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Cal Ripken's Real Baseball, also known as Real Baseball Online (RBO) or Ultimate Baseball Online (UBO), was the first free-to-play baseball based massively multiplayer online sports game (MMOSG). Operating from 2003 until 2008, the game was developed and published by Netamin Communication Corporation. The game was designed to allow 18 human-controlled players to compete simultaneously in virtual game, though the number was later reduced due to lag issues. Former Major League Baseball player Darrell Evans served as the game's spokesperson/ambassador prior to Cal Ripken's endorsement of the game. After Real Baseball/UBO ceased operation in 2008, it spawned development a fan-led open source project titled Multiplayer Baseball Online, which itself ceased development in 2010.
Development and history
Netamin Communication Corporation was the developer behind Real Baseball Online (RBO), with the company having been founded in 1999. Netamin became the world's first company to develop the technology to build a Massively Multiplayer Online Sports Game (MMSOG), led by its found and CEO, Andy Wang. Early in its development the game was associated with ESPN, with alpha testing having finished by March 30, 2003. Former Major League Baseball player Darrell Evans served as the game's "Ambassador" for part of its history. After the release of Ultimate Baseball Online 2006 (known simply as UBO), the game had officially ended its Beta phase. Netamin announced a monthly subscription fee for UBO in September 2006, consisting of a $7.95 monthly fee for early adopters and a $9.95 monthly charge for new players. The subscription fee was met with negative reaction by players, prompting Netamin to create a new season and league system, while making the game free to play for those only participating in pickup baseball games.
The game still had its share of bugs and other issues, as explained in the download page on CNET.com the game was in beta testing and still free and would be improved over the next few months. Even though the game got a visual face lift problems still presisted. Players angry over the subsciption fees lashed out at what were known as "General Managers" or "GM's", people who worked for Netamin who overlooked games and tournaments online on the games message boards.[ Player reception to paid service led Netamin to try and find other ways to attract players and defray costs, eventually leading to in-game advertising. ]
Netamin offered discounts to players who signed up for six months or one year subscriptions and gave away free months of subscriptions for winning in tournaments but nothing lured gamers to want to stay. Netamin then tried to offer new players a limited time free play where they could download and play the game for free, but once they reached a certain level were forced to pay to continue to play. This also failed, and Netamin was at a loss to gain subscriptions. With seasoned players leaving the game and new player not sticking around to pay for the game Netamin was forced to end subscription fees and once again offer the game to play for free. Netamin had a new idea, don't charge players to player the game but to have in game advertising from sponsors to help pay for the games costs.
Netamin then partnered with Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr. to help promote the game, renaming UBO "Cal Ripken’s Real Baseball". The newly named game launched from Disney’s ESPN The Weekend on February 28, receiving over 10,000 downloads within the first 72 hours of availability. Cal Ripken’s Real Baseball enables gamers to compete in a Massively Multiplayer Online Sport Game (MMOSG), meaning each position on the field is manned by a human player in a 3-D virtual stadium, except the catcher position. Players can create their own characters and build their skill level (player stats) through successful play on the field against other real human players. Unlike current video games that aim to simulate professional sports, Real Baseball (RB) delivered a third-person perspective of a character, created and developed by the player, interacting online in real-time with teammates and opponents playing from numerous locations. “I am very pleased that Cal Ripken Jr. and Netamin have come together to create a fun, innovative, and technologically patented Baseball Game for fans worldwide to enjoy,” said Marc Beckman, founder and CEO of DMA. “From a business POV, the match makes a lot of sense; Cal will provide the programmers with a certain level of authenticity that would not be achievable otherwise.”
Real Baseball was a massively multiplayer online sports game capable of fielding up to 18 players a game, occupying all active positions in the game of baseball. However, players often refuse to field 18 due to lag and synchronization issues, and games rarely ended with all their original participants. This prompted a later revision in the game where Netamin only allowed ten human players total between two competing teams.[ Game characters are based on a level of ranks for a specific range of levels, from 0-99, with 99 being the maximum level attained. The game-coded team names of Home and Away teams are used instead of the player created team names; therefore, players can play with each other in normal servers regardless of the team they belong. Servers are divided by players under level 10 and over level 11. Team play is only enforced however, as expected, in Team Tournaments and the UBO League. Game settings also allows the option day and night of three, six, and nine ]inning games, with extra innings if necessary in two stadiums.
Batting power was supposed to be amplified through the addition of parameter points in body strength and stamina. Stamina was never implemented.[ ]
Real Baseball Online (RBO) hosted seasonal leagues that featured multiple teams of different levels playing against each other for the championship. Managed by Netamin and Game Masters, there were three league classes: MVP, All-Star, and Major. Current Leagues include a 10-game regular season for all participating teams, 3-game wildcard playoffs, 4-game division finals, and a 5-game league championship for eligible teams. Press Coverage and Awards are also presented during the league seasons written by the official RBO players who are better off writing than playing the game. Winners of RBO Leagues qualified for the Best of RBO competition, which never took place.
Hats, shirts, pens, keychains, and Darrell Evans autographed baseballs were given away as prizes for entering tournaments. Pay to play tournaments were added to fund prizes for the teams who entered. In-game advertisements were later added to fund future prizes such as "The Best of UBO" tournament that never happened. Players were also able to purchase higher leveled characters in the game. Past prizes included iPods, PSP's, Tickle Me Elmo dolls, Domino's Pizza, Michael J. Fox Bobbleheads, Giftcards, and level upgrades.
The game received a variety of press coverage, and some differing opinions about the game. Specifically for UBO 2006, GameShark rated it a "B-", while Operation Sports rated the game an "8". Additional reviews and press coverage included:
Shutdown and baseball MMOSG future
Real Baseball Online became inaccessible to play in October 2008. The main webpage of Real Baseball posted a statement saying, "The service for Cal Ripken's Real Baseball is currently halted until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience." Not long after, Netamin's own corporate webpage ceased to exist, cementing the demise of the game.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Sharrow, Ryan (28 February 2008). Cal Ripken Jr. goes to Bat for online video game.. Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved on 17 April 2010.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 New Version of Ultimate Baseball Online 2007 Spring Edition is Here!. CBS Interactive (22 May 2007). Retrieved on 17 April 2010.
- ↑ Parker, Sam (30 March 2003). Ultimate Baseball Online update. CBS Interactive. Retrieved on 17 April 2010.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Clarke, Dan (27 October 2006). Ultimate Baseball Online 2006 Review. Mad Catz, Inc.. Retrieved on 18 April 2010.
- ↑ Ultimate Baseball Online Signs In-Game Ads Deal. Warcry Network (29 January 2007). Retrieved on 19 April 2010.
- ↑ Sullivan, Chris (17 October 2006). Ultimate Baseball Online Review (PC). Operation Sports LLC. Retrieved on 18 April 2010.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Callaham, John (3 October 2008). Cal Ripken's Real Baseball shut down. AOL Games. Retrieved on 23 September 2009.