As many of you know, I’m a pretty big baseball fan. I’m also a pretty big fan of statistics and video games. When those are combined, I fall into a deep love. Recently, I was given the opportunity to play and review Out of the Park Baseball 12. I’d previously tried playing other sim games but the only one that ever stuck with me was the amazing Baseball Mogul series. The BM series was always a favourite of mine because it straddled the line between complexity and fun and managed to be an incredibly friendly experience.
With a few more years under my belt since I last tried an OOTP game, I gave OOTP 12 a try. The first huge plus came before I even started up the program. Not needing to load my Mac into boot camp to play on Windows is a HUGE plus. The fact that the developers took the time to port the game over to OS X is a huge win. On game start-up, I saw all the lines of text, options, and buttons capable of allowing me to craft my ideal league. There was definitely a time when I would’ve been overwhelmed by all the available options but now with a few more years under my belt, I began to embrace the full-on customization. Some of the things you can do in this game are downright fantastic in terms of creating a whole new world of baseball. In order to detail a comprehensive list of available customizations, I’d probably need to post a series ;).
The two aspects that have always interested me in OOTP are its Expansion and Historical League options. Expansion has you starting from scratch by adding a new franchise, going through an expansion draft, signing free agents from leagues around the world…literally what many would assume the job of a GM would be. Halifax can now get its much deserved baseball team! Absolutely fantastic. The one I spent more time on however was going back to 1977 and building my beloved Toronto Blue Jays from the ground up. The game’s historical options allow you to go to essentially any point in baseball history and pick up managing a team. Great for anyone interested in being the evil souls to move the Dodgers to LA or go back to a time when the Pirates and Royals weren’t laughing stocks.
I must say, the game and its customization are great. As someone who really likes to feel in control and take more of a back-office role, this game is exactly what I was looking for. In terms of being an arm-chair GM, this is the only solution. Having tried to go back to Baseball Mogul, I just can’t do it anymore. Once you hit the point where you can comprehend the extensive list of options and statistics available to you, this is the only way to go.
In terms of areas for improvement, beyond the obvious and unavoidable complexity issues, there are only a handful I could pinpoint. Though few in number, the problems are large in size. The first to tackle are with the general user interface. Though much information is available to you, I personally found that much of it was useless or redundant. Additionally, given the sheer amount of menus and pages available, it can be difficult to find certain pages. At times, links do not act the way you’d expect and you can find it difficult to get to the page you need to be at. Much of this can be solved by using the right-click context menu however.
Further, I found it difficult to determine the effect any of my coaches or scouting staff were having. Having ran a few experiments for seasons, I didn’t notice much of a difference in performance. For scouting, I had a considerably odd experience. For many of my fictional players, my scouts seemed absolutely useless. Even with perfect ratings, it still seemed like a complete crap shoot as to whether prospects pan out. I realize that prospects come with inherent risk of busting but it seemed like the in game Baseball America rankings were better than my perfect scouts at judging talent. This is a real shame as I think a coaching and scouting element is absolutely essential to games like this. As an aside, it would also be nice to be able to assign tasks to scouts in a queue instead of having to continuously wait until one task is completed.
Bugs also became quite a big problem in the game. I experienced several crashes and an eventual apparent save game corruption that made me lose 3 seasons of work. After some digging, I found a possible solution to recover my game. But, to be honest, the amount of work I had put in, followed by the loss of it all, followed by the complicated steps that must be taken to recover my game, just proved to be too frustrating an experience. In a few weeks time, I can guarantee I’ll be back in the saddle though starting up my dynasty once more.
In conclusion, I may have spent far more time on the cons than the pros, but that is more due to the fact that these were pretty much the only problems I had with an otherwise perfect game . Completely solid offering and I’d recommend it to any baseball fan looking to fulfill their dream of being a big-league GM.