MLB 2K12: Annoyingly Realistic Animation

Among the major sports, baseball is unique in that it isn’t governed by a time clock. Football (both American football and soccer), basketball, hockey, all of those games are done when the referee sees the clock tick down to zero. In baseball, you get 27 outs, and sometimes more. Depending on your point of view, that can be a good or bad thing. Regardless though, it’s part of the reason baseball is often called a “slow” game, with real life games clocking in at an average of nearly 3 hours.

MLB 2K12, another iteration of 2K Sports’ annual baseball sim, does a pretty great job at capturing the “essence” of major league baseball. That also means it can take forever to play a game. Mostly, I blame this on the annoyingly realistic way the batter and pitcher take their sweet time between pitches. Here’s an example:

While every batter is different, and even depending on the at-bat each animation length can vary, in the video above it’s about 15 seconds long between pitches. That’s 15 seconds from swinging at the previous pitch to seeing the strike zone and being prepared for the next one. Of course, the player isn’t locked into watching this every time. The A button will skip a majority of the animation, which speeds things up considerably. See this video as an example:

This animation is about 4 seconds – significantly faster! Let’s talk about exactly how much faster. In a real MLB game, the average number of pitches thrown is close to 150 per team. Subtracting all the times a player gets a hit, or otherwise there’s some skippable animation, let’s say it’s about 100 occasions per game (per team) that a player could save 10 seconds. That’s 200 occasions x 10 seconds = 2,000 seconds or about 33 minutes! A full half hour in animations of guys messing with their batting gloves!

In the games that I’ve played, I’ve skipped as many of these as possible and it’s taken close to an hour to finish.  If you watched the whole game – instant replays, statistical overlays, promos for upcoming games and all – I’m guessing it would take as long as a real game.  I applaud 2K Sports for their realism and attempt to make MLB 2K12 as close to a tv experience as possible.  However…I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to dedicate three hours to one game of baseball!

The players moving around between pitches isn’t the only time that things are slow in this game. While pitching, the player has access to a few different pitch charts that show stats like previous pitch locations. Those animations are needlessly slow too – the chart slowly slides in, then it takes a bit for the data to show up on the page, and after that a crazy gloss slides across. Is all of this festiveness necessary? I’m in the middle of pitching, just give me the information! Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Thankfully, a couple of years ago 2K Sports started including a “hurry up” mode for those who want to bypass all of the tv-style flourishes. It doesn’t solve the needlessly dramatic (and glossy) slide-in of your pitch charts, but it eliminates a lot of the other non-essential presentations like replays and between pitch animations. So it’s definitely an all-or-nothing affair, which isn’t always ideal…even basic stats like batting average are skipped for you.

And that’s the frustrating part of all this – the settings for determining how much presentation is given to the player are not good enough. You have three options for playing this game:

  1. Spend three hours playing a game
  2. Press the A button about 1,000 times during the game trying to skip silly between pitch animations
  3. Use “hurry up” mode and bypass everything festive

My major wish here is for 2K Sports to have a healthy respect for the time of the gamer. I can appreciate the desire to create an accurate simulation of the game of baseball, which is inherently a slow game. But I have to wonder, does anybody turn all of the presentation options on and play a game for three hours? I have to imagine there are close to zero people that do this. So then, what exactly is the value of providing such detail if nobody really wants to see it?

For me, it’s more important to sacrifice some amount of realism to have an enjoyable experience in a reasonable amount of time.  I hope 2K Sports improves the presentation options in the future to something a little more in-line with how real people want to play the game, not the feast or famine options that exist today.

What do you think – am I the only person who wants to get in a game of baseball in a half-hour? Does everybody else love to see their star pitcher take a trip around the mound to prepare? Or do you just set the game in hurry up mode and don’t worry about it? Sound off in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “MLB 2K12: Annoyingly Realistic Animation

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