R.B.I. Baseball 15 was officially announced, along with a teaser trailer, earlier this week. It will be available as a digital download this spring for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, MAC, iOS and Android devices.
We recently had a chance to interview Jamie Leece (MLBAM VP, Games) to get more details about the game. Give it a read and let us know what you think.
What are the biggest lessons you learned coming off the first edition of the game?
Communication, specifically that the intentions of the product may not have come across clearly to our fans. Our plan was, and remains, to build the most accessible, casual MLB licensed baseball video game. It’s an area, in our opinion, that is very important and one that wasn’t being served for our fans.
What are you hanging your hat on this year when it comes to making this game?
Last year’s game and this year’s game are built around our core direction in gaming – fun and easy to play for our target audience on their favorite devices, meaning casual and younger players on next gen consoles and mobile.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far making the game this year?
As with any developer, it’s where to focus feature development from version to version. We have a list longer than anyone else. That said, fan feedback is critical and our focus on this second version was building in features fans told us last year would make this year’s game better for them. We don’t have three years to develop the game and we always are going to stay true to the brand genre so there always will be things we have to put on the shelf for future versions.
What's the inspiration for the art style in RBI Baseball 15?
We have intentionally gone with a stripped back and simplified reality. The moment “photo-realistic” enters a conversation it forces developers to immediately start making concessions in areas that almost always put gameplay at the odds of the graphics. It’s a delicate balance but when these conversations come up gameplay always wins.
What separates RBI Baseball 15 from other baseball games out there?
You can play this game for months and have a friend or someone who doesn’t, or hasn’t, played baseball video games in a while, or ever, and he or she can come right in and pick up the game. We worked a lot of consumer events with MLB and our Clubs the past year and I can’t tell you how many times we saw a young fan or parent pick up the game and get it immediately. Time and again we were told that he or she had either never played a video game before or the last one they played was tetris, yet they were engaged for an entire game or more. This has been and remains our mantra. We are trying to expand the options for baseball fans not deliver something that is already being done and done well.
Are there any major differences (sans graphics) between the mobile/tablet and console versions of the title?
We develop for consoles first. Similar to last year, there will be things we need to scale back on mobile due to style of input and the uniqueness of the play style of mobile gamers. More on this to come.
What types of modes are we looking at for RBI Baseball 15.
We have Season Mode, which will allow for multiple seasons year after year. Also, Postseason, Exhibition Mode and for Consoles, online Multiplayer.
What was the top request from fans coming off the last game?
Maybe not surprising for baseball fans – stats. Overall, we constantly look at all the feedback, but the lack of stats tracking between games in season mode was probably the single most requested feature add. It’s integral to the game of baseball and we’re excited that stats will add a lot to all modes of play.
Has anything been added to make the gameplay feel more authentic to baseball?
This is where we probably made our biggest strides. Vastly improved ball physics including magnus. We did a lot of motion capture, which breathes a lot of life into pitching, hitting and fielding. We now display player ratings for Power, Contact, Speed, Fielding, Arm, Stamina, Velocity, Curve, Drop, Speed Diff, so player performance is much more discoverable to the user and goes much deeper than macro level stats we were displaying last year. Teamed with roster management, we think it will add a lot of fun to the gameplay strategy. I could talk for hours about how much roster management is now available, but the key actions people want to have access to - like managing a 40 man and active roster, changing lineups etc - all that is in the game, and more.
How do real life statistics or ratings affect the way players are represented in RBI Baseball 15?
Real-life on-field stats continue to drive all the Player Ratings we built. We took a hard look at the how the stats were driving the players in 2014 and made significant improvements to differentiate and represent the players much more accurately. The uniqueness of each player will be much more apparent to the user this year.
Will the price point remain the same? Will it remain a digital only title (on consoles)?
Yes, and Yes.
Any chance of RBI Baseball 15 being a “freemium” game?
Will gamers have the ability to edit players at all? (Names, ratings, accessories, etc.)
This was not something that we received a lot of feedback on. It’s definitely on our feature list looking ahead at possible adds to future versions.
Will statistics carry over year to year?
Yes, in Season Mode every completed season will be saved and players will be able to tab through current and historical seasons.
Is there a create a player option?
This is a really cool feature but to do properly involves a lot more than letting a user create one player. Another cool wish list item we’ll be looking at.
Will trades be an option in the season?
Trades are important in baseball, but making sure it’s intelligent, relevant and a fun game unto itself is something we were not able to tackle this year. Just simply allowing players to be moved off or on teams could create roster composition issues that a casual user might just not be able to untangle. Being able to manage the 40 and Active rosters gives a lot more flexibility then we had last year and adds a lot to the game.
Will we see roster updates throughout the season? If so, how often do you see them happening?
Yes. We will have roster updates. We are still working out specifics on mechanics but the feature will be there.
You have an online multiplayer mode for friendly and ranked games, are there any plans to bring in an online league option or online season option?
Another involved system that we need to prioritize against everything that the fans are looking for.
What happened to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version?
The console business is transitioning between the gens and we wanted to put our focus into next gen. A lot of our decisions were made with that in mind.
Has anything changed in terms of the actual fielding, for both the infield and outfield?
First and foremost, we have added modern controls as an option for fielding. By example, on the Xbox One pressing the X button will throw to Third, Y to Second and so forth. We have also added cut off throws, again using Xbox One as the example pressing LB will throw to the cutoff man. We have also added a static landing indicator as an option so players can see where they need to go to field a ball that is hit in the air.
How many camera views are available?
Last year, we had basically two camera angles. Batting and fielding. This year, our camera is dynamic and the camera angle is influenced by what plays out on the field, including some cool new home run cameras on those “no doubters.”
How many different player models will we see and will various models have different animations?
Our players have changed a lot this year. We are scaling body types on a 100-point scale so players will see much more variety between a Dee Gordon and a Pablo Sandoval. More specifically, players also now will see a difference between Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton. On top of that, we captured a lot of mo-cap and have applied those to individual players. Last year, the batting stances were based solely on body type. This year, we de-coupled them from body type completely. All of this can be adjusted via roster updates.
Thank you for your time, is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for your interest and questions, reach out any time.