Confession - I'm a dork. This might have been obvious even to the most casual reader, on account of how I participate in online discussions and have my own blog. (That, by default, makes you at least a bit of a dork too - believe it or not, most ordinary folks do not read blogs, have message board accounts, or even use Twitter. If your drive for news goes beyond a major paper's website and your social networking extends past vigorously stalking your ex's pictures on Facebook, then you are Tapin' the Bridge of your Glasses, my friend.) But don't sweat it - nerds are cool these days.
One way that I have always proudly displayed my inherently dorky side is through playing simulation video games, especially for baseball. I first discovered them probably back in 2002 or 2003, when I picked up Baseball Mogul and simulated my beloved Cubs into the 22nd century. (They won. A lot. This is an addictive quality.)
However, while I like Baseball Mogul, it was a pretty simple program. Then around 2003 I joined an online baseball league that used a program called Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP for short). To further cement the fact that I'm a raging nerd whose geekiness can not be sated by mere Star Trek marathons, or deep speculative theory over the many ways in which Jar Jar could die, the league I joined was based in Middle Earth. Yep, that's right, we were all managing hobbits, dwarves, orcs and more. Uberdorky and proud of it.
The program we used at the time was pretty awesome, and head and shoulders above Baseball Mogul. Since then, I've been pretty much addicted to OOTP and have purchased every new version since released.
Earlier this past baseball season, they released OOTP 12 and were thoughtful enough to ask me to review it for GROTA. How could I say no?
OOTP - The Positives
First and foremost, this game does not have graphics in the traditional sense. While it is extremely pleasant to look at, when you use the program you'll be working with numbers. Lots of numbers. Kinda like Theo Epstein!
You can choose to manage any team you want. In fact, you can even manage them historically. Want to simulate the 1956 season as the Red Sox? Why not? Want to take over the Cubs at the start of the 2003 season and change their direction for the decade? You can! The game even includes historic - and current - players. You get to negotiate contracts, orchestrate trades, and it even has an elaborate and detailed drafting & scouting system. (In my game, I've decided to dump all the Cubs resources into scouting Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Sure, most of those guys probably don't know how to hold the bat right-side-up, but on the off chance that there's a Base Ruthiskinochovich out there, I'll find him.)
You can literally simulate through a season in fast order, burning through 162 games in perhaps an hour or so, or you can manage every single game down to each pitch and swing of the bat. Players get good, then they get old, then they retire. Luckily, there's always a rookie to replace them and, if your favorite hangs up his cap in 2020, you can always hire him to be a coach.
I have to confess that I have a small problem with "god mode." I have the ability to manipulate talent. If I think Kerry Wood has gotten a raw shake in life, I can sneak in, make him a pitching gawd and turn him from a Frail Old Woman into an Iron Man. ...which may be why my teams tend to win 120 games a year. But it's my game, dammit! What are you gonna do about it? (And if you're really vindictive, you can reduce Albert Pujols's talent to that of a minor leaguer while giving him a massive contract and a no-trade clause, thereby forcing the Cardinals to drag his sorry ass through each and every season until he finally retires as the richest mediocre player to ever live.)
BTW - when talking about how much you can manipulate, let me be clear: you can do anything. Want to expand the leagues and have a player draft? Go for it. You can even pick the cities. Want to relocate the Washington Nationals back to Montreal? Why not? If you want to change the number of games in a year, the playoff system, the average wage of a major leaguer, the requirements needed for a player to reach the Hall of Fame, it's all within your power. And believe me, it's very easy to lose hours and hours to playing this game. Which isn't to say that it's perfect.
OOTP - The Negatives
I don't particularly think that this game could be better, which isn't to say that they won't improve it for OOTP 13. However, there is a bit of a learning curve to using the program. Realistically, I barely scratch the surface in the game I play - if I wanted, I could focus on a Japanese league, or create a brand spankin' new Euro League, or whatever. But mostly I just stick to the Majors, in part because they are the easiest to find. That isn't to say that the game is tough to navigate, although I guarantee you that there are cool features in OOTP that you'll never find, or learn about, unless you actively seek out information on the game onilne.
Another very minor quibble I have is that, occasionally, fiddling can cause things to go wrong. Specifically with the ratings system - it's possible to screw it up so that you can't read your players' talent/potential. (You just need to make sure you are currently employing a scout, preferably one who is very talented so as to not accidentally believe that your young Corey Patterson is the next Willie Mays.)
So is it worth $40?
For me, yes. For crazy nerds like me, absolutely. I mean this truly - it will occupy a portion of your time that you didn't know you had to spare. It's that much fun, and that addictive. But if $40 is a bit too much to bite off, then don't worry - you can grab it for less from time to time, when they have sales, or you can pre-order the next one - OOTP 13 - for a discount. Or, you can have a taste by buying an older version of the game for as little as $9.95 in order to see if it's a good fit for you.
But in any case, if you are attracted to testing your mettle and building a winning baseball team, then OOTP is an excellent game that will more than quench your thirst. Or if you want to screw with baseball and do things like 1) force a 50-year-old Jamie Moyer out of retirement to pitch for the Cubs (I did this), 2) orchestrate an insane trade for Bryce Harper (I did this) or simply 3) adjust Albert Pujols's age to accurately reflect that he's 39 years old, then you can do all that, too.
Oh, and one other thing I'll say about the game - minus the ridiculous manipulations that I made on the 2011 Cubs, the game was damned accurate when simulating the 2011 season. The Rangers, Tigers, Brewers, Cardinals, and Braves all did well, and many digital players put up very comparative numbers with their real-life compatriots. I consider this to be a hallmark of OOTP's accuracy and awesomeness.
Filed under: Product Review