Warm-up Tosses: Breaking down the MLB 2K11 Developer Call

by: Peter Skeritt -
Spring Training is underway, and that means that this year's baseball games can't be far behind. 2K Sports held a question-and-answer session via conference call for the gaming press on Wednesday and well over 40 questions were fielded by three members of the Major League Baseball 2K11 team: Mark Little (Senior Producer), Jon Rivera (Game Designer), and Mike Rhinehart (Senior Brand Manager). 

There were several key areas that questions and answers were centered around. MLB 2K11's new Dynamic Player Rating System (DPRS) was talked about quite a bit. DPRS, according to Mark Little, will affect player performances based on how their real-life counterparts perform over the previous four weeks. If Roy Halladay has a hot July, for example, his stats will improve when players use him for their games in August. Perhaps his control stats will rise if he keeps his walks down and players are batting poorly against him. The same system will apply to hitters, as well. For example, Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees tends to start slow at the plate and then heat up as the season progresses. DPRS will reflect that as Teixeira's batting stats will be below their norms for the first month or so if his trend continues in 2011. DPRS will only affect games outside of the My Player and Franchise modes, but it's important to note that this feature cannot be turned off. Addressing the concern that DPRS may be too much for casual baseball fans to understand, Little emphasized that the new system makes it easier for players of all skill levels to do a manager's job and decide which players to start based on their recent performances. 

The return of the Million Dollar Challenge was another hot topic on the call. Answering concerns about how last year's contest was won very early on, Mike Rhinehart confirmed that this year's contest would not get underway until April 1st. That will allow about three weeks for players to buy the game and practice, making for a more even playing field. He also confirmed that the minimum age of 18 years old will be lowered for this year's contest, making for a larger pool of contestants. Reaction from the MLB 2K11 panel to last year's contest was that it was a bit too easy to pitch well, so a more variable strike zone, a greater potential for errors, and a more strict correlation between player ratings and in-game performances have been implemented in this year's game. For those players looking to enter this year's contest, it was made clear that the game will still have to be captured on video and sent in for verification. Players looking for advice on how to capture games on video more easily, it was announced that How-To guides will be available to make the process as easy as possible. 

MLB 2K11 introduces some significant changes to fielding, and this was covered in detail during the call by Jon Rivera. Fielding ratings will play a big part in defense, affecting the revamped throw meter and the dynamic landing zone of batted balls. When throwing to a base, the speed of the meter is dictated by player ratings and if a throw is made when the meter is red, an errant throw is guaranteed. When trying to make a play on a fly ball or line drive, the dynamic landing zone will be larger or smaller based on the fielder's abilities. This can lead to misplays or late reactions in the outfield for less-skilled fielders or substitute fielders. In addition, according to Rivera, some player animations are only available based on a fielder's abilities. This is a change for the better, as all defensive players don't have equal abilities. 

Here are some other random observations from the call:
  • No DLC is planned at this time for add-ons like new uniforms or classic ballparks. 
  • Achievements/Trophies can still be unlocked if sliders are adjusted. 
  • MLB 2K11 will not have support for PlayStation Move and/or Microsoft Kinect. Motion controls are for Wii only. 
  • Aside from DPRS and new fielding focus, notable tweaks made to sim results and player progression in My Player and Franchise modes of play. 
  • Each of the ballparks in MLB 2K11 have their own broadcast camera angles, making for unique experiences. 
It's clear from this call that the MLB 2K11 team has been striving for improvement and they're as excited as we are for baseball. Last year's game was certainly a step in the right direction for the long-running series, and if these subtle tweaks and additions play out as well as advertised, MLB 2K11 is in position to give The Show another battle for your hard-earned cash. Look for our full review soon; in the meantime, MLB 2K11 crosses the plate on your local retailer on March 8th for all platforms. 

Many thanks to Mark Little, Jon Rivera, and Mike Rhinehart for their time and answers to the questions... including a couple of my own! Also, an extra-special thanks to call moderator Travis Moses
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