Review: Out of the Park Baseball 13 | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

For years, Out of the Park Developments continuously updated their baseball simulation game. Fans moonlighting as General Managers could expect to run into skeptical opposing GMs regarding trade proposals, realistic day-to-day simulations of games, as well as typical hurdles to contract extensions, arbitration buyouts, and player development.

Their latest installment, Out of the Park 13 takes their realistic baseball simulations to an entirely new level. Now, on top of drafting and developing players, determining arbitration figures, free agency negotiations, and other elements of baseball decision-making, General Managers can expect to encounter interactive storylines and new CBA measures.

For those of you that have never tried an OOTP baseball simulation, think about the times you play console baseball video games, asking yourself, “how could I get some more realistic front office features?” OOTP offers you the opportunity to oversee an entire organization, full of players on an active roster, players on the 40-man roster, as well as several minor league affiliates. If you don’t want that much control over your club, you can opt simply to work with the game’s Managerial feature, serving as the field general for a specific club; on the other hand, you can focus specifically on General Managerial duties, if the day-to-day managing doesn’t excite you.

Frankly, the most fun — and the biggest challenge — comes with managing the games and the roster. Combining the General Manager’s role and the Manager’s role into one gamer’s control provides an excellent opportunity to see a roster to its completion and strategical execution on the field.

A regular MLB season starts with 2012 opening day rosters, and you can see your particular organization through the completion of a season. Unlike other baseball simulations, player ratings are dynamic with their level of play. Rebuilding? Don’t push those top prospects too hard, their rating might fall. Yet, if you leave a player at the same level for years, their rating and skills do not automatically improve. It’s a difficult balance between trusting your scouts and weighing that advice against your your desire to quickly get young, potential superstars to the bigs.

If you feel your rebuilding campaign was successful, you can entertain new jobs in the off-season. If you worked in a win-now organization, and want a challenge with a different, young, transitional club, you can entertain the same switch. Or, if you feel like Earl Weaver and want to stay in the same organization for more than a decade, you can do that, too. The beauty of this game is that it plays all of your expectations and strategies against actual markets of available players, against other organizations that might be in a different mode of competition. (In this regard, you really can try and find the right club to unload your starting pitcher in his final contract year, or to find prospects that might be blocked by the big league club).

I know that a lot of us are critical or skeptical of some aspects of the new CBA signed into agreement. Now, in this simulation, you can test your ability to work within the constraints of your organizational budget, slot budget, and your scouting ideology.

In previous OOTP simulations, players could be drafted without much thought to their slot. Default player ratings and potential skillsets could be the guide for certain draft choices, and if a particular player you passed on remained available in the next round, well, that’s all gravy.

Now, the default ratings screen features a player’s bonus demand alongside their skill set and potential. If you see a particular player that looks promising in an early round, and that player has a high bonus demand, you had better think about drafting that player earlier rather than later. After all, if you wait on that player, you might be placed in a situation where their demand well surpasses the recommended slot bonus. Even if this wouldn’t necessarily provide a problem with your budget, it could present a problem with the slotting system.

Of course, the Houston Astros move to the American League West in 2013, resulting in interleague play scattered throughout the season. I have seen the future of interleague play, and it sure is challenging to build a team that can handle regular switches between American League and National League parks. If you’re a National League club, it’s no longer feasible to simply call up that hot prospect that’s raking in AAA for that series at Fenway Park; you might be shuffling that player between the minors and big leagues throughout the season, placing undue strain on your organizational rosters. If you’re an American League club, it’s not necessarily a good thing to pick up that aging ex-1B or ex-RF to serve as your DH, unless you’re okay with inserting him into the field regularly. Since interleague play happens throughout the season, it’s not simply one aspect of the schedule for which you can prepare and get out of the way in one quick segment of games.

If you want even more drama in your regular season, you can use the new interactive storylines feature. This feature allows you to make decisions about fining players on your squad, or publicly disciplining your players. Of course, you can scout your players’ personalities, too; if you don’t believe in chemistry whatsoever, and want to see if you can build the next Oakland Athletics dynasty, you can not only hire players regardless of their personalities, but you can also decide to either let their actions slide, or to try and have an even-hand in controlling it all.

On top of the new CBA features, as well as the new storyline feature, the OOTP staff completely redesigned most of the screens used in the game. As a result, there are intuitive, comprehensive menus to group together different team and league functions (depending on whether you want to view your pitching staff or look at the league waiver wire). Furthermore, you can use an MLB home page to follow the league’s news, and also receive in-depth overviews of your own organization on your managerial home page. These screens are comprehensive!

You may be pleased to know that the game does not automatically favor one type of building strategy; you don’t get sympathy points for trying to build a flexible-budget club stacked with prospects. I tried playing with the Oakland Athletics, in order to see if I could rebuild the club faster than Billy Beane. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I’m currently working in the 2014-2015 offseason to get my club to the 75-win stage. I tried playing the game with realistic injuries, which adds a surprising layer of depth to the game play, and wouldn’t you know it, I pushed some of my promising pitching prospects too hard. It’s difficult to rebuild quickly if you push your very best prospects too quickly and they’re injured for extended periods of time.

Overall, I have always enjoyed OOTP simulations, but this one is clearly the best they’ve ever released. The new CBA touches make a realistic simulation ever-more challenging, all the while keeping the game fun with intuitive controls and navigation. If you want to test your pet theory about the 4-man rotation, the all-situations relief ace, or alternate batting orders, you can build your roster and waiver claims and trades around your preferences. Fine-tuning my own preferences and theories, I can honestly say that I’ve never had more fun winning 72 of 162 games!

OOTP New Features:

All images taken from OOTP Developments.

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