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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Baseball Simulator

 

Publisher

Out of the Park Develop.

 

Developer

Out of the Park Develop.

 

ESRB

N/A

 

Released

Q1 2002

 

 

- Options Galore

- Tremendous Stat Tracking

- Intuitive Interface

- Infinitely Customizable

 

 

- No Major League License

 

 

N/A

 

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Out of the Park Baseball 4

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

Out of the Park Baseball 4 is a text-based baseball simulator.  Stop reading now if that description holds no appeal for you.  If, however, you are among the thousands of gamers who have discovered the joy of the format, let me state right away that OOTP4 is the best text-based baseball game ever created and is so far ahead of the competition that it is likely only to be bettered by the inevitable release of OOTP5.

 

ootp4-1.jpg (78897 bytes)         ootp4-2.jpg (72960 bytes)

Though graphics are not an issue with text-based sims, presentation is.   OOTP4 features the best presentation of any game in the genre.  Menus are clearly labeled and easy to access.  Every possible instruction a player might need to give his or her team is never more than one or two mouse clicks away.  Additionally, whether players do it themselves with a simple paint program or download the graphics online from various fan sites, customizing the display with team logos is simple and quick.

And while Iím on the subject, the biggest strength of OOTP4 (among many) might just be the Internet community that supports it.  The game ships without any Major League Baseball, MLBPA, or Stadium licenses.  This means that when a player first boots up the game, all players at all levels are fictitious.  Now, these players often have numbers and stats that match a corresponding player on the real team (in what is by now a time honored tradition among non-licensed sports games), but their names are randomly generated from a database when the league is formed.  Some players might not mind this at all.  Others may choose to do the dirty work (made fairly simple by the player editor, but still time consuming) of going player by player through the league and renaming players to match the real-life team.  When doing this, it is also possible to tweak the stats of the players if an owner feels that his favorite playerís stats donít quite match the way the owner imagines they should be.  Most players, however, will simply search the net and find someone who has already done all the hard work.  Because of the popularity of the game, and the friendly nature of the developer, homemade leagues are easy to find.  On top of this, it is easy to find and install photos of the real-life players, stadium photos, and icons for the teams.  This kind of support by a large, volunteer community of players further distances OOTP4 from other games in this genre.  The OOTP4 community reminds me of the mod-making communities that spring up around many first person shooters.  They really add a lot to the value of the package.

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The OOTP4 creators have given players who are really obsessed with stats (which might mean nearly anyone who buys a text-based baseball game) another option for filling out their rosters.  OOTP4 is fully compatible with the statistics database at baseball1.com.  This allows players to generate an historic league based on the stats of real players from the 50ís until now.  Finally, the really insane player (like me, for instance) can rename all of the 

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fictional players with new, equally fictional names.  I did just this.  My beloved Atlanta Braves team was populated with the names of horror writers from Lovecraft to F. Paul Wilson while my American league team, the Detroit Tigers, was made up of musicians who had died tragic deaths.  Buddy Holly hit .403 and was rookie of the year in the A.L., but Ambrose Bierce had a truly disappointing 7-15 W/L mark for the Braves.

Options are what text-based baseball games have always been about.  All fans like to think that they could do a better job running their favorite organization than the real owners do.  OOTP4 gives players a chance to prove it.  I, on the other hand, proved that I could run the most consistent team of the 90ís, the aforementioned Braves, directly into the basement of the National League East in only three seasons.  But, I canít blame the tools.  OOTP4 allows for, and simulates, total control over the franchise.  Players can coach each at bat of a full season, hire and fire coaches from the majors to A ball, make trades, reject trades offered by the A.I. coaches, draft new players into the minor league system, raise or lower the cost of ticket, and even schedule the promotions that their ballpark offers to bring in more fans.

During the course of a season, league leaders are displayed on the left margin of the schedule screen, so the player can keep up with who is in the running for MVP.  MVPís, Cy Young Awards, and Rookies of the Year are all awarded at the end of each season based on the stats accrued during the year.  These award winners, along with the playoff and World Series results, are all tracked and reported in the League History tab, which updates at the end of each year.  I should probably note that if you want your league leaders to earn Cy Young awards, Rookie of the Year awards, MVP awards, or even a World Series championship, you will have to re-name the awards in the League Options menu.  Otherwise, players will earn the generic equivalent (like Batter of the Year for MVP).

The final aspect of OOTP4 worth mentioning is the game engine.  Using the real players stats acquired in one of the ways mentioned above produces some amazingly realistic results.  When I started an historical league based on the real stats starting from 1999, Barry Bonds didnít hit over 70 homers in 2001.  He did, however, hit 63 in 2004.  That same year Ichiro led the league hitting .363 and Randy Johnson won 23 games and struck out over 300 batters.  These were the biggest numbers in those categories.  No 100 homerun seasons or .600 batting averages like Iíve experienced in other sims.  Just solid, realistic numbers that make following what players on teams other than the ones I coach personally compelling.

ootp4-3.jpg (59178 bytes)         ootp4-4.jpg (59660 bytes)

Despite the realistic game engine, I must note that ďsimmingĒ a season and playing a season can have startling different results.  I started with the baseball1.com 1999 roster stats and simmed the 2000-2003 seasons, only handling trades, minor league promotions, free agency, the amateur draft and other between-game decisions.  The Braves just barely failed to make the playoffs in the first two seasons, but finished in the basement the final two.  When I played the first two seasons over, coaching each at bat, the Braves won their division both years.  Now, looking at the stats, things were not that different between simmed seasons and played seasons.  The W/L records of pitchers and R.B.I.ís were where most of the variation occurred.  I would guess the discrepancy can be traced to the fact that a human manager does a better job getting tired pitchers out of the game, bringing in pinch runners and hitters when appropriate, and deciding when to steal bases or hit-and-run.  To consistently win while simming seasons, I expect a player needs to build a slightly better team than they would need to build when playing seasons.  Regardless, it is a minor quibble since most players will do a little of both in the same season.  At the moment, I am playing a league where I play the games pitched by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, but sim all the rest.  So far, the results look promising.   

I honestly feel like I havenít said enough to truly capture the magic of OOTP4.  It is simply as good as it gets.  As a lifelong fan of both text-based and table-top baseball games, I can honestly say that OOTP4 is the best baseball game I have ever played.  The recent releases of its two biggest competitors, Baseball Mogul and PureSim Baseball, are both top-notch, but, in the end, OOTP4 out options them and certainly provides a smoother, more compelling re-creation of Americaís pastime.

 

- Tolen Dante

 

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