I was a weird kid. I know this probably surprises you considering how well adjusted I turned out to be, but it’s true. I played baseball for 15 years as a kid, right up until jobs and school prevented me from doing so any longer, and one day I will play again, but my passion for baseball was never really in the playing of it.
Even from a young age, I was always more interested in thinking about the game. I was fascinated by the way rosters were put together, by the strategy of the on-field decision-making, and by the way things like arbitration worked.
What I loved doing, perhaps more than anything else, was sitting in the basement of my house and playing the newest baseball video game. World Series Baseball for Sega Genesis was the first one I remember playing with any frequency. From there I moved on to Triple Play Baseball ‘96 by EA Sports and stuck with EA up until they lost the MLB license to 2K Sports, which is when I switched over the MLB: The Show.
No matter the game, I was always far more interested in the menu options and behind-the-scenes stuff than the actual gameplay. I wanted nothing more than realism in roster construction so I particularly enjoyed games where I could control every team.
Still, I always found console video games frustrating because of their lack of customization and control. It was years before The Show even included 40-man rosters and a somewhat accurate free agent and arbitration process in the offseason. I don’t blame console game makers for this, after all, most people who play those games aren’t interested in the finer points of the sport; most people aren’t as hardcore about it as I am and there’s no doubt that the on-the-field gameplay itself is mind blowing.
Then, a few years ago, I stumbled across a text-sim game created by a small developer out of Germany of all places. It claimed to have unrivalled customization ability and the most realistic simulation models of any baseball game on the market. The game is called Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP)
I decided to try out the demo. Two weeks later, I bought the full version and sold my Playstation along with my copy of The Show. There was simply no need for it anymore.
I have now purchased four versions of the game, the newest one being OOTP 13, which was released shortly after Opening Day.
So what can you do with OOTP 13?
Well, I tend to play it using real Major League rosters. One of the coolest things about the game is that you can import leagues from earlier versions and continue playing them in the newest version. I currently have one “world” that I started back in 2011 that I’ve continued playing all along (I’m now in 2018), and I have another “world” that I started this year. I also play in ‘commissioner mode’ which allows me to control all 30 teams (yeah, I’m that hardcore).
You can also play historical leagues. Ever wonder what would have happened if Babe Ruth was never traded to the Yankees? Well, you can find out! Want to take control of the expansion New York Mets in 1962 and see if you can do better? Go for it! Want to save the Montreal Expos franchise and keep them in Canada forever? What’s stopping you?
The rosters are accurate all the way down to rookie ball, with real players and comparable skill sets to their real counterpart. You can import custom logos or create your own. You can change team uniforms, build new stadiums and change minor league affiliates. Hell, you can even play using the Japanese Central League, or the Korea Professional Baseball League. And you can set up custom leagues with fictional players. It’s also easy to start online leagues with your friends in any format you wish.
You can sim through games quickly, or watch each one unfold play-by-play. You can also manage the games directly if you wish. Hate bunts? You can tell your manager to never use the sac bunt. The managerial world is your oyster.
The possibilities are literally endless. I guarantee, if you’re a baseball geek like me (and I gather that most of you are), this game will ruin your life—and I mean that in the most positive way possible.
In order to give you a rundown of every little feature in the game, I’d have to write a dissertation, and I do—despite what the reader may think—have a life, so I’ll just go through my five favourite things about the game:
- The realism of contracts and the economics of the game. I can’t stress this enough. Everything that happens in Major League Baseball happens in this game. Arbitration, compensation, minor league contracts, option years, incentives, entry-level contracts, two-way deals, everything. And if you think some of those things are arcane and counterintuitive, you can change it. Like I said, everything is fully customizable. Want to make arbitration periods last five years instead of three? Go ahead. Feeling fascist? Why not reinstate the Reserve Clause?
- Real-Time Simulation. This is a new feature to this year’s game and it’s made the things even more realistic. You can now set games to simulate in the background while you perform other tasks like negotiate trades or peruse your team’s statistics. You can choose the speed at which the simulation occurs and notifications of every important play appear at the top of your screen. Say Roy Halladay is pitching a no-hitter through six innings: You can jump in and take control or watch directly while he completely humiliates the opposition.
- Historical almanac and player histories. The game includes a complete historical almanac with every record, and every player. Want to see how many home runs Hank Aaron hit in 1968? The answer is just a few clicks away. Want to see when and in what position Joe Thurston was drafted? I don’t know why you would, but the answer resides in his player history. And the best part is, when you’re playing the game, the almanac updates itself. When Brett Lawrie passes Barry Bonds for first on the all-time home runs list in 2032, the game will notify you.
- Advanced statistics and metrics. One of my biggest pet peeves with console games is their lack of stats. You’re given pitcher wins and losses, ERA and strike outs and you’re given batting average, home runs and RBIs and you’re lucky if you can find on-base percentage and WHIP. All of these things are in OOTP, but you’ll also find K/9 rates, defensive metrics such as Zone Rating and Defensive Efficiency, Fielding-Independent Pitching, Wins Above Replacement, Value Over Replacement Player and virtually any other stat and metric imaginable. And they matter. The game’s AI is so finely tuned that evaluating players using advanced stats is necessary for building a great team. They’re actually predictive! Ignore them at your peril.
- Customization. Did I mention that the game is fully customizable? I can’t stress this enough. Every major and minute detail of the game can be changed to fit your overlording needs. Sick of having pitchers hit in the NL? Institute the DH-rule. Want the Expos back in Montreal? Move the Nationals back there. Hate the way MLB constructs their schedule? Create a new one. Want to be able to trade draft picks? Easy. The list is endless.
I’m normally not one to shill for a product, but I’m not blowing smoke up your ass when I recommend this game. I spend countless hours playing it, to the detriment of other more “important” things. It’s even helped me better understand how things like arbitration work, which has helped me become a better and more informed baseball fan.
OOTP 13 can be played on any PC or Mac and there’s even a slimmed-down version for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod called iOOTP 2012. There are fewer features, but it’s still a ton of fun to mess around with while you’re sitting on the bus or pretending to listen to a lecture at school.