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Major League Baseball is a game developer now. For its first console release, it is looking to recapture a beloved classic.
MLB Advance Media, the league’s internal development studio (it made MLB.com and a few mobile titles), is working on R.B.I. Baseball 14. This is a reboot of the 1986 Namco classic for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This time around, the game is due to launch as a digital download for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will debut soon after, but MLBAM did not provide a release date or price for any of the platforms.
MLB wants R.B.I. Baseball 14 to capture a quick, arcadey version of the beloved pastime. In fact, the developer confirmed that it wants to re-create the feel of the original as best as it can. This will fill a gap in the market for non-simulation MLB titles.
“That’s exactly what we’re going for,” MLBAM vice president Jamie Leece told GamesBeat. “As far as steering your pitches or dancing and shuffling around the batter’s box — that pitcher-batter battle — that will feel very reminiscent of that entire era. That is the core of the product.”
The idea is to make R.B.I. Baseball 14 a condensed version of the real-life experience. Leece said several times that he wants something fact and accessible. That means full nine-inning games in less than 20 minutes. It means two-button controls. It also means plain visuals. Players mostly fit into the three character models (although all ethnicities are represented): small, medium, and large.
That doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have the depth that some fans may want. R.B.I. features all 30 MLB teams. Modes include season, postseason, and exhibition. It has 480 big-league players, and MLBAM is using the leagues extensive stat-tracking database to incorporate real attributes into the digital ballplayers.
“Each of the players — in terms of their characteristics — we’ve taken our database where we capture stats for every pitch thrown and used it to influence the in-game players,” MLBAM spokesperson Matthew Gould explained.
“For each pitcher, for example, their variability of control and the style of pitches that they use is all based on that data,” said Leece. “So you’re going to feel like a pitcher is close to his on-field performance. Same thing for hitters. A ball coming off his bat — the tendencies is all based on his recent historical tendencies.”
For more casual players, they won’t even notice this. It won’t hurt you if you don’t know how Herman Perez hits or even who he is (Detroit Tigers shortstop). The game instead uses a visual shorthand. Bit guys will hit for power where small guys will hit for contact. Medium-sized players are moderately skilled all around.
We’ve snatched some screens of the game so you can finally see what it looks like: