Charlie Brown’s All-Stars is a cancelled baseball game that was in development by FarSight Studios and going to be published by Namco Bandai Games, around 2006-2007, for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Wii and PSP systems. The game was based on the prime-time animated TV special of the same name, about the popular comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. The plot of the cartoon was used for the game too:
After Charlie Brown‘s team loses their first game of the season (123-0), his team throws down their caps in disgust and quits. Frustrated and depressed, Charlie Brown wanders around aimlessly until Linus meets him with good news: Mr. Hennessey, operator of a local hardware store, is offering to sponsor Charlie Brown’s team, place them in an organized league, and even buy them new uniforms.
We can read more details in Namco Bandai’s official press release:
The cast of Peanuts has come together in an entertaining and fun pick-up-and-play baseball game, Charlie Brown’s All-Stars. Players can help Charlie Brown end his 900 game losing streak as they play baseball with an incredible cast of more than 30 Peanuts characters. Players can also take part in any of four Party Games, including batting, fielding and pitching contests, as well as a good ol’ fashioned game of “Lucy Says.” As players progress through the game they will have the chance to enjoy classic Peanuts storylines, artwork and unlock tons of bonus content including every baseball-related Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown’s All-Stars steps up to the plate in Spring 2007. This title has not yet been concept approved by Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Years later, contributor Matthew Culley managed to get in touch with developer Christopher Kline:
M.C.: How far into development did the game get?
C.K.: This is a guess since it’s been so long but apparently we had 6 different playfield environments, a number of characters, a few special effects, the start of a basic original soundtrack, and playable game mechanics. I believe you could play a very basic game of baseball in our demo.
M.C.: The ad mentions over 70 playable characters, this seems like a lot for a Peanuts game. Was a list ever made?
C.K.: I managed to dig up a player roster that confirms the high character count. Some of them were just made up characters with names taken from different employees kids. Chandler was named after my first born son, for instance. (…) Every character had at least a first pass done, so I would assume all were playable. I did a few basic character models we used in the early stages (mainly Charlie Brown) and we hired Christopher Pavia to be the lead character artist on that game. I know he was pumping out a lot of characters (…). Tom Green was the Art Director at the time (…).
There were 8 teams of 9 players:
Charlie Brown’s All-Stars
Pitcher: Charlie Brown
First Base: Shermy
Second Base: Linus
Third Base: Pig-Pen
Left Field: Violet
Center Field: Lucy
Right Field: Frieda
Peppermint Patty’s Pelicans
Pitcher: Peppermint Patty
First Base: Leland
Second Base: Jose Peterson
Third Base: Floyd
Left Field: Sophie
Center Field: Shirley
Right Field: Marcie
Junior League Champs
First Base: Wayne
Second Base: Patty
Third Base: Lila
Left Field: Roy
Center Field: Poochie
Right Field: Truffles
First Base: Mom
Second Base: Dad
Third Base: Andy
Left Field: Marbles
Center Field: Belle
Right Field: Nephew
Pitcher: Bully (unnamed bully 6/22/94)
Catcher: Bad Call Benny (4/16/82)
First Base: Tapioca Pudding
Second Base: Guido (unnamed street hustler 7/10/75)
Third Base: Puck (unnamed hockey bully (1/10/78)
Shortstop: Molly Volly (4/23/82)
Left Field: Joe Agate (4/8/95)
Center Field: Keith (unnamed bully 10/17/93)
Right Field: Junior (unnamed bully 8/8/74)
Pig Pen’s Cousins
Catcher: El Guapo
First Base: Trashcan
Second Base: Sugar Pen
Third Base: Buck
Left Field: Fifi Bug
Center Field: Ink Pen
Right Field: Bull Pen
First Base: Shirley
Second Base: Clara
Third Base: Five
Center Field: Ruby
Right Field: Rerun
Left Field: Sally
First Base: Hale
Second Base: Zoey
Third Base: Sophie
Left Field: Chandler
Center Field: Vivian
Right Field: Patrick
M.C.: How many fields were planned, and how many were actually made before development ended?
C.K.: We apparently had 6 environments fairly polished with 12 planned in total.
M.C.: Where did the inspiration come from? Did someone go through all the old Charlie Brown comic strips and movies looking for content that could be adapted into the game?
C.K.: Bobby King might be able to answer this one better from the perspective of how the game idea ever came to be. Once we knew we were working on it, we traveled to the Charles M Schulz museum and got access to an online archive of all the old Peanuts strips. We also looked at the holiday movies. Then we studied all the nuances we could find with both the baseball related references and just Peanuts in general to try to mimic as much as possible to give the game that special Peanuts vibe.
M.C.: Are there any more renders/screenshots/videos that you are willing/able to share?
C.K.: I happened to have a couple screenshots that I had saved for my portfolio. That’s what you already found online. There is always more random stuff but I don’t really know what we could share at this point. Screenshots would be tough since it would require pulling up the actual game on a PS2 dev kit. No idea if the studio still has any of those. You would have to talk to Bobby to see if he could / would want to do that. I doubt he would want to show off things that weren’t very polished.
M.C.: I understand the game was shown off at E3 2006. Have any trailers or videos or builds from this event survived?
C.K.: I would assume a video was made for E3. That plus the original build might still exist on FarSights internal servers. There were 2 Peanuts games that were originally supposed to premier. The other was Snoopy vs The Red Baron. Snoopy was much further along and premiered at E3 but Baseball didn’t get shown for some reason. I remember attending and walking up to the booth disappointed to not see our game on display. This might have been right around when it was cancelled. Bobby may have more answers there.
M.C.: How much did this game’s development influence the later Backyard Baseball games that were developed by FarSight Studios?
C.K.: Technology wise, quite a bit. I think a lot of the games core framework was used and/or modified.
Further details were shared by him about the project development:
For the music side, as Audio Director I was searching for people who could pull off an authentic Vince Guaraldi style soundtrack. We had a local pianist/musician, named William Morosi, who we were working with at the time that did a fantastic job. That addition behind all of the menu screens and during game play really made a big difference, giving it a really authentic Peanuts feel.
We were attempting to add in all kinds of fun nuances to gameplay as well. As I recall, if you hit the ball near Charlie Brown while he was pitching, he would do his infamous POW spin where his hat, gloves, socks, and shoes all came off before he could scramble for the ball. I think I was also looking to add in the infamous “waa waa waa” adult speak sound as the announcer for the player at bat, which was supplemented with on screen text so you could understand them. One of the big challenges with special effects as I recall was getting them to look right with that 2d comic feel while being in a 3d environment. I think the 3D Peanuts movie by Blue Sky Studios did captured that style really well. We could never pull that off back then. Our internal game engine at the time was very basic, so we did the best we could with what we had to work with.
The title was canned because FarSight was over booked with too many games and not enough staff. Charlie Brown’s All-Stars was supposed to be developed in tandem with the game Snoopy vs. the Red Baron and was going to share some assets from that:
Peanuts was one of my favorite games we were working on during that time in the studio, and as far as I can recall, we were stretched really thin to get it all done in time. I can’t remember how many other games we had going at the same time, but it was always multiple. We also were constantly at a disadvantage with our engine tech so making a game look higher end to compete with the rest of the market was extremely challenging. Ultimately it’s my understanding that Namco decided to pull the plug because Snoopy vs The Red Baron wasn’t performing as well as they had hoped. I was very sad to see it get cancelled, and would love to see a studio take on a Peanuts baseball game now using Unreal engine tech. I think that could do really well and be distinct from other baseball games if they do their homework, keeping it full of fun Peanuts nuances, and don’t try to make it a serious baseball game.
Red Baron turned out to be a good game, so it’s a shame Charlie Browns All Stars didn’t follow in its footsteps.
Thanks a lot to Chris Kline for the contribution, and a lot to Matthew Culley for the interview!
Article updated by Daniel Nicaise
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