Out of the Park Baseball 11
Developer: Out of the Park Developments
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Genre: Sports Simulator
Release Date: 04/14/2010
Where is the best baseball video game located? Well, while MLB 2010 – The Show is an excellent arcade baseball experience (especially the Road to the Show mode), for franchise play and the nitty gritty underneath of the game, you must play Out of the Park Baseball 11. Out of the Park Baseball 11 is, obviously, the 11th numbered game in the series. This version introduces a revamped user interface, a change in the way some player details are handled, mass player selection on the transaction screen (Trust me, this is a big plus for this kind of game.), baseball card player style player statistics and dynamically evolving leagues.
Let us get this tidbit out of the way first: Out of the Park Baseball is not an arcade game. Your interaction during a game is limited to telling players what to do but you do not directly control their movements. You can tell your pitcher to throw a pitch but that pitch is determined by the AI. You can tell a player to swing but that player decides on whether to pull the trigger or not. If that style of game turns you off… you should still give Out of the Park Baseball a try. Why? Saddle up and let me tell you.
The list of features in Out of the Park Baseball (now to be shortened to OOTP) is daunting, to say the least. You have opening day MLB rosters to use as a default league or, if you want to try your hand at replaying or changing the past, you can run a historical league using downloadable databases. Historical leagues can be simulated beyond the year they began, into the future, with historical players entering the league at the appropriate time. Additionally, OOTP can even automatically expand the league at the right year with the right teams. Upset at the outcome of the 1975 World Series? Try your hand at managing the Boston Red Sox and see if you can break their World Series drought 29 years early. Take control of the upstart San Diego Padres and lead them to a pennant before 1984… by keeping Ozzie Smith. For those with imagination and gumption, there are fictional baseball leagues. OOTP contains a database of countries and has players come up from around the world (with mirrored real life player production percentages). Start a league from the late 19th century into the future. Your fictional league will evolve, records and statistics will be kept – and that’s just for starters.
OOTP is a text base simulation. The majority of graphics are logos, game generated player faces or player photo packs downloaded from the internet and stadiums that either come with the game or are downloaded as packages as well. While not flashy, the visuals work and are meant to be as unobtrusive or distracting as possible. The soul of this game is numbers and visuals are just a bow on an excellent package.
There are crowd noises, the crack of the bat – your basic ballpark package. Aside from that, there is nothing, but that’s a good thing since you can provide your own soundtrack if you want, by listening to your own music on the music player of your choice. However, since we’re just judging the sound provided by the game, I’ll say they serve their purpose but nothing too fancy.
Control & Gameplay:
There are three ways to play OOTP 11 – as a manager, general manager or as a commissioner. The manager has the least control, going with day to day line ups and directly in game. The general manager deals with the budget, personnel decisions and can also do what the manager does. As commissioner, you are basically God, making any decisions you want for any teams in the league (including expansion/contraction/relocation et al).
OOTP’s interface has been compared to spreadsheets. In fact, the statistics and reports pumped out repeatedly by OOTP can be off putting to those who want more action, but for those who really love the details of baseball, these lists of numbers are addicting. The menus in-game are done via simple drop down menus. At first, the lack of worded labels can be a bit confusing but once you start playing around with all the drop downs, the curtain is pulled back and interacting with the game begins to make sense. The various teams, reports and informational links are viewed through the game via a browser. Some are all information with a few links to other parts of the game while others are more self contained. There is a more personal player page with scouting reports and more focused player ratings and a league player page that contains the same information but without having to browse through tabs. This may seem redundant but the first page contains options as a GM or Commissioner. The menus may seem daunting, at first, they are laid out well and very self explanatory.
OOTP provides the deepest franchise mode of any baseball game out on the market. You can control most every aspect imaginable of your baseball franchise. Want to run with the 2010 MLB rosters? You can do it. Historical rosters from the 19th Century to the 21st century? Doable. An entirely fictional baseball league? It’s possible.Out of the Park provides the ability to import player databases or create an entire league of fictional players.
You can set what kind of player development system you want, what kind of interleague trading or player movement is allowed, contract extensions, trades, drafts, income from gate, TV and revenue sharing or luxury tax or neither, waivers, expanded rosters, arbitration and compensation, DH or no DH, draft style, rounds and draft date. Additionally you can decide how often the league teams steal, use relievers, rotation sizes, statistical averages, ballpark configurations.
Want to make your own players? You can create and edit any player in the game. Their skill ratings, personality, date of birth, even gender. All of these options are done via a series of menus. Want women ball players? You can go create a new first and last name file to have women players start playing (This can apply in any mode).
Interested in the day to day operations of a team? The general management engine that runs OOTP is in-depth. You may sign free agents, deal with scouting budgets, hire scouts/trainers/coaches, and deal with either feeder leagues (high school & colleges), or minor leagues (all levels not just standard A-AAA but short season and rookie). The depth of the GM mode is amazing and scary but rewarding if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of running a baseball franchise.
OOTP is also designed for online leagues. Online leagues tend to have an owner for each team in the league and will have them set the line ups for their teams for the week (usual amount of time simulated at a time by most leagues I have witnessed). Trading, drafting, signing free agents – they all are done by each human owner. Being an owner in an online league does take a good amount of time, an investment worthwhile from all the online league players I have spoken to in the past.
The engine itself is steady and I put it through the paces of simulating 30 years of a new league (generating new players and playing all the games) and it hummed along. To go into the minutiae any further would just lead to a longer column. The depth and breadth of what OOTP has to offer is incredible.
No two seasons are alike. The game is much like baseball – it keeps on going and providing twists and turns at every moment. The game is designed to be played over and over again. Individual players range from career minor leagues, flame outs, surprise rookies, serviceable veterans and superstars. It’s just like the real thing but things can change on each playthrough thanks to injuries or just unfortunate turns for the worst (or better). From reliving history to living the present to creating your own world, the options and possibilities presented in OOTP baseball can keep someone busy for years.
OOTP can have a few problems. Sometimes the AI makes odd decisions or transactions and the game can be a bit too easy with the trading AI set to normal, but set it to hard and then you’ll have a real challenge. The in-game AI is generally competent and does tend to vary in strategy depending on how the league’s/team’s offensive strategies are set. Maintaining a winning franchise for years can be difficult in a smaller market and easy in a large market. The game is definitely set up for an even voyage, powerhouses will not always win and lovable losers sometimes come out on top.
OOTP is a baseball game and a baseball management simulation. Games like this have existed as board games or early computer games (Earl Weaver Baseball and Microleague Baseball). However, there’s a new, major wrinkle in OOTP 11. Imagine a baseball simulation where leagues will eventually vote on and pass expansion or rules changes without your direct input or have a team relocate or change a nickname as time goes on. That is the biggest new feature of Out of the Park 11 – dynamically evolving leagues.
Leagues, over time, will make changes to various rules and franchises throughout your play. Though they may not happen every year, I can tell you they do happen. I simulated several styles of leagues and a league expanded twice with two franchises moving (one being a perennial winner too) while the other league had a nickname change and various rule changes, namely making the time a player must be designated for assignment go from 2 to 3 days (at pre-order release dynamic leagues did not work for MLB start ups but this has been changed in the release patch). Team owners have their own personalities and can die. Having a great owner die and then having his stingy son turn your glorious championship team into the league laughing stock is heartbreaking. The fact your league can grow beyond what you have made, on its own, is alone worth the price of admission. The very fact you are literally given a baseball universe to play around in with almost no limits is fascinating and invigorating.
If you love baseball, its statistics, the ability to create or recreate baseball history or your own worlds you will not be able to stop playing OOTP. Happen to like role playing games? OOTP can appeal to you too as it can become your own story world, a baseball story world but one none the less. As fictional players reach milestones or become superstars or even just play out their quiet careers, you can get caught up in their stories if given the chance. OOTP has a few hooks but they are sharp and can pull one in for quite some time.
The appeal of OOTP is limited, but within that limitation is a love for those who are the target audience. OOTP is always a love letter to the baseball fan. That isn’t to say that casual players cannot pick it up and enjoy themselves but the once in every blue moon person may not be willing to or have time to learn everything OOTP has to offer.
First off, OOTP 11 is available for Linux/MAC OS/Windows. That aspect alone is noteworthy. The online manual is well written and there are video tutorials to help out those of a more visual bent. The ability to modify so many aspects of your game (from creating entirely new countries to filling in minute details of existing countries to new leagues and so on and so forth) as well as the ability to run leagues with other people around the world thanks to the internet is a great combination. A major plus is that the OOTP development team can and will listen to its fans and is usually quite on the ball for updates and game bug fixes. Out of the Park Baseball is a labor of love, not only for its players but to the sport of baseball itself. Markus Heinsohn and the OOTP Productions crew have done baseball lovers a great service and deserve all the success and acknowledgement they can get.
Final Score: INCREDIBLE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
Out of the Park Baseball 11 is another step in a better tomorrow for baseball simulators. The appeal is not as broad as it could be but Out of the Park has enough moxy, guts and talent to draw in those willing to give it a chance. OOTP 11 is probably the best baseball simulator/game on the market today. The game is mostly menus but OOTP focuses on all the things someone would want to do as a general manager of a baseball team (and then some). For any and every one that has dreamed of running a baseball team, OOTP is a wish fulfilled. The game is customizable, almost to a fault, and For 40 dollars, you could do so much worse.