Working the Angles to Make Video Game Baseball Look More Like TVS

Maybe no other sport is influenced this much by irregular stadium dimensions. Maybe no other sport has fans who'd care about this. But how you see a baseball game on TV is unique, park-to-park. In video games, however, it's uniform.

This dawned on me when my pitcher was promoted out of Indianapolis a few weeks back and debuted in Pittsburgh for the Pirates. I've written about the freelance roleplaying I do in sports titles, but here I imagined watching the broadcast of his debut. Ruminating on that, I realized that because baseball parks are much less uniform than NBA, NHL or NFL arenas, their camera presentation should also be unique. Ideally, wouldn't a broadcast-quality major league baseball simulation have that capability?

Well, in a way, MLB 2K10 does. You have more camera control in this game than is offered in MLB 10 The Show, which has two outfield camera positions for pitching but no means to adjust their height, zoom or angle. 2K10 includes those variables. While you have to re-set that camera position each time you start up the game (it's apparently not saved as a profile preference, something I'd love to see patched) the customization is still there.

So I set out to make it happen. Now that we've had the second week of the 2010 season, games have been played in and broadcast from all 30 baseball stadiums. I went to MLB.TV's condensed games (which are free the day after the game airs, by the way) to scare up some screengrabs and deliver camera angles for each team.

In MLB 2K10 you're given three cameras - Pitcher, Pitcher 2, and Pitcher 3. Pitcher is a higher-angle shot that gets more of the mound and basepaths into the frame, so the pitcher and, subsequently, the apparent strike zone, is smaller than in Pitcher 3, which is a lower angle and more zoomed in. Pitcher 2 approximates the center field angle that three clubs used last year and more have, apparently, moved to this year. Its strike zone is between Pitcher and Pitcher 3, as the name would imply.

From there you have four variables: Zoom, Position, Height and Side. In the captions to the screenshot gallery below, these settings will be given numerically in that order. So, for example, 3-8-7 means a 3 for zoom, 8 for position and 7 for height.

Working the Angles to Make Video Game Baseball Look More Like TVS

Side means whether the camera is positioned left or right of the pitcher with his back to you. With the exception of two dead center field cameras, the camera was shooting from the right of the pitcher, whether he was left- or right-handed. So those three numbers will either be followed by Right (locked) or Normal (dependent on the pitcher's throwing side). The game's Left and Reverse settings simply flip that.

So that means our nomenclature for the Reds' Great American Ballpark would be Pitcher 3, 1-7-8 Right. Pick the Pitcher 3 camera, give it a 1 zoom, 7 position and 8 for height, and you're set.

These adjusted views also affect gameplay, so keep that in mind if you have a heavily refined understanding of break points and locations on a standard camera. Steeper Positions (ranging from 8 to 10) will make your big hooks look even bigger. Overhead shots will flatten out everything, especially sliders and more subtle break pitches. The further out you are, the more difficult it is to pitch to spots, especially with pitches that have a lot of action. Camera angles with a low Zoom and high Height are like throwing at a stamp, and there are a couple 1-1-10s on here.

However, I've felt that despite the game's analog controls it's still too easy to throw with Maddux-like accuracy in the game, so these views can be employed as a kind of difficulty adjustment if you like.

Now, a disclaimer. How you see a televised game from the same park is going to vary from game to game. It'll depend on the pitcher's height, how far in the operator chooses to zoom after leaving that shot for another, etc. The camera location should still remain pretty consistent, although there are some teams with multiple center field positions, one for the home crew and another for the visiting broadcast, if they're using a separate feed. For MLB.TV's condensed games, in some cases they took the home broadcast, in others the road and it wasn't apparent to me if these broadcasts used different center field cameras or the same. Also, these screengrabs were taken in standard definition (the limits of my capture device) and given a quick auto-levels color adjustment. They are not representative of the game's actual color palette or sharpness.

With all that out of the way, here are center field camera shots from all 30 Major League ballparks, approximated as best as I could in MLB 2K10. They're presented alphabetically by team nickname (Angels, Astros, Athletics, etc.)

Whether you use these camera settings, tinker with them to create your own, or drop them altogether, these controls are there for a purpose. They give added broadcast realism to a game striving for it. Especially if you're playing MLB 2K10's MLB Today mode, which pairs the day's scheduled teams using their real-life rosters and starting pitchers, this can deliver an extra bit of verisimilitude.

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Stick Jockey is Kotaku's column on sports video games. It appears Saturdays at 2 p.m. U.S. Mountain time.