At the end of our last post, the guys made the decision to attend PAX East and show the game. But they didn’t have any actual gameplay yet. And PAX was only three months away. Those three months became a true hacking session to make the game playable.
Liane: So you booked a booth at PAX, what do you remember of those three months leading up to it?
Scott: I remember Christian totally freaking out that it was going to be a disaster. And I felt almost as horrified, but we hacked. We were forced to work in almost a panicked way to actually build a game. And it didn’t matter how ugly the code was, we had to put those fundamentals in there and get the basics of the game working.
Christian: It really provided a certain amount of focus because we weren’t trying to work with more ambitious features, it was more like “you need to make it so somebody can pick up a controller and actually do something.” It provided a lot of focus.
Scott: It definitely made us take the approach of “we need to work on the thing that is most lacking or most broken, and fill it in until the game’s actually playable.” Instead of working on superfluous stuff.
Christian: It’s really the first time where we switched from a very tech-centric approach to things to a user-centric approach. Like I don’t care what’s going on behind the scenes, at the end of the day this is what somebody’s gonna pick up and play.
We fired up the final build that was taken to PAX and played it. Here are some clips:
In the video you see me, Scott, Andrew (who will be introduced in a later post), and Christian.
Liane: What got added to the game in that time?
Scott: A couple things I remember spending time on are the most fundamental AI behaviors. Like, players properly being able to track down fly balls and line drives, as well as chase balls that have gone past them. Things like some slightly more robust decision making. And then, not all of it got finished but a lot of the cinematic stuff. Sort of the basis of what is now the basic cinematic that plays after a home run. And the foundation was laid for some of the cinematics that eventually went in later. Just the idea of what the little non-interactive bits were going to be between the plays.
Christian: And I think even more than that, it’s just the ability to step through an entire game of baseball. Like, before this you could basically just hit the ball and that was it. But now it’s like, you’ll hit the ball and the fielders are gonna do something. And the baserunners are gonna do something. This was all added during this time period.
Scott: Yeah, just getting the basic gameplay loop working. You wouldn’t run into a situation where when you’re playing it just kind of stops and the simulation has this like gaping hole that it can’t get through. And we closed all those holes so you could actually play an even game.
Christian: All of the catching was added during this period. The players had no idea how to catch before. We eventually improved the tech behind catching to make it look much better, but at least now now they could actually catch balls. And there was like virtually no functional UI before this. Other than maybe selecting a team I don’t think you could do much of anything. There was like virtually no feedback in the game of what was actually going on. There was really not much of anything.
Scott: And we slowed down a bit on worrying about game modes and just tried to make the sim work. This is when that actually happened.
Christian: A solid 4 years later.
Scott: **Laughs** I guess it was almost 4 years later.
Christian: 2013, man! Not ‘almost’.
Scott: Yup. Barf.
Christian: We had a walking start. Not a running start. A meandering start.
Scott: We hit the ground crawling.
Liane: So what still hadn’t been done yet?
Christian: Well, tons. I mean the game was running on a completely different technology stack. It only worked on PC. It wasn’t even close to running on a console. It had zero console integration.
Scott: It barely ran. It could run at 60 on just our specific dev machines only.
Christian: It had no game modes, it had no season mode.
Scott: There was the crudest of UI. We had just barely started to loosely prototype some of the concepts that would go into the team development modes. But there was no functionality there. Just hints of ideas. And on the sim side, there was no bunting. There was no base stealing. There were no beanballs. There was no jumping. There was no diving. There were no cut-off plays. The pitching mechanic that we ultimately built for the game did not exist at all.
Christian: There were no practice swings, and we had just found out. We patched in practice swings during the show. **Laughing**
Scott: Yeah, if you swung before the pitch it would result in your batter in like a wild follow-through pose that he’d just stay in.
Christian: I think it’s almost fair to say that like, outfield catches were only half working. The number of dropped balls, and people getting furious while trying to play the game. There were no errors, there were no stats.
Scott: No leveling.
Christian: No leaderboards.
Scott: No platform-specific features.
Christian: You couldn’t save the game.
Scott: Zero particle effects.
Christian: Not true.
Scott: Are you sure?
Christian: There was fireworks man. Yeah, that was particle effects. A ribbon trail on hitting the ball, and fireworks. But no cinematics basically.
Scott: Except the home run.
Christian: But that was really, really crude.
Scott: Yeah, so in summary, I don’t think we even understood the list of stuff that needed to be done before it would ship. But it was massive.
Sounds promising, right? Well, this version of the game is what they ended up taking to PAX East. In our next post, we’ll talk about how that went...
This post was copied over from our blog.