Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part preview/review of Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 13, a computer baseball simulation game that is set to be released by Out of the Park Developments on April 6, 2012 (for those who have preordered. You can order here) and April 9, 2012 for the general public. If you are unfamiliar with what the OOTP series offers, part one provides an overview. If you’re interested in my thoughts about OOTP version 13, read on!
As I mentioned in part one, I have been playing the OOTP series for about 10 years. My interest in the series has peaked and waned over the years, but season after season I buy the game to support the developer and because I know it is and will continue to be the best in this genre, which is one I quite enjoy.
That all being said, I haven’t been this excited for an OOTP release in years, probably not since I was in a university geology class about several years ago, refreshing my browser every five seconds on the day that the latest installment of the game was set to drop. Needless to say not much geology was learned on that day and I can surely see this year’s version cutting into my productivity as well.
Rather than simply slap a new coat of paint on a game, update the rosters and charge users again for it, OOTP 13 truly feels like a big leap forward for the series.
That being said, a good place to start is that there was in fact a new coat of paint put on this year’s game and one of the best new things about V13 is the newly-designed interface and the ease at which critical information is now found. The whole game seems to have a fresh feeling to it and there are many subtle little things that make the game a step up over OOTP12.
As an example, when offering a trade you now see right from the trade screen whether a team is in “Rebuilding” mode, is looking to “Win now” or has neutral outlook. That’s a big time saver when you’re trying to determine who to try to bait into taking your overpaid reliever.
There’s also green and red arrows on the transactions screen, which based on stats and ratings show an indication of someone who should be moved up or down a level.
All that graphical polish aside, there’s much more here under the hood that is worth the price of the upgrade.
Real-time simulation mode, for example, is just one example of a revolutionary and game-changing addition to the series. My thoughts initially were that I didn’t think I would have much use for it, but after giving it a spin, I have changed my tune.
Quickly, for those who are unaware … Real-time simulation mode is an option that allows a day of baseball to be played out in real-time (or at a certain factor, either 2x, 5x, 10x, 20x, 60x, 120x and 300x real-time speed). While games are going on you can navigate through the gae as you normally would or scoreboard watch, all the while getting scoring updates and messages about significant happenings. You can also then choose to jump in and watch any game you wish.
This mode proved its worth to me when I was trying out a 2012 Blue Jays season. As I was simulating an evening of games, I got a notification that Roy Oswalt (who I had signed to a one-year deal with the Jays prior to the start of the season) had a no hitter going through five innings against the Angels. Boom, with a click of the mouse I jumped in so I could watch this game and perhaps watch history unfold.
In the sixth inning, Maicier Izturis attempted to break up the no hitter with a bunt single. He was thrown out, and I mentally made a note to make sure he wears a pitch in the ribs in the next night’s game for breaking one of baseball’s unwritten rules. Not deterred, Oswalt made it out of the sixth with the no no intact. He breezed through the seventh and appeared to be getting stronger as the eight began.
However, it was not to be, as Torii Hunter flared a single to centre with one out in the 8th.
Toronto cruised to a 7-1 win, but I also watched as Oswalt came up short of getting the complete game in the ninth, as he gave up a run before being relieved with only one out left to get (and his pitch count up around 140).
Now, with an older version of OOTP, I would have clicked the Sim Day button (I typically sim more than I play games out) would have seen that Oswalt had a stellar performance, but would have had to back track to realize how long he had flirted with a no hitter and the drama that had unfolded. I also wouldn’t have a bounty out on Izturis’ head either!
Obviously there won’t be potential no hitters every night, but the game mode allows you to catch a bunch of neat happenings that might have otherwise gone unnoticed (just now I noticed a game where Boston was beating Baltimore 17-1 in the 6th, yuck) and allows you to get a beter idea of your league as a whole.
Simply put, real-time simulation is a whole new way to immerse yourself in a game that is already the king of baseball immersion.
I won’t use this feature all the time (I wish you could pick any speed between 2x and 300x rather than just the pre-defined options), but it will certainly come in handy down the stretch in a tight pennant race.
Another great new addition is the ability to have more fully-customize playoffs (by adding first-round byes) and also the ability to associate different leagues and have them square off in playoff series and/or share rules or drafts.
My head has been spinning with the huge scope of possibility now available in international leagues, but I haven’t yet determined what I want to do. I have been messing around with a league setup that features six leagues – one each in Canada, USA, Central America/Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Australia – and then each league’s top teams all meet at season’s end for a true World Series. How cool is that?
The ability to have these as separate league entities where PCM (player creation modifiers) can be set to make differing skill levels for the weaker baseball nations, is truly impressive and something I’ve wanted for a long time.
Throw in the fact that the game now allows you to add “regions” to a created league and there is even more customizability. The regions are great for leagues where you only want players of a certain ethnicity/home country, for example. Rather than say setting up a league based in Atlantic Canada and having players from Japan populating your draft pool.
Random historical debut was also another feature recently announced on the OOTP forums. This isn’t really my cup of tea, but the basic premise is that each year’s draft pool is comprised of a random assortment of players from any era. So perhaps you’ll field a team that features a middle of the lineup of Jose Bautista and Babe Ruth or maybe a rotation featuring Sandy Koufax and Stephen Strasburg. It’s a cool concept and a lot of people I’m sure will enjoy it.
As I noted previously, I typically play with fictional teams and players, but this season I may just have to get involved with playing a real-life MLB game. As detailed on the OOTP forums, a lot of work has gone into making this year’s roster set the best and most complete yet. What’s great also is that while legalities and the lack of an official MLB license prevent the game from shipping with real logos and pictures, the OOTP community is such a hardworking and devoted bunch that right when the game releases, there will likely be an “all-in-one” mod that will be easily downloadable from within the game and will help give all players a more immersive experience.
The community, as well as a dedicated and responsive developer, is a big part of the reason why this game has remained the premier baseball simulator in the world.
The game’s creator, Markus Heinsohn, is very active on the OOTP forums answering questions and providing updates on the game. Here’s a prime example. A couple weeks ago I had a concern that a feature from OOTP 12 wasn’t quite set up the way it should be. I sent him a private message on the forums, we exchanged a few messages back and forth about it and then a day or two later he messaged me back telling me it was fixed for OOTP13. He’s a man of his word too, as just like that, the issue I had no longer appears in OOTP 13. If that isn’t top-notch customer service, I don’t know what is.
The simple fact is, there will be bugs when the game releases, as there usually are with any sort of software release. Chances are none will be game-breaking, but what you can be sure about is that they will be addressed. There is almost always a patch released for the game within a few days of release, to fix some of the things that inevitably crop up after the game is played by the masses, as opposed to just the game’s beta testers.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m sold on OOTP 13. This isn’t a game reviewing site, so I won’t give it a number rating or anything, but suffice it to say, if you’re into baseball simulation games, you won’t find a better product.
- The game’s menus and overall look got a big overhaul and the changes are for the better.
- Real-time simulation mode adds a new level of immersion previously unseen in the genre.
- League associations, extra playoff customization and the addition of regions give even more depth and possibilities for those of us who like to design fictional leagues.
- The major league roster set appears to be the best one released, so good in fact that it has me (normally a fictional-only player) considering making the jump to a MLB league and trying to take the Jays back to glory. I will say, however, that I feel the Jays minor league system is a bit underrated in this game and I might have to tinker a bit with some of the team’s top prospect’s ratings.
- There truly is no limit to how you play the game – whether you prefer real rosters, fictional, historical or any combination; online games or solo, the game is as customizable as you will ever find, with virtually everything an option that can be toggled on/off to your liking.
- I hesitate to call it a “bad” thing since the game’s depth is a big selling point, but there can be a learning curve involved with this game, as it is truly deep. You can easily pick up and play if you wish but to get into the nuts and bolts of the game and get the most out of the game, you’re going to have to devote some time. Thankfully, as I mentioned, there’s a great community over at the game’s forums that is quite receptive to helping out new players with their questions and concerns. I highly recommended registering an account there if you are a new OOTP player.
- I have had a couple crashes while playing the game. Typically OOTP is a pretty stable piece of software (I don’t recall ever crashing in OOTP12) so I’ll chalk this up to my version being a beta version and I’ll hope this doesn’t pop up in the full game. *Edit* I’m informed by the game’s developer that the root of this crash hasin fact been fixed and won’t be an issue in the retail version.
- Some of the association playoffs I set up weren’t working properly. The proper number of teams weren’t coming over from their respective league playoffs for the final playoffs which was causing some glitches. I wasn’t sure if it was an error in the way I was setting it up or a bug in the game. I sent Markus my game file and few days later he informed me that it was fixed, so, fingers crossed on that one.\
- The simulation speeds, at least for me, don’t seem noticeable faster than in OOTP 12.
- I noticed a ton of waiver activity in the early going of my 2012 MLB game. I don’t know if that’s typical of a new roster game and it will die down but it seemed overkill to me with many players going up on waivers, getting claimed, switching teams, etc.
So the bottom line is this. It’s obvious that this type of game won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’ve read this far, you are probably interested enough to at least check this game out. If you’re a baseball fan who enjoys simulation games, stop wasting your time and go order the game immediately. Is the game perfect? No, like any piece of software, it does have its fault, but it’s far and away the best in the field.
There’s no two ways around it, the game is quite simply the best of its genre, so if the genre is one you enjoy, you would be making a mistake not to give it a try.
The game releases for those who have pre-ordered on April 6th, and to everyone else on April 9th. The deadline for pre-ordering is today, April 5th at noon ET. You can order the game by going here.