Game Review: Out Of The Park 14 Is Amazing
When I was a kid, as you might have guessed, I was obsessed with baseball. Probably to the point that my family worried about me, since it was obvious that I would not be playing professionally. But lack of ability didnâ€™t keep me from loving the game.
As a small child, I recall spreading out my baseball cards on the living room floor, making up imaginary lineups and imaginary games. Around age 12, I made up a dice game (of course, Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m not the only one who did this). Sure, sometimes weird things would happen in those gamesâ€”Angel Salazar hitting a home run, Steve Balboni hitting a tripleâ€”but I suppose the unpredictability is what makes real baseball great, so I didnâ€™t let these incidents keep me from enjoying my game.
In high school, I had a â€śEureka!â€ť moment one day when I realized the random number generator on my graphing calculator* spit out numbers that looked like batting averages carried out to several places. Soon, a new game had developed: that random number generator determined whether a player got a hit, and then what kind of hit, simply based on his average and then the percentage of his hits that were singles/doubles/triples/home runs.
*Call me a nerd if you must (you would be correct), but I can assure you this calculator was not often used for, you know, actual math, which was the one thing in high school that was scarier to me than girls.
So when I was approached a couple of months ago to try the Out Of The Park 14 (OOTP14) computer baseball game, I was excited. Here was a computerized version of something Iâ€™d been doing manually since an early age. I had actually thought about buying the game before but just hadnâ€™t pulled the trigger. But now I had a reason and my curiosity could not be controlled. And now, with a long offseason ahead of us, Iâ€™m glad I have this game.
I have to say, this game is amazing. And addictive. And totally immersive. Right off the bat, I started a simulation with me as general manager of the Royals in 1969. One great thing about OOTP14 is that you can have as much or as little control over an organization as you want. Want to set the lineups for your minor league affiliates? You can, or you can set the AI to do it, based on sabermetric principles or an old-school emphasis on tools. Want to negotiate salaries with your draft picks? You can, or you can let the game do it. In fact, as a (pretend) general manager, I think the only thing this game is missing is a pack of smart-aleck bloggers mocking my every move.
And it continuesâ€¦you can choose to manage games, or just run the simulation. You can play a day, week, or month at a time (with the simulation stopping to notify you of trade proposals or injuries). You can choose to have players available at the actual time they entered the majors, or at random times (I like historical accuracy, so in my universe, players show up when they historically didâ€”which doesnâ€™t mean they get on the â€ścorrectâ€ť teams; it is with great regret that I tell you in this universe, George Brett is at third base for Philadelphia).
As a blogger, one other thing I enjoy about this game is the reminder that being a (pretend) general manager is hard work. It gives me a good perspective on how hard Dayton Mooreâ€™s job must be, and itâ€™s good to be reminded of that. Iâ€™ve learned you can make a move for a logical reason and still have it blow up in your face due to injury or just plain bad luck. And in my OOTP universe, I donâ€™t even have to worry about keeping costs downâ€”on the eve of the 1974 season, my Royals have the eighth-highest payroll in the majors, despite my owner being a â€śdemanding economizer.â€ť
As for results, wellâ€¦the 1971 Royals captured the AL West title, thanks to outstanding years from Graig Nettles (forgive me, George Brett) and Bob Oliver (hey, he really was a Royal!). Oh, and a Cy Young season from Jerry Reuss and a superb season from Nolan Ryan. Unfortunately, we lost the ALCS to the Yankees (some things are the same no matter which universe youâ€™re in, I suppose). Now, just like the real-life Royals of the early 1970s, weâ€™re chasing the Oakland dynasty.
Two months after I got the game, Iâ€™ve played five complete seasons. And I havenâ€™t even explored online play yet, or the iPhone/iPad apps (I have neither, which is probably a good thingâ€”Iâ€™d never get anything done).
Thereâ€™s nothing like baseball, but OOTP14 is as close as you can get. And with a long, baseball-free winter coming soon, OOTP14 is the perfect way to get your hardball fix.
Addendum: Today, OOTP announced that OOTP14 is now on sale: $19.99 for the computer version (works on Windows/Mac/Linux) and just $0.99 for the iPhone/iPad app.
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