High Heat Major League Baseball was a series of baseball games published by the 3DO company. The game made its debut in 1999 and featuring the official licensed team and player names from all 30 MLB teams each year a new game was up for release. High Heat Baseball was acclaimed to be one of the best baseball games around; the game always had its focus more on genuine and realistic gameplay than on the quality of its graphics.
The 2004 edition however promised improved graphics and a new graphics engine, a new animation system and renewed motion captured player movements. The Gameboy Advanceversion was under development by Mobius Entertainment (later renamed Rockstar Leeds) and this edition would be the third version of the series on the handheld. For the Gamecube the game would make its first appearance and development was done by 3DO itself. 3DO announced the new installment of the game in December 2002 as they released the first images of the game and a release date was set for spring 2003, around the same date as the release of the Playstation 2, the Xbox and PC versions.
Both versions were finished and ready for release as things went wrong for 3DO in May 2003, the company faced big financial problems for quite a while now, mainly due to bad title sales, and the company now even had to file for bankruptcy and made the announcement that the team and it’s games were for sale and were finally acquired by Rockstar Games.
The Playstation 2, Xbox and PC versions just had had their release dates in March and would shortly after have been followed by the Gameboy Advance and Gamecube versions but with 3DO in serious trouble both titles were shelved for the time being and thus finally resulting into a non release for both platforms. At the 3DO bankruptcy auction in August of that year Microsoft bought all rights for the High Heat series from 3DO for an undisclosed sum. Microsoft however hasn’t developed a new title in the series so far and for now it’s even more questionable if they ever will with a baseball franchise of their own on the Xbox.
Below some screenshots of both titles; I could retrieve no promotional or gameplay footage of the cancelled versions.
Screenshots and Box cover Gameboy Advance – 12-2002:
Crushed Baseball 2004 is a cancelled Baseball game that was in development by Amaze Entertainment for the Playstation 2 and GameCube, that would have been published by Bam! Entertainment. It was meant to be an over-the-top arcade game (similar to Sega Soccer Slam), featuring crazy characters (you can see a human-shark in the screens below) with superhuman abilities. As we can read from a GameSpot preview:
Special powers, known as mojo abilities in the game, will include pitches that slice through the hitter’s bat like a buzz saw, batters hitting the ball so that it lodges itself in the ground and can’t be picked up, and fielders using suction gloves to ensure that they don’t miss a catch.
Many of the mojo abilities in the game will have to be earned during matches played in one of the game’s fully interactive ballparks. For example, at the Karate Dojo stadium, players who hit a gong with the ball will be rewarded with a new ability, as will players who manage to smash a stained-glass window in the centerfield wall of one of the other stadiums.
Originally announced in october 2002, Crushed Baseball was scheduled for release in March 2003, but it was later cancelled probably because of the publisher’s economic problems. In 2004 BAM! Entertainment was delisted from NASDAQ and continuing financial troubles made it impossible for them to publish any new games.
A GameBoy Advanced version of Crushed Baseball was developed by Griptonite Games and published in September 2004 by Summitsoft Entertainment.
Thanks to Les Betterley for his help in preserving some more screens from this lost game!
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 (…).
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!
In 2005, Nintendo announced that Exile Interactive (World Series Baseball 2K2) were working on a new baseball game exclusively for the GameCube. After some months of development, the game was delayed and then it vanished without traces. It seems that this was originally conceived after 2K Sports received exclusive 3rd-party rights to release MLB games, which removed EA Sports’ MVP Baseball series (which released 2 of its 3 entries on the GameCube) from the market. Since a Nintendo-developed game would not apply to this deal, they started work on this. However, after 2K announced that MLB 2K6 would see a GameCube version, this was quietly cancelled.
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