So almost a year ago now, I managed to get my hands on a free copy of Out of the Park Baseball 14 (OOTP14) in return for a review. I actually thought I was getting the cheap iOS version, but I ended up getting the full, insanely hardcore PC version. I was immediately overwhelmed at the thought of putting such a massive game through all of its paces. I was also scared of playing it endlessly, turning into the people on my Steam friends list who are always playing the latest iteration of Football Manager.
Chalk these fears up to the fact that I had never touched a version of OOTP before. Hell, the only sports games I had played for a significant amount of time in the past decade were NBA 2K12 and NBA Jam: On Fire Edition. And in NBA 2K12, my favorite mode, “My Player,” was the polar opposite of the usual GM role taken in OOTP. I’m not sure if I’ve ever gotten through an entire season in any sports game in my life; I rather just kick someone’s ass in Virtua Tennis.
So instead of diving into a simulated franchise month-by-month and season-by-season, I decided to pick the disappointing 2013 Toronto Blue Jays and see what would happen if I played a season with them, game-by-game. I went so far as to create a separate Twitter account for the fake season that was sure to be better than reality. Looking through those 63 tweets reminds me of how much fun I was having, despite each game being played out on the same mediocre interface each time. Admittedly, I was baseball-game-starved. I hadn’t even realized how much I missed playing baseball games. (Okay, that’s a lie: I bought a friend MLB: The Show 12 just so I could play it when I went over to his apartment.)
OOTP14 filled a void, but unsurprisingly I bumped up against a wall quickly when it came to playing a text-based baseball game every night. Instead of transitioning to a simulation-heavy season, I just stopped playing. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I just stopped — maybe because I felt like an idiot for tweeting about it for a week, maybe because I knew I had a review to write. I avoid responsibility as much as possible and I bet you have never read that in a “review” of a video game before. I felt like garbage for a while about never writing a review, but I never loaded up the game again because I wanted to avoid the “work” I would have needed to do to write a decent review. I say “work” because if it weren’t for the promised review, I may have continued messing around with the game without any sense of guilt.
Okay, that’s enough of my psychological issues. With the impending release of OOTP15 (literally tomorrow), I felt the need to remedy my breach of human decency. I knew I needed to write something about OOTP14 before a new version was released.
Despite my choice of the 2013 Blue Jays, I am a Mets fan. If you have ever read this blog before or followed my Twitter or had any interaction with me at all, you probably know this. At some point, I utilized OOTP14′s historical league option to simulate 1986 just for kicks. It ended with the Mets not even making the playoffs. Come to think of it, that may have contributed to me not touching the game again. Nonetheless, when I loaded up the game again a few days ago, I decided to tackle another year that weighs heavily on the minds of Mets fans: 2006.
The real-life 2006 Mets had their season ended on a disgusting curveball that froze Carlos Beltran. You all know this. The real-life 2006 Mets also did not have Scott Kazmir, due to a mind-boggling trade in 2004 where he was traded for Victor Zambrano, a below-average pitcher who did not help the below-average Mets that year. Or any year. Goddamn it. Anyway, I created a historical league starting in 2006 and reversed the trade. Of course, I needed to enable commissioner mode for that because what kind of moron would accept that trade? This was important, though.
I simulated the season month-by-month, watching the standings morph every half-second as the computer worked its magic. The Mets started off a little slow, but by August they had a comfortable lead. The Braves threatened a bit in September, but the Mets held on. Scott Kazmir ended up at 21-3 with a 3.40 ERA. (Shoot me.) I still tempered my expectations, since the playoffs are such a crapshoot, and the real-life 2006 Mets got good performances from John Maine and Oliver Perez (really). But this faux version of the 2006 Mets had healthy versions of Pedro Martinez and Duaner Sanchez. And Xavier Nady! A powerhouse, surely.
I utilized the awesome real-time simulation option of OOTP14 throughout the playoffs. In the earlier rounds I stuck to staring at the scoreboards as games ripped through innings in a few seconds, but later on I would drop in on the broadcasts of Mets games for no particular reason. I would only receive snapshots of every third at-bat or so, but it was enough to create some semblance of narrative. The faux 2006 Mets made it through the NLDS easily, but then fell behind 1-3 in the NLCS versus the Dodgers. Nomar Garciaparra of all people was having a series. But in the final three games, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Scott Kazmir pitched the Mets into the World Series. Carlos Beltran had the best series on the hitting side. It was beautiful.
When it came to the World Series, the Tigers laid down just like they had in real life against the 83-79 Cardinals. The faux 2006 New York Mets, with Scott Kazmir, won the World Series. Carlos Beltran had a 1.485 OPS. It would be glorious if it weren’t so pathetic.
To touch on a OOTP14 feature, I wish I had selected “career play” when I created that historical league. I would have continued with that Mets dynasty, just like it was supposed to be. For whatever reason, I didn’t bother. If you ever decide to go ahead with a historical league, you should just check off that option. It can’t hurt.
All of this is to say that OOTP14 (or any version of OOTP) is absolutely fantastic for any baseball fan. I wish I had more examples to relay to you and more tidbits about options and features to list, but I’m not sure any of them would help drive home any more the fact that this game is amazing. You can do pretty much anything you want to do within the framework of OOTP14. There are historical leagues and fictional leagues and major leagues, the last encompassing Japanese and Cuban and other current options. You can adjust sliders to create leagues where all of the players are coming from Asian or South American countries. You can create a league with 2 teams or 120 teams. You can fill an entire league with fictional players or a mix of real players from every era of baseball. There are even little facts and quotes constantly popping up in every load screen.
I’d feel uncomfortable praising anything more about this game. I didn’t see players develop according to their PECOTA-based system. I didn’t attempt all that many trades. I didn’t experiment with fictional leagues at all. There are so many options and opportunities within the game that I’ve never tried out.
Instead, all I can offer is this screenshot of the in-game interface (you have to import logos and stadium pictures, which I should really do, because ugh Philly):
Not great. But apparently OOTP15 will improve upon this with support for 3D stadium and 3D ball flight. I do think there’s some assumptions about community support being thrown around when it comes to current and past stadiums, but they’re probably not wrong. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’d probably be best served to buy OOTP15 or MLB: The Show 15. Personally, I obviously think the interface could be better, but I still ended up getting excited about a text account of the proceedings, occasionally augmented by a little Gameday-like ball flying into the outfield.
OOTP14 is $19.99 now on their site and also on Steam. OOTP15 is $39.99 on PC/Mac and soon enough on Steam, according to the site. OOTP15 releases today. If you’re interested at all, you’re probably drawn toward the most recent version, which is understandable. Apparently there’s going to be a new ratings system, a revamped interface made for 16:9 (I don’t know how it took so long), and the usual incremental improvements across the board. There’s also the iOOTP14 option, which seems perfect for a lot of baseball fans (based on the testimony of others).
From my experience with OOTP14, between its day-to-day simulation to its yearly historical simulation to its endless amount of options, it’s the best way to spend your time fantasizing about baseball scenarios. MLB: The Show is there for the people who want the pitch-to-pitch experience — which includes me for the most part — while OOTP is there for those who want to create a winner from the front office down. You’re not going to be able to act out that Scott Kazmir scenario in The Show.
No matter which team you’re a fan of, I’m sure you’ll come up with a trade or signing that you’ll like to reverse or create; OOTP is your chance to experience that sandbox. It’s up to you whether you want to spend the money on the newest version or not. Or whether you rather place yourself in the game in something like The Show. I won’t fault you if you choose the latter, since that’s what I’d probably choose, if I had a PS3 or PS4. But I’ll make do with simulating the strike-shortened 1994 season, Mike Trout’s career, and the Mets 2015 rotation.