Bat-To-Ball: Out Of The Park Baseball 13

By Adam Smith on April 10th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

Manly

I may be the one of the few men in England who cares that the new baseball season has just begun over in UnitedStatesVille, USA but I’m surely not the only sports simulation fan to be intrigued by the release of Out of the Park Baseball 13. As with many sports games, the annual releases tend to involve incremental improvements, roster changes and the addition of minor features rather than radical alterations.I’ll list the tweaks to the formula below but, more importantly, I’ll tell you why the series matters and why baseball itself is such a wonderful gift to lovers of all things simulated.

Baseball isn’t about large men grunting and sweating, feigning injury and celebrating with equal mixtures of disrespect and machismo. It isn’t about millionaires being paid to play a game that they presumably enjoy and it isn’t about buying success or jumping from franchise to franchise, caring for the contract rather than the club. You could make an argument that it’s all of those things, as well as being a series of pauses only occasionally interrupted by action and excitement, but here’s another way of looking at it.

hyper-realistic graphics

Baseball is a sport of stats, a nonstop carnival of percentages and decimal places that sets up across the States every year from Spring to Autumn. A seasoned watcher of bat-to-ball can read the boxscore of a game and all but see every hit and error as they played out. Those aren’t large men grunting and sweating; they are mathematical constructs, their quantities and qualities calculated in the aftermath of the thousands of balls they have pitched, batted, fielded and fumbled. But, of course, no calculation is perfect and it’s that element of luck, that possibility of a moment of unpredictable brilliance, or the shocking flub of a veteran.

There’s a reason that the numbers matter more than in other sports. Many reasons, actually, two of which I’ll dissect just a little. The first is the number of games that take place in a season and therefore a career, and tied to that is the more than a century old archive to which every statistic is added, an ever-accumulating encyclopaedia of numerical knowledge. Basically, it’s a game that produces a lot of numbers, which means that it’s easier to see patterns in those numbers, easier to make sense of averages.

numbers. lots of numbers

The game’s other stat-friendly quality is that, on the whole, although a team game, it’s also a match of individuals against one another, or at least individuals applying their skills almost independently. A pitcher has a fielding staff to provide coverage of the field and a catcher to flash signs at him, but its his arm that is tested again and again throughout a match, throughout a season. Likewise, when batting a player’s eye is called into question, his ability to read intent, his understanding of the pitcher’s history, temperament and talents. All of this makes the numbers that accrue around each player a more accurate descriptor than, say, the number of assists a winger manages to lay on during a season of foot-to-ball.

And that’s why Out of the Park Baseball is such a fascinating simulation. It’s mostly numbers, although the storylines that develop outside the games themselves have been made interactive with this latest version, providing more character and narrative impetus. Like Football Manager, it’s a game that simulates an entire world, although Out of the Park goes much deeper with its simulation, allowing for the creation of historical and fictional leagues. Play from any point in the history of the sport, with strategies evolving and league expansions happening as they did in real life. Or, better still, begin a fictional league in the nineteenth century and allow it to develop, with rules changing, franchises being added and legends being discovered.

People = numbers

Simulating the entire history of a sport from its origins to an alternate modern day is a uniquely powerful use of number crunching and, like almost everything that I enjoy, it’s a perfect framework on which to hang a thousand stories. The first member of your team inaugurated into the Hall of Fame, a mark left on the world for as long as that world exists, or the promising rookie blighted by injury, never achieving what you knew he was capable of.

I just noticed that a press release for the game informs me that “players in OOTP are not just numbers” and I realise I’ve spent many a word describing how actual baseball players are numbers. I take their point but it’s the numbers that matter, to me, because stitch enough of them together, pit them against one another in a complex simulation, and numbers can tell a story just as well as words can. That’s what a simulation of this quality and depth proves.

This man is a good bat-to-ballsman

So, the new version is out. I haven’t played it yet so can’t tell you whether the additions are notable or not. New rosters are in place, of course, as is a realtime simulation mode, AI improvements, a redesigned interface and a historical mode with real players randomly inserted, rather than debuting as they did in reality. More details on all the additions here.

It’s £26.74, which is about 10p for every hour I’ll probably end up sinking into it if you see any value in applying such calculations to your entertainment. While there isn’t a demo available yet, the previous version does have a trial that you can grab for Windows here, or for Linux and Mac here.

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32 Comments »

  1. pertusaria says:

    Your review of Football Manager 2012 was a major factor in my eventual purchase of the game (first time I’ve picked up the series), so thank you. I’ll probably give this one a look eventually, but at the moment I have plenty to do managing footballer simulacra. :-)

  2. Iconik says:

    I couldn’t be more happier with this review. As a citizen of the United States, I understand the extreme importance the game of baseball has had in the history of this country. And you nailed it. It’s a game of numbers. I can read a box score in the morning and virtually see the game unfold before me with nothing more than stats and numbers. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful games on earth. It’s a game of pacing. A game that allows you to talk about it while it’s going on. Such a beautiful and wonderous game.

    I get OOTPB every year. This year will be no different.

    Go Cardinals!

    • Bonedwarf says:

      Skipping this year for the first time in a long time. No reason other than financial.

      Wonderful game. Bought all but one year (until this year) since OOTP3 back in… 1998 I want to say.

      I can still remember the first player in my first league to hit 60 home runs. Bill Womack. I name every MVP award after him to this day.

      I love how I can just get it going and leave it overnight and come back to a rich baseball history, usually fictional in my case. Seeing the legends, the small fry…

      I love Football Manager, played that since the very first red boxed Amiga Championship Manager, but OOTP offers so much FM doesn’t. What I wouldn’t give to generate fictional leagues, or replay history in FM. (FM offers fictional players, but the teams stay real, and you can’t, say, start in 1950).

      OOTP is the best sports sim out there IMO. Fantastic to see it getting RPS coverage. Saddens me I can’t afford it this year, but it really is worth checking out. Its quality is unsurpassed.

  3. Ysellian says:

    Simulating an entire history sounds pretty damn impressive.

  4. Iconik says:

    Google: CSFBL if you want a free browser based simulator that is just as good as OOTPB.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      In order for CFSBL to be as good as OOTP, it needs to let me do this, since this is how I play:

      I want to start in the year 1900, but using the teams/league structure/uniforms/etc from 1980. All computer-generated players, so I have to judge them on their performance/scouting instead of saying ‘oh hey, that’s Norm Cash, he’ll probably be cheap and valuable’. I want the generated stats to come out to the average of post-WWII and pre-expansion minus the second deadball era – i.e. I want the ratios of stats to work out to the norms for 1950-1961 and 1969-1992. I want to be able to set custom financials so I can have the TV income for each team set proportionately to their market sizes and locked so it doesn’t change. Can I export the players/stats to a CSV file at the end of the year to import into MS Access so I can generate tables of advanced metrics? Oh yeah, I also like doing the amateur draft after the season ends and before free agency starts. Having all the modern rules on roster and contract management is also a big plus.

      Can it do this? Does it provide AI that has gotten to a point where it’s difficult to exploit? Does it have a huge online community providing fanmade content and leagues? Can I set up a league that operates as a global entity, with multiple leagues all over the world that exist independently of each other but in the same gameworld so players and personnel can move around realistically?

      • Iconik says:

        It’s a keeper league where certain leagues take it incredibly serious. I got lucky and showed promise and was asked to join the AAA league, which is the league you join before getting into the official MLB league ran by veterans and hardcore vets. I eventually made it to MLB. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

        Take a look at it. I really don’t think you’ll be let down. It’s an incredible time waster. Put in as little or as much time as you want. It’s very rewarding.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      HAHAHA! Good one mate! Yes, a web based baseball game is as good as OOTP.

      Even other baseball games aren’t as good as OOTP.

      ROFL

      • Iconik says:

        Make sure to judge it before you even glance at it.

        The Internet.

  5. datom says:

    I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. I have built dynasties, logged 10 real-life years and 20 OOTP seasons in an on-line league, I even spent six months accurately recreating the 1969 season for one version, even though I wasn’t born for another 12 years, I’ve simmed 100 years then started playing, I’ve crafted uniforms and logos, set up leagues intended to simulate college/high school/arena league baseball, I’ve simmed 4-team leagues and 200-team universes. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain …

    OOTP, the greatest computer game of all time. My baseball obsession, as a Scot, was born through the numbers Adam mentions above; OOTP allows me to create fictional worlds with the verisimiltude of real baseball. Best played with MLB Audio in the background.

    Iconik: I suppose in some ways CSFBL is as good as OOTP5 (released in 2001) if it had all it’s world-building stripped out and was online only – that’s not an insult (I loved OOTP5), but you’re really better off with one of the many freeware OOTP releases. If you want a game engine, a world generator, a universe machine … there is only OOTP.

  6. Phantoon says:

    I had never heard of this series prior to this.

    Not for me, but it sounds nice.

  7. Megadyptes says:

    Baseball is truly the sport of kings autists.

  8. Crane says:

    But can it surpass ‘Out of the Park Baseball 2007′, the second best PC game of all time?

    • Dan Lowe says:

      Though that also links to a clear indication why meta-scores are based more on mob mentality than the true average reaction by those who play the game. The user score is heavily weighted by people voting down the user score because they don’t want the game to be second, probably never even having played it.

      (Edit: grammar.)

  9. kimadactyl says:

    Baseball – Cricket for Americans.

    • Bo Steed says:

      I always love hearing that argument, mostly because it’s so laughably inaccurate.

      • Ian says:

        As long as you accept that you’re dealing in massive generalisations (both about the two sports and the respective nations) it’s not that laughable.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Cricket and Baseball are a lot closer to each other than, say, football (of either variety).
        Both feature a small ball, thrown at a man who will try to hit it with a wooden bat, whilst the opposing team tries to catch it to get the hitter out. Scores come from running a certain distance, and the games tend to take a while and tend not to be as continuously fast paced as, eg, football.
        Of course there are loads of differences, otherwise we’d just call them ballicket or something.

        Mind you, calling it rounders for americans would be another thing ;)

  10. leeder krenon says:

    I haven’t played OOTP for a long long time, but it always used to lack soul. Very much a numbers game, far more so than the FM series sadly. Best experienced I found in an online league, I had some good times with OOTP in this format.

  11. Was Neurotic says:

    I would love to get into bball, but I’m crap with numbers and I fear that without them, the actual game is too slow/impenetrable for me to really dig.

    • moondog548 says:

      How bout this: baseball is *tension* dramatically punctuated by calamity.

      (that said, it can be boring, especially if a pitcher is being a slothard- his own defense will usually make him pay for that, though.)

      Also: go Cardinals! :D

  12. Jason Moyer says:

    Best sports series ever. I didn’t buy last year’s, just because I haven’t had the time to dedicate to OOTP that I’d like (I used to play it religiously from versions 2 through 6.5), but I definitely plan on picking up the new one and starting another sort-of-historically-based league of all randomly generated players. In addition to being genuinely great at simulating the game of baseball, it has a level of customization built-in that I’ve never seen anyone else come close to matching without the use of an external SDK or something.

  13. Fanbuoy says:

    Baseball? Baseball? Okay, I admit to being quite intrigued by this piece, as it sounds like something just up my alley, but… baseball? I love RPS for two reasons: supreme writing and british people. Being Swedish, I’m constantly drenched in Americanism and therefore come here to balance the account. You’re breaking my heart, Adam.. Can’t you love a cricket game instead and leave this to the colonists?

    • bill says:

      RPS appears to be on a quest to appeal to american readers.
      Understandable, as their the biggest audience… but a little sad as there’s already dozens of game sites with a US flavor.

      Having watched a few games of baseball over the years I’m pretty sure that watching lots of numbers on a screen will create an accurate simulation. though if i don’t have access to huge amounts of fast food and drink between each round then that’ll take 95% of the enjoyment out of the sport.

  14. Ian says:

    I’ve never played any of the series and have less interest in baseball than I do in sellotape, and yet even when John did a review of one of the games in the dim and distant past I thought; “I could probably get into that.”

  15. Premium User Badge

    deadfolk says:

    Obligatory ‘What DRM does this use?’ comment coming up…

    What DRM does this use?

  16. Temple says:

    Not missing something am I?
    No way to actually watch baseball on TV in the UK anymore?
    Internet not good enough for mlb.tv

    Took a year off work to watch about… 350 games a while back.
    I miss NASN :(

  17. Leandro says:

    I love Football Manager, and I’d like to see more sport simulations like it. I’d like an American Football game like that, for example. I’m tempted to try baseball, but I’m afraid my lack of knowledge would limit my enjoyment and tire me before I start to really understand the game and the sport.

    At least the UI seems much improved, last version of the game I saw looked awful, but it has been quite a while since I last glanced at this series.

    • Moth Bones says:

      You should pick up the knowledge as you go along, and being an American sport there is oodles of internettage to help you get to grips with it.

      If anything I rate OOTP even higher than FM – because of the discrete nature of the action your decisions as manager have far more direct influence. You can choose to quickplay through innings or at-bats, slowing down to pitch-by-pitch if the action gets tight, ordering men to steal bases, sacrifice bunt or whatever.

      As for baseball vs cricket – imo the sports are similar-ish but with opposite emphasis. In baseball the pitcher is the defender – giving up a run can be compared to losing a wicket. For me, Test cricket is still the supreme sport, but a baseball game possesses more drama and excitement than a limited overs cricket match.

  18. Syt says:

    One strikeout is a tragedy, a million strikeouts are a statistic.
    - “Stallin’” Joe Djugashvili, manager Moscow Red Stars 1922-1953

    I love baseball and buy OOTP every year. Last year’s release was a bit ho-hum and I didn’t gte much mileage out of it, but this year’s version is IMHO quite a jump forward, with the much improved user interface, the real time simming mode and the customizable playoffs and league associations.

  19. AstaSyneri says:

    Wow – I just bought OOTP 13 – and even not being a Baseball fan at all, I am immensely enjoying the game!

    If you like sports simulations and aren’t afraid of large screens with numbers on them (and nothing to shoot at, even though that would sometimes solve your problems with opposing pitchers ;-)), go look into this game! There is the OOTP 8 version for free download (and it’s already strong), but the 13 looks a lot better and plays great!