Out of the Park Baseball 15
Developer: Out of the Park Productions
Publisher: Out of the Park Productions
Release Date: 04/15/2014
The yearly iterations of Out of the Park Baseball can make a person pause. Am I going to spend nearly $40.00 each year for a sports game? I’ve only missed one version of the game since I began playing (2000) and can say that I’m glad I’ve continued with the series. How does OOTP 15 stack up? Let’s find out.
OOTP 15 is familiar, yet revamped once again. If you’ve played OOTP, you’ll be able to fly right into OOTP 15. If you haven’t, OOTP 15 immediately greets you with a “Getting Started” prompt. This menu tells you a bit about the game. The choices are “Online Manual”, “Video Tutorials” and “Forums”. These three options are really good for the style of learning some folks have – some prefer visuals, others like asking other players questions, and some read manuals.
The game plays like other OOTP games, though there are always improvements underneath the proverbial hood. A change in the ratings system (from one that obfuscated how a player’s rating was in relation to the rest of the league, to an option one that calculates average player rating) takes away some of the mystery as to performance. This means that a 75/100 power guy is truly a power hitter instead of someone who happens to look like one (Glenn Braggs is a great, 1990s reference to the type of player I’m talking about).
Revamps to the UI include more resolutions and more information laid out in your home screen. Information is one of the keys to OOTP games – you are going to be bombarded with numerous bits of info to take in and analyze. For those who dive in deeper, being able to see more info with less screen changes is a welcome change. I can check out my team’s schedule, recent scores, and league news without having to navigate three or four screens.
One thing I don’t like is having to change the Play-by-Play to Instant – I believe it should be set like that by default. Why? It increases the amount of clicks I make to get through a game. This is something that’s been going on since I’ve been playing Out of the Park, and I know it is me being persnickety.
The heart of the game remains the same – it is baseball. Baseball lasts quite some time. It’s a complicatedly simple game. A cyclone of numbers and nostalgia. Even while playing with what is, essentially, a set of spreadsheets with a names and faces, you can’t help but get attached… and that’s only fictional mode. Heaven help you if you decide to play with real players.
The continued refining of the game helps immersion, but the crux of the entire game is your willingness to deal with the inherent flaw in sports – the unpredictable nature. You can min-max your rotation. You can wheel and deal to bolster your line up. You can be gentle and patient with prospects. None of that matters in the end, because sometimes things just happen. That fireballing young starting pitcher that was going to anchor your team for years to come? He tears something in his shoulder and never throws a pitch in the majors. You go on a ten game losing streak because things happen. You win ten games you have no business winning. Your light hitting, injury replacement shortstop has a legendary career year and helps pull you into the playoffs – these things happen in real life and in Out of the Park.
The fact that a simple thing like allowing you to retire player numbers is something that excites me should be a tip off about how much the little things help. Anything to further suck you down that vortex where you forget you are even playing a game. Your brain slips into a different zone – you obsess about your roster. You ticker with your bullpen – before you know it, you play OOTP to match your favorite team’s real schedule – a game a day for a year to see how you match up (I’m not quite there yet).
Every year it gets harder for me to explain why Out of the Park Baseball is such an important game. Why should you spend $40.00 for this game?
Is it for more in depth player tracking (award finishes, how you acquired the player…) or is it for a better way to negotiate for your draftees? Better international leagues? The in-progress 3D game viewer? Maybe – those are selling points to old hats like me. Those are the hammer and chisel, carving out an even more wonderful escape from my day to day life. That isn’t why you should buy it.
You should buy Out of the Park Baseball if you love baseball. The game takes you in and doesn’t coddle you. You sink or swim. The highs of delicious victory and the lows of agonizing defeat. A 1-0 road victory to take first place? I’ve lived that through OOTP. Every pitch, every runner, every nerve wracking inning and squandered chance. Not many games can give you so much drama with key presses or mouse clicks. OOTP is, visually, a series of spreadsheets telling you what is going on – it is imagination.
Baseball captures the imagination, OOTP fuels it. One of the reasons I’m wary of the 3D engine is because I visualize the game in my head. I read the words and a picture is painted; it’s like listening to baseball on the radio. As the numbers roll on, as the game continues, a whole new, unique gem of a season is presented. This season will never happen again – each pitch, each hit, each run, will statistically never occur in the same manner. How many things in life can be wholly unique each and every time you experience it, while maintaining the same, overall, method of delivery?
I spent way too long trying to write this review – what can I say that I haven’t already said about this franchise? Sometimes I wonder if I’m too in love with this game. I look for flaws, for ways to not like the game. I never can find anything substantial. This game is still, and always will be, a love letter to the national pastime of the United States of America. That a German man is able to deliver what is tantamount to the essence of that pastime, our pastime, is a great reminder of appreciating what we have.
Short Attention Span Summary
Out of the Park Baseball is an in-depth statistical simulator of the game of baseball. It contains a multitude of numbers, no real audio components, no action gameplay elements or high budget graphics. It excels in telling the story of baseball games and player careers – both the feel good winning side and the harsh losses. The game’s learning curve is steeper than most, but the price per hour, once you get into it, ends up being pennies on the dollar. There’s an active community, modifications, and new immersive features this year, and a 3D engine on the way.
I high recommend this game for baseball fans or fans of simulations.