Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: MLB Dugout Heroes

MLB Dugout Heroes

Developer: NeoWiz

Publisher: GamesCampus

Release Date: 3/19/08 (Beta)

System: PC

ESRB Rating: N/A

Official Web site

0:00 The last PC baseball game I played was Hardball 3 back in the mid-'90s. I'd play it with my dad and get annoyed when he let the computer handle all the hitting and fielding work. All he wanted to do was manage the team. Da-aaaaaaad!

0:01 I'm not counting the hour and a half or so it took to download the 385 MB client for the closed beta from the GamesCampus FTP server, but I will count the minute or so it took to install. SO THERE!

0:02 "Your client is old. Please download the latest version of the game client." I hadn't anticipated this. I just downloaded the client yesterday evening! There's no link for the new client, so a-hunting I will go.

0:04 Oh, apparently the official open beta will be starting later today, so instead of re-download the closed beta, I decide to play a different game and move on to a new game for today's lunch. See ya tomorrow!

*A day passes*

0:06 Again, I'm not counting the 20 minutes it took to download the new, updated open beta client, but I am counting the two minutes it took to uninstall the old beta and reinstall the new one. This is why I hate PC gaming, by the way...

0:08 On startup, a confusing menu appears with what look like troubleshooting forum threads and a big button that says "game start." Yeah, let's go with that one.

0:09 This minute spent watching the "nProtect GameGuard engine" load up and do its game-protecting thing. Gotta watch out for those hackers!

0:10 This minute spent tracking down the username and password GamesCampus sent me in my e-mail.

0:11 I have to select a name for my team. I go with Kyle's Kannons because I'm just crazy like that. Apparently, though, spaces and apostrophes are not allowed, so I have to go with KylesKannons. Bleh.

0:12 So even though my team is named KylesKannons, I actually get to choose a real MLB team too. I go with my childhood-favorite Orioles.

0:13 "You will be learning about basic controls. An award will be granted upon completion of the tutorial." IT IS DECREED!

0:14 "Hey pitcher, this guy must be new here. Go easy on him," says a text-based coach as the training pitcher puts a bunch of fat ones right over the plate. I can move a little bat shaped cursor to position my bat, then click to swing. I'm consistently swinging way too late at first, but then I start to learn the timing. "Don't be too confident ... in real games balls are much faster than this." That's good ... right now they're a bit too slow.

0:15 I just noticed there are absolutely no music or sound effects to go with my batting. It's a little creepy, actually.

0:17 The pitcher has moved on to mixing in fastballs and curveballs with his pitches. I'm finding it hard to read the up-and-down trajectory, though the left-to-right movement is easy to read. Quote of the moment, from my impressed coach: "There is nothing you can't do!" I can't fly!

0:19 "Congratulations! The batting tutorial is done!" This is presented like it's a major accomplishment. On to pitching, next.

0:21 Pitching seems relatively simple ... pick a pitch, pick a position, hold down the mouse button to charge a power meter, then click with good timing for accuracy. It takes me only five or six pitches to get the timing down nearly perfectly, and the tutorial is done before I know it. "You received 20,000 Nuts for the completion of the tutorial." Nuts? Salted or unsalted?

0:22 I'm sent out to a menu where the only option besides the tutorials is an exhibition game against the computer? What, really? What's the point of an online baseball game beta if you can't play it online. I try to go back to the main menu to look for more options, but I accidentally quit. D'oh.

0:25 I restart the game and this time I get an error message: "Sound loading has failed. Please confirm the sound driver setup. Error type 0." Well that explains the eerie lack of sound. Ah, the joys of beta.

0:26 Ah, now I'm at a different menu somehow, complete with a "play online" option. Let's do this thing!

0:27 I'm in the lobby of the "Rookie Server," where the level 1 and 2 players hang out, apparently. There are nine games available, but they're all full. Oh, wait, a slot just opened up. It's a "swing for the fence" game vs. some guy named Bobby. He's playing as the Yankees with a big, fat, black guy as pitcher.

0:29 I click the ready button and the game tells Bobby to "please start the game in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1." He doesn't. Instead, he types me a message: "It won't let me press start." I shrug at him. Then the game sends a message from my name: "Wish you good luck!" What? Don't put words in my mouth, game.

0:30 Ah, here we go. After a bit of loading I'm up at the pitcher's mound. I make one pitch, a perfect strike in the lower right corner. Bobby misses with an ill-advised bunt and then proceeds to freeze in that stance, seemingly permanently. I can't pitch again. I can't even figure out how to type to Bobby to TELL him I can't pitch again -- "chatting mode" does nothing. Oh, beta...

0:34 "If you withdraw you will be charged penalty. Do you wish to continue." Well since my other option is staring at this unchanging screen for the next 26 minutes, yeah, I guess so.

0:35 Back to the lobby ... I decide to join a guy named DiStUrBeD in a "Play to Win" room for a three inning game. He's also playing as the Yankees with a big, fat black guy as pitcher. Is this the trendy new thing all the kids are doing now?

0:37 The game has been caught on the loading screen for the last two minutes. I'm thinking this is a bad sign.

0:39 I can't even hit escape to quit out of the loading screen ... the game is well and truly frozen. I have to Ctrl-Alt-Del to force quit. That's two strikes, beta. One more and you're out of here...

0:41 The game's reloaded, and of course now all the games in the lobby are full. I guess I'll create a room of my own and see who comes along...

0:43 While I wait for a player, I get to check out my stats. I'm rated at 0 wins and two losses, with two "quits." Yup. Also, my "Manner" is at 70, whatever that means.

0:44 I spend almost 4,000 of my 200,000 Nuts to recover the "8% fatigue" I apparently garnered when I threw that single pitch in my first game. Sigh.

0:45 Hey, someone has joined my game: A guy named CommieRaps, playing as the Blue Jays. The game sends a "Hello" message for me and makes him return a "Wish you good luck!" So weird. OK, here goes nothing.

0:47 My first pitch is to the low outside corner. He bops it to my shortstop. Before I can figure out how to throw it to first (it's the D key, obviously), he's made it to the base. OK, fine, chalk it up to experience. I give the ball back to the pitcher, but the game doesn't move on to the next pitch ... my characters are all just caught standing there. I throw it around the bases a bit ... nothing happens.

0:49 Eventually the other guy gets bored just watching me stand around with the ball, so he starts running the bases. I catch him in a run down between 2nd and 3rd, but he dives impossibly past my third baseman and is somehow safe. He runs home and similarly makes it past my diving catcher. Instead of scoring a run, though, he just continues to stand on home plate, staring impassively into the distance. All the players just stand there, dumbfounded, until my opponent eventually quits out of frustration. Sorry, Dugout Heroes beta, that's your third strike. I'm going to have to send you back down to the minors until a more stable release...

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.

Why? The idea of a simple, casual, social, online baseball game appeals to me, but this beta version is so buggy as to be unplayable. Maybe I'll revisit it for the final release.

This column is based on the open beta version of the game.

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