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April 27, 2010

Out of the Park

Reviewing OOTP 11

by Marc Normandin

Out of the Park Baseball has long been known as the baseball simulator, as it offers more options and depth than any other game on the market. The latest edition, OOTP 11, adds to that tradition by giving you more features and options than you will probably ever use, but that also guarantees that almost everyone will find something to love about it.

Let's get this out of the way now though: if you're looking for a baseball game where the games are the focus, then OOTP is not for you. It does have a play-by-play feature where you "watch" the games, but this is essentially like watching MLB.com's Gameday. It's not exactly a thrilling way to spend a few hours, especially when you can create dynasties and franchises that last for years. If, however, your goal is to act more as a general manager, and control a team on a day-to-day level in that capacity, then this is the title for you.

You can get lost exploring all of the different options available, even prior to starting the game. When the game loads, you are given the chance to check out the online manual, tutorial videos, or the OOTP forums for some seasoning. You can jump in with a Quick Start game, which uses preset formats and allows you to skip a lot of the customization, but chances are good you are going to want to dig a bit deeper than that.

You can also create a Custom Game, a Historical Game, or a 2010 Game, or even import a game from OOTP 10. My personal favorite is the historical game, mostly so you can go back and change history. Ever imagine what would happen if the strike never occurred in 1994? You can give it a shot (I did) and see if the Montreal Expos still come away with the division lead. It's also somewhat amazing to see how much things change—for example, I traded Larry Walker for Mike Mussina prior to the start of the season, then signed Moose to an extension, as well as Marquis Grissom (who in real life was dealt to the rival Atlanta Braves), and John Wetteland. This changes the face of the league in many ways—Grissom helped the '95 Braves, who won the World Series, and Wetteland was an important part of the Yankees at the same time. The Orioles ended up representing the American League in the World Series, in no small part because they received Larry Walker, and, when not forced with financial troubles and the loss of key players, the Expos were able to field just as good of a club the following year.

This ability to alter history for your own entertainment is very well done. Real-life players continue to appear in amateur entry drafts, meaning you can sign them and hope that you strike gold, just like real organizations did. Since the game develops players based on many factors (potential, your own scouting and development, etc.) you will not necessarily get, say, Derek Jeter, if you draft him. He may turn into something else in this alternative universe, which makes for a compelling experience.

The game also changes as you move through the era you have selected—ticket prices will increase, the face of the league will change (expansion and expansion drafts are something you can toggle on and off if you desire), and you can start as early as 1871 or as late as 2009. OOTP also gives you a small summary of the season in which you began, so as to give you some context before you make your decision, which is a nice touch.

You can change the names of clubs and cities, set the minor leagues (do you want Rookie League through Triple-A, none of the above, or a random grouping of them? You can do all of those things), make it so fictional players are never promoted to the majors on the clubs you are not controlling…if you can think it, you can tweak it, and that kind of freedom goes a long way toward ensuring that your experience with OOTP will be a positive one.

In a custom game, you do not necessarily need to use the league formats for Major League Baseball—you could set up a league in the Japanese style, or maybe Cuban, Korean, Taiwan, Mexican—the list goes on. From here you can make a fictional league (any structure you want to create from scratch, with fictional players) a standard league where the players are fictional but the formatting is based on real-world leagues, a historical league like the one mentioned above, or one set up from a template that is already created.

If you want to be carefree and mess around, you can turn off the ability for the owner to fire you. If you want to play more realistically, though, you're going to have to worry about player morale, fan interest in your team, how the owner feels about things (and whether or not you are matching their expectations about your season) in addition to the things you would expect, like building 25-man and 40-man rosters, your lineups, your rotation, etc. The owners at times are a little too fickle—it's odd to see them upset with you when you are two games out of first in August (in a year when many key players are injured, even), especially when your fans are more interested in you as the year goes by. The good news is that they don't can you based on mood swings—you have to prove that you're incapable of fixing the organization before that happens.

You can watch the games as mentioned, or you can simulate a day at a time or a week at a time. You will receive messages in your inbox while simulating: league news flows in, as well as trade offers, injury concerns, notifications about contract negotiations, etc. Sometimes it's almost too much information to take in—it can feel like you're reading about the top story from every beat writer in the country on some days—but the information is there for you if you want it. For example, you may see a rumor that a team is putting someone on the block, and maybe you want that position filled or strengthened on your own club. It's a good idea to keep an eye out for things like that, since they can benefit you, but if you would rather control your own destiny, you can always ignore those messages and let your inbox grow.

The one knock I have against OOTP, besides the somewhat boring play-by-play viewing experience (easily rectified with the simulations) are some of the production values. Real logos are not used for clubs, so there are some pretty generic-looking ones in place. Player faces on the player cards are the worst offender, though—I don't really care if you can't make Barry Bonds look like Barry Bonds, especially when, going further back, I'm not going to be able to tell you if Tris Speaker's chin actually looks like it does in his image in OOTP. What is bothersome, though, is when players are not even the right color—maybe it's because I named my league "Alternate Universe," but I don't remember a black Chuck Knoblauch or a skinny and white Cecil Fielder playing in 1994. The images are randomly generated, but that may be something to work on for OOTP 12.

Admittedly, that doesn't take away from the value of the simulation experience, it's just one of those little things that can get annoying and take away from the overall product. The core game here is very strong, and there is a reason that OOTP has managed to get this many iterations in over the years. If you're a fan of the series, snag the latest version, and if you're new to the world of baseball sims, you can't go wrong picking up OOTP to fill that void.

Grade: A- (Games scored with an "A" are considered elite, must-buys.)

 Out of the Park Baseball 11 is available on Windows PC and Mac, and retails for $39.99. This review is for the PC version, which was released on April 14. Developed and published by OOTP Developments.   

Related Content:  Korean League

32 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

JoshC77

Thanks for the review Marc, I was contemplating this weekend whether or not to purchase this. It is nice to get some input from someone on this site.

Apr 27, 2010 04:09 AM
rating: 0
 
ootpbb

Thanks for the review! It should be noted that free user-created mods are available which supply 'real' faces data (along with logos, stadiums etc.), so Jeter will look like Jeter (and even age or show emotions) which is quite amazing. Tons of historical faces are available as well, so Tris Speaker's chin is likely featured too. Installing the mods is a snap, the game features an add-on center which let's you download and install these with a couple of mouse clicks.

Apr 27, 2010 04:33 AM
rating: 2
 
Marc Normandin

Thanks for the info on that. It was bothersome to me, so it's good to see that the community took care of it.

Apr 27, 2010 09:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The real faces and logos have something to do with the MLBPA licensing or rather, OOTP's lack of it.

Apr 27, 2010 11:18 AM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

I don't mind the faces not being real, because I know there are licensing issues involved. But at least get the color right.

Apr 27, 2010 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
straightoutofhxc

There are great mods on the forum to get real pictures into the game.

Apr 28, 2010 08:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Which is nice, but you review the game out of the box, not the one people turn it into.

Apr 28, 2010 09:06 AM
rating: 0
 
David J Marsh

is there an easy way to upload real faces and team logos? If so any advice would help my thecnologically challenged self

Apr 28, 2010 12:50 PM
rating: 0
 
awayish

I just got the game a few days ago and oh boy it is a black hole devouring my spare time. The level of depth in the game is pretty astounding. I especially like how you can choose to use various talent scouting scales, like the 20-80 instead of stars based, or tell your scouts to look for the infamous statistical performer rather than toolsy prospects.

Only complaint is that the ai trading scheme is a little out of whack. You can get a high ceiling prospect by simply trading away 10 absolute nonprospects. I don't think that's a realistic valuation when you take into account roster scarcity.

Apr 27, 2010 05:12 AM
rating: 1
 
craigwinn

I had to stop playing an earlier version of this game a few years ago. It consumed my life and it was very hard to sit down and work. All I could think about was the best way to develop my minor leaguers and whether or not to punt the season and trade for prospects, etc.

Apr 27, 2010 05:45 AM
rating: 0
 
hessshaun

LOL, that is classic.

Apr 27, 2010 06:16 AM
rating: 0
 
cubfan131

I know the feeling. I first discovered OOTP during finals week in college. I didn't get any studying done but I still passed all my tests. I've tried to limit how much I play since then but it isn't easy.

Apr 27, 2010 06:32 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

I had the same issue with What if Sports a few years back - my simming days are done. Too obsessive.

Apr 27, 2010 13:29 PM
rating: 0
 
solorpg

You may know this, Marc, but other people reading the article should be aware that the people who make OOTP are very aggressive about promoting things like player facepacks and team logos as available downloads that you can just plop in a folder and use. All my historic players (with an exception of about 3%--and most of those guys are random) have photos, and the entire current league does too.

Apr 27, 2010 06:49 AM
rating: 1
 
awayish

Yea, you can get photos for your coaches and managers as well. I was disappointed with the lack of a gene monahan photo though.

Apr 27, 2010 07:33 AM
rating: 0
 
Bob

I appreciate this review and I don't doubt for a second the integrity of Marc Normandin, but I think it's a bit problematic to review a game that buys advertising space on Baseball Prospectus. There at least needs to be a disclaimer somewhere in the review.

Apr 27, 2010 08:18 AM
rating: 6
 
shirazu

I agree with this, not a fan of this type of review. Seemed more like promotion to me.

Still, the game is good, a must buy if you haven't played OOTP before and have any interest in gaming at all (by virtue of reading this site you have the requisite baseball interest). However I'm not sure if 11 is such an upgrade over 10 and the review doesn't cover this. Furthermore in the past this game has been very buggy when it first comes out.

Apr 27, 2010 08:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Peter Benedict

I may be weird, but I LOVE playing out each game. I like making the tactical decisions in-game. I am glad I don't have to play the batter or pitcher, and the text-based play by play (on fast speed) is enjoyable for me. I don't think it'd be everyone's cup of tea, but I basically play OOTP as a year-long sim for my favorite team (the Twins) in which I get to do the in-game management. It's fun.

Apr 27, 2010 10:05 AM
rating: 0
 
cdmyers

Has anyone played this and Baseball Mogul? Opinions on which is better than the other?

Apr 27, 2010 10:39 AM
rating: 0
 
Aaron W

The standard comparison is that OOTP provides depth and customization and a stronger statistical model. BM provides a much friendlier user experience and sims faster.

It all comes down to what you value more.

Apr 27, 2010 11:06 AM
rating: 1
 
Brent McAnney

What Aaron said is exactly right, and I'd say the reality is even more extreme. BM is fun for what it is, but there is almost no realism to speak of. That said, it is a fun little time killer if you don't want to spend the time to immerse yourself in OOTP.

Apr 27, 2010 14:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Bill N

Marc,

Have you tried the Baseball Mogul franchise, and if so could you compare/contrast the two, even briefly? I've only played the Mogul series up until now.

Apr 27, 2010 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Tarakas

A few years ago, I tried OOTP, and I had a bad experience. The interface was terrible, sorting through options and choices and information became tedious, and maybe it was just bad luck, but my choices seemed not to matter. Basically every player I acquired suddenly stunk or got hurt. It didn't matter what their talent level was, past performance, etc. This was a universe where Carl Crawford could only hit an empty .240 if I had him. I know people rave about the program--maybe I just had bad luck. But I spent a lot of time on the program, and all it did was produce endless frustration as I spent lots of time on seemingly meaningless choices.

I started a league from scratch--maybe that was my problem.

Apr 27, 2010 11:15 AM
rating: 1
 
awayish

If you don't have "update player rating from real stats" enabled, chances are you are simply getting crawford as a bad hitting, no power prospect.

Apr 27, 2010 11:41 AM
rating: 1
 
HonusCobb

The worst the game ever was, was when it teamed up with Sega for a couple years. I can't remember which version it was. Out of the Park 2007 and 2008? So you may have gotten those copies too. I loved the early ones. I had 4 through 6.5. OOTP 10 is pretty good too.

Apr 27, 2010 18:04 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The thing that always irked me about OOTP was it was hard to retain existing coaches or get new quality coaches. Overall though, it's a fun game.

Also, Inside the Park is a fun classic put out by the same people. Basically you are a baseball player trying to get to the major leagues, adjusting workout schedules, buying equipment, and stuff.

Apr 27, 2010 11:20 AM
rating: 0
 
rjblakel

Anyone have recommendations for an iPhone baseball game?

Apr 27, 2010 14:36 PM
rating: 0
 
paperwinner

Are steriods an option in this game.

Apr 27, 2010 15:35 PM
rating: 2
 
HonusCobb

I don't have this years copy. But in last years you can have drugs suspensions on or off.

Apr 27, 2010 17:59 PM
rating: 1
 
Adam Hobson

Hm, I've been a Baseball Mogul guy for years, mainly because I didn't know this existed. I think the native Mac support alone wins me over, because it's a real resource and fun sucker to have to emulate Windows via VMWare Fusion just to play a little baseball simulator...

Apr 28, 2010 07:43 AM
rating: 0
 
offbase99

Marc -- could you cover (briefly) the differences between OOTP 11 and OOTP 10?

Apr 28, 2010 19:25 PM
rating: 0
 
szathkey

There is a ton on the forums of this game about the differences between versions, the difference between OOTP and Mogul, all kinds of mods, and all of the other things people are asking about. I love the game and have been playing for a few years now. I suggest you all check it out.

May 01, 2010 16:55 PM
rating: 0
 
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