and during the 7th inning stretch

Front Page Sports Baseball

The game had good graphics for its time period. These improved with each release but stayed true to the Sierra format. In batter/pitcher mode, the view was 2D and when the ball was in play the game switched to 3D mode. Team colors could be adjusted, but there were no logos on player uniforms.

Despite its sophisticated physics engine, the game’s graphics did not measure up to the baseball games released at the time by EA Sports. The game’s strength was its statistics engine, support for career play, and roster management. Each team holds 50 players. 25 players on active roster, 15 in AAA, and 10 in low minors.

The game was never strong as a first person arcade style game. As one review states "But just as with Sierra’s Football Pro games, arcade style play is not this game’s strong point. The graphics, at least from the batter pitcher perspective, are certainly decent until you notice there’s no option for a pitcher batter perspective, and that, with the exception of skin tone, all the players are generic in the way they look, the way they step up to the plate, and the way they swing."

"On the up side, you do have a nice variety of managerial options available in the hands on mode, as well as extensive control over pitching (type, location, speed) and batting (type of swing and area to look for the pitch). The game looks and feels a lot like real baseball the animations are dead on without looking canned and the ball physics seem to be about right." [1]

The game also featured many ambient sounds the add the baseball experience. WAV files were used to add crowd noises, cheers, boos, pop corn vendors, hecklers etc. The game opens with the Star Spangled Banner, and during the 7th inning stretch, Take Me Out to the Ball Game is also played. As a special touch when playing in SkyDome or Olympic Stadium, O Canada is played.

The graphics were not a concern for serious fans of the game. At the height of its popularity, there were dozens of online leagues, and many took up the task of writing utilities for the game. Each section has an impact on game play. Some physical factors cannot be altered in a ridiculous way however. For example, there is a section to alter pitch breaks, but you cannot create a "bugs bunny" change up or an unrealistic curveball. But the file can be tweaked it so that a pitcher could throw 200mph or cause a batter to hit the ball 1000 feet. Turf resistance and bounce can be altered; as well as the effect that altitude and temperature has on gameplay. How a pitcher would pitch was based on the count, and game situation. Most factors have a base number, then a percentage of the player’s rating was added to this base. Here is how bat speed is calculated.

This means that the bat speed for a player with a 0 PH rating would be 70mph, a player with a 99 PH would have a 99.7mph swing (99/30). This method also applies to pitch identification, run speed, catch chance, and so on.

This file gives the game ultimate control. However it was not until recent years that some of the file’s impact on the game was clearly understood. Some entries are still not understood completely. The first blow came when Sierra abandoned the series. The next major issue was incompatibility with newer operating systems entering the market like (Windows XP). The game would crash upon finishing a game on NT based systems. The introduction of Virtualization software like Virtual PC and VMware allow gamers to run 9x based Operating Systems in a Virtual Machine.

The limited ratings scale of the players continued to be an issue, as this made it difficult to accurately emulate real major league baseball players. Players were limited to 5 physical ratings used by the AI/Physics Engine. These ratings controlled: contact(CH), bat speed(PH), run speed(SP), fielding ability(FA), Arm Strength(AS). Missing player abilities that could have enhanced game play were batting eye, base stealing ability (since not all fast runners can steal bases, and some slower runners are very good base stealers), fielding separated into throwing accuracy, catching ability, and range.

Additionally, the game’s internal player creation engine called DATAIN, gave power hitters an unfair advantage in their ratings. Hall of fame players like Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn were only given respectable CH and very low PH. This was because the game assigned CH based on batting average and not a better method like balls in play or strikeout rate. Conversely, the counterparts of power hitters dominated because the game usually gave them a higher CH rating then deserved and this combined with their higher PH rating made the results obvious. This caused online gamers problems since their favorites did not "live up to expectations." DATAIN also based ratings on specific seasons. So an "average" rating during 1970 may not be in 1980 which would at times produce unrealistic ratings.

Gamers eventually determined that although players like Boggs and Gwynn did not hit many home runs, they did have a respectable bat speed and required a higher PH rating than they were given, this was balanced by giving them a high G/F ratio that resulted in that player hitting more line drives than fly balls. As a result there were many user created formulas for determining player ratings that would work better in the game. This discovery extended the life of the game for many leagues. Pitchers only had the ability to feature four pitches in game play while in the real world some pitchers feature five and sometimes six pitches.

There were also several bugs that interfered with gameplay at times. One issue was an injury bug that would cause teams to lose several pitchers in a row on consecutive pitches. But most of these limitations did not cause gamers to lose affection for the game, it was more a victim of time as is the case with most computer games. Many online leagues moved on to more realistic games like the High Heat: Major League Baseball (series). In more recent times the longevity of feature rich text based simulations like the Out of the Park Baseball series with its powerful engine has allowed online leagues to flourish for years and has become the de facto standard for realistic gaming.


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