We're jumping ahead in time today, from our last post that took place about a year and half into the making of Super Mega Baseball to this post, taking place almost three years in. Let's jump right in.
Liane: What are we talking about today?
Scott: Well we’ve talked about some of the formative ideas, but now this is the period where we’ve recognized that instead of just working on this alone in our basement, we need to actually show this to some other people - to open some doors, to potentially find some help, and to get some feedback on what we’re making.
Christian: This post is quite far away from the previous one, time-wise. So all the images and video that you see in this one are about 1.5 years’ worth of work since the last post. There was a lot of work put into tech and so you’ll see crowds and things like that in the screenshots now. There’s a lot of progress being made in trying to draw all the things that we needed to draw. Still very little progress – as in no progress at all – in actually being able to play baseball.
Scott: We had been grinding on tech stuff for a while and there was sort of a recognized need to show it to somebody else.
Liane: So what did you have to show at this point?
Christian: We could now actually draw stadiums and players. They were animated, they could look around. We had a stadium full of independently animated crowd members. They had props, they had features that the final crowd didn’t even have. They could drink beers, they had hot dogs, they had foam fingers that they could wave. They acted independently. I think at this point the crowd could even move their eyeballs around and look at stuff. And the players, they could look at the ball, their entire bodies could move around, they could run, they could blend between running and walking. They couldn’t jump, they couldn’t dive, and they most certainly could not play baseball.
Scott: There was a lot of cheering going on, despite the horrendous display on the field in front of them.
Here are some screenshots of the game at this point.
Liane: So there wasn’t really much gameplay?
Christian: I think there was a batting interface. I think we had a really early version of what is now the multiplayer pitching and batting mechanics. So I believe if you had two controllers, one person could throw the ball and the other person could hit the ball.
Scott: And the ball would curve and stuff.
Christian: But none of the fielders would react to anything. You couldn’t base run or anything. So that was pretty much it - a ball would be thrown, and you could hit it. And there was a giant ribbon trail behind the ball, of course.
Liane: I see you have a crowd in the screenshots now, tell me about that.
Christian: So we had identified pretty early on that crowd in a game like this, especially on a console, was probably going to be one of the harder technical problems. Our strategy was kind of, let’s try and solve these problems so we don’t get hung up on them later. There was a very substantial amount of time invested in trying to make this crowd draw. The early attempts, even just drawing a couple hundred of these guys, ran way, way too slow. So we slowly learned how you’re supposed to go about doing this and over time we went from being able to draw a couple hundred bodies to a couple thousand bodies to a few thousand fully animated crowd members. It was actually kind of a high performance crowd that unfortunately only ran on the PC.
The guys made this video as their first real demo of the game.
This is what they said while re-watching this video after so many years:
Christian: There’s actually the first iteration of the company logo on here. That’s the first thing that’s notable.
Scott: It doesn’t look too bad, honestly.
Christian: I liked it.
Scott: Yeah, we decided to whip out the big guns here and put together a top notch, irresistible video.
Christian: With impeccable editing skills applied.
Scott: The pitching animation was there, more or less. They could hit and drink.
Christian: That’s pretty much alllll they could do. And they can run and hold the bat – that was a lot of work. Last time we were talking about how the smallest details take a huge amount of work…that guy running from the dugouts to the base holding his bat represents a titanic amount of work.
Scott: Prop-carrying blended with run cycles…that was a pain in the ass. Yeah, there’s this camera angle that didn’t last either, you can see that we’ve got that straight-on, low camera angle that we really didn’t like. And then there’s that irresistible splash screen.
Christian: *Lots of laughing* Oh yeah, that’s straight up me following a Photoshop tutorial like “How do you make a punch-out through a piece of paper effect in Photoshop.” Follow tutorial exactly, paste screenshot behind, place ball in front, and boom...done. Beautiful.
And the best part of that video, for those of you that were paying attention at the very end, notice that it said “coming soon.” We thought it was serious. This was in 2012.
Scott: So we took that video over to the Full Indie Meet-Up, which is a get-together and networking event for independent developers in Vancouver. We just chatted with some folks about our mutual projects. I wouldn’t say we generated a tremendous amount of interest.
Christian: The thing that stands out the most for me from that meet-up was being told that there was no way we were going to get onto any of the major platforms with what we’re making. Like, from people that had a lot more experience in the industry than we did at the time, basically being told straight up that we’re not going to get on the major platform holders.
Scott: My memory differs from Christian on that. I don’t know if I was hearing it through an overly optimistic ear but I don’t remember people saying that.
The guys also busted out their original business card, and I asked them about it.
Scott: Well, hot stuff honestly. Pretty irresistible in my opinion. I drew that Metalhead logo there. I still use that guy on the forums as my avatar.
Christian: Which I believe to be a much better use for that guy, than on our business cards, honestly. Other than the head, I actually kind of like the design of this card.
Scott: They’re fine. The Metalhead Software text is like, is totally cool, honestly.
It took almost three years to get to this point, and the game (minus the gameplay) was taking shape. In our next post we'll talk about the third team member to come aboard the project, and the difference he was able to make with the art. As usual, if you have any questions leave them in the comments section - the guys will do their best to answer!