OOTP 14 Review
How often do you hear baseball fans say “If I were the Owner or General Manager I would sign…” or “If I were the Owner or General Manager I would trade for…”? Watch any baseball game at the ballpark, in a sports bar, or even at home with friends and someone is bound to utter a phrase pretty close to one of those. At some point in time you’ve probably even muttered something along those lines yourself as you watched in disbelief while the team you root for had a hole or deficiency at some position and there was a player available on the free agent or trade market that would remedy it.
Your team decides against making any such moves before, during, or after said season and you find yourself slamming your head against something rugged and more durable than your face because the player, or players in the event of a platoon situation, makes one boneheaded play after another costing your team runs, wins, or both.
Because we can’t always work for the front office of a Major League franchise we often turn to certain games that allow us to take on such a role. The Out of the Park Baseball series is one of those games and it is back with its 2014 edition. Most game reviews are published very early on after the initial release of the game but I decided against such hasty actions.
The reason is simple — I wanted to have more than a week or two of game play under my belt before having to decide what I thought about it because the game is that expansive. There are so many ways to experience this game, and that’s what it truly is, that you can’t judge it in its proper context with so little time to really dive into it.
That’s just one, of the many, reasons why the OOTP game series is the best baseball simulation game on the market and it’s not even close in my opinion. But let’s go ahead and kick off this review with some specifics, starting with …
• 2013 major league teams and rosters, with player ratings officially based on Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection system, which has proven to be the most accurate player stats projection system on the market.
• All levels of minor league rosters, with thousands of real players. OOTP 14 also includes more real June draft prospects than ever before, with hundreds of them featured this year.
• A completely recoded player origin system, with five different methods for players to enter the league: the First-Year Player Draft, with the option to tweak nationalities; International Amateur Top Prospects, who are usually 16 or 17 years old; Established International Free Agents, allowing GMs to discover their own Ichiro or Yu Darvish; International Scouting Discoveries; and Players From Independent Leagues.
• Recoded player creation algorithms that ensure more stable long-term simulations and more realistic player careers and stats output.
• A new fielding ratings development system that reflects the reality that players typically shift to the right side of the defensive spectrum as they age. For example, a highly-talented shortstop may end up becoming a below-average corner outfielder during the waning years of his career.
• A recoded scouting system and better player development tracking.
• More information in the Real-Time Simulation mode introduced in OOTP 13. Now players can view the current batter-pitcher matchup, past plays, win probability, and more.
• Improved AI trading, along with a “Not Interested in Player X” function that prevents the AI from repeatedly offering the same player. Many other aspects of the AI, including roster management and contract negotiation, have been improved too.
• An improved interface that includes a new graphical depth chart screen, a new playoff analysis screen, better depth charts and pitching staff control, a “Pitch to Contact” option when playing out games, and more.
• Many more added features including a Free Agent Draft, achievements, one-click joining of online leagues, many more story lines, and other enhancements.
You have a few different options when it comes to the type of game you want to play. First and foremost, you can choose to start with a major league team in this current season (2013) and go from there. You’ll run that team from this season on until you decide you want another challenge with a new team or get fired for under-performing — yes, you can be fired for not being a very good GM.
If you don’t want to begin your career as GM with a current team and roster then you can also select any team from 1871 through 2012 if rewriting history is more your style. The cool thing about this game mode, and one distinct advantage in my opinion, is the ability to draft the future (or past, depending on how you look at it) All-Stars and Hall of Famers because you know exactly who they are. Let’s just say being able to keep an eye out for players such as George Brett, Jim Rice, and Mike Schmidt was pretty remarkable, especially when I was able to snag Brett and Schmidt in the first two rounds.
What if you don’t want to play in a realistic league regardless of whether it’s a current or historical one? You do have the choice to create a completely fictional league and decide whether you want this newly minted league to include teams from Major League Baseball, the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Independent Leagues, and so-on and so-forth. Create brand new teams if you want with all new players, the choice is yours and if you can think it then you can make it happen.
Once you’ve finally selected how you want to play the game the real fun begins because you can go through your rosters, lineups, starting rotation and bullpen, coaching staff at every level, set your actual game strategy based on what inning it is or the score of the game, really dive deep into your scouting budget and direction, as well as pilfer through the free agent and trade markets to help improve your team.
The beautiful thing about this game is that there is absolutely nothing you can’t customize in regards to how you run your team or the entire league if you decide you want to play with limitless power and be the “commissioner”. The only downside to the customization part of it is that you can turn commissioner mode on at any point in your career so it takes a great deal of will power to refrain from healing your star player instantly from a broken leg or a career ending injury of some sort.
A part of me wishes that you couldn’t choose to turn commissioner mode on if you began your GM career and selected to play with it off from the get-go. Then again, if it weren’t for commissioner mode a certain star second baseman by the name of Lance Rinker wouldn’t have taken the baseball world by storm winning Rookie of the Year and MVP honors for the Baltimore Orioles by putting up a mighty .355/.423/.559 batting line with 227 hits, 22 home runs, 139 stolen bases, and a 15.1 WAR — I don’t even want to fathom what his BABIP was, or what may or may not have been in the water he was drinking his entire life.
One of the more persistent issues when it comes to sports simulation games, or even the sports console based games, is the fact that the A.I. generally does stupid things. You either get some pretty lopsided and ridiculous trade offers or you’re able to pillage a team’s entire farm system and only have to offer up a few fringe average players in return.
In OOTP 14 that is not the case because in order to get something of quality you have to give up something of quality. The only advantage you’ll have when it comes to trading away those pesky veterans on your team you’ve been itching to get rid of is wait until the trade deadline and dump them off on a team that is in “win now” mode and is pushing for the playoffs. Then you can usually get something of decent value in return as long as the veterans you’re offering up aren’t complete garbage.
Another thing I noticed is that teams did a phenomenal job of staying within themselves, or their allotted budgets rather, and weren’t chasing after high-priced free agents they would have to dump the following season or that would prevent them from fielding a competitive, or competitive-ish, team. If an organization was currently rebuilding then they were digging through the scraps, just as they do in real life, and if they are close to winning then they’ll go after a player or two that could get them to where they want to go.
When I say playability I’m not simply referring to the ability to open up the game and click play. What I’m actually referring to is the ease in which you can create a new game, continue your existing game, and sit back and enjoy all the game has to offer once you’re in.
I don’t think I’ve ever played a game before, especially one of the sim variety, where I don’t get bored after having played for so long. There are times where I’m loaded up the game and starting playing my franchise with the intention of turning it off in half an hour or so. That has proven to be nearly impossible to do because I’ve sat in front of my computer for three and four hours before not even realizing how much time has passed once I’ve gotten to a point where I get up to get a drink or something.
Above and beyond all of that though, this game does not get boring because there are so many different ways to play it. The re-playability factor is a 12 on a scale of 10 because if you ever get to a point where you’ve built the greatest team in the history of baseball you can resign from your current position with your team and get hired by a new one, or you can just create a whole new league for a new challenge.
This is something that you can pick up and play from where you left off, start anew, or change course in the middle of your progress because you want to see what would happen if you changed a rule or you want to see how long it would take you to build up the worst team in your existing league. There’s no limit to the fun you can have with this game just tinkering around with stuff, and I love to tinker, just as there’s no limit to how challenging you can make it for yourself.
It’s not often that a game comes along that can completely capture my attention for more than a few days but I’ve been playing OOTP 14 since the beginning of April and I’m still enjoying it. The fact that I can sit down with the intention of playing for only half an hour or so and get up three hours later and not even realize it’s been that long is pretty telling about the overall quality and experience OOTP provides.
I took over the Baltimore Orioles and did a complete rebuild of the team, because that’s the approach I take to build a consistent winner, and even though it was pretty tough to sit there and play through that first season only winning 79 games it was well worth it. The team I built up was winning 89+ games over my next four seasons and I went to the World Series once, taking on the Washington Nationals who beat me in seven games (the bums).
The realism this game offers is second to none within this genre of sports games because players get hurt, with realistic injuries, the trade and free agent markets are well in line with what you’d expect in reality, and the best team doesn’t always win the World Series — as I discovered when the lowly Nationals beat me in that pivotal seventh game. Best of all, it doesn’t feel like I’m playing a game where all that matters are the numbers behind the scenes calculating odds and performance like it used to be with very early versions of games in this particular genre.
OOTP 14 is a game that I know I will be playing up until the day that OOTP 15 is released and if I wanted to I could even import my OOTP 14 game file into OOTP 15, just as you have the option to do with OOTP 13 into OOTP 14. All-in-all, this is a solid game through and through and one that I would recommend to any sports game fan, or non-sports game fan, because that’s how fresh and entertaining it is.
Want To Win a Free Copy of OOTP 14?
Baltimore Sports and Life is excited to announce that Brad Cook, the Public Relations Manager of the OOTP franchise, will be a guest on our weekly podcast ‘Bird Talk’ on Monday May 13, 2013 to talk about OOTP and there will be a contest to give away two free copies of the game to two lucky fans. All you have to do is listen to the show to find out what you have to do to win yourself one.
For more information be sure to send the guys of Bird Talk an email: [email protected]
Lance is the Managing Editor for Konsume, a crowd-sourced news platform driving passionate journalism.
In addition to his work on BSL, you can find Lance’s extended portfolio at his profile on Konsume and you can follow him on Twitter.