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Major League Baseball 2K10 Preview
The relationship gamers have had with the MLB 2K franchise in recent years is similar to one that can happen to people with significant others they no longer truly care about. Those people in now-loveless relationships hold out hope that their wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend will change back into the person they originally fell in love with in the first place. They try to find false signs of hope in insignificant events because they really want to believe that the person they fell in love with will return and just needs to be brought back to the surface somehow. Unfortunately, it usually ends up being smoke and mirrors, and those people just have to accept the fact that they need to move on and find someone else.

And perhaps MLB 2K10 can be that new “flame” in gamers’ lives. Maybe it can be that new girlfriend or boyfriend that rejuvenates your belief in love -- not that I think dating a game disc would qualify as a healthy relationship, just so we are clear on that front.

Still, there is another group of people in the above scenario who will be so jaded by the initial failed relationship that they will no longer believe any relationship can work, which is perfectly acceptable as well.

Regardless of where each gamer fits into the above scenario, during my limited time with MLB 2K10 I at least saw a glimmer of hope and a reasonable chance that MLB 2K baseball is finally on the right path.



On the Field

The developers at Visual Concepts are going through their first full year of development with the MLB 2K franchise -- last year they had less than a full development cycle to work on MLB 2K9. In my time with the game, what that seems to mean is that there is a lot more time to polish the game and remove a lot of those pesky bugs and quirks that plagued last year’s game. This means we should see a more consistent frame rate (no more slow-mo ball while catching a ball in the outfield), outfielders should actually catch balls hit right at them, first basemen should actually touch first base to get a runner out and so on.

Hitting

But beyond the amount of polish that can be applied during a full development cycle, the other benefit seems to be more time to actually refine and update core mechanics of the game. Namely, the hitting seems to have gotten the most attention this year.

As someone who never liked the swing stick in the past versions of the MLB 2Kgames, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed toying around with the updated swing stick, which I will be dubbing Swing Stick 4.0 (just cause). This year you can defensive swing by pressing left or right on the analog stick; you can power swing by pressing down and then up on the analog stick; and you can contact swing by simply pressing up on the analog stick. Basically, you now have a lot of choices while at the plate, and there are positives and negatives to each type of swing.

But with the amount of choice Visual Concepts has provided for gamers while at the plate, it’s a little perplexing that the developers chose to remove the check swing. Now, I will be the first to admit that I could never effectively check swing in the first place using the swing stick (having check swing on the trigger just never seemed to click for me), and a lot of the time the attempted checked swings looked really funky in a visual sense. Nevertheless, sports games have to be all about providing choices, and a simulation game that does not provide a check swing -- even one that is less than perfect -- is not a good thing for gamers.

Moving beyond the lack of a check swing, I think the different types of swings that can be done on the analog stick this year make me believe that using buttons is not the only way hitting can be potentially fun and effective.

I believe that may be the case because it seems like defensive swings versus contact swings will fit nicely into my style of hitting. In general (and especially with two strikes), I will look inside while at the plate and react to things on the outside of the plate. At other times, if I have a nice hitter’s count, I may focus in on a spot in the zone and try to power swing. The point is I decide before the pitch is on its way what my general philosophy will be on the next pitch. I do not think gamers will have the reaction time to see a pitch and decide to use whatever swing type they want, but it certainly seems like it will be feasible to decide between contact and defensive swings.

Ratings will also tie into these swings. You should be more inclined to contact swing with Ichiro and more inclined to power swing with Ryan Howard. Ichiro can still hit home runs using the contact swing, but his timing during a contact swing has to be perfect. But if Ichiro is trying to use the power swing, his timing window to hit the ball hard will be smaller than if he tried to hit the ball using a contact swing.

And since the “swing influence” has also been minimized this year, hitting is all about timing. No longer simply using the “swing influence” to hit the ball wherever you want is the way to go. So if you want to hit the ball to the opposite field, you have to wait for the ball to get deeper into the zone before taking a whack.

This should mean home-run fests should be kept to a minimum. Yes, if you are using the power swing over and over, you are going to hit more home runs than the person who is using the contact swing. However, you cannot simply press the swing influence stick and then pull outside pitches for home runs (I tried).

Pitching

When it comes to pitching, you now select your pitch before doing the motion on the stick. Really, nothing has fundamentally changed from a controls perspective, but now ratings, stamina and confidence tie into a pitcher’s ability to pitch effectively. As an example, I threw four perfect innings with Koji Uehara while using the Baltimore Orioles (on Pro difficulty), but in the fourth inning I ran into trouble since my pitch count was on the rise. I ended up walking a guy and then allowing a single. At that point Koji still had confidence, but I was not pinpointing pitches as well as I had during the first four innings. I ended up battling out of the jam, but I had to really work to do so.

When I got into a jam, I could have asked for a mound visit, which is done differently this year. When there is a meeting on the mound, now you can select confidence or stamina and a small bit of either one of those qualities will return to your pitcher. Confidence ties into your ball cursor -- the cursor will begin to move around on the screen more violently as you get into bigger jams. Stamina will really tie into your accuracy and ability to pinpoint pitches.

Pinpointing will not be very easy to do either way since ratings also play a bigger role when pitching. Your outfielder will not be able to come into the game and paint the corners anymore. In addition to that, even when your normally wild pitchers are nailing their pitching motions, there is an inherent amount of wildness that will still show up. By default, Joel Pineiro is just going to be more accurate than Oliver Perez.

This also ties into how the AI performs. During my time with the game, I walked two CPU batters, but I also drew two or three walks against my CPU counterpart. When an AI pitcher with weak control attributes is on the mound, he may miss the strike zone by a lot more on a more consistent basis than a control pitcher will.

While on the mound, the other thing I noticed was the graphics. A lot of the work that has been done this year has to do with the stadiums, fields and overall look of the things surrounding the players. However, the player themselves look a bit underwhelming. I think their jerseys and so forth look really solid, but the faces are not quite up to par. Some of the faces are hit or miss, but the bigger problem just seems to be the textures on the faces. The faces simply do not really pop out off the screen and scream realism because those smaller details are not able to shine through.

Fielding

Preloading throws, new animations and a removal of turbo seem to be the biggest changes this year (beyond the fact that outfielders should catch balls hit right at them). Preloading a throw seems to work just fine, and I was able to watch the CPU turn an easy double play on me while rocking a preloaded throw. These preloaded throws should really help to remove a lot of those “quick” throws that you would try to pull off last year. (The quick throws really looked unnatural last year because the fielder went through a throwing animation way too fast.)

As for new animations, obviously a lot of the preloaded throws tie into new animations. At one point, I moved to my right to field a grounder as the shortstop, and all in one motion (and animation) the shortstop picked up the ball and fired it off balance towards first base for an out.

As for the removal of turbo, this seems to tie into the choice to let ratings do their thing as well. Players who are great base stealers but are not necessarily good at using their speed in the outfield will be exposed via ratings. If a player has iffy fielding ratings but great speed and aggression on the bases, he may be a demon on the basepaths but just all right while manning center field. Obviously, it would be easier if you could just make players take bad routes rather than affect the speed rating in some way, but since you are not intentionally going to take a bad route to a ball, it seems to be the middle ground.



My Player

The big addition to the feature set is the My Player career mode. The goal of this mode is take your player from a Double-A organization all the way to the MLB Hall of Fame. You create a hitter or pitcher with a robust set of editing tools (those who played NBA 2K10 should be familiar with the editing system), and from there you can either select what organization you want to be a part of or be randomly placed in an organization.

I witnessed the start of a position player’s career in the My Player mode, which starts with a “clutch moment” during your initial at-bat in Double-A. Clutch moments are exactly what they sound like, but they really will not occur too often in the minors -- you will see them much more once you reach the MLB. Your job during this initial clutch moment is to drive home a runner from second base. In my demo session, the developer got a hit with his player, but the ball was not hit well enough to drive in the runner on second.

From there, the developer ended up trying to steal with his player -- a bad idea since his ratings as a Double-A player in his first game were, well, horrific. However, I did get to see the mechanics behind steals. First off, while on base in the My Player mode, the camera is behind your player at first base. At any rate, I was more interested to see how stealing has changed this year. The main difference between this year and last year -- and to be clear, you steal this way in My Player mode or a regular game -- is how you start stealing the base. You still steal using the trigger, but this year when you release the trigger your player automatically starts stealing. This means there is no “preloading” steals, you now need to time the pitcher and start stealing when the pitcher starts his motion towards the plate. The nice thing is the pitcher will not always head towards the plate at the same time, so it’s not so easy to time the pitcher and get a good jump.

During the terribly pathetic steal attempt, I also got to see a new two-man animation. For those unaware, the developers have added a bunch of new two-man animations to the game that should help solve some of the major clipping issues in previous versions of the game. The animation I witnessed was the infielder tagging out the baserunner at second base. You could visibly see the infielder tag the baserunner, so at least during one instance the two-man animation did equal a clean and good looking tag-out situation.

But getting back to core mechanics of the My Player mode, within each game you only are in control of your player during moments when you are involved in the play. So if you are up at the plate, then you control your player. If you need to get in position to receive a cutoff throw, you will need to realize that and position your player accordingly. When you are not involved in the play, Super Sim takes over and you watch as the game quickly unfolds before you.

After playing a game or partaking in a drill, you use the points that you earned to boost your player’s skills. This is important because your player’s ratings are broken into a couple of independent groups. So, for example, you will have a certain amount of points to spend on hitting and another amount of points to spend on baserunning attributes. You can also use your points to half-purchase attributes. So instead of waiting until you have 1,000 points to upgrade your speed rating by a point, you can use the 275 points you already have and put them towards speed and get closer to purchasing that speed point. Really, think of it like making a down payment on something -- you made an initial payment, and when you get the rest of the money you can finish paying off the rest. The nice part is no banks are involved in the attribute-buying process in MLB 2K10.

You also have certain goals you will have to meet in order to get called up. These goals are very accessible and easy to view, and as you reach these goals you can see a meter filling up that shows how close you are to getting called up. Another element in this process is wins and losses. By winning games you gain more attribute points than you would when you lose. The developers threw this aspect into the mix because they still want gamers to focus on winning games rather than completing individual goals at the cost of the team.

As you play game after game, you may get tired of the grind and want to simulate some games. You can simulate games and still gain some points (about a fourth as many as you would by actually playing the games). If you simulate a large amount of games, the game will still ask if you want to intervene and take over during a “clutch moment” or a key game that is important for a pennant race or something else along those lines.

All in all, while these career modes are not my cup of tea, the mode looks like it will be a solid addition for gamers who are into that sort of thing.

Wrapping It Up

By the time my demo session was over, I was not ready to put the controller down. At no point did I ever have that feeling with MLB 2K9. In fact, by the end of my first nine innings with MLB 2K9 I realized the game was not going to do it for me. Now, that does not mean I necessarily think MLB 2K10 will end up being a revelation, but I do think the game can potentially restore some semblance of order and direction to the franchise. Obviously, that is not really a glowing endorsement or a disparaging remark, but I cannot really give the game a big thumbs up or down after a minimal amount of time with the game.

*Full disclosure: 2K paid for my two-night hotel stay and airfare during this trip. While it did not influence what I wrote here, I always think it is important to be upfront with the visitors of this site whenever possible.*
Major League Baseball 2K10 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 brendanrfoley @ 01/28/10 10:18 AM
I'm am optimistic; I can't wait for extended previews and game play videos.
 
# 2 brendanrfoley @ 01/28/10 10:24 AM
I may be wrong, but hasn't turbo been out of this series for at least two years?
 
# 3 brendanrfoley @ 01/28/10 10:26 AM
Chase sounds cautiously optimistic. Between his preview and Kotaku's I am getting my hopes up. Silly, I know!

As a total aside, I've seen Chase mention a couple times there is no more turbo. Was that in last year's game?
 
# 4 DaveDQ @ 01/28/10 10:29 AM
Ohh my..Chase the first paragraph sounds like you are writing for Oprah.

On to read the rest...
 
# 5 nld230 @ 01/28/10 10:46 AM
I honestly thought they removed turbo in 2k8.
 
# 6 Trevytrev11 @ 01/28/10 10:47 AM
I know it's too little too late and I know I haven't had the opportunity to use the new system, but it seems like everything could have been implemented better if instead of changing the swing stick mechanics for the differnent swings they added a trigger to choose between the different swings and kept the mechanics the exact same.

This would have allowed a user to use a defenisve swing from either a contact or power swing and if they added a check swing, it could also have been the same mechanic for both swings.

Either way you have to pre determine prior to the pitch if you are going to use a contact or power swing, so that wouldn't be an issue.

My thought is that even when Ryan Howard is down 0-2 he is still swinging out of his shoes at almost anything, but there are still situations on a borderline pitch where he may at first thought the pitch was out of the zone and at the last second realized it may be closer and try to take an emergency swing at the last second in attempt to stay alive. His mindset going into the pitch is for his "power" swing, but he can still throw a defensive swing out there if needed.

I'm still not 100% sure, but from what I understand from all that I have read, it seems like you can only do the defenisive swing from a contact swing and not a power swing. In other words, it has to be a flick of the stick to the left or right from the center position (which is where the contact swing is initiated from). However, once you pull back for the power swing, you are pretty much locked into a power swing...unless you can go left and right from the down (power swing) position to execute the defensive swing. If so then, I can live with that, though I'd still prefer one motion for all swings with a trigger pulled to modify between power and contact and then your swing, defenisve swing and check swing would always be the exact same motion.

Chase can you clarify?

Can you take a defenisve swing once you pull back for a power swing or can it only be accomplished from center (on a contact swing)?
 
# 7 Trevytrev11 @ 01/28/10 10:48 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by nld230
I honestly thought they removed turbo in 2k8.
I thought so, too. Thought 2K7 was the last time it was in.
 
# 8 boomhauertjs @ 01/28/10 10:54 AM
Good preview, Chase. I'm probably passing on this one unless the reviews after it comes out are glowing and there aren't any bugs.
 
# 9 jeffy777 @ 01/28/10 10:57 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trevytrev11
I thought so, too. Thought 2K7 was the last time it was in.
I'm pretty sure you are right. Haven't had turbo since 2K7....
 
# 10 SoxFan01605 @ 01/28/10 10:59 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trevytrev11
I thought so, too. Thought 2K7 was the last time it was in.
He mentioned fielder turbo, which was still in last year as I recall. It was base-runner turbo that was removed after 2K7.

I got a kick out of this...so true:

Quote:
The relationship gamers have had with the MLB 2K franchise in recent years is similar to one that can happen to people with significant others they no longer truly care about. Those people in now-loveless relationships hold out hope that their wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend will change back into the person they originally fell in love with in the first place. They try to find false signs of hope in insignificant events because they really want to believe that the person they fell in love with will return and just needs to be brought back to the surface somehow. Unfortunately, it usually ends up being smoke and mirrors, and those people just have to accept the fact that they need to move on and find someone else.


Still, there is another group of people in the above scenario who will be so jaded by the initial failed relationship that they will no longer believe any relationship can work, which is perfectly acceptable as well.
Pretty much nailed the two major views on it.

Good review. My Player sounds like it could be a fun alternative mode and it's good to hear so much has gone into pitching and batting in terms of making ratings/ability count more.

I'm holding out hope that we still have a check swing via the button controls, because aside from that whole issue, 2K10 has sounded mostly promising.
 
# 11 jeffy777 @ 01/28/10 11:04 AM
Soxfan, I'm fairly certain fielder turbo hasn't been in since 2K7. Also not to nitpick Chase, but the stealing mechanic he mentions is not new either. Your runner would go when you released the trigger last year too, so you couldn't preload steals in 2K9 either, but hopefully stealing is more solid and smooth this year.
 
# 12 nemesis04 @ 01/28/10 11:06 AM
Nice read thank you Chase. I am definitely going to give the game a test drive this year!
 
# 13 SoxFan01605 @ 01/28/10 11:08 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffy777
Soxfan, I'm fairly certain fielder turbo hasn't been in since 2K7. Also not to nitpick Chase, but the stealing mechanic he mentions is not new either. Your runner would go when you released the trigger last year too, so you couldn't preload steals in 2K9 either, but hopefully stealing is more solid and smooth this year.
Hmm...you may be right. I mostly passed over 2K8 and put 2K9 down fairly early, so maybe I "misremembered"

You're right about the steals too. Very frustrating. I LOVE the concept though. If they got rid of the delay and made it more responsive it could be a big plus for the series IMO.
 
# 14 Trevytrev11 @ 01/28/10 11:14 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoxFan01605
You're right about the steals too. Very frustrating. I LOVE the concept though. If they got rid of the delay and made it more responsive it could be a big plus for the series IMO.
That and the auto picks by the pitcher once you exceeded a three step lead, IMO, killed the system. My guys getting back standing up from a three step lead on a lefty with a "slow as molasses" move to first and if I try to extend my lead to a fourth step, I draw an infinite amount of automatic throws over from the pitcher. As if he didn't realize the last 5 times he tried that weak sauce move it wasn't even close...so hey, lets try it again.
 
# 15 bigfnjoe96 @ 01/28/10 11:24 AM
As always Chase thanks again. I am optimistic from your preview, that the series is finally heading in the right direction. Glad to hear once again that the team really did a lot of polishing & fine-tuning this time around.

I am really forward to seeing these NEW ANIMATIONS in action. 1 thing VC is very good @ is creating really solid animations. Looks like we just might have a very playable game this year.
 
# 16 Footballforever @ 01/28/10 11:36 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by jim416
I was impressed with the recently posted trailer. Game, to me looks great visually as I don't expect absolute perfection in every detail (it's a video game). I liked what I saw, a lot/ Only drawback for me, the check swing......Is it still in CLASSIC swing mode? Or has it been taken out completely?

I don't want to start a debate about how it's not needed, how it is needed, as that is up to the gamer who is playing and spending his dough, but some confirmation if it's totally out.
Looked good for the most part, but I still see a bit of the jerky movement showing it's ugly head still, not as bad as years past, but I still see it.
 
# 17 BigBlue @ 01/28/10 11:44 AM
I hope that the CPU AI didn't remove the CPU pitcher after about 4 innings of work while having only thrown 40-50 pitches. :-)

All-in-all, I'm looking forward to this game as I saw the potential in MLB2K9 (even through all of the bugs and glitches). Keeping my fingers crossed.

BigBlue
 
# 18 BigBlue @ 01/28/10 11:46 AM
Chase, you didn't mention anything about presentation. Rumor has it that there'll be an MLB Today feature like the NBA game. Any thoughts on commentary, in between innings boxscores, post game wrapups?

BigBlue
 
# 19 Flaxseed Oil @ 01/28/10 11:49 AM
i'm interested in knowing if the fielding camera has been lowered, or if there are more than one fielding camera now? I hated last year's cam.
 
# 20 bigfnjoe96 @ 01/28/10 11:57 AM
Sounds encouraging. Couple of things. The NEW Mound Visits sound very interesting.

Quote:
When there is a meeting on the mound, now you can select confidence or stamina and a small bit of either one of those qualities will return to your pitcher. Confidence ties into your ball cursor -- the cursor will begin to move around on the screen more violently as you get into bigger jams. Stamina will really tie into your accuracy and ability to pinpoint pitches.
Though I am encouraged that a lot of new Hitting & Pitching Mechanic is really tied into Ratings. 1 thing VC always get's hammered about is the way they rate players in their titles.

Also looks like people's worrying about having pinpoint accuracy when Pitching has been addressed.

Quote:
Pinpointing will not be very easy to do either way since ratings also play a bigger role when pitching. Your outfielder will not be able to come into the game and paint the corners anymore. In addition to that, even when your normally wild pitchers are nailing their pitching motions, there is an inherent amount of wildness that will still show up. By default, Joel Pineiro is just going to be more accurate than Oliver Perez.
And lastly for me ANIMATIONS, ANIMATIONS, ANIMATIONS..... It looks like Fielding got a major over-haul in the Animation Dept.

Quote:
Preloading throws, new animations and a removal of turbo seem to be the biggest changes this year (beyond the fact that outfielders should catch balls hit right at them). Preloading a throw seems to work just fine, and I was able to watch the CPU turn an easy double play on me while rocking a preloaded throw. These preloaded throws should really help to remove a lot of those “quick” throws that you would try to pull off last year. (The quick throws really looked unnatural last year because the fielder went through a throwing animation way too fast.)
Quote:
As for new animations, obviously a lot of the preloaded throws tie into new animations. At one point, I moved to my right to field a grounder as the shortstop, and all in one motion (and animation) the shortstop picked up the ball and fired it off balance towards first base for an out.
but from watching the "SIZZLE" trailer it doesn't seem like Batter/Pitcher Animations got much love, as I still saw animations still look awkward. I wonder if Chase felt the same way?

Again it was an encouraging preview & looks like VC just might have this puppy headed in the right direction after all
 

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