base hit to center. While the play is still in view of your runner, the camera tracks the ball, but as soon as you round the base and the play is behind you, the camera will do what you would do. Pivot around and pick up your 3rd base coach. It is a whole new way to play a career and really give you the sense of ownership over your player.

WP: How will the online league system work in MLB 07? Will this mode be available in all versions of the game?

EC: Through our SportsConnect technology, MLB 07: The Show will offer Online leagues on all three platforms. You will be able to create a league to your specification. Choose teams, lengths, rules and more. Whether you want six or 30 players in a league, all stats, invitations, Bulletin Board posts, standings and schedules will be specific to their league. The creator of the league will fittingly be called the commissioner. As a commissioner, you can create your schedule (one-, three- or five-game series), the name of your league and the name of its divisions.

You can also choose to create a divisional or Round-Robin league. A commissioner can even choose the number of teams/players that make it to the playoffs from each division. Although the commissioner does have a lot of control over the league, members of the league will have a chance to rate their commissioner. Manage your league well, and a good rating will follow. Manage your league poorly, and your commissioner rating follows you throughout your MLB 07: The Show SportsConnect career! Let's face it, stat tracking is what online is all about.

What's really cool about the stat tracking, is not only do you see how you stack up against the players in your specific league, but also players in all leagues. There are league-specific leaderboards, as well as an Overall League leaderboard. And don't worry about your league games not counting toward your overall SportsConnet points. All time spent playing rated games goes toward your player account stats. The main league view will always post the current week leader, current month leader and the champion for the past week and month. There's always incentive to be on top of the leaderboards and get recognized by the entire community. Jump online, join a league and see if you're good enough to make the champion list.

WP: How does the Adaptive Pitch Intelligence system play out during a game?

EC: API is a new system that offers the gamer pitch type and pitch location suggestions based on a number of variables. The system takes into account the pitcher's strengths and weaknesses, the batter's strengths and weaknesses, the current game situation and score. So instead of randomly suggesting a certain pitch, it makes an intelligent choice. This is a great way to not only represent the catcher giving signs, but also a great tutorial to help the gamer develop his own pitching strategy.

WP: What is the Pitch Command System?

EC: The idea for the Pitch Command System is just another step forward in capturing the realism of the game. Making control a factor for pitchers is not a new concept, but what control usually meant was a blanket rating for all of a pitcher's pitches. But what about those situations where a guy is just having no luck with his curveball? Or isn't using his changeup enough to be comfortable with it? We created a system that pays attention to what type of success you are having with each of your pitches and adjusts your command accordingly.

If you are getting a lot of strikes with your fastball and getting outs, your command will improve. But if that curveball is getting raked, then his confidence and command of that pitch is going to slip. My favorite addition to this system is the inactivity penalty. You will not be able to ignore throwing the sinker for eight innings and then break it out in a clutch situation. The system promotes you using all of your pitches and keeping them sharp. To see the status of each pitch, there is a small power bar above each pitch selection icon.

WP: The MLB series has been consistently great on the PSP from the start. How do you deal with the limitations of the portable hardware? What kinds of sacrifices have to be made (compared to the console versions) to streamline the experience?

This is the third iteration of the MLB franchise on the PSP, and the team is still looking at ways it can push the hardware. Gameplay is phenomenal on the PSP... it's a lot of people's favorite game on the PSP. If anything, I guess I'd have to say that there is a little less depth in commentary, a little less variety in animations, and less detail in the models, but overall the MLB 07: The Show on the PSP is widely considered a fan favorite. Let's face it, last year we were the clear market leader for baseball games across all gaming platforms, and we only published on the PS2 & PSP.

WP: David Wright has done well for the Mets, but will just be entering his third full season in the majors this year. Why choose him as the cover athlete MLB 07 instead of someone more established?

EC: There are really a ton of reasons to go with a guy like David Wright. First of all, let's look at it strictly from a baseball standpoint. The guy is a great player — he has gotten better in AVG, RBI, SLG, OPS, Hits, even SBs. In just his third season in the Big Leagues, Wright was named to the NL All-Star Game as a starter and ranked among the club's top three hitters in all offensive categories for the 2006 Mets, who were the top run-scoring team in the National League — all before he was 24 years old. In addition, Wright heads the Do The Wright Thing charity, whose mission is to increase awareness about multiple sclerosis and to raise money for multiple sclerosis organizations and projects.

WP: Many baseball games are a couple of months behind on team rosters by the time they hit the shelves. At what point prior to finalizing the code can you no longer update the rosters? Will there be an online update available on the release date?

Yes, getting MLB: The Show out on the shelves with the latest team rosters is always a challenge. Fortunately, the way our game is structured, we're able to update rosters up until the final disc is created. Another huge benefit we have is the ability to offer weekly Live Rosters in the online area, using SportsConnect. All players have to do is login with the PlayStation console of their choice and download the Live Roster. We've made it easier than ever to save and apply rosters for use offline.

And yes, Live Roster saves, and the ability to apply them will be available on PS2, PSP and PS3! The Live Roster will include all the week's player movements (trades, Minor League moves, Disabled Lists, etc.), as well as specific player attribute changes. If Wright is having a great week, his contact and power attribute numbers will be updated to reflect it. If Peavy is averaging 10 Ks an outing, his control and power attributes are going to reflect it. A Live Roster announcement will be posted with each Live Roster, highlighting to the community the changes in the Live Roster. The depth of the changes in the weekly Live Roster offers a dynamic experience players are sure to appreciate.

WP: Has the elimination of EA Sports' MVP (major-league) franchise directly affected how you approach the MLB series in any way? Or has that move merely created a singular, stronger opponent in 2K Sports?

EC: We have never had a meeting that started with "Now that company X is gone, what are we going to do differently?" The MLB: The Show franchise has always had is a great understanding of what is fun, what is good, and what is baseball. This team wasn't just built around great programmers and artists, producers and designers. It was also built around baseball fans, and in many cases, baseball players. This is not as common in the industry as you might think.

Thinking off the top of my head, I can think of eight guys on the development team that play in a hardball league right now, including myself (Go Sand Gnats!!), and even more that are just avid baseball fans. So, we have a large base of people involved in this process that know the game, know what the fan at home wants in a baseball game, and take pride in conveying that vision. That is what drives our strategy, and that is what pushes us to make the most realistic and best-playing baseball simulation on the market.

In 2006, MLB '06: The Show led the baseball video game market across all gaming platforms and dominated the PlayStation platforms. This year, MLB 07: The Show looks to continue its reign as the most valuable player in the category by incorporating an all-new feature set and innovative gameplay enhancements. With MLB '07: The Show, we continue to define our dedication to producing authentic, immersive, and technologically superior sports titles for PS3, PS2 and PSP.

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