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Rebuilding the missing piece of history with MLB: The Show’s Negro Leagues.

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This year’s Sony MLB: The Show will be the first baseball title to focus on black leagues.

Created out of racial segregation in MLB (and America in general), the Negro leagues were home to black and Hispanic professionals who played from 1920 to 1950.

talking to GamesIndustry.bizSan Diego Studio Communications Product Development and MLB: The Show Brand Strategist Ramon Russell walks us through how to bring that missing piece of baseball history to the game.

“Whenever we started doing press [for MLB: The Show]“I always got the question, when are we going to do Negro Leagues? he explains. [but need to] find the right way to do it.”

Russell notes that the inclusion of Negro leagues would not have been possible with the technology of previous console generations, due to the need to properly represent historical context and information, and to faithfully recreate players, stadiums, and crowds.

So the first question was not about lack of trying, but about how to approach the project.

“If you wait for ideal conditions, there is nothing you can do,” he adds.

Telling the stories of these players presented many challenges for San Diego Studio.

“If you tell historical stories about underrepresented communities, Jim Crow or the Civil Rights Movement, it becomes very risky, very quickly.”

“In video games, there is freedom of action where you can make choices,” explains Russell. “But if you’re telling historical stories about underrepresented communities, Jim Crow or the Civil Rights Movement, it becomes very risky, very quickly. There’s a reason why you haven’t seen a single video game made about [that era].”

Russell uses as an example the story of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson when he first played in MLB. When Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he encountered anti-black racism during the game.

Russell says, “We don’t want to gloss over the ugliness of the story because it needs to be told accurately and also relevant to your audience. [However] we are an officially licensed MLB game, like this [our title] should be rated E.


Exhibit at the Negro League Baseball Museum.

Finally, getting to know these players began with a call to the Negro League Baseball Museum and its president, Bob Kendrick, in search of the best way to incorporate Kendrick’s experience into baseball tiles along with gameplay.

Russell says it took several attempts and prototypes to get there. One of these ideas was for users to receive in-game history lessons through a podcast-like audio recording. In the end, a short visual clip of each player’s story before they took the field was better than the idea.

“… The inner city blues began to play, and the light bulb went out. [in my head]. It’s the theme of it all”

Russell explains that he took it upon himself to create a vertical cut for the team to better convey the concept. This required some help from the trailer team at PlayStation Creative.

“I started working with them, and it took us about 12 hours to put together this vertical piece of video,” he says. “It all started with a Marvin Gaye track called Inner City Blues. One day I was driving in my car late at night and Inner City Blues started playing and the light went off. [in my head].

“This is the theme of all this, this is a project. So at the start of the vertical slice was the Inner City Blues and we did this slow scan where it showed “MLB: The Show Represents the Negro Leagues.”

It was January 2021 when the team got a clearer idea of ​​the concept, choosing an eight-player round to form 60 stories.

“But we release every year,” adds Russell. “We have nine months to develop the game. We can’t properly capture the breadth and depth of the Negro leagues in a single console release.”

San Diego Studio then decided to include eight to ten players a year. MLB: The Show Introduces Negro Leagues: The title of the first season intentionally indicates that there will be content in the future. And the team relied on Kendrick’s guidance to develop the first lineup.

“We called [Kendrick] and sat down with him; we needed some strong hitters and lesser-known personalities,” explains Russell.

“Obviously it starts with Leroy Robert “Satchel” Page and the surpassed name of Jackie Robinson. His induction and overcoming the color barrier marked the end of the Negro League.”

Russell explains that the president of the Negro League Museum was filmed over the course of two days. To Kendrick’s credit as a historian, he answered all questions about player profiles in his first storyline entry, and was not asked directly during the process.

After filming, the team again thought about how they wanted to present this story.

“So these videos have to be very short. They should also be educational. They should be informative and visually appealing,” says Russell.


Andrew “Roubet” Foster

He explains that while rendering these historical players, the studio had another set of problems with the developers. For example, the only photographs of Andrew “Rub” Foster, an organizer of the Negro National League who played from 1902 to 1917, were in black and white.

“Hilton Smith [also] there were only black and white photographs… so we used Hilton Smith’s grandson as the basis for his skin tone.”

Based on his photographs, Studio San Diego knew that Foster was a black man. However, in the case of the rendering of Hilton Smith, who played from 1932 to 1948, the development team took a different approach.

Russell says “Hilton Smith [also] There were only black and white photographs. So what is his skin tone? We work with all families and estates [of players]so we used Hilton Smith’s grandson as the basis for his skin tone.”

Historical accuracy has survived beyond baseball players. Standard stadiums were not used during the Negro leagues storylines, so not only were new arenas designed and inspired by the leagues, but also in-game crowds.

“Negro league teams used to rent out baseball stadiums on Sundays to doublehead, and in the South, what did people do on Sundays? They went to church,” says Russell. “Everyone has suits, ties and hats. Everyone is dressed to the nines, so that’s our crowd in all these stadiums.”

The visual differences with the crowd didn’t stop there; the people who went to watch Negro league games, unlike MLB at the time, were not racially segregated. So that was also reflected in the design meant for the audience.

The final piece of the San Diego Studio puzzle was the soundtrack. Russell adds that he took on the task of creating the tracklist himself.

“I spoke to our director and said: “I know that we have not increased the budget for music for a very long time. We have to do it now, this project does not work without a separate soundtrack. I kill [this]. Nothing will work without this music.” He said, “Yes, whatever the cost.” So we doubled our music [licensing] budget.”

In addition, the brand manager acknowledges that he will be seen as the cause if the project fails.

“I was horrified because if we make a mistake, they will look at the same person. A guy with black skin who works in a studio who is the face of [MLB: The Show] fire. So if it’s wrong, it will fall on me.”

He notes that his fears of failure will also reflect negatively on the San Diego Studio and PlayStation team.

“So the fear of making mistakes is a very motivating factor,” explains Russell.

On a more personal note, Russell says he and his team wanted to present a black story that wouldn’t traumatize its users. In addition, he wanted the source material to be funny and inspiring.

“Our motto for the project is the same model as the Negro League Baseball Museum: educate, educate and inspire.”

He explains, “Our motto for the project is the same model as the Negro League Baseball Museum: educate, educate, and inspire.

“We wanted to make sure we don’t injure blacks in a video game… I don’t need to see blacks get hurt in a movie or in a video game. I’ve seen it enough.”

“The last thing I wanted was for a 12-year-old black kid from Chicago to play this game and feel bad. Also, I don’t want a 12 year old white kid from Cincinnati to play it and feel bad about himself. [either]. So this project and storylines in general are a celebration of these almost forgotten players and how good they were.”

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GAMING

9 steps Xbox needs to take this year

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2023 is only three months away, which means there’s plenty of time for Microsoft to make big moves for Xbox this year – beyond that. potential major acquisition by Activision Blizzard and all. So what should Microsoft employees do to make Xbox better over the next nine months? We don’t hold back on dreaming up improvements and additions to the Xbox ecosystem.

Ryan

1. Sign with former Rocksteady co-founders

First, Phil Spencer should already be on the phone to sign Rocksteady co-founders Sefton Hill and Jamie Walker to an exclusive development deal (if he hasn’t already) now that they’re both free agents. Sure, they won’t have another game for five years or more, as they’ll have to start over and build a new team from scratch, but Xbox isn’t going anywhere, and these two are worth betting on.

For goodness sake, Microsoft should announce native Steam Deck support!


2.Steam Deck support

For goodness sake, Microsoft should announce native Steam Deck support! If Xbox is serious about meeting gamers wherever they are, they should team up with their Seattle neighbors and turn the Steam Deck into a portable Xbox with built-in Game Pass support on the Proton (Linux) Deck-based operating system. I understand that this is much easier said than done, but I cannot imagine that this is an insurmountable obstacle. Maybe not every game will be compatible, but I’m sure most of them will. The Xboy that was rumored for a long time but was never created!

3. 1 in 100!

I want Microsoft to do something really unique: return 1 in 100! This is one of the most unique video games of my life (in the best way) and a new generation of gamers should experience it. Or, if this show has licensing issues, Microsoft might get some other live event game (perhaps “The Right Price”?). Turn it on with Game Pass and you’ll have plenty of time to tune in during live events. It would be a great way to engage the community on whatever platform Xbox exists on (console, PC, cloud) and resurrect a loved one. Two hares, one stone. Do it

Miranda

It was complicated! It’s hard to make big moves in a year. Here are three I would like to see, both for personal reasons and because I think they would be great moves!

4. Arcade summer

Based on my experience at IGN, there are a lot of what it takes to make the event work. But what if you look back at your past and say, “Damn, that was good,” and do it again? Bring back Summer of Arcade, please! ID@Xbox is already such a great program that gets rare coverage at big events, but it’s usually one of my favorite surprises at hands-on events. It looks like the developers are also addicted to the summer event. On My Perfect Console with Simon ParkinParkin and his Episode 6 guest Phil Fish had a brief but informative discussion on how Summer of Arcade generated some interest from developers and players alike.

What features will appear on the Xbox in the next few years. Does Microsoft have any specific release frequency targets?


5) Better communication (and not just about games)

It would be great to get a statement on the general expectations for the first release and, in general, what will happen to Xbox in terms of features in the next few years. Does Microsoft have any specific release frequency targets? Several per year? It’s obviously been a big problem for studios to set release dates in the last few years, but I think it would be helpful to hear about Xbox Game Studio’s ambitions for their many studios, or even some kind of statement about what they want to improve or develop in the future. coming years. Xbox as a whole seems to be doing a great job with Xbox Wire messaging as their teams improve Xbox Cloud Gaming and other features, but another review of intent would be great. Something along the lines of Jason Ronald (Director of Program Management, Xbox Series X) “Everything you need to know about Xbox Series X and the future of Xbox…until now.” mail from June 2020.

6) Ho Yovers

The main personal thing for me would be to see how Microsoft works with HoYoverse to introduce Genshin Impact or at least provide the next HoYoverse games − Honkai: StarRail another Zenless Zone Zero will be on Xbox. reported Microsoft drops Genshin as a console exclusive. In fact, I wouldn’t want Genshin to be a console-exclusive, as being able to sign in and play it anywhere is a big feature for me (it’s on PlayStation and will come to Switch someday). At the very least, I hope Microsoft continues to consider bringing these massive live service games to Xbox. He has Black Desert Online, but it’s not Final Fantasy XIV. Blue ProtocoI’m looking forward to the MMO!

Stella

7.More updates

Knowing how busy the year has been, it’s been a bit difficult to figure out what I really want from Xbox this year. But I think the first thing for me to do is to rework their release calendar, which was originally extended last year. We first saw the overall plans for 2022 and 2023 during our special episode “Summer of Games” (Unlocked).

Remember this? We would like an update please!

I understand that release dates change a lot – this is normal. I’m not asking for exact release dates, the original published Xbox calendar didn’t even have that. But it indicated what would happen this year and next, which would be great to have right now. We have no idea what will happen in 2024.

8) eSports support

My next step will be to make Xbox better support their esports. Halo Infinite isn’t doing well in the esports scene or among gamers, and four big teams have already opted out of Infinite tournaments, even though they were partner teams that had their own HCS skins in the game: OpTic Gaming, Fnatic, eUnited, and Spacestation Gaming .

Spacestation Gaming has remained in the HCS scene, but it’s a different roster and it’s clear that many pro players are losing their love for the game. There’s nothing new or any real reason why pros want to compete and play Halo Infinite for hours when the scene doesn’t look as maintained as it should.

I want Halo Infinite to be better for both casual and competitive players, and it currently fails on both.


Viewership for the 2022 Halo World Championship Finals was smaller than the previous Kickoff Major, which peaked at 267,279 viewers. The Grand Final of the 2022 World Cup drew only 143,585 spectators.

HCS also took crowdfunding out of the prize pool just a week before the start of the World Cup. Imposing an opinion on the pros who stay to compete in Halo Infinite by impacting their earning potential is a really bad idea, especially since crowdfunding was available in previous tournaments leading up to the World Championship.

I just wish Halo Infinite would be better for both casual and competitive players, and it currently fails on both.

9. Game Pass Deals

My last, more random Xbox suggestion is to add more Game Pass subscription deals. Crunchyroll offered a free 75-day Crunchyroll Mega Fan offer via Game Pass, but nothing more. Admittedly, it might not be as fruitful as sticking to game deals, but games are getting more and more popular all the time.

Plus, with so many subscription services on offer, bundling a few of them through Game Pass is likely to be attractive to a lot of people. Imagine a free Netflix trial, or a Netflix ad-supported deal where if you decide to upgrade to the new version, you get a discount? I would go for it.

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