The Good: Includes nearly every aspect of professional baseball | Uncompromising realism
The Bad: Won’t appeal to the masses | Some technical issues
The Groovy: You can build a team with Randy Johnson and Ted Williams | You can check the box for “Cannot be fired” | Your players get drug suspensions
I think that my experience as it relates to baseball is fairly typical of an American who grew up in the late 20th century. I played some little league as a child and my dad and I would enjoy half a dozen Mariner games a year at the stadium. I enjoyed it, but my life never revolved around it. Today, much is the same. I still love to catch a major league game when I can. Although it is a shame if the home team loses, life goes on. I was also never into the hours upon hours of commentary on television, keeping score in a book, or columns full of statistics. I did like Moneyball though. I thought Brad Pitt was great.
When you look at baseball, it’s almost as if there are two games being played. One is being played by the players on the diamond. They are trying to judge if they should swing at the pitch or not. They are trying to judge if they should take a few steps to the left to be in better position to field the ball. The other one is played by the general managers in offices. They are trying to get the best players they can with the limited budget they have (unless you’re the Yankees, in which case your budget is akin to Portugal’s). They are analyzing statistics, choosing ticket prices, and scouting for new talent. This is the world of Out of the Park Baseball 14, a text-based baseball management simulator. The first version of OOTP was released in 1999 and it has been steadily improved ever since.
OOTP 14 allows you to be the general manager of any major league team in 2013 or as far back as 1871. And just like any good simulator, it lets you micromanage where you want to and let the AI take over where you want to. You can play out games pitch-by-pitch, watching a 2D representation of the field with small portraits of each of your players in their appropriate position. You can tell your batter that you want him to swing at this pitch, let this one go, or make him bunt. When your team is in the field, you can tell your pitcher that you want to walk this batter, try to pick off a base runner, or even have your manager go out and have a chat with him. Ya know, to see how his family’s doing. As all of this is going on, you get a text play-by-play of the action delivered by a cartoon announcer. They even throw in some audio clips for the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. And at any point, you can decide that you want OOTP 14 to simulate the rest of the at bat, the inning, or even the whole game.
I think it goes without saying that you need to have at least a basic understanding of baseball before you take on OOTP 14. If you don’t know what an RBI is when you first sit down, the game might as well be in Italian. Or Korean. Or whatever language you don’t understand. The sheer amount of options and statistics can be overwhelming even for a dedicated baseball fan. Just because you enjoy watching the Red Sox play on television when you get home from work doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re prepared to decide what their scouting budget should be. There are also gobs of rules that regulate if players can be sent back down to the minors, how free agency works, and so on. There really is a lot to this game.
One of my favorite things about OOTP 14 is the human element of it. You are in charge of deciding which players you put on the field. Whether you are playing the game pitch-by-pitch or simulating the entire season, that is what’s going to have the biggest impact on your wins column. You can send players back and forth from within your farm system. You can pick players from the draft. And you can trade players with other teams. But a lot of your information about these players comes from scouting reports. You have a scout on your team, and he will be pretty effective at identifying good players and bad players – but not perfect. Like any person, especially when faced with a task as subjective as judging talent in baseball, he makes mistakes. That is, your scout may highly recommend a player that will not be very effective at helping you win ballgames, and likewise may steer you clear of a player who would’ve been your next all-star. This is how the game is setup by default, and I think that it’s great if you’re trying to have a really true-to-life baseball simulation. But you can also change this so that your scout is 100% accurate, and will always tell you exactly how good a player is, based on their statistics.
Year-over-year changes in the OOTP series are typically subtle, and OOTP 14 is no exception. The game looks and feels very much like last year’s edition, but there have been some changes in addition to roster updates. There is now a much more sophisticated player origin system, which allows players to enter the league either from the first-year player draft of the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico, international professional and amateur leagues, or domestic independent leagues. Each of these origins is customizable to allow you to sculpt your talent pool as you see fit. The creators have also tinkered with the game’s player creation algorithms to improve long-term simulations and give you more realistic careers. They have even taken into consideration how players will often need to change their defensive position as they go through the course of a 20-year major league career. A guy who was once a talented center fielder at age 22 may have to be moved to first base as age takes its toll.
During my time with the game, I did run into a couple of instances where the game would freeze up on me. This was a little more frustrating than in something like a first-person shooter, because I had to remember if I decided to offer this one guy a two-year contract, and if I chose to draft this other guy in the first round.
In the end, you have to look at OOTP 14 for what it is. It’s not trying to cater to action-oriented fans of games like MLB: The Show or MLB 2K13. Not that those games are available on the PC anyway. OOTP 14 is for those baseball fanatics who really want to see how a change in their batting lineup will affect the game. Or whether they can trust their gut and turn a young prospect into a Cy Young winner. How would Babe Ruth do facing Roger Clemens? This is where you can find out. You can play in a league where all the other teams are controlled by the computer, or in an online league with complete strangers or friends. You can even import your league from OOTP 13. OOTP 14 specializes in giving you options; exercise as many or as few as you wish.
Developed and published by Out of the Park Developments