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Making of Super Mega Baseball No.20 - Release
I interviewed the Super Mega Baseball team about the games' first release, on PlayStation. What the last-minute work was, how they were feeling, and what the experience was like.
March 23, 2016
9 Min Read
Over the last 19 posts, I've interviewed the SMB team about each stage of the project. Here we are, at post number 20, and the game is finally being released.
Liane: At some point leading up to release, the name of the game changed from BigFly Baseball to Super Mega Baseball. Why did you make that change?
Scott: Given what we were trying to make, something that was supposed to be more accessible, we didn’t want to immediately wall ourselves off to just baseball fans with a baseball slang term right up front in the name. So we went with something that would hint at old school game play - we thought that the “Super Mega” prefix would accomplish that decently. And we didn’t know what we were going to do next, but something that could be reused seemed like a good idea.
Liane: For Super Mega Curling?
Scott: Yeah, basically.
Dan: Super Mega Tea Party?
Liane: Super Mega Tea Party! Yes.
Scott: People are gonna go and score all our possible domains now.
Mike: I thought you bought all of them.
Christian: I bought up everything, but not Super Mega Curling.
Christian: No, no Super Mega Wrestling.
Dan: F**k man. Dude.
Scott: That’s a good name, too. The name would work super well.
Dan: The 80s are so in, and an integral part of the 80s is wrestling.
Scott: Not to mention it’d be a blast to make it.
Mike: All the animations…
Liane: Let’s get back to Super Mega Baseball...tell me about the very final steps to releasing it.
Scott: In the last couple of weeks we were still fixing a bunch of bugs that we probably shouldn’t have been fixing the day before submission, but that’s what we were doing. And doing a few last variable tweaks.
Mike: TRC sweeps. (Sony’s Technical Requirements Checklist)
Scott: Lots of TRC sweeps.
Andrew: Not having time to do a proper TRC sweep.
Mike: We won’t say that.
Scott: We fixed one treacherous bug hours before.
Christian: There was this issue where, on PS3 only, basically bad floating point values like NaNs could make themselves into the camera. This would result in numerous bugs where when you were batting and you hit the ball it just froze, you could hear the sound and everything…it was playing out…and then the next play would start and the game would play again. It was just kind of a freeze frame shot.
Scott: We had figured out that the reason the camera code was getting a bunk value was because somewhere deep in the animation system there was some invalid data being generated only on very occasional frames. And that data would occasionally affect the hand bone of the player who was throwing the ball, which would result in the ball being in some bunk position. Since the camera position is based on the ball position, the bug would make its way to the camera. So that was one of the hardest bugs.
Dan: How did you even find that? How do you find a bug like that?
Scott: I don’t remember.
Christian: That one involved a lot of thought experiments…it took us a long time to figure out what the issue was, because it was so non-reproducible. But eventually it became clear that there were actually two different bugs that had the same behavior, the freezing camera. Eventually we figured out that it was garbage values that made themselves into the camera causing this. So we fixed one category of this bug, and the night before the release this thing showed its ugly head again, but much more infrequently. So we kind of knew roughly where to look and we just worked our way backwards, trying to figure out under what situation this could possibly be happening. And then we made a speculative fix, where we couldn’t actually prove it but we made an educated guess at where the problem was. So we fixed it and then we played the game for like 5 more hours before uploading the build, and it didn’t happen again.
Scott: So we didn’t actually fix the code that was generating the bunk value, we just prevented those values from ever making their way…
Christian: Yeah, we walled them off. We speculatively walled off one spot that we thought was the problem and I think we fixed it because not a single person has reported that problem. And the best thing about this is that when submitting the game we had to indicate when we produced the final build...it didn't exactly get a full test cycle.
Christian: There’s a friend that came over on launch day and we had people playing the game for probably 20 hours straight until like 5 in the morning. When did we upload the final build?
Mike: At 3 in the morning.
Christian: It was later, it was 5 in the morning.
Scott: No, we stayed in the office drinking whiskey until about 6 in the morning.
Christian: Oh maybe that’s what it was, we were waiting for the builds to upload.
Scott: Considering the whiskey, it's a good thing there weren’t any more problems...
But there weren't any more problems (that night, at least). And the game had come together pretty well...
Liane: How did it feel to finally release the game?
Scott: Biggest load-off ever for me. I’ve never felt so committed to something that was unfinished in my entire life. It felt like two university degrees coming to an end in one night.
Mike: It didn’t feel like it was done until we passed QA.
Scott: It felt done enough for me.
Christian: There were kind of two levels of done-ness. There was uploading the build and then there was passing cert, when it was actually done and it was gonna be on the store. And fortunately that wasn’t too big of an issue. And then there was definitely a huge amount of relief. It was very weird.
Scott: I was brain dead, pretty much. I could barely think for a while after that.
Dan: I can’t even remember what I was working on at the time you guys finished.
Mike: You were doing marketing stuff.
Dan: Oh yeah, I was editing a video or something.
Scott: You would have been more or less off the hook by those final days.
Dan: Yeah, I wasn’t working on the game at all at that point.
Scott: Miscellaneous promo stuff, yeah.
Like the first official launch trailer:
Liane: It’s the day after release – what were you thinking?
Scott: Just waiting with great anticipation to see what the hell would happen.
Christian: I was watching the leaderboard numbers go up at a snail’s pace, and being utterly f***ing horrified at how little it was selling.
Scott: We got better press than I thought we would get. But even with that, it started pretty slow.
Christian: I was not in good spirits for about a month.
Scott: I remember noticing how out of shape I had become at that point.
Scott: I just looked at my body in the mirror and I was like “goodness gracious…” I just felt kind of sick. Not really with any particular thing, just burnt out. I remember thinking to myself “you better go running or something bro.”
Dan: Didn’t everyone get sick around that point too? Like, everyone?
Scott: Oh yeah.
Dan: Yeah I remember that, everyone was coming in so sick. It was like your body just knew at that point, you had been holding it off for so long and working so hard.
Scott: Yeah, the brain and the immune system had set up a deal where it was like, “you’re gonna hold this off until this is done, and then we’ll deal with things, okay?”
Dan: Oh man, that’s hilarious.
But their sicknesses didn't stop them from celebrating...
Liane: What kind of response did you get from the people who did know about the game?
Scott: A lot of them liked it more than our friends, which was good. It got to the people who are really interested in it. Whereas our friends, you know, even if they play video games they didn’t necessarily play sports games. So it was good to see the people who are most interested in this kind of thing actually get to play it.
Christian: Yeah, the press response was super awesome - how well received it was. Because we really had no idea what they were going to think. That was awesome, that was super awesome. If it hadn’t sold great AND people thought it sucked…?
Dan: But the people who like it, really like it. They love it.
Here are a couple of screenshots of Metacritic shortly after release, where Super Mega Baseball was topping the new releases:
Christian: Release time was a huge emotional rollercoaster. Cause it was like...
“Yay, the game is done!"
“Oh f**k we failed cert and we're going to miss our release date”
“Ah yay, we passed cert!”
And then on release date it was “where the f**k’s our game, why is it not in the store?”
I saw all the others come out that were supposed to come out that day, and not ours. And I’m like “are you kidding me?” And then eventually it was on the store and I was like...
“Yay, it’s on the store! Hooray, hooray!”
“F**k, nobody’s buying it, god this sucks.”
Christian: Yeah, it was a huge emotional rollercoaster. But at least it was done.
Scott: We were really proud of it but, you know, all of the pieces weren’t in place yet. We knew we had a lot more work ahead of us.
There is more to making a game than just making it. You have to launch it, promote it, and support it. In our next post, which will wrap up our story, we’ll look at what had to be done after the game was released.
This was copied over from our blog.
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