Unreal Engine Used To Create Virtual Baseball Fans For MLB Games

Because of the novel coronavirus, the stands are not filled with people, but cardboard cutouts of fans, dogs, or even Pocket Monster plush toys. Next up, virtual baseball fans, courtesy of the Unreal Engine.

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As noted on Variety, Fox Sports is filling the stands at Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium, Nationals Park and Petco Park with virtual fans created with the same tech used to power video games like Fortnite and Street Fighter V.

“We had a vision for making our Major League Baseball broadcasts look as natural as they were before covid,” says Fox Sports exec Brad Zager. Not only can the fans be customized to support for whatever team, but the crowd size can also dwindle in later innings. “If it’s an 8-to-1 game, the crowd can be thinned out [late in the game],” Zager added.

Fox Sports felt like that without a crowd, the games would feel like practice, so it enlisted production company Silver Spoon, which does motion capture and character creation, to create the virtual fans.

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“Our goal is to make sure that the view looks normal,” says Zager. Normal this ain’t, but neither is 2020.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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DISCUSSION

Honest question but...who is this for? Legitimately what purpose does this serve? Do people need crowds in the background of the sport they’re watching? I GET wanting things to “be normal” but if people haven’t realized there is no going back to “Normal” at this point I don’t know what to tell them.

I’m *legitimately* curious about the psychological need for digital people standing behind a ball that’s being thrown.