December 1, 2015 2:15 PM | John Bridgman
Baseball is one of the oldest organized professional sports in North America. With current franchises that have existed since the late 19th century, as a sport it embodies the way narrative can emerge simply from play and will likely continue to for generations to come. Its statistical nature means that it translates well to simulation, and that continues with Out of the Park Development's Out of the Park Baseball 16, a deep and complex management simulation that will make fans of baseball statistics very happy.
The engine behind OOTP 16 is deep. There is a lot of information the game gives you to analyze and process, and if you're not familiar with statistics in baseball, and in particular sabermetrics, there's a very good chance you'll be overwhelmed. There are in-game links to resources that can explain these terms and concepts, and a very deep manual you can read, but the game is clearly targeted towards stat junkies.
Luckily this information is given to you in a functional interface. It's necessarily complex, without overloading you with extra information. Most any information you need to make a decision on a screen is available within a single click, and through its comprehensive menus you can get to any aspect of your game that needs management. Sometimes when you get into a nested sequence of player pages and team stats you may find yourself lost, so being able to return home or leaf through quickly is welcome.
There is a lot to manage as well. You can take charge of your team from either an on-field manager, general manager, or combination of the two. On-field you can make substitutions, adjust defensive alignments, and give individual commands to your pitchers, hitters, or baserunners. Knowing when to make sure a batter takes a pitch, or when to attempt to pitch around a dangerous hitter, is important, difficult, and very rewarding if your plans work out.
As general manager, you'll be keeping track of your team's roster and staff. Your owner will give you a collection of goals, depending on the relative prestige and recent seasonal performance of your team, and if you don't meet those goals you run the risk of being fired. You can also turn off being fired if you just want to see how well you can run a particular team without worry - you'll still be assigned goals you can attempt to miss without the concern about job security.
These roles you can fill on a team not only in North America's Major League Baseball, but several different professional leagues throughout the world. These leagues have their own structures, talent levels, and roster rules, and you'll need to adapt to those in order to do well. It's an interesting and welcome change if you get tired of the MLB system and some of the more obscure ways it operates.
Additionally, you can run historical seasons of the MLB. You can select any team from any season dating back to 1879 and try your hand at managing some of the most famous players or teams of all time, or if you want, teams you've never heard of before. These seasons have their own unique dynamics to them and you can find a lot of interesting scenarios occur in the course of a baseball season no matter what the year.
On top of those options, you can also create your own custom league. Base it off a real world league, or choose the number of teams and league-specific rules. You can also use real world players or have the game generate them randomly for you to assess and evaluate from scratch. This mode provides the most challenge to your analytical skills, since you won't be able to judge by real-world performance or scenarios.
The sheer depth of game play options is going to make Out of the Park 16 appeal to baseball fans anywhere. Whether fans of particular teams, or fans of sabermetrics, there's something here for all folks interested in the sport. People who like business management simulations will probably be able to enjoy the game once they get their handle on how the numbers interact with one another, but due to the sheer complexity of the simulation, I don't think this is the game that will get people in who are on the fringe about baseball or management sims. Still, if you can avoid being overwhelmed, this is a game that has that "just one more day" effect that simulations thrive on.