Metalhead Software Hits One Out Of The Park With Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings
Major League Baseball (MLB) is in full swing at ball parks across the country. But baseball can be played in exclusive new parks that exist only in a virtual reality. Developer Metalhead Software has brought its gorgeous baseball franchise, Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings, to NVIDIA SHIELD with two brand new ball parks.
This Android TV game is an enhanced version of the Super Mega Baseball game that previously launched across PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Scott Drader, co-founder of Metalhead Software, explains the inspiration for this arcade-style take on America's pastime in this exclusive interview.
What were your goals heading into this game?
We set out to make a really accessible, high-quality, ultra-fun take on baseball. We wanted to recreate the competitive, twitch feel of the '80s and '90s sports games, but bring it into a more modern context.
How did old school baseball video games influence your development?
We definitely took inspiration from the old school baseball video games, but not so much from their game mechanics, specifically. The influence came from their pacing and playability, and the atmosphere they created - with a group of friends getting together, learning to play the game quickly, and having a blast.
What did not having any licenses open up for your team creatively with this baseball game?
Not having a license to worry about let us poke fun at the sport a bit. We could just have fun with it. It's filled with puns, original stadium designs, and subtle jokes.
What inspired your art style?
We looked a lot at cartoons, but frankly, we didn't get to explore or iterate a lot with the art style because we simply didn't have the budget for it. We actually talked about "South Park" a lot when we first started out, and how it got a lot out of a simple style...but that is definitely not where we ended up. We did have a vision mostly based in communicating fun and humor. We wanted the exaggerated proportions, which we definitely achieved.
How much customizability is there with the players in this game?
It's really focused on individual player customization. You can fully customize all the players on your team - their build, hairstyle, skin tone, name, that kind of thing - and come up with a fair number of combinations. You can make up some pretty crazy representations of your friends or real-life teammates, for example. They may not necessarily be fond of what you came up with, but it's fun anyway. How do you feel you're pushing things forward with this game on NVIDIA SHIELD?
This is an ultra-twitch game running at 60fps, with the option of very high difficulty levels, and it's running on that tiny box with no compromises. And it's definitely one of the more complex sports games available on SHIELD, helping to round out that category of games.
Can you talk about the single player experience?
One of the most notable aspects of the single player experience is that the difficulty can be ultra-fine-tuned with 100 difficulty levels in each mechanic of the game (pitching, fielding, batting, baserunning). It lets you keep bumping the difficulty up to keep yourself right on the edge of your ability, always pushing you to your limits. The appeal of playing multiplayer for many is finding somebody who presents a better challenge than the AI (artificial intelligence). But in Super Mega Baseball, just about anyone can set a difficulty level where they feel just as challenged by the AI as they would by a human, and in a way where it doesn't feel like the AI is cheating.
What type of multiplayer is there?
There is local multiplayer only. In co-op mode you can play cooperatively in a season or in an exhibition game. Or you can challenge up to three other people in 2 vs. 2 head-to-head gameplay with all four players participating in each play.
We wanted to capture the couch co-op experience of sports games from the late '80s and '90s. It's fun to play co-op on the same team or play head-to-head, because it's easy to pick up and play for the first time and everyone can set their own difficulty level.
How have you been able to add to this game since first launching on consoles in 2014?
Since the initial launch, we've released the game on three more platforms and improved various game mechanics based on what our users have asked for. We have given users the ability to customize players on all teams in the league. We added the ability to set the difficulty on a per-mechanic basis. We added two new stadiums. And we fine-tuned the baseball simulation a lot - tweaks to the controls, AI and difficulty to make sure things feel good and play out realistically.
How have you worked with NVIDIA on your game?
We handled the development work, but did work pretty closely with NVIDIA. When we had questions or needed support with set-up work, we got it quickly. It was a smooth process. When there was any sign of a technical roadblock, and there were a couple of pretty big ones, they resolved it really quickly.
What have they provided in terms of tech that has helped with development?
There was a particular portion of our engine that wasn't compatible with the SHIELD debugger, with the tool chain they provided. Within days of us raising the issue, NVIDIA provided us with a custom build of the toolchain that just worked, and solved all the problems. What are your thoughts on the evolution of Android as a platform?
We're new to the Android scene and can't comment from the perspective of a long time user. But the fact that we're coming to Android now, from a background pretty much exclusively in PC and consoles development, speaks for itself.
What excites you about Android TV?
Seeing smart TVs running Android and having the capabilities of NVIDIA SHIELD is really exciting. The idea of powerful. gaming-friendly hardware built right into mainstream TVs is an exciting chance for console-quality games to reach a larger audience. 14. What impact do you think Nvidia Shield Android TV could have within the gaming ecosystem?
It's a really nice mid-level device that can provide some pretty top notch gaming experiences. It may not be targeted to the hardcore gamers that are buying the latest PCs, or grabbing the new consoles as soon as they come out, but it can fill the gap for those that may not be on the bleeding edge of hardware but are still looking to play the best games. And it's a very versatile device, there's a lot of power for a relatively low cost.
What do you see Nvidia Shield Android TV opening up for game developers moving forward?
It's relatively straightforward for developers to bring content to the device because of its power and API. Game creators having access to consumers outside of the traditional hardcore gaming devices is big, reaching into a more casual market.
How does your game take advantage of Nvidia Shield Android TV's functionality?
We make use of the very powerful Tegra graphics hardware. Without it we'd be looking at cutting back on graphics substantially to make Super Mega Baseball run on the platform. Actually, without the SHIELD hardware, we probably wouldn't be on Android at all yet.
What impact has Tegra X1 technology had on the gameplay experience Shield Android TV users will have (any specifics would be great)?
Speaking from the perspective of a company that's only been developing with consoles and PC as our minimum hardware spec, we've been able to create an Android title that runs on SHIELD without making any compromises in performance - no dropping below 60fps in interactive gameplay, no resolution reductions.