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Sega Sports World Series Baseball (Xbox) Interview

4/18/02

We recently had a chance to interview Ed Brady, Assistant Project Manager of Sega Sports World Series Baseball. (Click here for more screen shots)

1) What are some of the new additions or updates to the game?

    There are tons of additions and improvements to this year's game. We'll cover them in detail below...

2) How realistic will the CPU bat? Will we see bunts in certain situations, or maybe CPU players taking pitches aren't just balls and swing at strikes?

    Absolutely. The AI will bunt, fake bunt, swing at bad pitches all depending on the batter and situation, of course. Don't expect someone with great strike zone judgment to chase bad pitches, but if you're nibbling at the corners and throw a 0-2 slider that starts on the outside half of the plate and breaks out of the zone, don't be surprised to see less disciplined CPU hitters to reach for it.

3) How are the injuries implemented? What are the various injuries we will see? What about the range of time in order for a player to recover from an injury?

    We scoured the injury reports from the last few years to implement as many different sorts of injuries as we could find. Of course, someone might throw his Xbox out the window if Barry Bonds "broke a rib while sneezing" in someone's Season Mode pennant drive, but rest assured that all sorts of maladies can and will show up. Not only are different players given different injury ratings (so you can almost count on Benito Santiago playing fewer than 162 games), but each injury has a low-end and a high-end recovery time. That means that a relatively healthy player like Darin Erstad might only miss a few games if a sore back crops up, but an older, more injury-prone vet like Jose Canseco might miss considerably more time. It also means that no one is going to miss three games with a torn ACL.

    In Season Mode, you'll have to deal with injuries, but you'll really get a chance to manage, too. Say Brent Abernathy is set to miss eight days with a bone bruise on his hand. Do you keep him on the active roster knowing you'll basically be losing a roster spot for that time period, or do you place him on the 15-day DL and call someone up, knowing that Abernathy will be healthy for the second half of his DL stint? It's the same sort of decisions that big-league managers face on a daily basis.

4) Will you be able to edit individual player ratings?

    Well, you won't have the ability to edit ratings of existing players, but you'll certainly be able to edit the abilities of created players. Also, in Franchise Mode, all of the player attributes will change on a yearly basis. If a guy is entering the prime of his career, and his front office staff is doing a good job in developing talent, expect his ratings to climb. Similarly, if a player is reaching deeper into his thirties, and/or the user decides to skimp on his front office budget, expect that player's skills to begin deteriorating from season to season.

5) Were the new stadiums added to the game? Will all the games only feature a full stadium, or will we see empty stadiums every now and then?

    Well, there are no new MLB parks this year, so all 30 stadiums will return from last year. However, we undertook a major overhaul of all the stadiums this offseason, and I think the power of the Xbox really brings out a lot of the nuances of the different stadiums that might have gone unnoticed in the past.

6) How is the managerial aspect of the game? Will we be able to play manage-only? What about being able to set baserunning to manual or auto?

    Actually, we've found that the overwhelming majority of people who play console baseball games want to do just that: "play" the game and be in total control. So we've left it all in their hands.

7) Will there be sliders for gameplay, allowing users to tweak different aspects of the game and AI to their likings?

    Our game doesn't have AI sliders in the classic sense, but we do feature three distinct skill levels (Rookie, Pro and All-Star) that have individualized options. In addition, we give the user the option to tweak a number of different facets of the game. For two-player games, we've added the option of making the pitch cursor invisible, so the user on the mound doesn't have to worry about trying to mask the pitch location, and the user at bat is really left guessing as to where the pitch might come. We've also given the user the option to select from four distinctly different pitch speeds (Slow, Medium, Fast and Very Fast). The "slow" setting is slow enough that your five-year-old cousin can probably play, but "very fast" is enough that our testers, who at times work on the game 16 hours a day, have a difficult time hitting. Add to that the ability to manipulate variable pitching locations, turning the strike zone graphic on or off, and modifing the size of the batting cursor, and we think we've given the user everything they can ask for.

8) Will the weather, which includes wind, have an effect on the ball?

    Absolutely. The wind in the game is stadium-specific based on actual historical wind patterns and each ballpark's actual directional alignment. We went to the National Weather Service Web site and found the prevailing wind direction in each city. I can't even make this stuff up.

9) What new additions in the commentary and play-by-play were made?

    Commentary has undergone a major upgrade this year. Not only does play-by-play man Ted Robinson have a boatload of more specific things to say during the game, but we've also added San Francisco Giants color man Mike Krukow to the booth. Anyone who has heard Mike on the air knows how entertaining he is to listen to, and also knows that his excitement for the game is genuine. When he came in for the recording sessions, we told him, "listen, just be yourself." The results I think make the game significantly more entertaining to listen to. Strike out, and Mike might say, "grab some pine, meat!" Hit a weak pop up on the infield, and he'll say, "a grown man hit that ball, I guess." Bring Danny Patterson in to pitch, and Mike will talk first about how Patterson came up with the Rangers in '96 and that his 60 appearances were a career high last year, then he'll go on to add, "plus, he went to my high school." Good stuff.

10) What are the different types of camera angles? Will there be a customizable camera angle?

    We've modified the default camera angle a bit to bring the pitcher and batter "closer" to the screen. The vast majority of people prefer to play with the camera angle set to "Low," but we'll again offer the option to play at "Medium" or "High." Plus, a large number of cut scenes have been added between plays and the beginning of the game to make the game look more like an actual TV broadcast.

11) How has the franchise mode been updated?

    Franchise Mode is probably the single most-improved facet of the game. It's almost such that we could offer it as its own product! The first addition we made was to implement a management draft to the game. Thus, you'll have to draft (at various salaries, contract lengths and abilities) a Minor League director, Scouting Director, Manager, Pitching Coach and Hitting Coach. The overall ratings of your players will rise or fall depending on whether you skimp on your management budget or assemble a terrific crew. We've also have new tools such as an updated trades screen, the ability to resign players during the season, new budget screens, full reports from the coaching staff, and of course, customizable lineups, fantasy drafts, pitching rotations, season lengths, on and on.

    We really think that this year's Franchise Mode is deep enough to satisfy even the most hardcore baseball fan.

12) How detailed are the game and individual player stats?

    Have you ever wondered what Junior Spivey's average is with runners in scoring position? Neither have I, but I'm comforted to know that if anyone ever HAS wondered that, that statistic and other such relatively arcane stats are easily accessible in WSB. I can't even conceive of any kind of useful stat that we don't have in the game. Everything from your basic Home Run and ERA stats to blown save percentage and fielding assists. We also calculate such stats as OPS and the WHIP ratio for the fantasy players out there.

13) Are there any new gameplay modes included?

    With Quick Start, Exhibition, Season, Franchise, Home Run Derby, Playoffs and Create-A-Player/Options modes, we don't really see that we're "missing" anything.

14) Is there going to do any type of trading AI? What about an override trade option?

    As is the theme we're getting at, we're giving users the choice of how they want to play the game. If the user tries to trade Tim Spooneybarger for Randy Johnson, the CPU team will politely decline the offer. However, we give users the option to override any vetoed trade, so if the user really wants to create a superstar club, we offer the option to do so.

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15) Will there be in-game saves? Will users be able to save replays to take advantage of the hard drive of the Xbox?

    You'll be able to save either to a memory unit or to the hard drive, but unfortunately we won't be able to offer replay saves this year. We're hoping to implement that into next year's version..

We would like to thank Ed Brady for his time in answering a few of our questions. Be sure to check out out preview of World Series Baseball.



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