Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hey Batter, Batter

In "Real baseball players' moves are captured in video games," the Los Angeles Times explains how motion capture suits are used to give videogame players the sense of individualized action in simulating play.

For titles based on football, baseball, basketball, golf and even skateboarding, that means suiting up pro athletes and putting them through the intricate movements they have spent their lives honing.

With baseball, however, there's a twist. Major league players have unique signature moves. Many go through elaborate rituals, often fueled by superstition, just before taking a swing or throwing a pitch.

"People who play our game really notice when the angle of the bat is 5 degrees off," Clements said.

On, a fan-created website dedicated to athletic video games, readers dissect the minutiae. They point out when a player's jersey isn't quite the right color, or when an athlete's hat is positioned incorrectly.

But they also notice when developers get it right. They praise the realism of Matt Holliday's signature leg kick, Albert Pujols' gait or Jim Edmonds' toe lift.

"Baseball, without question, is the most challenging game to make because so many players have signature styles," said Stephen Park, motion-capture coordinator for 2K Sports, a game publisher in Novato, Calif., that also makes basketball, hockey, boxing and tennis games.

As a Dodgers fan, I was of course reading the article in expectation of a mention of famed shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who has a legendary at-plate ritual sometimes known as the "Nomar dance." Sure enough, I was rewarded for my diligence, as I read on about how the 1300 animations in the MLB videogame database were made.

There are more than 750 players in Major League Baseball, so it's both impossible and impractical to hook up each one to motion-capture machines. Minor league players are often hired to impersonate stars. The stand-ins sometimes require dozens of takes to nail more complicated rituals, such as the elaborate glove adjustments and toe taps by former Dodger Nomar Garciaparra, Park of 2K Sports said.

"Nomar does about 15 or 16 things, and he'll do it exactly the same way every time," Park said. "The talent has to memorize all things exactly."

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Blogger bob c said...

This reminds one of the worker replacement tech in Vonnegut's PLAYER PIANO. I wonder if, from 50odd years ago, his vision is coming true, albeit slowly and in disguise?

4:27 PM  

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