We recently had the opportunity to talk to Metalhead Software Co-Founder Scott Drader about Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings.
XBLA Fans: What made an Indie Studio in West Canada want to do a baseball game for their first game as a studio?
Scott Drader: We actually started Metalhead without knowing exactly what product we were going to base the business on. It was going be software related, but the original plan was no more specific than that – it’s probably not the most recommended way to start a company… haha. When we were tossing around ideas, my co-founder Christian and I pretty quickly gravitated towards a shared interested in games.
Baseball came about because it was something I personally knew a lot about – I had also played countless baseball video games over the years and felt I knew what worked and what didn’t. Also, the sports genre at that point had already reached a state where few new sports games were being made and we figured there was room for something original. It was no doubt a little strange making a baseball game in Canada where baseball is not all that popular compared to say, hockey.
XBLA Fans: What type of inspiration from previous sports games and non-sports games did you draw on when making Super Mega Baseball?
Drader: The number one inspiration was probably the accessible social experience of the sports games in the 90’s. There was something special about sitting on the couch with a friend or three and having everyone understand the basic mechanics within an hour or two. I personally had stopped playing sports games after a certain age, once they started to get really complicated, to the point that it was tough to teach a friend the basics in one sitting.
A lot of design decisions – on things like how the game teaches you the mechanics, how it gives you positive and negative feedback and helps you improve, etc. – were influenced by our collective experience playing games in general. Most of our development team were never hugely into sports games actually, so there’s a lot of influence from other genres.
XBLA Fans: Did you feel the lack of Major League Baseball License helped or hurt Super Mega Baseball?
Drader: It’s tough to answer that one because SMB would never have come into existence as a licensed product. We were a new company founded by people that had never made a game before so getting any license would’ve been a very tough sell. We knew we had to ship a good game before worrying about any of that, so we ran with fictional content full-tilt and had a lot of fun with it. It allowed us a lot creative freedom with things like stadium design. That all said, I’m sure a hypothetical licensed product based on SMB’s core would do pretty well, but it was never something that was considered for the first version of the game.
XBLA Fans: The art style seems very comedic and creative at times, while the game appears to have a rather in-depth simulation aspect. This seems like a rather unique juxtaposition. What influenced your decision to go with this art direction?
Drader: We wanted the game to model the sport realistically from the beginning. The cartoon style came out of a desire to appeal a broad, all-ages audience. One thing that has proven to be tricky about the art style is that it has made it difficult to communicate that there is actually a very realistic baseball simulation under the hood. No doubt some people immediately dismiss it as a silly arcade game even though it plays like a simulation.
XBLA Fans: Ego Mode seems really creative. How did that come about?
Drader: One of the earliest design decisions was to have a fine-grained difficulty system instead of a handful of discrete settings (e.g. easy/medium/hard). We did that because there’s something really fun, especially in a sports game, about being challenged just the right amount so that you’re in a lot of close games. It’s frustrating (in any genre of game) when you find your current difficulty setting too easy, but find that stepping up to the next one is too big of a step.
We actually had a debate in the office at one point about whether we should use a more traditional name instead of ‘Ego’ for the difficulty system, but it survived that conversation and I’m glad it did.
XBLA Fans: Couch co-op feels rare at times. What made you think it was right for Super Mega Baseball?
Drader: We wanted to nail a good local multiplayer vibe, and we just loved the idea of a pair of friends (or couple or whatever) sitting down to relax and play a season together. We knew we’d allow two-per-team as I think that’s a must for any team sports game, but we wanted to make sure there was an accessible way to team-up versus the computer, even two people with big differences in skill, so design-wise it was pretty interdependent on the Ego system.
XBLA Fans: I absolutely love the ballpark design. What was the craziest idea you had with stadiums that may or may not have made it into the game?
Drader: Great question! There was a time when we were talking about doing a post-apocalyptic theme – like baseball stadiums rebuilt out of the ashes of nuclear war or something ridiculous like that. My favorite idea from that time was having a ballpark that was rebuilt out of a destroyed football stadium – like where half the stadium was still standing, and the rubble from the other side was cleared to make the field area large enough for a baseball field. Ultimately we decided that doing a baseball game was niche enough, and that we probably shouldn’t go down that route. ?
XBLA Fans: Is there anything new to the Xbox One version of the game for players who have purchased the PS4 version of the game already?
Drader: The thing that’s going to stand out the most is the two new ballparks, which might be the best looking ones in my opinion (or maybe it’s just that I’ve spent too much time looking at the first four), but it also basically has all the cumulative improvements, simulation tweaks and refinements we’ve made thus far in 2015. I think all those little things add up to a significantly more polished feel.
XBLA Fans: Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
Drader: Just that we appreciate feedback and suggestions, and love to hear from fans on our forums or social media (Twitter, Facebook). And… if anyone is interested in the development history of the game, we’re running a “Making of SMB” series on our blog.
The embargo on Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings reviews was lifted this morning and our review can be read here. We will be streaming Super Mega Baseball on Wednesday, 8/12/2015 at 11 PM EST on Twitch.