One of the most successful video game franchises in history is Sid Meier’s One More Turn. It’s a horrifically addictive game in which you manage cities, military units, and other aspects of a society to build the best civilization. Countless millions have lost days upon days of their lives micromanaging in this civilization simulator.
Out of the Park (OOTP) is the baseball nerd’s Civilization. After purchasing the game a little under a week ago, I’ve already played through a two-season scenario (I failed my goals). More on that in a moment. The game offers nearly every historical scenario imaginable and even has real amateur targets available for the 2019 draft. If you want to play non-MLB professional leagues like Honkball Hoofdklasse, you can. Hours and hours of my life have already vanished in a poof of baseball simulacrity.
The singleplayer experience is rich and immersive. I’ve yet to test the most promising functionality – online multiplayer mode. As such, this article will focus on singleplayer mode versus 29 AI franchises. There’s a lot to like, although there are a few eyebrow raising aspects to touch upon too. Even a glowing recommendation – and to be clear I highly recommend purchasing this game – should have some negative comments.
Please note: I was not paid or approached to write this post.
Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to never owning a version of OOTP prior to last Tuesday. The game was available for $4.99 (usually $19.99) on Steam. So I gave it a try. I figured there would be some potential for a patron sim league. And there is! I’ll definitely have some form of patron integration with OOTP before the end of the year.
I’ve always been of the opinion that a baseball simulator should also include pitching, hitting, and fielding. OOTP merely simulates these parts of the game. You’re the manager. If you’d like, you can climb inside your hitter’s and pitcher’s heads to tell them when to swing, take, or pitch around a guy. Mostly, you control normal things – fielder positioning, substitutions, and some baserunning choices.
I was surprised to discover I didn’t much care about losing the most hands-on portion of classic baseball simulators. Then again, I’m still an MVP05 truther. In my opinion, the newer franchises never got a handle on gameplay.
For my first playthrough, which I gave the clever name Test #1, I took the reins of the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies. I thought I could improve upon their 2018 campaign and ride to a 2019 postseason berth. Not so fast. After wandering my way to 74 wins in 2018, I managed only 81 victories in 2019 (the Nationals won the World Series in case you’re interested). Bryce Harper the Phillie* finished second in the MVP race (to Corey Seager) and Rhys Hoskins led the NL with 46 home runs. It wasn’t enough to overcome NL-worst pitching. Losing Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta to injuries hurt.
*Harper ultimately signed for under $200MM
When playing against the AI, there are certain quirks to roster building that become apparent. I’ve learned that core performers can quickly become non-performers. I thought I struck gold by trading Carlos Santana for Justin Upton and Jaime Barria prior to 2018. Upton immediately turned into Chris Davis. Barria was… playable. Similarly, a swap of Pat Neshek for Tim Anderson looked good on paper but didn’t pan out in this false reality.
In general, the AI likes a few types of assets – expensive superstars, early-arb top prospects, and good starting pitchers. They’ll actively dump some good players at the start of the season to open up room on their 40-man rosters. This is actually fairly realistic, although the AI sometimes lacks the creativity to move a good prospect to a new position. For example, I claimed a struggling Tyler Glasnow and popped him straight into my bullpen where he took off. The same gambit didn’t work for Zack Godley.
The divergent outcomes for Glasnow and Godley highlight one of the strengths of OOTP. Unlike mainstream baseball sims, player development isn’t linear or easily predicted. You’re given 20-80 grades from your head of scouting which are converted to a five star scale for current and potential ability. Your scouts are fallible (pay for good ones). The players themselves won’t stick to scripts either. Nick Madrigal (my first round pick in 2018) raced through the minors in one year. Sixto Sanchez declined to the point where he’s barely a prospect. Scott Kingery was terrible in 2018 and quite good in 2019.
My next OOTP project is to take over the expansion Rockies for their 1993 season. Is it possible to salvage a good outcome at Mile High Stadium? We’ll find out.
It should be noted that OOTP 19 is nearly a year old. They usually release the latest version of their game in late-March. For $4.99 (sale ends very soon), you can familiarize yourself with OOTP 19 and decide if you want to upgrade to OOTP 20 later this spring.
UPDATE: I managed to get my hands on some goodies which I’ll be distributing to my patrons. For more details.