El Paso’s team meant to say “AlmostMexicos,” but would have been cut off. Apologies!
Developer: OOTP Developments
Publisher: OOTP Developments
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), iOS (iOOTP Baseball 2014)
Release Date: April 21
"This statistical analysis…*sobs*…it’s so beautiful!”-Captain Ray Holt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
Have you ever sat down to watch a baseball game, completely disappointed at how your team’s season has gone, and thought/cried out loud, “What are these guys thinking? I could run the team better than this!” That drive to provide a real-to-life simulation of what it is to be a baseball executive is what fuels Out of the Park Baseball 15, for better or for worse. The niche community for this game is fairly small, but OOTP Developments truly knocks it out of the park to cater to the needs of the die-hard.
(No more intentional baseball puns, I promise)
Out of the Park Baseball 15 lets players put on all types of hats; GM, Commissioner, Scout, Manager, Player, Visionary. One can start their online and offline experiences with an active MLB or MiLB roster and try to put their money where your mouth is as an armchair GM, or they can try something much more complex and immersive. The true creative types can start their own league, complete with custom rules, teams, divisions and gameplay sliders. No longer will teams be shortsighted by giving up outs via the bunt if you don’t let them! Additionally, one can turn back the clock and begin from any historical season all the way back to the days of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in 1871. Finally, you can just throw a game together on the fly via a Quickstart game.
Once you choose one of those options, the world is your oyster. Pretty much every task conceivable is at your fingertips, from checking on your team’s finances, signing free agents, scouting for the amateur draft to signing bench coaches for your short season rookie league affiliate. Best yet, Out of the Park Baseball 15 includes the option to explore some next-level baseball stats used to evaluate players, including the likes of WAR, wRC+, VORP and wOBA. There is a lot of information thrown at the player all at once, and can be quite a formidable experience for a first time player. However, with an extensive Help section that is complete with links to online manuals and videos, newcomers can get out of this game as much effort as they put into it.
When it comes to questions of how legitimate of a simulation Out of the Park Baseball 15 provides, the above screenshot should speak for itself. The Toronto Blue Jays meeting an expected .500 ball result, Anthony Gose suffering a (probable) developmental setback, Justin Morneau, Carlos Ruiz and Octavio Dotel being linked to the Blue Jays; the prime strength that this series is renown for is the accurate attention to detail. This comes in no short thanks to the player scouting and expert ranking opinions of Baseball Prospectus, which effectively and fairly ranks hundreds, if not thousands, of minor and major league prospects across several leagues of farm system play. Their data input adds an added stamp of legitimacy towards the project, big time.
The presentation value of OOTP 15 steps it up quite a fair bit in its newest iteration. Not only are all information screens, including the manager windows and player sheets, given a much sleeker look, but Out of the Park Baseball 15 is taking great strides when it comes to its live 3D baseball play. Considered the lightest aspect of the sports management sim (it’s all about the process!), OOTP Developments has begun to open the door to 3D support for custom ballpark creation and simulation of in-game baseball flight. Soon users will be able to insert custom ballpark stadium creations for use within leagues, in addition to being able to watch simulated baseball games using accurate baseball flight paths. These features are not fully realized at launch and will come as a free update later in continual development, however this could become a real killer feature a year or two down the line, as it becomes better developed.
Whether you play baseball in the MLB, Japan, Cuba or Italy, the goal of Out of the Park Baseball 15 is to be as authentic as possible. With improved player tracking, including career milestones and award placements, the challenge of controlling the egos and sensibilities of tens+ of AI athletes under your command reflects a strong simulation algorithm. While I would sometimes find a usually-selfless player take it upon themselves to make public statements against the team, it would generally only occur because the circumstances created by my actions would dictate so. It may create an alternate reality, but so creates one based on logic. I love this aspect of the simulation, as the roster management difficulties that arise as a result bring its own sense of story in a simulation otherwise bereft of that element.
Which brings me to the core of what makes a sports management game work; it has to hold up under the scrutiny of more than just the eye test. You can try to make the Yankees tank to acquire the next Babe Ruth in the upcoming draft, but there’s no way in hell that Yankees management will let that slide through its current day expectations. Out of the Park Baseball 15 is all about checks and balances, as focusing purely on learning how to control the accounting side of management will lead to suffering on the talent side of the coin. There’s no concrete “fail state” (although you can be fired from your current position, it’s pretty hard to be blacklisted from baseball entirely); the success comes from understanding. OOTP, with the right direction and experience, can let you become the kingmaker.
I can’t, in good consciousness, sit here and pretend Out of the Park Baseball 15 is for everyone. There’s a dedicated core of baseball geeks that are intrigued by the business side of America’s national pastime that this is perfect for. If the passion for baseball is there at the core, combined with the thrive to learn more about the logistical side, this is the game for you. If you absolutely need to participate in at least emulating swinging the bat or throwing a pitch in order to enjoy baseball games, then I suggest taking a pass on this entry.
Perhaps, as the 3D ballpark support and gameplay simulation is fully realized down the line, there will be a common ground that allows for enjoyment on both sides of the aisle, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Currently, Out of the Park Baseball 15 is sports management simulation at its best; a game that will keep players enthralled for untold hours at a time.
(A code has been provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)