I’m a veteran of tabletop baseball games like Strat-O-Matic as well as fantasy baseball and Scoresheet. I’ve played PC-based baseball games that were more about managing than about motion capture graphics and “swing timing”, from Micro League Baseball to Baseball Mogul. Then, inspired by a positive review from Baseball Prospectus, I downloaded a demo version of “Out Of The Park 2014″. It was mind-blowing in its dedication to details, and the scope of the baseball universe it covered was immense. After running through the comprehensive online manual, and playing around with a few of the various league setup structures, I downloaded the full game, and decided to assign myself as General Manager of the present day Kansas City Royals.
I negotiated contract extensions, went through the June draft, dealt with injuries at all levels of the system. Hired coaches, fired coaches. Traded for a better shortstop and second baseman. At the end of the first season, I was notified that the league decided to stop using the designated hitter, effective game one of next season! This made Billy Butler instantly superfluous, so I traded him away and kept Eric Hosmer. I checked the settings so that the game could not invoke such “alternate” rules again, but not before the Royals “owner” passed away, leaving the team to his much more financially generous son (thank goodness).
I “auto-played” three full seasons in three evenings. I wasn’t into actually watching the individual games unfold as much as seeing the seasons run their course. I was more into checking attendance and revenues, bumping average ticket prices up slightly each year. I was notified when fans liked/didn’t like a transaction, as their “morale” would vacillate with each move. I tried to make the fans happy. I poured the increased revenues back into the scouting budget and team payroll. After three seasons, I finally got tired . . . of Ned Yost . . . and hired Terry Francona. The team then won 100+ games twice in the next three years, nabbing two pennants and one championship in the process.
After a few more seasons, I was up for a new challenge, and decided to see just how good the 1994 Expos could have been. I re-wrote history a bit, by offering Pedro Martinez a three-year extension before the season started. Six days later, I was notified that he tore a flexor tendon and would be gone for 12 months. Oh, Out of the Park . . . your game engine can be so cruel! Thanks to some wheeling and dealing (and no strike), “my” Expos won 98 games, then defeated the White Sox in the seventh game of the Series. (I hope this gives Jonah Keri some solace.)
So onto OOTP15, the latest iteration of this wonderful baseball simulation. I was able to easily import my old Expos team into the latest version, and then found myself in front of significant improvements on what was already a terrific product. They’ve decluttered many of the screens by implementing a design for widescreen resolutions (16:9) and they’ve also added tooltips and revamped their menus to make the learning curve easier for newbies (see sample “Manager Home Screen” below).
They’ve also added no fewer than seven international leagues, including Korea, Japan and Taiwan and a free agent posting system, giving your scouting director more avenues to help improve your team. Want to create your own historical league with players/teams from different eras? You can now have the ’27 Yankees play in the same league as the ’76 Reds, the 2014 Brewers and the 1871 Philadelphia Athletics. They’re also in the process of implementing 3-D representation of ballparks and in-game ball flight, with viewing through many different “camera angles” (see “3D-model” below, as you can modify or “build” your stadium).
If you want a true baseball “management experience”, with the ability to manipulate the “universe” in practically any way you see fit, then OOTP15 is an addictive solution. The permutations and combinations within the program are such that you’ll never get bored. The OOTP user community is vibrant and productive, augmenting the base product with logos, skins, alternate jerseys and the like. I feel like this game takes the best aspects of Strat and APBA and merges them with the best aspects of Scoresheet baseball. Its well worth your investment.