A couple of months ago the 13th edition of OOTP was released. As I pointed out in a recent posting, since I discovered this game a year ago, it has absorbed an inordinate amount of my time, reducing my writing productivity and returning me to my childhood when I spent a lot of time playing games like Stratomatic, Pursue the Pennant, and APBA. OOTP allows you to play the general manager of a baseball team, and would have been perfect for me when I was a teenager. It actually appears to be perfect for me right now. I always preferred the stat-based games to playing or watching actual baseball. The game is as absorbing as any I’ve spent time on.
The new version contains a number of new features. It has the 2012 major league rosters, as well a new rules for free agency, drafts, and financials. It contains new divisional alignments as Houston moves to the AL West in 2013, and adds a 2nd wild card team.
OOTP 13 offers a new interface that contains large, graphically pleasing icons and fonts.
The major changes include a real-time simulation mode, which simulates the day in baseball in the background, providing scores and highlights, while you look for free agents, make trades, and promote or demote minor leaguers. It’s a nice feature that increases the game’s immersion factor.
The game now offers a random debut historical mode. You begin a game at any year in major league history, and the game fills the rosters with players randomly picked from the database. As you move forward, year to year, the game fills the draft pools with random historical players from their debut age. So you can start a season in 1920 and Bob Gibson, Cy Young, and Matt Kemp may be playing. The next year’s rookie draft might include Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Mariano Rivera, or Tim Lincecum.
Interactive storylines are an interesting feature that makes the game more immersive. Here’s a description from the game’s website:
“Your team is mired in a bad slump, and your star player takes his grievances to the media. Do you fine him to set an example, with the possibility he could become even more upset and see his morale decline? Do you ignore the incident and risk losing the respect of other team members? Do you take the drastic step of labeling the player a cancer and releasing him or arranging a hasty trade?” I’ve seen a number of other storylines, including one in which a player gets injured trying to escape from an angry husband.
Another interesting feature, which I haven’t tried, is League Associations. Again, a description from the game’s website:
“The game now supports associations with multiple leagues. Associated leagues may share certain rules, free agents, and/or draft pools. Once all seasons are completed in the associated leagues, the winners may meet in extra playoffs, determining the ultimate champion of your OOTP game.” Eventually I plan on using the association feature to establish a Caribbean World Series, where leagues from several Caribbean nations play a tournament to determine the champion.
The game engine has been redesigned, so that trades are more realistic. I’ve played a number of seasons with OOTP 13 now, and if you set trading to average or hard, it’s tougher to rip off the AI than it used to be. The AI is a more challenging trading partner. The game also claims that pitcher creation and development is more realistic and historical simulations are more accurate (I have not tested those propositions).
OOTP does an excellent job replicating the major leagues of the last few years. It also does a superb job with modern fictional leagues, if you let the game generate fictional players and fill the league with those players.
It is not always accurate with statistical replication of actual players, which is a problem most of the baseball games have. I suspect that Stratomatic or PureSim are more accurate when it comes to strict statistical replay.
One problem I have with the game is that it generates unrealistic names when you play an historical league. The game generates fictional names based on modern America, with a large percentage of foreign and Hispanic names. The problem here is that the America major league had virtually no foreign or Hispanic players throughout its early history. Baseball Mogul, which is OOTP’s closest competitor, can create realistic names for any historical period, so OOTP should take care of this annoyance. In the forums, OOTP’s designers have promised to fix the problem soon.
The game’s player development engine could use some tweaking. Players often go into a decline in their late 20s. Although that sometimes happens in actual baseball, most players hit their peak in their late 20s.
The game’s flexibility is awe-inspiring. It allows you to create virtually any world or league. You can replay a major league season from any historical year. You can create a fictional major league from any year, and alter the number of teams, divisions, playoff structure, etc. You can manage a minor league team, or create an alternate major league. You can be the GM of a team in Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, various winter leagues, etc. You can create an imaginary league in Europe or Australia. Players have created mods based on college baseball, and Negro League Baseball. There are detailed mods of fictional leagues that you can download from the active OOTP community. There are players who have created leagues set in Middle Earth with players that are Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, etc. Players have created alternate time lines in which the South won the Civil War, and there are competing Confederate and Union major leagues.
Overall, I can’t recommend the game highly enough. The new version is well worth the upgrade.