The Out of the Park Baseball series has long been the gold standard of management simulations. Though the release of an iOS version the last couple years has led to some additional exposure OOTP has still relied on word-of-mouth over traditional marketing. That has allowed them to focus on doing one thing and doing it very well – appealing to the hardcore baseball or management fan – rather than diluting the product as most major titles are forced to do in order to reach the largest audience possible.
There is no doubt that Out of the Park Baseball 14 will be initially intimidating to novices. Understanding all the options at hand, how to reach them through navigation of the interface, and how to enact the changes desired is a process that takes time. The sheer depth can feel overwhelming and for some that may be difficult to get past. Once comfortable with those things however it becomes a game that is very difficult to step away from.
Most crucially OOTP provides the tools to craft the experience desired whether that be handling everything from managing down to each pitch in every game along with having fingerprints on every aspect of the organization to just generally overseeing and guiding the league or team. While this is a game built for the hardcore crowd it can be altered to deliver an experience that is far less labor-intensive as well.
I’ve found my sweet spot to be somewhere in between. Simming through the games, managing the rosters in the majors and to a lesser extent with the minor league affiliates, and paying some attention to scouting and the draft. Going much farther down the rabbit hole leaves my head spinning. Analyzing players based on numbers and shuffling rosters constantly would seem too much. That’s just fine though because task automation is right there to take care of it all.
Statistically the numbers produced shake out very realistically which obviously is a critical element to a management sim. The game takes such care with that it even features categories such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement). The only thing that has stood out is the number of injuries and impact on big name players. I’ve had to constantly deal with severe injuries decimating the roster. In the first season my top two pitchers were knocked out for 4+ months and several other high profile players headed to the 60-day DL. The rate of injuries may be realistic – and filling the holes in the roster becomes a challenge that can be fulfilling to meet – but it’s just seemed especially rough on my team.
Among the different ways to play are starting up this season with the current rosters (including named minor leaguers), playing years from the past through the historical mode, setting up a completely fictional league with all sorts of customization options, and online leagues. Without having played extensively last year its difficult to identify all the differences but work done to the scouting system is definitely notable. Other improvements such as the expanded avenues of player origin and enhanced real-time simulation system are also worth mentioning.
Though the prospective number of those interested in a game of this nature may be somewhat limited what it provides for those who fully dig in and invest the time is one of the richest and most authentic experiences on the market. Out of the Park Baseball 14 is available on the PC and Mac for $40 through the official website.