March is one of those times of year where everything seems
to be going great. My Jacksonville Jaguars season tickets
renewal form comes; it's still cool down here in Florida;
baseball teams start spring training; and the college
semester is on auto-pilot.
PC baseball fans know this is also when video game baseball
hype reaches its highest height - and we love every minute
Some years bring good news while others shatter hopes. Not
too long ago the Goliath-like Triple Play ruled the earth
and only a David-like High Heat was available to fans
wanting something other than one of the many historical
replay baseball games that exist.
But those days are gone (as is Triple Play's dominance,
thank all that is holy). Now we chat about High Heat, a
number of console baseball ports, PureSim 2003, and the
latest and greatest version of the Out of the Park Baseball
I just want to let you know up front that I am biased - I
love Out of The Park Baseball. There isn't a single
computer game that I play more than OOTP4, and before that
OOTP3. When Markus Heinsohn and Steve Kuffrey first
started talking about developing the first game in the
series, I nearly wept tears of joy to see a game I had been
fantasizing about for many years.
I wanted a deep text-based game that modeled as much of the
real baseball universe as possible. Markus and Steve
seemed to understand there were people like me who were
interested in a Championship Manager-like game for Major
League Baseball. Slowly through the years, OOTP has become
an incredible product for career management fans.
The latest version addresses many of the complaints I have
written about in previous reviews, and I am happy to say
OOTP4 is shaping up to be something very, very special.
If there is any sort of trend in these next generation
games, it is that they all are getting more of a web page,
OOTP always felt like a DOS game that was prettied up a bit
to appease a windows world. The new interface is very
Windows-like, and there are even individual windows that
will open. And if you can believe it or not, they actually
open more than one window in OOTP5. While these changes
don't solve all of the interface complaints that people
have made about the game over the years, OOTP5 has the best
interface to date.
Unlike other PC baseball games (see High Heat 2004 PC),
OOTP5 is now much more mouse friendly than previous
versions. You can even use the scroll wheel!
The preview version I received did not include many
features that will be in the final version. The on-field
management portion of the game wasn't complete, nor was a
new "Manager Mode" role-playing feature. There is also a
"team strategy" and new manager strategy functions that
were not working in the build that I'm previewing.
One of the first things I looked at were the new statistics
tracking features. An "Almanac" now provides a much more
detailed collection of historical information about
leagues. The usual team records are present, but a much
more detailed list of all-time career leaders in various
categories is a very nice addition.
The roster page is re-designed to include the much
requested team ranking comparison stats. The interface
limits your ability to do direct team-by-team comparisons
in one table, but your team ranking for homeruns, stolen
bases, earned run average, and other categories is right
there for you to see on the roster page. Minor league
statistics and post-season career statistics are tracked
for each player.
The look of the roster page is streamlined and an interface
makes this possible. An envelope icon on the bottom right
corner of the interface indicates e-mail messages are
available to be read. Instead of scrolling through the
drop down menus at the top of the page, there are buttons
on the bottom right corner that quickly open the pitching
rotation, depth, lineups, and front office screens.
Another big change is found on the transaction screen.
There is more information available about each player,
including a new star rating system that grades both
prospect and major league overall talent. Speaking of
ratings, there are quite a few new wrinkles in the league
setup feature that allow much more control over what is
shown in the game. Ratings can be set to reduced,
traditional, or only talent for those that want a real
challenge in picking those hot prospects.
Advanced league setup includes the usual fine-tuning
settings, including a new "option years" for minor league
players. The new arbitration system that is now part of
the financial model is a welcome addition and further
refines what was already a pretty good system.
The biggest overhaul is evident in the minor league system.
These are now complete and fully functional minor league
teams. Rotations and lineups are set pretty similarly to
the major league rosters except that there are no depth
charts. It still does not appear as if these rosters need
to be filled with enough players to cover every position.
Teams still can get away with playing only four position
players in a minor league lineup. So the system is much
deeper this year, but still not quite perfect. A rumored
option to require full rosters was not in the build that I
received, but would be a very welcome addition.
Another huge improvement this year is the reporting system.
This is across the board a gigantic step forward for the
series. Reports are easy to read, nice to look at,
intuitive, and just about everything that previous OOTP
reports were not. Multiple reports can be opened at once
and I cannot overemphasize how much more enjoyable reports
are to read in OOTP5.
Can't Wait For February 28th!
There are lots of other improvements that should be
mentioned briefly. The spring training system and how
players develop over time has been tweaked so that there is
more realistic variation in player improvements. Those of
you interested in historical leagues will find a number of
new tweaks that will make it easier to set how players
develop through different eras. A "player tracker" is
included that allows individual performance to be followed
for selected players. There are new ratings and even a
team power ranking system. The online features seemed to
remain untouched in the build I received, but that isn't a
bad thing since OOTP4 has the most robust online
commissioner options available in any baseball product.
The jump-in game play from OOTP2 to OOTP3 was quite large
improvements were substantial. The jump from OOTP3 to
OOTP4 was much more
incremental in comparison, although there were many nice
to the product. OOTP5 is not quite as big a jump as OOTP2
but it is more than an incremental upgrade. It's as if
Markus and .400
Software Studios read every complaint about the game and
did their best
to address each criticism point by point.
I spent some time simulating a number of seasons using the
build and was generally impressed with the results. Those
of you that find
the game too easy probably won't be much happier with
OOTP5. My tried
and true dynasty building strategy still worked in this
version of the
game, although the computer opponents seemed to make better
Those of you who didn't like the interface in previous
versions of the
game won't be happy with the lack of more functional
sorting, but will be much happier with the reporting
Other than these two specific issues, Out of the Park
Baseball 5 is an
absolute must-buy for anybody interested in career baseball
This could be the first Championship Manager-level baseball
product ever created - both in terms of the game's
presentation/interface and the strategic/tactical depth.
PC baseball fans are really going to be spoiled this year
with all of the very fine offerings from both the
text-based and graphics worlds. OOTP5 has the potential to
be the best product of a very good crop of games.