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 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.