History of Baseball Video Games #4 - Major League Baseball

This is a series of blogs based on my own personal game collection. I will attempt to go through them in a chronological order according to their release date. I will also attempt to play then on their original platform using the original controllers the game was designed for. If I am unable to get the system or the game working then I will use PC emulation or another platform emulation like the Intellivision Lives! game for the gamecube

Previous entries

1. Videocart 12 - Baseball (1977)

2. Astrocade's Tornado Baseball (1977)

3. Atari 2600's Home Run (1978)

Major League Baseball for Intellivision (1980)

US INTV Box Art

I do not own the original Intellivision but rather the Intellivision II as well as the Intellivoice. My copy of Major League Baseball was in pretty bad shape the game was practically unplayable. Half hour later of removing 20 years of dirt and dust from the cartridge connectors, The screen finally improved to the point where I could play again. Viewing the title screen glowing from the TV was enough to bring me back to the 80's. Hooked up the controllers and pressed a button on the keypad and America's favorite past time was about to be played right in my living room.

Graphics

Intellivision version

The game starts with the typical Intillivision title screen, using the keypad and controller you determine the speed of gameplay; button 1,2 and 3 for slower speed, directional pad for 'Major League Speed'. I am playing Major League Baseball why play the game at any other speed besides 'Major League Speed'? I pressed the controller expecting the screen to go plaid due to of the amazing speed I just selected, instead a nice looking baseball game glowed onto the screen. The graphics are a nice step up from Atari 2600's Home Run as well as Astrocade's Baseball game but the foul lines a little more jagged then the later. This game is pretty colorful and the game info while still a little boring is readable. I couldn't get over how weird some of their abbreviations were. 'Ing' for 'Inning', 'Strk' for Strike? Does the letter 'i' and 'e' take up so much room that they had to be removed? I will admit I might sound like an interface snob but what drove me crazy about the game play info text was how it was organized on the screen. The count should be grouped together. The ball and strikes count should be close together and not separated by the distance of the field. When I go the Orioles game this summer and look at the scoreboard, they don't have the number of balls on the left and the number of strikes on the other side. I guess I am weird like that. One final note regarding the text, a common theme I have noticed is these systems don't really have a font or text engine, text is displayed as graphical lines, which makes them really huge and ugly.

Players

Atari's Home Run (1978)Intellivision's Major League Baseball (1980)
150% Zoom
150% Zoom

The last game in this blog series introduced the world to video game baseball hats. This game continues this trend and hopefully we never go back to playing baseball without this important part of the uniform again. Sadily we haven't gotten out of the era where the players are all the same color though. Maybe the early 80's will get us there. Even though the player model is the same color from head to hat, This game does advance the graphical rendering of positions and movement. It is the first game to have a different look for different positions. The pitcher was more defined then the other fielders; the batter had a completly different render. In previous games the batter was often the same character model just a different color. What I enjoyed about the batter so much is attributed to two simple things. 1) The bat was part of the charcter, previous games the batter just stood there next to the bat seperated by a few pixals. 2) When you took a swing the batter was animated. The animation in this game was really out of this ball park. The batter swings his body around; the pictcher had a wind up; the fielders has running strides that match the distance they are traveling. The animation is just one of the game's crowning achievement and made this game the most popular game for the system.

Field

The field was very easy on the eyes, even back when we only knew of 480 lines of resolution and the curves we knew were jagged ones. The foul lines are displayed, The bases are nicely done and the home plate is displayed correctly. One of the things that advances the baseball concept is the fact that the ball bounces off the walls. Yes there are actual walls in the outfield, even though they didn't bother rendering the walls, for this game they are invisible. Not sure if this was lack of technology or just lazy programming. The size of the cartridge was only 4k after all. Another aspect of the field that is unique and new to video games is the dirt path between the pitcher's mound and home plate. This was common in ball parks in the mid 20th century and has been since phased out, It is a nice throw back to the roots of baseball. This 'keyhole', common baseball term for this dirt path, provided a nice camera perspective.

Fans

Once again we have a game where no fans are displayed but we get to hear them through the nice sound effects of the game. This isn't the first time we hear the fans but in this game we hear them more then any game prior

Home Run Celebration

The Home Run celebration is nothing to write home about. You hear the roar of the crowd and watch your player round the bases with the words 'Home Run' in the center of the field. In my play through I was able to hit a home run twice and not really sure how I hit it. With the invisible outfield wall and the fact that in the manual it states all hits are grounders, I am not sure how home runs are even possible but I am glad they were.

Camera/Screen

By adding the 'keyhole' to the field, it gave the whole field a different perspective. It made it less of a bird's eye view of the field and more of a angled look with depth. The size of the pitchers mound was based on how far away it was with the camera. This maybe something we start to see more of as baseball games advance as developers move the camera around to provide the gamer with a new fresh perspective. This game only has the one camera and doesn't move an inch or change screens between innings or game over. In fact in my first play through I thought the game froze it wasn't till later that I looked and the game was over and I played all nine innings. A 'Game Over' screen would have been nice.

Sound

'Yer Out!' should be displayed in the video game hall of fame somewhere, not just the words but rather an mp3 file of the sound. This game had umpire voices! how crazy is that? I don't know a better way to start the voice revolution then by starting with one of the classic, most popular sport phrases in the history of spoken English. Sure it wasn't really clear what the voice was actually saying but everyone knew, everyone knew and it was awesome. Intellivision did have an add on module for the system to include more voices in their games, Intellivoice, but this game was so great it didn't need it. Forget the voice for a second, the other sounds of game were just as great. The crowd noise was improved from previous games, even though it still sounded as if someone was trying to find 106.7 on their transistor radio . When the ball left the end of the bat, it included a sound effect to tune of a slide whistle, the pitch of the beeps increased as it approached the outfield. The crowd noise was included during every half inning and big offensive plays such as a home run.

Gameplay - Modes

There is only one mode for this cartridge and that is one single game of baseball for two players only. Hopefully the next game in this series we can start to get into games that require only one controller and you can play against a computer or the CPU. For those who are keeping score at home, only 1/4 of the games so far has a single player mode.

Gameplay - Defense

Overlay

Now we are getting somewhere, now we are getting to the point where we the gamer need more control of the game. With the Intellivision's keypad controller, we have the buttons to do just that. Using the intellivision's controller and overlay we can select any fielder and control them. The fielder you select using the keypad changes to black. Once the fielder collects the ball you can run with the ball in hand using the joystick or you can select another fielder and you throw the ball to the fielder and you then become that fielder. In terms of pitching, you predetermine the type of pitch to perform based on the direction of the joystick. Up for fast ball, inside curve by pressing left for example. This pitching mechanic is new and feels fresh. Gone are the days of moving the paddle,joystick wildly to produce curve balls that Tim Wakefield couldn't produce. The pitcher was also able to throw to the bases to pick off the runner. Another added 'feature' of the gameplay was after every pitch you have to manually throw the ball to the pitcher in order to start the next play. For me, I found this play mechanic to be boring and not really important; I wouldn't miss it .

Gameplay - Offense

Much like the new ways to play defense, with this game we get new advancements in base running. One of the advancements is the ability to run the bases. Pushing the joystick right advances the lead runner; pushing the joystick left makes the runner go back a base. This simple concept opened the doors for the offense to steal bases if the pitcher wasn't paying attention and to attempt to stretch a base hit into a double if you felt like Ricky Henderson. In fact when playing when you make contact with the ball it is up to you to run to first. There is no automatic base running unless you were walked. In terms of batting you now have two options. The first is to swing away and the other is to bunt. This game has a bunt button! All these options allowed the offense to add baseball strategy into the video game.

Rules of Baseball

This game just might be the first video game to incorporate majority of the baseball rules into the game. The big thing that it is missing is the concept of pop flys, and balls batted in the air and caught for an out, all the batted balls are grounders in the game it is up to the defense to get the ball and throw it to the base fast enough. We have stolen bases, pick offs, lead offs, bunts, home runs, triples and double plays. Any game that spends time to voice the umpire calling the outs is pretty solid baseball game.

Video Game Innovations

  • Voice effect
  • Umpire part of the the game
  • Control any fielder
  • Control lead base runner
  • Physics with ball hitting outfield wall
  • Preassigned pitch types
  • Batter animated with swing
  • Butting
  • Different sprite of the players depending on position
  • Licensed by Major League Baseball (only name and logo allowed)
3 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by jbn566

This is a series of blogs based on my own personal game collection. I will attempt to go through them in a chronological order according to their release date. I will also attempt to play then on their original platform using the original controllers the game was designed for. If I am unable to get the system or the game working then I will use PC emulation or another platform emulation like the Intellivision Lives! game for the gamecube

Previous entries

1. Videocart 12 - Baseball (1977)

2. Astrocade's Tornado Baseball (1977)

3. Atari 2600's Home Run (1978)

Major League Baseball for Intellivision (1980)

US INTV Box Art

I do not own the original Intellivision but rather the Intellivision II as well as the Intellivoice. My copy of Major League Baseball was in pretty bad shape the game was practically unplayable. Half hour later of removing 20 years of dirt and dust from the cartridge connectors, The screen finally improved to the point where I could play again. Viewing the title screen glowing from the TV was enough to bring me back to the 80's. Hooked up the controllers and pressed a button on the keypad and America's favorite past time was about to be played right in my living room.

Graphics

Intellivision version

The game starts with the typical Intillivision title screen, using the keypad and controller you determine the speed of gameplay; button 1,2 and 3 for slower speed, directional pad for 'Major League Speed'. I am playing Major League Baseball why play the game at any other speed besides 'Major League Speed'? I pressed the controller expecting the screen to go plaid due to of the amazing speed I just selected, instead a nice looking baseball game glowed onto the screen. The graphics are a nice step up from Atari 2600's Home Run as well as Astrocade's Baseball game but the foul lines a little more jagged then the later. This game is pretty colorful and the game info while still a little boring is readable. I couldn't get over how weird some of their abbreviations were. 'Ing' for 'Inning', 'Strk' for Strike? Does the letter 'i' and 'e' take up so much room that they had to be removed? I will admit I might sound like an interface snob but what drove me crazy about the game play info text was how it was organized on the screen. The count should be grouped together. The ball and strikes count should be close together and not separated by the distance of the field. When I go the Orioles game this summer and look at the scoreboard, they don't have the number of balls on the left and the number of strikes on the other side. I guess I am weird like that. One final note regarding the text, a common theme I have noticed is these systems don't really have a font or text engine, text is displayed as graphical lines, which makes them really huge and ugly.

Players

Atari's Home Run (1978)Intellivision's Major League Baseball (1980)
150% Zoom
150% Zoom

The last game in this blog series introduced the world to video game baseball hats. This game continues this trend and hopefully we never go back to playing baseball without this important part of the uniform again. Sadily we haven't gotten out of the era where the players are all the same color though. Maybe the early 80's will get us there. Even though the player model is the same color from head to hat, This game does advance the graphical rendering of positions and movement. It is the first game to have a different look for different positions. The pitcher was more defined then the other fielders; the batter had a completly different render. In previous games the batter was often the same character model just a different color. What I enjoyed about the batter so much is attributed to two simple things. 1) The bat was part of the charcter, previous games the batter just stood there next to the bat seperated by a few pixals. 2) When you took a swing the batter was animated. The animation in this game was really out of this ball park. The batter swings his body around; the pictcher had a wind up; the fielders has running strides that match the distance they are traveling. The animation is just one of the game's crowning achievement and made this game the most popular game for the system.

Field

The field was very easy on the eyes, even back when we only knew of 480 lines of resolution and the curves we knew were jagged ones. The foul lines are displayed, The bases are nicely done and the home plate is displayed correctly. One of the things that advances the baseball concept is the fact that the ball bounces off the walls. Yes there are actual walls in the outfield, even though they didn't bother rendering the walls, for this game they are invisible. Not sure if this was lack of technology or just lazy programming. The size of the cartridge was only 4k after all. Another aspect of the field that is unique and new to video games is the dirt path between the pitcher's mound and home plate. This was common in ball parks in the mid 20th century and has been since phased out, It is a nice throw back to the roots of baseball. This 'keyhole', common baseball term for this dirt path, provided a nice camera perspective.

Fans

Once again we have a game where no fans are displayed but we get to hear them through the nice sound effects of the game. This isn't the first time we hear the fans but in this game we hear them more then any game prior

Home Run Celebration

The Home Run celebration is nothing to write home about. You hear the roar of the crowd and watch your player round the bases with the words 'Home Run' in the center of the field. In my play through I was able to hit a home run twice and not really sure how I hit it. With the invisible outfield wall and the fact that in the manual it states all hits are grounders, I am not sure how home runs are even possible but I am glad they were.

Camera/Screen

By adding the 'keyhole' to the field, it gave the whole field a different perspective. It made it less of a bird's eye view of the field and more of a angled look with depth. The size of the pitchers mound was based on how far away it was with the camera. This maybe something we start to see more of as baseball games advance as developers move the camera around to provide the gamer with a new fresh perspective. This game only has the one camera and doesn't move an inch or change screens between innings or game over. In fact in my first play through I thought the game froze it wasn't till later that I looked and the game was over and I played all nine innings. A 'Game Over' screen would have been nice.

Sound

'Yer Out!' should be displayed in the video game hall of fame somewhere, not just the words but rather an mp3 file of the sound. This game had umpire voices! how crazy is that? I don't know a better way to start the voice revolution then by starting with one of the classic, most popular sport phrases in the history of spoken English. Sure it wasn't really clear what the voice was actually saying but everyone knew, everyone knew and it was awesome. Intellivision did have an add on module for the system to include more voices in their games, Intellivoice, but this game was so great it didn't need it. Forget the voice for a second, the other sounds of game were just as great. The crowd noise was improved from previous games, even though it still sounded as if someone was trying to find 106.7 on their transistor radio . When the ball left the end of the bat, it included a sound effect to tune of a slide whistle, the pitch of the beeps increased as it approached the outfield. The crowd noise was included during every half inning and big offensive plays such as a home run.

Gameplay - Modes

There is only one mode for this cartridge and that is one single game of baseball for two players only. Hopefully the next game in this series we can start to get into games that require only one controller and you can play against a computer or the CPU. For those who are keeping score at home, only 1/4 of the games so far has a single player mode.

Gameplay - Defense

Overlay

Now we are getting somewhere, now we are getting to the point where we the gamer need more control of the game. With the Intellivision's keypad controller, we have the buttons to do just that. Using the intellivision's controller and overlay we can select any fielder and control them. The fielder you select using the keypad changes to black. Once the fielder collects the ball you can run with the ball in hand using the joystick or you can select another fielder and you throw the ball to the fielder and you then become that fielder. In terms of pitching, you predetermine the type of pitch to perform based on the direction of the joystick. Up for fast ball, inside curve by pressing left for example. This pitching mechanic is new and feels fresh. Gone are the days of moving the paddle,joystick wildly to produce curve balls that Tim Wakefield couldn't produce. The pitcher was also able to throw to the bases to pick off the runner. Another added 'feature' of the gameplay was after every pitch you have to manually throw the ball to the pitcher in order to start the next play. For me, I found this play mechanic to be boring and not really important; I wouldn't miss it .

Gameplay - Offense

Much like the new ways to play defense, with this game we get new advancements in base running. One of the advancements is the ability to run the bases. Pushing the joystick right advances the lead runner; pushing the joystick left makes the runner go back a base. This simple concept opened the doors for the offense to steal bases if the pitcher wasn't paying attention and to attempt to stretch a base hit into a double if you felt like Ricky Henderson. In fact when playing when you make contact with the ball it is up to you to run to first. There is no automatic base running unless you were walked. In terms of batting you now have two options. The first is to swing away and the other is to bunt. This game has a bunt button! All these options allowed the offense to add baseball strategy into the video game.

Rules of Baseball

This game just might be the first video game to incorporate majority of the baseball rules into the game. The big thing that it is missing is the concept of pop flys, and balls batted in the air and caught for an out, all the batted balls are grounders in the game it is up to the defense to get the ball and throw it to the base fast enough. We have stolen bases, pick offs, lead offs, bunts, home runs, triples and double plays. Any game that spends time to voice the umpire calling the outs is pretty solid baseball game.

Video Game Innovations

  • Voice effect
  • Umpire part of the the game
  • Control any fielder
  • Control lead base runner
  • Physics with ball hitting outfield wall
  • Preassigned pitch types
  • Batter animated with swing
  • Butting
  • Different sprite of the players depending on position
  • Licensed by Major League Baseball (only name and logo allowed)
Posted by MikeGosot

...Are you going to talk about Ninja Baseball Batman?

Posted by Claude

I always wished my family would have bought an Intellivision. But it wasn't meant to be. When the video game crash hit in 1983, I was on my way to the Navy and didn't give a crap about computers or consoles during the middle years of the 80's. Looking forward to the next installment. Play ball.

Edited by Kevin_Cogneto

Oh man, my uncle had this game when I was young -- too young to understand how it worked, really. I remember I used to have to run down every hit with my catcher because I didn't know you could switch players with the number pad. So every hit (of my uncle's, anyway) was an inside-the-park home run. He never told me what the keypad did, what a bastard.