Major League Baseball 2K10 Art Direction

POSTED ON ON January 17 | VIEWS 4903

Alan Blouin, the Art Director for Major League Baseball 2K10, gives us some insight into core visual goals and the graphical benchmarks that they reached in Major League Baseball 2K10.  " Looking back, Major League Baseball 2K9 was the first version of the MLB 2K series that Visual Concepts produced in house after taking it over from Kush Games. This year, we really had time to introduce new technology and greatly enhance the visuals. We used a lot of the techniques and methods that we had designed and perfected for NBA over the years and applied them to Major League Baseball 2K10. The result is greatly enhanced player models as well as overhauled environments. With baseball being an outdoor game, we had to go one step beyond our NBA experience as the outdoor environment introduces lighting that is very dynamic. "



Environments


Our chief objective was to bring out the details of the coding geometry so we could push our accuracy and graphics like never before. Our goal was to address environments and enhance the stadiums in a number of ways. 



We went through all the stadiums and scrutinized the architectural details and nuances, in an effort to correct anything we saw that has changed since the previous MLB season. We also introduced some new stadiums not in last year’s game. I’m sure you’ll all be excited to see the new Target Field in Minnesota. We worked off of the blueprints of the actual stadium so our stadium will be spot on in terms of accuracy for Twins fans.

We paid a lot of attention to the fields this year, introducing new technology to the dirt which better portrays wetness, degradation, moisture, rake, wear, and traffic. The grass is equally as sophisticated. We took into account the same lighting properties with our dirt, as well as the actual mow patterns for each stadium. We even went as far as taking into consideration the type & length of grass, and the direction it is mowed. I guess you can say we are a little obsessed with grass tech from our football days. We are sticklers for accuracy because we aim to please our simulation fans everywhere!

The environments capture each ballpark’s look and feel and showcase their specific celebrations, ads, scoreboards, and fans accordingly. We made sure to balance the ads within the parks and colors to mimic life, and you will see more real life advertisement slots and sizes than in MLB 2K9. In general, we wanted the environments to capture the real essence of baseball, but differently for the various stadiums across the league.

Visually, we wanted to make sure to more accurately produce the lighting conditions of a hot noon summer game, a dreamy afternoon, or even a cool August night with our new lighting model technology. Now, the lighting is also accurate to not only the time of day games are played, but also the actual geographic location and orientation of each stadium and time of year your game is taking place. We consciously desaturated the parks slightly and brought the important time of day of “Dusk” into the product. With the stadium overhaul complete, we next looked at what was necessary for the players.

Players

This year, our players are almost 100% new, aside from the player-specific accessories we inherited from 2K9. We started with our completely redesigned skeleton, which has been leveraged across all the 2K10 titles. From the ground up, we created a much more complex skeleton (Inverse Kinematics – allows us to pull gloves and feet to their proper location to touch the base or catch the ball) and are now able to have realistic body proportions. The new skeleton also has a flexibility which won’t collapse the body of the player during complicated animations and allows better functioning hands and gloves. 

 


Next, a new cloth system was introduced that better simulates the jersey’s cloth for each team. We also refined shader technology to depict a more realistic and dynamic uniform and set of accessories. The body received a new cloth tech to mimic distorting fabrics under stress, and all the accessories now fit very well on the players. 

When looking at our new head and skin tones, we wanted to create a natural look working with the current game lighting and still show the contour of the head properly. All hats are now custom fit to the athlete and reflect their individual styles accordingly. We also carried over our hair technology from our other sports games to give us a more realistic and natural looking hair.

Heads were completely reworked using a lot of the NBA 2K10, most notably the new Skin Shader, which greatly enhances player likenesses by giving our models more fidelity and better material nuances. We readdressed over half the league’s player likenesses and use new shaders which gave player skins new life and pushed facial expressions. We also wanted to capture the athlete likeness and we ended up scanning the real MLB player heads digitally in order to get us there. All of these additions should result in some great looking player models. 

This year we added multi-character animations to improve the realism of collisions between the catcher and the base runner for plays at the plate. We also added multi-character animations for pickoff/steal plays as well as double play collisions in which the base runner attempts a takeout slide to prevent the shortstop/2nd baseman from turning a double play. All of these are to minimize the amount of player penetration during these plays to make the outcome more believable. We also updated the movement model to allow for more directional based fielding animations to allow the fielders to follow the ball during its trajectory. We also added more multi-action animations (run, catch, throw all in one file) to allow the player to queue up a throw to a particular base before gathering the ball to quicken the throw to that base and increase the reaction time of the fielder in the hopes of making a play. And we also added new Signature animations for this year’s roster and tried to improve the look of the batting and pitching introductions. 

In Closing

I didn’t want to overlook our slick, new menu system with new dynamic graphics. The look of the game will be a refreshing welcome to any gamers looking for a new experience. We will be speaking more about menus in a future Insight.


When you are about to play your copy of Major League Baseball 2K10, remember what goes into the visual production. It is the work of a mixture of dozens of artists, engineers, and producers with one mission in mind: to make this title shine and be graphically exciting. 

I personally want to thank them all and also you, the fans, for giving us great feedback on the art side each of the 10 years of the franchise and I know that with Major League Baseball 2K10, we’ve produced the best looking baseball product from 2K Sports to date.

Thanks,

Alan Blouin
Art Director, 2K Sports



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