|Min OS X: 10.5|
|Out Of The Park Baseball 12|
September 19, 2011 | Steven Marx
Requirements:Mac OS X: 10.5 | CPU: Intel Processor | RAM: 1 GB | Requires OpenGL support for face generation
Being from St. Louis has advantages and disadvantages. Being raised on baseball is a little of both. When the Cardinals are winning everythingís fine, but when theyíre not, every St. Louisan is convinced they know whatís wrong and how to fix the team. I am no exception. Unfortunately Tony LaRussa doesnít take my phone calls, so Iíve never been able to test my superior knowledge against his. Until now. Out of the Park Baseball 2012 (OOTP) provides as deep and rich a simulation of running a baseball team as youíre likely to get away from the front office.
OOTP is a venerable, award-winning franchise that has been on the Mac (and Windows and even Linux) since 1999. This is not a home run hitting contest or console-type baseball playing game, this is a team management simulation for running a baseball team from the top down. You can take control of your favorite team, play historical contests, create fictional leagues and on and on. If thereís a level of professional baseball youíre interested in running, you can do it with OOTP. And when you do, you can be confident that youíre starting off with the most complete and up-to-date statistics available as of the start of the 2011 baseball season. Once youíve proven yourself against the computer, hop online and test your skills against other would-be Bobby Coxís/Billy Martins/Tony LaRussas (you get the idea; Iíd include general managers, but I donít want to look like too much of a baseball geek).
As you might expect, with this type of depth, comes a degree of complexity. If youíre not familiar with sports management games, youíll probably want to peruse the online manual. While the manual is complete, it can be a little difficult figuring out how to approach it; do you want to learn the interface first, or gameplay? If you follow their setup, and view the sole screencast for OOTP 2012, youíll learn a little of the interface first, which makes a certain amount of sense as you spend much of your time navigating it. Then you can jump into the manual and learn about gameplay, perhaps as I did, by picking and choosing what seems most important at the time. With all the options available, no review could cover everything without being a book, so this review will focus especially on what I think most people are interested in, managing a team for the current season. Much of the details are same no matter what type of league you decide to play.
Being a somewhat experienced, if not hardcore, gamer, I figured Iíd try and jump in with as little reading of the manual as possible. I was almost immediately confronted with a dilemma: was I the manager, the owner or the general manager? A look at the beginning of the manual explained my confusion: in OOTP you are something of a hybrid of a general manager and manager, although you can actually do as little day-to-day managing as you want.
You start the game unemployed, and with no experience good luck getting someone to hire you. While you could shop yourself around, hoping to catch on with a minor league team eventually, most people will probably do what I did: jump into commissioner mode where you can take control of whatever team you want. At that point, you have all the control over your baseball team you could possibly want. Again, the depth can be staggering, and overwhelming, so you might want to pick and choose what you want to control. Again, you do this by navigating through several different screens that allow you to set preferences for what you will control versus you managers, coaches and other front office personnel, and then going to the screens and taking control of whatís left to you.
When I started an historical league, I was immediately given two different job offers to manage at double A (AA), and I chose one. This was a somewhat easier way to start as you have very little control outside of day-to-day rosters and in-game managing. If youíre interested in trying your hand as a manager, this isnít a bad way to go and cuts out the complexity that comes with the responsibilities of being a general manager as well.
The season starts the day before opening day, so you have a chance to set up your rosters, lineups, managing preferences and the like before the season starts. Here and throughout the game, gameplay involves making decisions regarding how your team will be run. You can set lineups, pitching rotations, call up and send down players to and from the minors, make trades and set strategy for your team such as how aggressive you are on the basepaths, how quickly you pull starting pitchers, and just about any other strategy you can set or decision you can make regarding a baseball team. You can also have the computer make these decisions for you so you can focus on the parts of running your team that you want.
You can make these decisions team-wide, but also set preferences for individual players. Have a starting pitcher you know tires quickly? Set him to be pulled aggressively in the middle and late innings. Slow runner? Set him never to steal bases. Contact hitter? Use the hit & run more aggressively. Again, the degree of control can be a little too much, so itís good to start by making as few decisions as possible and then figuring out what you need to take more control of. For me that involved working on the pitching, tweaking the rotation, trading for more starters and keeping my fragile pitchers on a shorter leash.
And itís not just running the team in general that you can control. You can also play as much of a managerís role as you want. Within a game you can again make just about any decision a real manager makes, from calling individual pitches to how aggressive your pitchers and batters are to going to the bullpen. If you want to control every inning of every game for a season, you can.
Most players will probably find that a bit daunting, though, and you also have the ability to skip some or all of these facets. Once youíve made all the decisions you need to make for a day, if you donít want to control your team during the game, you click the Finish Today button and your game and all the other games on the schedule are automatically played out by the computer. By clicking the baseball icon next to the Finish Today button you have options to finish playing the week, the month or until significant dates in the season.
In reality, however, you can only skip so much as depending on your settings the game is set to notify you when certain important events occur. For me, this mostly involved my pitchers getting hurt, requiring me to put them on the disabled list and find replacements in the minors to call up or trade for more pitching. Again depending on your settings, you may be notified of other things, which will cancel the automatic playing.
During the season you will also get messages from various people, including scouting reports for teams youíre about to play, general updates from the league and possibly messages from other GMís interested in trades and your players asking for contract extensions. (I did come upon one unrealistic aspect of the game here: Albert Pujols asked for an extension in the middle of the season for a less than unreasonable amount; needless to say, I signed him.) If you do poorly enough, you may even get an unpleasant message from your owner telling you you need to seek other employment.
Because playing the game basically involved navigating the interface, care has been taken to make it as easy as possible for you to get where you need to go quickly. If you know what youíre doing, you can usually get to where you need to be in one or two clicks. Right-clicking is highly advised in many situations as is, again, becoming familiar with the various sections of the interface and what functions are available in each. A nice feature is the back and forward buttons in the upper left of the screen, which work exactly as they should as in a web browser, moving you can and forth between your previous and next screens. This helped me when I was learning the interface and sometimes wasnít sure where I was and just wanted to get back to where I had been. The developers have obviously taken great care to make sure the interface makes it as easy as possible for you to get your work done quickly so you can continue to move forward in the season.