There are few franchises that listen to their fans and connect on such a level to create a rabid fan base in the way that Out of the Park Baseball has since its first game in 1999. Over the past 16 years, Out of the Park Developments has released its annual franchise to the delight of its fans. Each year the series grows and evolves to meet the needs and wants of its fans, and this year is no different. Aside from the general tweaks and improvements that happen in every sports game’s annual release, Out of the Park 17 offers official MLBPA licensed players for the first time in franchise history. This, along with some other big additions, makes Out of the Park Baseball 17 a contender in the sports arena yet again.
Make no mistake about it, this year’s installment, like all of its past iterations, are for the hardcore baseball fans among us. While games like MLB The Show 16 focus on the realistic portrayal of baseball in the moment, Out of the Park Baseball 17 focuses on the management side, the statistics, and those hundreds and hundreds of numbers that make baseball geeks like me very happy. If you enjoy digging into a player’s stats and deciding if they’ll be effective in the future or need to be traded ASAP, this is the game for you. Every conceivable statistic is here in all its glory and it’s a wonder to behold. When these stats start moving in franchise mode, things get really interesting.
Just like past installments, Out of the Park Baseball 17 features the series’ famous 150-year franchise. Yes, you read that right. In OOTP 17 you can be the manager of a team for 150 years. Starting with the current roster of players, all real and up-to-date, you can manage, play, and simulate your way through 150 years of baseball goodness. Players will get hurt, want to be traded, be upset at their slumps, retire, and participate in countless other events throughout their careers. By the time I finished managing and simulating through my Mets franchise, I had a completely different team then when I had started and we had won the World Series a handful of times. The depth this game goes to is incredible, and it’s not something to be taken lightly.
OOTP Baseball has been called “the Dwarf Fortress of baseball simulators.” At first I found the comparison a bit ridiculous but over time it starts to make sense. Under each layer of depth in OOTP 17 is another five or six layers of added depth and discovery, all waiting to be utilized, should you choose to. What makes OOTP 17 so great is its simple, easy-to-use interface. The game is essentially played out in one of two ways: either you’re watching the action unfold on the field, or going through menus. Let me break down what I mean by each of those, as they don’t exactly scream excitement. While 162 games is a lot to play, players of OOTP 17 can opt to jump into any of their team’s games and play them from a managerial standpoint. OOTP 17 features a new 3D mode that makes watching a game more entertaining than the previous versions. Now, the 3D mode doesn’t mean you’ll be watching real 3D models run around the field. Instead, the stadium you’re playing in is modeled in 3D and the players appear as blue dots that react to hits and pitches accordingly. While it may not be the graphical powerhouse that other baseball simulators are, OOTP 17 doesn’t have to be. To me, watching those blue dots fly around the field was as enjoyable and stressful as watching your favorite team come back and win it in the bottom of the 9th. I found the new 3D mode to be a welcome addition as it gave me a reason to keep the game open while I did other tasks, checking in here and there to offer some advice, switch the defensive alignment, or make a substitution.
Where the real action occurs in OOTP 17 is in the game’s deep menus. When you start a franchise you have all the options a manager has in real life. With new minor league and major league players that are realistically rated, you have a lot of options before you. Everything from lineups, to pitching rotations, to minor leagues, to contract signings, free agents, and scouting is in your hands. Of course, you can choose to automate any of these things, which is what makes OOTP 17 so approachable. If it’s all too much for you, simply automate the pieces you don’t want to deal with and let that be that. I found myself automating things like contracts and injuries at first but wanting to be a bigger part of the team and taking care of more things as time went on.
The other fun addition for OOTP 17 is the addition of historic teams with historic lineups. Ever want to see what a past team could do against one of today’s bests? All of the historic teams with their original lineups are in the game and having these impossible combinations duke it out can be fun to watch. While I’m not the biggest fan of historical teams in my simulations, I had a fair amount of fun watching the 86’ Mets duke it out with the 09’ Yankees (and win).
OOTP 17 is the best baseball simulator out there, bar none. While other games focus on flash and visuals, OOTP focuses on what hardcore baseball fans care about. The game boils baseball down into a concept and lets the player act as the manager while fulfilling lifelong dreams of creating the best team possible, making the right trades, and getting to the world series. Whether I was winning by 8 or losing by 1 I found myself invested in each and every game I played through. My time with Out of the Park Baseball 17 was like a trip to the ballpark, except when I shouted that the pitcher should be taken out, somebody listened, and that was a great feeling.