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