It’s in the Game

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.7, September 2006, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1407/bbinthegame.htm

It looked like video game developer EA Sports had been sent to the showers when it lost the rights to produce a Major League Baseball game in 2006. Instead, the company stayed in the game and produced the first college baseball video game. After a January release, EA’s MVP NCAA Baseball has sold nearly 700,000 copies, much to the pleasure of game developers, coaches, and players alike.

“I think it’s an endorsement of the popularity of college baseball,” says Augie Garrido, Head Coach at the University of Texas, whose former third baseman, David Maroul, was featured on the game’s 2006 cover. “It helps put us into the bigger sports scene alongside Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, and NFL football, and I think it brings us some extra credibility.”

“We knew we were taking a bit of a risk because there had never been a college baseball game before, but this isn’t something we just pulled out of a hat either,” says Trey Smith, Producer of MVP NCAA Baseball. “It’s something we had in the works for the past couple of years, and we were just waiting for the opportune time to do it.”

As with other NCAA video games, the developers were not allowed to use student-athletes’ names in the game, so players are identified only by uniform number and position. But their game performance is designed to reflect reality.

“We tried to make the game as authentic as possible,” Smith says. “We collected all the stats and translated them into player attributes, such as power, contact, and accuracy.”

The desire for authenticity was one reason why the game included only 128 teams and 18 college stadiums along with Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, home of the College World Series. “We’d love to have every school and stadium in Division I, but with the schedule we were under it was too difficult to put everything together in time,” Smith says. “With the graphics and attention to detail, some of the stadiums took more than a month to complete. Some teams had as many as eight uniforms, so it was tough to narrow it down to two and get all the details right. We wanted to make sure we represented each school to the best of our ability.”

Smith also says it was important that the new release be a true college baseball game, not just a generic baseball video game with college graphics. “We wanted it to look and feel like an actual college game,” he says. “We changed our character models, so the players are not quite as beefy as in the big leagues. We adjusted the physics of the ball coming off the aluminum bat and gave it a different reaction and feel. A fan of college baseball who tries this game will quickly see we did our homework.”

Future editions of the game could include updated rosters and more teams. If the University of Texas clubhouse is any indication, any additions will be welcomed. Playing the game is a popular diversion for the players, who often squabble good-naturedly over who is the better player or who will get to control the virtual Longhorns. “There’s an argument over almost everything in the game,” Garrido says. “Sometimes I think that’s half the fun of it for them.”