This online baseball game will let you create your own virtual ball players and compete with them online in either quick pick-up games, or in league games with other players.
So-called massively multiplayer games--games that let tens, hundreds, or even thousands play together in a persistent online world--have been around for some time now, but most of them have been role-playing games that feature one or more of the following: elves, gold pieces, and skeletons. Southern California-based studio Netamin has decided to try its hand at making such a game, but instead of making a role-playing game, the developer is working on the world's first massively multiplayer sports game. Ultimate Baseball Online will let you create your own virtual ballplayers and bring them online to play in either quick pickup games or league games with other players. Recently, we were fortunate enough to try out a very early version of this intriguing game.
One of the few things that Ultimate Baseball Online will have in common with online role-playing games is the way you create your ball players. Specifically, you'll be able to create up to three different ball players, each of whom can be either male or female, and each of whom can be a catcher, a fielder, or a pitcher. You'll also be able to outfit your players with different faces, body types, hitting styles (including whether they bat left- or right-handed), throwing styles, and pitching styles (including whether they pitch right- or left-handed, and whether they use an overhand, sidearm, or underhand delivery). Netamin also hopes to eventually incorporate an "upload your own photo" option to let players put 3D-skinned versions of themselves into the game.
Each player has a series of statistics, such as throwing accuracy, speed, and stamina, and various skills, such as different types of pitches. As your ballplayers play through more and more games, they'll gain ability points that they can spend to improve their various statistics, and they'll also be able to unlock and learn new skills, similar to the way experience-point systems function in online role-playing games. Ultimate Baseball Online won't have any official licenses, teams, or real-world players or stadiums, so all new players will start out in generic farm leagues as amateurs. However, you'll probably want to try to develop your players in certain ways--for instance, if you want to create a top-tier pitcher, you might focus on building up your throwing strength and accuracy statistics. Though pitchers will start with nothing more than a standard fastball and slider, they'll eventually be able to learn up to 11 different pitches, including curveballs and sinkers. All players' stats will be tracked in real time and be available on Netamin's Web site.
As mentioned above, Ultimate Baseball Online will have two different ways to play: in quick pickup games or in team-based league games. Pickup games can be joined at more or less any time, and they will feature computer-controlled characters to help fill out the teams if there aren't nine players available for each side. Additionally, in the interest of making sure the game doesn't require a huge investment of time, games can be set to end after three, six, or nine innings. But Netamin hopes that most players will get together and play team games, and even form their own leagues by way of the message boards on Netamin's Web site. You'll be able to join either sort of game in the matchmaking lobby, which will let you choose servers to play on and chat with other players who are on deck, waiting for a game. The lobby will also have a diagram of the field and its various positions, and you'll be able choose your player's position simply by clicking on it in the diagram.
Once you choose your position and a game has started, you'll take to the field, and when you're not pitching or at bat, you'll be able to view the field from 10 different angles using the appropriate function key on your keyboard. But just like in real-life baseball games, the real showdown will be between the pitcher and the batter. Ultimate Baseball Online will feature complex but easy-to-use systems for both pitching and swinging, thanks to its intuitive control scheme. Most of the game is played using standard first-person shooter controls: The W, A, S, and D keys are used to move, and the mouse is used to look in a certain direction and aim your pitches, swings, and catches.