What a glorious time it is to be a fan of career text-based games! Five years ago computer baseball fans either had to choose from a bunch of very fine historical replay games or High Heat Baseball if they wanted a good simulation experience. Many baseball aficionados moaned and groaned for a game that provided a Championship Manager-like depth for baseball. The hard-line historical replay traditionalists scoffed at the idea. PC baseball began with historical text-based replay games and the powers that be were very happy with their choices. But Baseball Mogul was born and despite all of the predictions of doom, the game was a bright glimmer of hope for fans of career baseball management.
Then along came Out of The Park Baseball, and the world of career text-based baseball saw a paradigm shift in what was previously thought possible. It added on the field management, deep minor league system, online flexibility, and a host of other features that really spurred growth in this genre. The one knock on the OOTPB series was that many "purists" found the rating system too inaccurate, so this group moaned and groaned for a more precise career management game than either Baseball Mogul or OOTPB could provide. Shaun Sullivan of Front Office Baseball/Football utility fame took up this challenge as sort of the ultimate second job. The title said it all - "PureSim" was designed to be just that and then some. The original PureSim was a labor of love. Shaun spent many hours working on a limited feature set that he intended to grow over time as things were tweaked to his satisfaction. PureSim 2003 adds many new features to a game that continues to show great potential.
The first thing that is new this year, and to Shaun's credit, is a very creative beta testing scheme that increases his fan base while at the same time gets valuable feedback from a larger more dedicated group of beta testers. Unlike other text-based game developers (hello Solecismic and .400 Software Studios!), Shaun seems to take great pride in releasing games that work when they are available for purchase. His original game had a few bugs when released, so instead of following the same model with PureSim 2003, a subscription plan was put into place where people could purchase the game at a significant discount and receive betas (or "subscription releases") that further improve and add features to the product.
The new crown jewels in PureSim 2003 are the improved financial model and the ability to conduct multiple player or lop-sided trades with other teams. The financial model is very good and offers more variation than last year's game. The trade interface is completely revamped and very intuitive to use. You can immediately see who teams are interested in trading for from your team and the AI is capable of making pretty good judgments about trades. The only catch is that the AI at this point will only conduct multiple player trades with human opponents.
Team chemistry is also present in the game. Owners will have to monitor the happiness of their club and make adjustments as needed because chemistry will impact on the field performance. Real life players can be imported from the Lahman database (doesn't support version 5 yet), but there still isn't a DH option for those of you who are American League fans.
Although "improved speed" is listed as a new feature, I found the "classic" PureSim mode still very slow. There is an option to choose a faster simulation mode, but then you'd miss out on the wonderful PSPN broadcast games. Another dubious upgrade is probably the most limited in game management set of features I've ever seen. Don't know who is using it, but whoever is must want to control their team in any fashion that they can.
Other lesser improvements are too numerous to mention, but are highlighted by a new manager AI, better overall AI from scouts, new stats, and many other interesting features. The game also boasts the best tweak file ever created for baseball game performance. Nobody can complain that they can't get their games just right because they can't tweak variables.
Yet Another Great Career Game?
I thought the original PureSim was a nice little product that just didn't measure up to OOTPB as far as the complete feature-set in that game. PureSim showed great promise because its engine was better and the game has evolved into a very challenging GM experience. One of the biggest complaints about OOTPB is that it is too easy to build a dynasty. PureSim added difficulty settings, but it is still much more challenging that OOTPB as a GM game. People looking to really test their baseball general management strategy will want to purchase PureSim 2003.
Another plus is that Shaun is dedicated to improving and adding features to his products. The final version of the original PureSim looked very little like the first release as far as overall functioning goes. This is significant because the game still lacks some important features - DH rule, AI multi-player trades, full minor league system, and some other minor things. But I can say that I will play PureSim this year because there is enough to hold my interest in the game. PureSim 2003 is a monument to one man's quest to create the ultimate career management game and Shaun Sullivan is right on track to accomplish this daunting task.