For a few years now, 2K Sports' MLB 2K games have featured analog-stick controls for pitching, hitting, and fielding. But Sony's MLB The Show franchise has stuck with simple button presses until this year; MLB 11 The Show will be the first entry in the series to ship with analog controls. I saw MLB 2K11 for the second time last week, and during the session, I asked Sean Bailey, a designer on the game at Visual Concepts, for his thoughts on The Show finally adopting analog controls.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with taking what other people do [well]," he told me, acknowledging that the pitch and swing analyzers with ball trails in MLB 2K10 originated from EA Sports' previous-generation classic, MVP Baseball 2005. The folks at Visual Concepts felt reassured to see The Show -- a franchise that has long been viewed as superior to MLB 2K -- taking after a 2K Sports innovation.
But Bailey pointed out that analog controls aren't inherently good or bad; "it's how it's done, not what you do." From what he's heard of MLB 11, he doesn't think too much of its analog pitching:
Every single one of their pitches is going to be down-up. Well, you know, as a 2K player, that's going to get boring to me, because that's a four-seam fastball -- that's the easiest pitch in our game.
[Editor's note: The analog pitching in MLB 2K requires right-stick gestures that are specific to each pitch type. I recently had a hands-on demo of MLB 11, and I'll post a full preview -- including my thoughts on its new analog-stick controls -- after I spend some more time with it today. In my time with MLB 11, I didn't find its analog pitching to be quite as cut-and-dry as the way Bailey put it, but he's correct in that you pull the stick down and then push it upward to throw every pitch in the game. In a nutshell: if you're throwing to the left side of the strike zone, you'll have to push up and left, and vice versa; it's challenging in its own way.]
The battle for baseball supremacy between the two franchises is really heating up now that both series will offer analog controls. Bailey understandably prefers his own game; which one will you favor come March 8th, when both MLB 11 The Show and MLB 2K11 launch? (In addition to an MLB 11 preview, I'll soon have more details on the improvements that Visual Concepts is making to the game modes in MLB 2K11.)