Written by Jon Wilt
OOTP13 Review, May 4, 2012
For the uninitiated, Out of the Park Baseball, or OOTP, is a baseball simulator. But not just a generic MLB baseball game, it’s a baseball universe simulator. One with a dizzying array of bells and whistles, and one that can be reconfigured and customized in countless ways. For folks who frequent places like the Orioles Hangout messageboards it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to deposing Dan Duquette and taking over a Major League organization.
OOTP is currently in its 13th iteration, having started as a relatively primitive DOS-based game in 1999. Markus Heinsohn has been the lead developer of the game since the inception, remarkably guiding the franchise to its current lofty heights from Germany, of all places. While the early versions of the game did a fine job as a career-based simulator of Major League Baseball and a few levels of minor leagues, it has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past decade. You can now set up an all-inclusive universe of leagues and teams. Anything from current major league rosters, full minors, historical leagues, independent leagues, fictional leagues, foreign leagues, or unholy combinations thereof.
Like in years past when I’ve reviewed the game for the Hangout, I started a game with current MLB rosters and took over the Orioles as a test case. When you fire up OOTP you’ll get a startup screen with options to import old games from OOTP12, continue where you last left off, or start up a new game with the option to base it on 2012 MLB rosters. One click, wait 5 or 10 minutes for thousands of players and dozens of teams to generate, and off you go.
At first glance my 2012 O’s sim seemed pretty close to reality, and this was going off the initially released rosters. Since then there have been updates, so the minor errors I found have probably already been corrected. For example, Jai Miller was on the O’s 25-man to start the season, with Darren O’Day relegated to Norfolk. But besides that the as-shipped (or downloaded) rosters mirrored real life.
OOTP has a ratings-based engine. It’s not going to try to recreate history exactly, or mirror real results. So while you’ll get plausible results, you’ll certainly see deviations from reality. And that’s going to be the case whether you’re running a 2012 league or a historical league. There are various options to steer historical leagues towards reality, such as real transactions from historical data sources, but you’ll still get differences. Sometimes players will just develop differently, or have different luck, or play in different parks, or in front of different defenses. Frank Robinson might have a 20-year Hall of Fame career, or he might tear an ACL in AAA and never develop.
My 2012 O’s were no exception to this modified reality. In mid-April Nolan Reimold got plunked with a pitch. I got a delayed diagnosis while the docs and trainers figured out exactly what was wrong. Then a few days later I got the disturbing email that his career was over! Severe concussion, and that was it! If only Brian Roberts’ situation was so clean… In May Nick Markakis strained a rib cage, out three weeks. Got an email halfway through his DL time announcing a setback, and that he’d now be out a total of five weeks.
And my pitching was awful. Every member of the rotation had an ERA over 4.50 at the All Star break. Jason Hammel was 2-10 with a 4.96. On the good side Zach Britton, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Brian Roberts got healthy and came back from the DL. On the bad side, they all were bad on their returns, and Roberts got reinjured. Chris Davis OPS’d .650 for two months and got DFA’d, passed through waivers, then proceeded to OPS .975 at Norfolk. If that had happened in real life would anyone have been surprised?
In the minors, both Machado and Schoop had .900+ OPSes at Bowie. Dylan Bundy had the kid gloves taken off early, and by mid-July had 113 IP in 19 starts for the Baysox, putting up a 3.49 ERA and a 121/36 K/BB ratio.
I can’t really fault the team of developers and volunteers for putting together a roster set that rates the big league O’s as a fairly poor team. That was pretty much the reality of the situation coming out of spring training, and the team’s hot start has surprised almost everyone.
But the results are believable; the computer’s transactions were mostly realistic. OOTP’s AI has come a long way, and it usually spits out results that are plausible, if not completely faithful to reality. For me, that’s what I really want. I don’t want a sim that has Nick Markakis do exactly what Nick Markakis does every day in real life. I want plausible outcomes for a guy with good line drive bat, good defense, and his other skills. That’s what OOTP gives you.
Actually, for realism does it get any better than the description of Peter Angelos as an unmerciful penny pincher, with an expectation for a winning record? That’s what the game actually says when you load up the default 2012 MLB rosters.
For OOTP13 there are some significant enhancements over prior versions. The graphics are excellent. This is a text-based sim, so you’re not going to see animation. But the Facegen-rendered headshots are excellent, and the many user-generated photos, stadiums, logos, etc are top quality. There are even ways to get your own picture rendered in Facegen and appear in the game alongside real players and personnel. I just upgraded to a 24” widescreen monitor and the new interface looks outstanding.
Markus added a few new concepts that enhance the immersion in the game. There are now interactive story lines, much like has long been in Football Manager (the soccer sim generally recognized as the best text sim on the market). A player might get disgruntled with his playing time, and you’ll be asked to respond in one of several tones. If you tell him to suck it up and sit on the bench, he might get disgruntled, demand a trade, or see his performance drop.
Real Time Simulation Mode is a new feature that allows you to start simming a day in real time, or compressed real time, and watch linescores and text highlights of all of your league’s games. So if a situation like the last day of the 2011 season happens, with multiple teams in crucial games, you can watch it play out and dive into individual games as interesting things happen.
Also new for version 13 are league associations. You can take Major League Baseball, and form an association with the Japanese Leagues, pick which rules to share, and have them play postseason series.
I don’t play much with the historical aspects of the game, but there’s a new random debut year feature that picks players from across MLB history and gives them a random birthday and debut season. So you could end up with a team where Gus Triandos, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken, and Nick Markakis are all in the same peer group.
And as with almost all new OOTP versions there are many little things that have been upgraded. For example, clicking on a player link used to often result in some hard drive grinding while the game generated an HTML page. That’s now displayed almost instantly in the native graphics of the game.
You can probably tell I’m having a lot of fun with OOTP13, as I have with every version I’ve owned. Last year I had a bunch of issues importing my long term universe. Markus eventually figured out what was wrong and it was fixed in a patch (great customer service!). But this year it’s been smooth, no issues, no emails to tech support. I’ve spent hours diving into the new features and just simming baseball. Once again, I have no problem strongly recommending this to any wannabe GMs, managers, or owners. It’s as close as you can get as a fan.
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