Out of the Park Baseball 15 Review [PC]

Out of the Park Baseball 15

Out of the Park Baseball 15
System: PC (also on Mac/Linux)
Genre: Baseball Simulator
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: April 21, 2014

With the arrival of spring every year, there are two things that excite me even more than the warm weather: Opening Day, and the annual release of Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP). Strategizing and analyzing baseball statistics brings me just as much joy as Ben Wyatt gets when he receives a stack of accounting ledgers on Parks & Recreation. Out of the Park has successfully fed my addiction for 15 (!) years now, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

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PC Game Review: Out of the Park Baseball 14

Out of the Park Baseball 14

Out of the Park Baseball 14
System: PC (also on Mac/Linux)
Genre: Baseball Simulator
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: April 15, 2013

I have been an avid supporter of Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) for years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how they come up with new ways to re-invigorate the game year after year. The latest, Out of the Park 14, is no exception.

For those unfamiliar with the series, OOTP is essentially a text-based baseball simulator. It is ridiculously deep with every kind of statistic imaginable. If you can think of it, you can do it in the game. Every season in baseball history can be played, complete with accurate rosters and player ratings, and fictional leagues are also available. You can act as owner, general manager and manager if you like, micro-managing even the slightest details. Different lineups and depth charts can be set for matchups against right-handed pitchers and lefties. Team finances can be controlled, including ticket prices. It’s mind-boggling exactly how many options are available.

This is a simulator with no end date — you can keep playing for hundreds of years, if you like. I have one saved game that I import to the newest version of OOTP year after year. I started it in 2010 and I am now in the year 2034, using one team and playing nearly every single game manually. At this point in my game, guys like Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria have been in the Hall of Fame for years. Now I find myself getting attached to fictional characters, especially players who I personally scouted and drafted. Even when they don’t pan out, I have a hard time parting with them. Maybe I’m getting too sentimental in my in-game old age.

Out of the Park Baseball 14

This year, I decided to start fresh with a new campaign to try out all of the game’s new bells and whistles. First, here’s a quick rundown of what happened in my simulated 2013 season:

  • The Tigers beat the Dodgers in seven games to win the World Series. The Tigers were down 3-1 but went on an impressive run once their offense started clicking, scoring a combined 32 runs in the last three games.
  • No World Series MVP was announced for some reason, but my guess is that it would have went to outfielder Andy Dirks, surprisingly enough. He hit .381 with 4 HR and 12 RBIs, including a monster 3-HR game. Miguel Cabrera (.367, 3 HR, 8 RBI) and Prince Fielder (.423, 2 HR, 10 RBI) would also be strong candidates.
  • Detroit manager Jim Leyland promptly retired after winning the World Series.
  • Other playoff teams: Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, Oakland, Atlanta, Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco.
  • The AL East was the most competitive division. Every team finished with a winning record, and the gap between first-place Tampa Bay and last-place Baltimore was just six games.
  • Detroit and Atlanta tied for best record at 97-65.
  • The Houston Astros finished with the worst record at 58-104, with the Cubs (64-98) not far behind.
  • Nick Swisher suffered the most unfortunate injury, a fractured skull, and it caused him to hang up his cleats for good.
  • In an amusing tidbit, middle reliever Al Alburquerque, shortly after being traded from Detroit to Seattle in a package deal for closer Tom Wilhelmsen, strained his back in what he called a “wood-chopping” accident. It was later revealed that his injury happened during a weekend rendezvous with a 23-year-old massage therapist.
  • Reds prospect Billy Hamilton spent most of the season in the big leagues, but he struggled at the place, only hitting .226 (.281 OBP). He did swipe 83 bases, though.
  • Jurickson Profar (.260, 16 HR, 64 RBI) and Adam Eaton (.305, 7 HR, 52 RBI) won Rookie of the Year.
  • Justin Verlander (19-9, 3.32 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) and Jordan Zimmerman (18-9, 2.51 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) won Cy Young awards.
  • Prince Fielder (.333, 39 HR, 147 RBI) and Bryce Harper (.325, 33 HR, 107 RBI) won MVP awards. I imagine there was another hotly contested debate from sabermetricians, as Mike Trout put together another stellar season, leading all of baseball with 10.7 WAR.

Out of the Park Baseball 14

During my season, a few new additions really stood out to me. One was the Player Development Tracker. Twice during the season — once at the All-Star Break and once at the end — I received updates as to how my players’ attributes were changing. Some of my young guys were improving, and their star ratings went up a half point, while a couple underachievers had their overall ability lowered a bit. This was a much-welcomed feature since it provided me a better idea of when my prospects might be ready.

I also loved the new playoffs screen. It is much more detailed than ever before, and it shares extensive information (including player stats versus that team during the regular season) for each matchup.

Out of the Park Baseball 14

The new trade log feature is also slick and well-designed. Now it’s easier than ever to look up all trades made during the season, complete with the player stats up to that point.

One of the more puzzling additions that I’m not sure I’m sold on yet is the inclusion of performance-based achievements. These are modeled after the like-minded systems used by the Xbox 360 and PS3, but they feel out of place in a baseball simulator. I guess it’s cool to be able to see when my last walk-off win happened, but I wish more information was available as to how some of these achievements are even triggered. In my World Series-winning season, I didn’t even unlock a single gold achievement, which makes me curious as to what exactly it would take to do so. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a full list of available achievements in the game.

Other improvements include a better player origin system, more intelligent trade AI (including the option to block a player from being offered to you) and a recoded scouting feature. What’s amazing is that after playing every single game of a full 162+ game season, I’m still discovering little tweaks and new things to do.

Out of the Park Baseball 14

I did encounter one bug during my playing time that could have been disastrous. I won an achievement after finishing a game, and the popup would not go away, causing the program to lock up. Luckily, I was able to use the keyboard to close and save my season, but I was scared that I might have lost everything. On the plus side, this problem has since been patched, which shows the dedication that this close-knit group of developers has for their game.

Out of the Park Baseball 14 is another winner, full of extraordinary depth and infinite replay value. I know I will be playing this all the way through the regular season and likely through the winter as well. If you have any interest in the more analytical side of baseball (i.e. stats and micro-managing), this is the game you’re looking for.

10/10

 
(A copy of this game was provided for review.)

PC Game Review: Out of the Park Baseball 13 [2012]

Out of the Park Baseball 13 [2012]

Out of the Park Baseball 13
System: PC (also on Mac/Linux)
Genre: Baseball Simulator
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: April 9, 2012

All hardcore baseball fans, no matter who they root for, have one thing in common: they believe they could run a professional team, sometimes even better than the actual general manager does. Of course, some are more vocal about their beliefs than others, but diehard fans especially love to nitpick every move their favorite team makes. I am guilty of this myself, so I turn to baseball simulators to prove that I can successfully manage a professional team. While there are a few options available, there is one franchise that is a clear cut above the rest, and it is one that I keep coming back to every year: Out of the Park Baseball.

This year’s version, lucky #13, has the same in-depth simulation offerings but is also packed full of upgrades. Immediately, the most noticeable difference is the brand new interface. The traditional menu system and its core buttons have all been switched around, with a shiny new right-side toolbar providing easy access to the most important screens. If you’re familiar at all with previous versions of the game, this graphical overhaul definitely takes some time getting used to. I did enjoy its changes in the long run, however, and I like this particular direction the series is taking.

Out of the Park Baseball 13 [2012]

The biggest, perhaps most impressive, addition to the game is the real-time simulation mode. Basically this means that you can follow each game pitch-by-pitch, adjusting the speeds as necessary, and even jumping in to play the game if you want to. It’s pretty cool to keep an eye on several games at once, especially when you happen to stumble upon a rarity such as a no-hitter in progress. This is especially convenient for those running leagues as the commissioner.

Quite a bit of attention has been given to the core engine as well. Trades are noticeably tougher — a good thing — and teams can be labeled in three stages: Win Now!, Neutral, and Rebuild. This makes it slightly easier to find a trade partner, although it is still difficult to pry away their talent without giving up some big-time players or prospects of your own.

If you were a fan of the newspaper/mail system in previous editions, you will love the improvements in OOTP 13. Several unique storylines have been added, offering a much-welcomed freshness to the articles. One of my personal favorites so far was a story about a veteran on a struggling team taking it upon himself to hold his teammates accountable for their actions. A couple weeks later I was sent an article about this leader holding a kangaroo court about some minor action (I believe a teammate stepped on the team logo) and charging him a $100 fine. Brilliant. Little things like that give OOTP a touch of personality that just cannot be topped. I love this stuff, and would be very pleased if more of it seeped into future updates/versions.

Out of the Park Baseball 13 [2012]

Of course, Out of the Park also comes pre-equipped with all of the latest MLB rosters, and new seasons are built with the recent rule changes in mind (i.e. more wild card teams, and Houston’s move to the AL West in 2013). Player photos are missing initially, but there are countless mods available to fully customize the game any way you see fit. Seriously, if there is any one thing you don’t like about the game’s setup, you can change it. The official forums are a great source of information for the game, with all sorts of awesome expansions and goodies available. The creators of OOTP are also very active in the community and regularly provide patches to fix many of the bugs that users come across. Rest assured, if there is a significant glitch discovered (unlikely), Markus and the guys will be on it ASAP.

There are so many ways to dig into OOTP that everyone will play it differently. I chose to import my association from last year’s game and immediately continued playing as if nothing had changed. It was terrific — my settings were transferred over, and I played through the rest of my season while also getting to enjoy the new features of the game. Of course, if you don’t have an association to import, you can create a new league (real or fictional) starting at any year you desire. You can play the games individually or sim them in bunches — it’s up to you. You can even join an online league with other GMs, which is an absolute blast with a good group of guys.

Out of the Park Baseball 13 [2012]

I have been speaking nothing but praise for the game so far, but there are a couple of minor flaws I feel I should mention. For one, the in-game text is a little difficult to read. I have a 19-inch monitor and occasionally have to squint to accurately read the team lineups and current statistics. While the in-game interface can be switched around, there is no way to increase text size. I have gotten used to it, but it would still be nice to adjust as needed. Also, while the trade engine is certainly improved, I was able to manipulate the system in one area. I noticed that it was a little too easy to sign a free agent to a minor league contract halfway through the season and then flip him to another team for a superior option. It was strange to me that I was able to do this. After all, if a team had any interest in the player I signed, why didn’t they just sign him on their own? Not a huge deal, but it is tempting to take advantage of this.

Again, those are two unbelievably minor flaws in the grand scheme of things, and they do not lower my rating at all. Folks, this is a 10/10 if I have ever seen one. Easily the best baseball simulator I have ever played, and it is one with infinite replay value. For only $40, you will get your money’s worth and then some. If you are into baseball statistics or are a diehard fan of the sport, do yourself a favor and give it a shot.

I will leave you with this warning, however: this gets addictive, FAST.

10/10

Video Game Review: Out of the Park Baseball 12 [PC, 2011]

Out of the Park Baseball 12 [PC, 2011]

Out of the Park Baseball 12
System: PC (also on Mac/Linux)
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: June 22, 2011

It’s no secret that I am a sports stat junkie. See here, here and here. I have been playing baseball simulators for years, and over the last few seasons it has become clear that Out of the Park Baseball is the forerunner in the genre. This year’s version, OOTP 12, was released just a couple weeks ago, and I am pleased to say that this is the best edition yet.

Catered to the more hardcore baseball fan, Out of the Park Baseball 12 is pure statistical bliss. As a predominantly text-based sim, OOTP has a seemingly endless amount of options and features. The game comes with this year’s opening day MLB rosters, and you can even play classic MLB seasons starting from the year 1871. Upon starting a season, you have total control. If you want to, you can make yourself the league commissioner and micromanage every single detail of a season. I prefer to take over a single team, usually my hometown Detroit Tigers, and try to guide them to become perennial World Series contenders.

Out of the Park Baseball 12 [PC, 2011]

If it can be done in the world of baseball, it can be done in OOTP 12. The game features a full minor league system with accurate prospects, and you can switch out different lineups against RHPs and LHPs. The amateur draft, Rule 5 draft, the waiver wire and salary arbitration are all included. You can have full control over your team’s budget, right down to manipulating the ticket prices. Seriously, the amount of depth in the game is nothing short of spectacular.

There are several noteworthy improvements in this year’s game. For one, the program’s speed and loading times are significantly improved. This is the fastest loading OOTP yet, and this is a huge plus. The injury system has also been tweaked to be more realistic. Now it is possible for a player to get hurt during a game and not receive an actual diagnosis until a few days afterward. Previously all injuries were determined immediately, which was a tad unrealistic. Another upgrade in OOTP 12 is a revamped financial system, particularly the salary negotiations. This entire setup has been changed for the better, and now players are more apt to request all sorts of performance bonuses and team/player options.

I was also impressed with the computer AI this time around. During the offseason of my imported Tigers franchise, I kept an eye on the free agent proceedings. The Atlanta Braves signed two huge free agents, an All-Star catcher and first baseman. I was concerned by this decision because the team already had quality pieces in place at those positions, and I was worried that those players would be unnecessarily riding the pine. I was pleasantly surprised to see Atlanta trade both of their former starters to other teams while proceeding to acquire players at other much-needed positions. I am currently halfway through the following season, and Atlanta is kicking ass. I love it — smart moves by the AI makes for a more challenging game.

Out of the Park Baseball 12 [PC, 2011]

There aren’t many faults with OOTP 12. I noticed some inaccuracies with the opening day rosters as well as some lacking player abilities, but most of these issues were patched up immediately after the game was released. That’s what I love about OOTP — it has a very close knit group of people who work on the game, and they are very active in hearing out concerns from its dedicated online community. I suppose if I were to nitpick about one thing this year it would have to be the inclusion of White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson’s obnoxious “He gone!” into the text play-by-pkay system. I have only seen this once out of at least a hundred played games on my part, but that was one time too many. Obviously this is just my own personal bias speaking, but I just can’t stand the guy.

Minor quibbles aside, there’s no denying that Out of the Park Baseball 12 is pretty damn awesome. It is a testament to the game’s quality that I have to do some serious digging to find any faults with the gameplay. I have spent many, many hours of my life playing OOTP games in the past, and this year’s version is sure to continue that trend. If you have any interest at all in fantasy baseball, statistics, micromanaging or if you enjoy playing MLB: The Show’s franchise mode, then you really ought to give this game a chance. This is by far the best game in the series, and it is worth upgrading even if you bought OOTP 11. Yeah, it’s that good.

10/10

– OOTP 12 can be purchased for $39.99 at the developer’s website. There is also a free trial available.

Video Game Review: iOOTP Baseball 2011 [iOS, 2011]

iOOTP Baseball 2011

iOOTP Baseball 2011
System: iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch)
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: May 5, 2011

I have been an avid fan of Out of the Park Baseball for many years now, so when I heard the development team was building an iOS version of the game, I was definitely intrigued. Being able to obsess over micro-managing a baseball team and turning a franchise into perennial championship contenders, all on an iPhone/iPod Touch? Yeah, count me in.

In recent years, Out of the Park Baseball has rightfully earned a reputation as being one of the best, if not the best, baseball simulators on the market. The sheer amount of depth and tweakable options found in the computer edition is just insane. iOOTP Baseball 2011 is basically a condensed version of its big brother, and is enjoyable for both hardcore and casual baseball fans.

iOOTP Baseball 2011

Upon starting the game, you have the option of playing a franchise using real or fictional players, as well as a historical league (the 1923, 1965 and 2004 seasons are included). After typing in your managerial name and selecting your team, you are ready to begin. From here, you can control most aspects of your team. You can change your lineups versus righties and lefties, tweak your rotation/bullpen, adjust the depth chart, set coaching strategies, and maneuver players to and from the minors, if necessary. There are some notable omissions from the computer version, such as the lack of a real minors system (there is only one minor league) and less financial options (no ticket prices, concessions, etc.), but for the most part you can expect to find a lot of the same content.

iOOTP gives the ability to simulate individual games or play them one-by-one, so you can get as hands on as you want to. The game’s interface is presented very well, and the touch screen features have been flawlessly implemented. At first I thought it would be tedious to manually create different lineups for RHPs and LHPs using the touch screen, but I was pleased to see a copy & paste function to smoothen the transition.

iOOTP Baseball 2011

One thing I noticed while starting a normal league is that the rosters are totally out of whack. I tend to play as the Detroit Tigers more often than not (hometown bias), and I found several bizarre errors with their default roster. For example, Timo Perez, Fu-Te Ni and Clete Thomas were all on the active roster. Perez in particular hasn’t even played in the majors since 2007! These guys took the spots of some key players on the Tigers: Don Kelly, Brayan Villarreal and current #3 hitter Brennan Boesch. Also, their lineup had some serious inaccuracies: Magglio Ordonez was the #2 hitter, something he hasn’t been in years, if ever, and Austin Jackson was listed as the DH, despite being one of the best defensive centerfielders in the real MLB. I am not sure how all of these odd quirks made it into the game, but at least it is easy to customize everything into the way it should be.

While playing the game on my older iPod Touch, I did find a couple of other problems. There were two different occasions where my saved game file became corrupted, and apparently this has been a problem for the older iOS devices. I also had an issue where the app completely closed out on me after I had played a good 30 games or so, and then reverted me back to my old save file upon my reloading. Thankfully, due to a hard-working development team, these issues have already been fixed with an update. That’s one thing I love about niche developers like OOTP — they listen to their fans and do what they can to enhance their gaming experiences.

iOOTP Baseball 2011

To be frank, iOOTP is something I never thought I would see on a handheld device. To have a deep baseball simulator on an iPhone/iPod Touch is nothing short of incredible. This is perfect for stat geeks like myself, who are looking to get their baseball fix while on the go. While the text-based gameplay might still deter some casual gamers, iOOTP is accessible enough that it will catch on with a larger fanbase, and that is definitely a good thing. With some tweaks here and there (such as more accurate rosters), iOOTP could be even better than some full-fledged PC simulators. As it stands, however, this is a very admirable debut into the mobile gaming market, and it is one hell of a bargain at $4.99.

8/10