Have you ever wanted to see what would happen if Clayton Kershaw took on the 1927 Yankees? Have you always wondered what it would take to guide the Adelaide Bite to a Claxton Shield title? Have you always wanted to fire Billy Beane, become the GM of the Oakland A’s, move the team to Mexico City and win that elusive World Series? If the answer is, at the very least, probably, to any of these questions, then I’m here to tell you that your dream can become a reality. It comes to us in the form of Out of the Park Baseball 17, which is the newest installment of the popular franchise by Out of the Park Developments, and it is even more magnificent that ever before. Whether your baseball dreams involve the 1960’s Pirates, the Nippon League, or being the GM of your favorite team, OOTP 17 lets you do it all.
Last year around this time, I gave the previous version of this game (OOTP 16…now discounted for $19.99 on the developer’s website or Steam) a glowing review, but this year’s version really outdoes itself. Besides the improvements to the gameplay itself that I will get into, I can honestly say I enjoyed this go-around much more. The main reason is I feel like I actually know how to play the game now. You’re probably thinking “Jake! It’s a baseball computer game. How hard can it be to play?” Well, this game is deep, requires attention to detail and is not the type of game where you can be a casual player. I tried that last year, and my hapless Atlanta Braves spent year after year as cellar dwellars.
Side note: the new and improved Braves on this year’s version of the game are doing MUCH better, but we will get to that in a moment.
So let’s get into the details about the newest version of the game. For my review this year, I would like to break this thing into two big chunks. First, I’ll discuss the overall layout of the game, new features this year, and basically a very brief overview of what’s at your fingertips. Next, I’ll give you guys some basic pointers I’ve learned after a year or so playing this game. If you want to skip either part because it sounds terribly boring to you, be my guest. I’ve marked the sections pretty clearly for your convenience. So, let’s get to it!
THIS IS THE PART WHERE I TALK ABOUT THE GAME ITSELF
Where to start? This game is extremely dense, so I’ll try to be as brief as possible and give you the basic info. First things first. What is this thing? OOTP 17 is a very in-depth, total control baseball simulation game. You can control any historical, current, or foreign team (there are 8 foreign leagues to choose from) for a single game, season, or decades if you wish. You have the power to either simulate quickly through the games and just act as the GM off the field or manage your team in-game from every bunt, steal, swing, or substitution. You can hire or fire trainers, scouts, hitting coaches, or even promote 17-year-old Venezuelan sluggers from your international complex up to Single-A. The baseball world is at your fingertips, and the league and game settings are highly customizable as well. You could even move every team in the Eastern League to Hawaii if you want! It’s simulation, but you can have your cake and eat it too. You can also join an online league, which connects you with the worldwide community already enjoying this game. And let me tell you this from personal experience: those online leagues are where you can really see how customizable this game really is.
As for me, I’m a big fan of the dynasty/franchise (for lack of a better way to describe it) feature, which lets you take a current MLB team over on a quest for a World Series title. And when I say you take the team over, you really take the team over. Once you boot the game up, you now have a control panel that gives you access to every single minor league level of your organization even down to the coaching staff of your respective minor league affiliates. You can also control a whole host of features including your batting lineups, pitching staffs, minor league promotions, free agent signings, and even season ticket prices. You can even decide that after the 2018 season, the entire MLB will just start from scratch and redraft entire rosters. Truly, the possibilities are endless.
Now, let’s get more into what’s new to the game this year. Again, I’ll do my best to be brief here, but I could write and entire article as to what’s new. For starters, the 2016 major and minor-league rosters are updated and accurate even down to the minor leagues. This includes historical rosters as well, which means that if you control the late 70’s/early 80’s Orioles, Cal Ripken will pop up as a promising youngster in your system when he actually did. That attention to detail is a common thread with this game, you will find. Also new this year is an improved user interface and in-game 3D engine, which really makes the game pop especially from the 16 version. In the 3D view, the player symbols actually move with the action, and you can even see the ball moving around the diamond. Personally, I think this really makes the in-game feature far less monotonous. This year also features the brand new Historical Exhibition Mode, which lets you match any two teams in baseball history against each other for either a single game or an entire series. Now, the 1994 Expos can finally match wits against Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers. You get the picture.
Also new this year is the introduction of the ZiPS projection system into the game’s player evaluations. If you’ve ever delved deeper than the casual fan into fantasy baseball, you probably know exactly what these are, and even if you don’t, trust me when I say this provides another level of accuracy to the game. And while we’re on the topic of player evaluations, the game features a new scouting algorithm, which could provide you with a new challenging wrinkle if your head scout falls in love with a total bust. As for other members of your front office, the developers have tried to make the GMs and managers more unique than ever before. GMs around the league will vary in style when it comes to rebuilding, trading for prospects, scouting, player evaluations, and so on. And finally, you can either play the game through a shortcut on your desktop or on the vast community of Steam, which is how I’m currently playing this version.
So, that concludes the first part of this article dealing with the game itself and its new features. I really skimmed over the gameplay and new features because it would just take too long to tell you everything, so I highly recommend checking out the game’s website at http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/out-of-the-park-baseball/ for more details.
THIS IS THE PART WHERE I TALK ABOUT MYSELF
From here on out, I want to talk to you about my personal feelings, thoughts, and tips about the game from being totally addicting to the thing for almost a year now. First off, I started a franchise with the current Atlanta Braves because they’re my favorite team, and I want to personally rebuild the team into the perennial championship contender they were in the 90s. It’s been a labor of love, but we’re into our 3rd season now (I got to continue my game from the 16 version FYI), and with Gerrit Cole leading my pitching staff, we’ve finally got things going in the right direction. The ability to upload your franchise from prior versions of OOTP is one of the best features offered–especially for repeat buyers such as myself. A few pointers I will give rookie players:
-Really spend some time getting to know your team. Find out your strengths, weaknesses, stud prospects, defensive wizards, etc. The better you know the team, the better moves you will make as the GM!
-You MUST get good pitching. Find guys with high ratings in the “Stuff” category and who have two (relievers) or three (starters) pitches that have a potential for 60 or above ratings. With solid stuff and high potential pitchers, you will soon find yourself with a solid, deep pitching staff.
-I got some great advice from the game’s online forum (link attached), which is a must-visit. The game has some interesting default settings that I highly recommend changing. When you open the game up, click the “Game” tab. Scroll down to the “Player Rating Scales” section. For some real-life feel to the game, change all rating systems in the game to 20-80. This is what the big league scouts use, and it’s far easier to understand than many of the other game’s options. Plus, it gives your players 13 levels of rating as opposed to the default 5-star-system, which doesn’t allow for much variance I’ve found.
-On that same token, you should probably do this too. Go to the “AI Settings” tab. There are 4 boxes in the “Player Evaluation AI settings” tab. I HIGHLY recommend you change all the values to 25. Many players have varying opinions as to where these values should be, but I find this system to be far superior to the default settings. Using these settings, ratings can fluctuate pretty frequently, but they also tend to be a more accurate reflection of the player’s talent.
-If you want to win, you need to think like a real GM. Build your team around a good core brimming with potential. I chose to start with a young centerfielder star and shortstop who can get on base, steal, play excellent defense, and maybe hit a homerun every now and then.
-GET YOUR ACE. Do whatever you have to do to acquire an ace (probably safe to get two) even if it means trading away that star prospect. I was going nowhere with my bad pitching staff until I swapped Ozzie Albies to the Pirates for Gerrit Cole. It was totally worth it. Get your ace(s).
-Defense wins championships. It’s very important to have guys who can hit, but if your defensive ratings are trash, you haven’t got a prayer. I spent my first season (in-game…so like two weeks) very frustrated because I didn’t pay attention to defensive ratings at all. You’ll be shocked to find you can’t just plug that spare 3rd Baseman in Left and hope for the best.
-Pay attention to your minor league system. You can fix the settings where the AI has control over the minors, but I’m a control freak and don’t trust the system. OOTP claims to have made the AI smarter in this exact realm, but I like tracking my 19–year-old pitching prospect myself. It’s time-consuming, but you form far better opinions and knowledge of your system.
-Did I mention how important good pitching is? Get good pitching.
-If you’re a fantasy player like myself, you’ll learn so much about players, what stats really say about a player, and a better understanding of what makes a complete team.
-Play with the FaceGen technology turned on. They’ve got an MLPBA license for the first time this year, which means they’re allowed to use player likenesses. This is a really aesthetically pleasing feature of the game that just makes it look even more awesome. DO IT!
Overall, this game is a blast, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s highly addicting, and I take no responsibility for you losing sleep while you pore over Rookie League stats. The customizable features make it one of the best games out there, and there’s a whole community just addicted as I am. If you have any more questions, concerns, or stories don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter @jakebridges03. I love this game, and I’d love to hear the wacky and interesting things you’ve done/seen on this game! Hit me up! Oh, and look up the Claxton Shield. It’s very impressive. You’re welcome.