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MLB 2K10: MLB 2K10 Looks to Come Off the DL

Company: 2K Sports

After having the opportunity to be involved in a developer call with members of the Visual Concepts team, some of your questions may be answered about this year's Major League Baseball series, MLB 2K10. Fielding (pun intended) questions from the media was 2K Sports Producer Ben Bishop, as well as Gameplay Designers Jonathan Rivera and Sean Bailey, and was moderated by Chase from Access Communications.

Many concerns by fans of the series haven't gone unnoticed by the development team after last year's lackluster MLB 2K9, and they assure that this year's title has been rewritten from the ground up in an effort to rejuvenate its Intellectual Property. They mentioned that last year's effort was plagued by taking over the IP late and not having enough time to implement features and tweak gameplay. This year they had a full development cycle. As such, gamers should notice some immediate fixes to address issues from last year, some of which are base running, computer A.I., and most importantly, the batter-pitcher dynamic that America's pastime revolves around.

One of the great assets to developing multiple titles in the same house is that you can easily share code and features from one game to another. In the case of Visual Concepts, they were able to borrow from NBA 2K10, which means some of the interesting and innovative features have been passed on. In the case of MLB 2K10, the My Player feature makes the jump, which will allow gamers to create and control one player throughout his career. You'll have to start in the Minors and work your way up, ultimately trying to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. One of the implementations that I loved about the NBA 2K10 version of My Player was that you not only can play your games exclusively while your player is actually playing, but also that you can simulate (or stop simulating) at any time, giving you complete control over how long a game takes to play. This will also be the case with MLB 2K10.

In addition, MLB Today will feature the same dynamic implementation of commentary based on actual stats happening in the real world. The developers mentioned that this feature not only sounds impressive, but it will also help fans keep in touch with what's going on in Major League Baseball, say, if they lose touch with the season for a few days. For example, if a live player is going for the home run record, the in-game commentators will mention this during gameplay. Dynamic commentary will also show up in your franchise games, but instead of taking stats from the real world via your network connection, it will look back on previous games from within your season.

MLB 2K10's developers made it a point to mention time and again the features that should make the title forget its past incarnations. Most talked about was the battle at the plate, which is basically what they have tagged as the Pitchers versus Hitters dynamic. Both the pitching and the batting have been tweaked to give the gamer more control by allowing them more opportunity to analyze what is happening in the game. From a hitter's standpoint, the Eye Rating will allow certain batters the ability to read pitches. From the mound, pitchers will be able to use the Pitch Analyzer to determine the best tosses for individual pitching styles.

Other aspects of the game have also been tweaked, including the ability to now pre-load throws. I didn't have the opportunity to play last year's title, but based on feedback from both the developers and the forums, animations were a bit too slow. As a result, even simple double-play attempts failed. This should be fixed this year as gamers will now be able to anticipate where they want to go with the ball before it arrives, and the animations will follow suit. The framerate and lag issues are another aspect that has been improved upon for online play. The guys at Visual Concepts also mentioned that they've implemented "casual animations" so that easy plays don't have the fielders rifling the ball when it's not necessary, giving a better sense of realistic gameplay.

One final thing worth noting is that MLB 2K10 has a contest worth 1 Million Dollars for the first gamer to successfully record a perfect game. You can check out the official rules online, but the basics are that you have to record your game from system boot through to the end of the game, not pause or substitute your pitcher, take down the code that the game gives you, jump through hoops... just kidding. But seriously, the developers do believe someone will win big before the contest's deadline, yet it won't be easy due to the implementation of pitching dynamics that will not only look at pure statistics, but also at which batters are at the plate. They did give a suggestion of downloading the demo via Xbox Live Arcade for the time being, just to get some practice in.

MLB 2K10 is set to be released on March 2, 2010. Based on the conversation with Visual Concepts, this year's title should be a huge improvement over last year's and the interactions between offense and defense are said to set the scene for great battles. Only time will tell, but baseball fans may have something to finally rejoice about.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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