A novel addition to the baseball computer game theme, this ‘surRound’ feature helps the player/user ‘see’ bat position without taking eyes off ball.

surround1.jpg

Pitcher’s Duel attempts to simulate the batting experience from baseball. There are limitations in how closely a computer game can mimic swinging a stick at a ball, and a playable game needs to compensate in creative ways for those inherent weaknesses of simulation. This post introduces one such compensation, the surRound ring.

A lifetime of hand-eye coordination practice, combined with a few hours or tens of hours on baseball diamonds and in batting cages teaches us how to swing a bat through a chosen part of the strike zone (high/low/inside/outside) without looking at the bat or at the plate. A skilled batter chooses the path along which to swing the bat by looking at the first half of the pitches travel, projecting where that trajectory will take the ball into (or not) the strike zone, and thus where to swing the bat to make constructive contact.

A computerized simulation cannot take advantage of that trained bat-swinging coordination, and must rely more heavily on purely visual cues. The pduel simulation at this time draws a bat wireframe over the plate to help the batting player see where the swing will pass, before initiating the swing. The wireframe is adjustable, via mouse or joystick, during the pitch so that the player can adjust the swing to where he sees the pitch headed. This, unfortunately, requires the player to move his eyes off the ball to the bat, and back, to judge the position of each. There is no innate (neurological) correlation of mouse position to bat projection position1 , as there is between hand position and physical bat position at the plate..

The surRound feature will be a conspicuous ring drawn on the display, such that the player looks through the ring to see the pitcher and the ball in flight. The ring would not (necessarily) be uniform in thickness, but would be thicker on that edge corresponding to the bat projection; if the planned bat swing is low, the ring will be thicker below, and thinner above. If the batter is leaning out over the plate to reach an outside pitch, the right (outer) side of the ring will be thicker than the left, and so forth. The ring will provide visual indication to the player of where the bat is headed, and can be seen while keeping his eyes on the ball.

See the attached pictures to illustrate.

Pitcher’s Duel is meant to be a skill game, where there are rewards for practice. The hope for ‘surRound’ is that players while practicing will learn the visual patterns for various types of swings, and learn how to match the swing pattern to the observed pitch. Pitch trajectory recognition is also pattern based, not requiring nor allowing analysis, but more intuitive in that as a visual activity, it works the same in a computer game as in the physical game.

If you are new to this project, I ask you to try and judge the concept, not the image quality; I have an artist working on 3d graphics, and the game will have a much higher level of image polish.

David

Note1: We might suspect that joystick usage enables a better correlation, given that the joystick motion is bounded, just as a physical bat swing is bounded; the joystick is bounded by the designed physical stops at the edge of the stick movement range, and the bat is bounded by the length of batters arms, and the need to keep both hands on bat. I have not observed this natural correlation in practice, contrary to hope.

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