The folks at Out Of The Park Developments were kind enough to send me a copy of their new baseball simulator for computer, OOTP Baseball 13. After playing around with it for a while, here are my thoughts.
First of all, what the heck is a baseball simulator? Before I played the game, I honestly had no idea. When OOTP Developments gave me the game I was pretty sure I was getting a video game like I played on Nintendo and Xbox when I was younger. I was completely wrong. OOTP 13 is a game, yes. But it’s not as involved and time-consuming as the baseball video games you’re used to.
Something that sent a shock through my system is the fact that you don’t actually play the games. You’re not controlling when the batter swings or when the pitcher pitches. You’re watching. There is some amount of control you can exert- you can tell the batter to swing, to take the pitch, to bunt, or a bunch of other options, or you can tell the runners on the bases to steal. But really, you’re simulating. Simulating was what you did on your console baseball games to get from the last game you played to the next one. Here, it’s different. In OOTP 13, you’re not watching animations of whatever happens in the games. You can really get the full experience in OOTP 13 without actually playing an individual game.
The whole game is a simulation. You set your roster, make the moves you want to make, and you watch to see how your team does. And in terms of simulating, there are an incredible amount of options for how you want to simulate. If you really have to get work done but still want to keep the game going, you can set the simulation speed to realtime. Yes, realtime. That means that your watching the scores of your games and the other league games as they happen, and they take around 3 hours to complete. That allows you to be doing something completely different and check back intermittently to see how your team is doing. It’s the same type of score-checking that you would do if you unfortunately could not watch your major league team of preference on any given night but would have Gamecast or Gameday or whichever website you use open to see what’s going on every few minutes. OOTP 13′s actual games are not far from Gameday’s featuring a radio broadcast (like the Gameday Audio you can buy from MLB.com) and not any actual video or animation of what is happening in the games, with two major differences: 1) your ability to control certain parts of the game and 2) you can simulate through the games as much as you want, skipping as little as a half-inning or as much as the entire game. OOTP 13 allows to simulate within games or across the entire league that you are playing with. Other than realtime simulation when simulating your team’s entire league, you can simulate faster. And if you choose, you don’t have to simulate just one game. You can simulate as many days in advance as you want at realtime or faster and you can stop the simulation at any time if say your team is in a slump and you want to make a trade. Your computer does have to be on to simulate, but if you wanted to, you could have OOTP 13 minimized on your computer for 6 months and set to simulate 6 months in advance and then check back how your team did that season when you were done. OOTP 13 is not an interactive game in terms of the games themselves. But that may be precisely its appeal. Especially for those of us with full-time jobs, it’s too time-consuming to play too many video games and you can’t do anything else while you’re doing them. For OOTP 13, it’s in the background, allowing you to keep simulating even while focusing on many other things.
While the individual games themselves are not very interactive, the interface certainly is. Before you start, you get to choose whether you would like to start a “Major League Game,” a “Historical Game,” or a “Custom Game.” For a Major League Game, you’re basically simulating the 2012 MLB season with accurate rosters and even injuries. There are some bench players and Quad-A guys that may be pre-set as on the roster, but that’s easily fixable if you want to start your team with the exact Opening Day roster as the real team. OOTP 13 also takes into account injuries that players suffered prior to the season and reacts accordingly- if you start a Major League Game in OOTP 13 with the Tampa Bay Rays, B.J. Upton and Kyle Farnsworth will both be on the disabled list to begin the season like they were in real life.
For Historical Games, you can start any season from 1871 all the way to 2011 with accurate teams- for example, if you start an 1871 league, you can play as the Baltimore Canaries, Cleveland Forest Cities, or Brooklyn Atlantics. How realistic you want to make the league is up to you. You can have a fantasy draft of players who were around during that time period only, or you can do a draft with players from all eras. After a certain point (I don’t know the cut-off) you can start the league with accurate rosters of the teams during that season. For historical games, you can do what you want, but the other teams that are controlled by the CPU will play in accordance with how the game was played during the era you chose. For example, if you start an 1871 game, you can have 5-man starting rotation, but the other teams will have one-man “rotations” with the same starting pitcher going just about every time out just like the case was back in 1871. Salaries are also adjusted based on year- $1000 was a lot of money back in 1871 but peanuts in terms of salary today. Historical games allow you to be the GM of a team from any era, which is pretty cool. For Custom Games, things get even crazier as now you’re working with fictional players, but otherwise it’s pretty similar to Historical Games.
In terms of fictional players, even when you do a historical game, there will almost always have to be fictional players, if nothing else to fill the minor leagues. One way to get rid of them is to have “ghost players” fill the spots where the actual players are not, and you can also set it so that fictional players cannot make the major leagues. Speaking of major leagues, OOTP 13 allows you to not just play in American major leagues, but also all around the world. The players will almost certainly be fictional once you leave the US, but it’s still fun to get a taste of baseball around the world.
OOTP 13 is something very interesting that I couldn’t have even fathomed before I saw it. It takes baseball simulation to the extreme and gives you an incredible amount of options to mold your league into exactly what you want, and at the same time, you can play it without using up much time that you could spend doing other things. The one annoying thing that I found was the fantasy drafts, that they were the most time-consuming part of the game, taking hours (especially when the league was made up of players I was not familiar with) even when I simulated from one of my picks to the next.
One thing I was hoping I could do with OOTP 13 but could not was to work with minor leaguers from the lowest levels upwards so I could simulate enough ahead to fuel some of the what-if scenarios I love doing at RCG. For example, I did an article about how Rays history would be different if Josh Hamilton never needed drug rehabilitation and began his major league career with the Rays but there was no way for me to do that because Hamilton was not listed as being in the Rays system at any point of the game. I was hoping that I could start a new game with Hamilton on one of the Rays’ A-ball franchises and then simulated until he made the major leagues, but the only way for me to get Hamilton onto the Rays was through a one-sided trade in 2007 or later that would otherwise cripple my franchise and skew Hamilton’s numbers because he wouldn’t have the same quality of players around him. The article went fine, but I would have loved to see how the simulation would have played out.
OOTP 13 is really more of a global simulation then a fantasy simulation. You can create a fantasy team of superstars and see how they would do because the CPU’s won’t accept one-sided trades in your favor. What it does do is give you a chance to maximize the potential and efficiency of your franchise to win in every era that professional baseball has ever been played, and that’s something that’s an interesting experience if it’s what your looking for and could be a lot of fun.
If you wish to download OOTP 13 or learn more about it, please head here.