Sports game developers have a pretty rough development cycle. Every year they have to come up with some innovative game enhancements to not only entice last years players to upgrade to the latest version, but also gain new fans. The decisions on where to put development dollars can make or break a company, and some of these companies cannot afford to have a bad year. Everyone’s jobs are on the line. Every. Single. Year.
For the past 24 years, Out of the Park Developments has somehow managed to appeal to statistics geeks and avoid directly competing with the likes of mega-corporate behemoth Sony’s MLB The Show. They’ve even been able to expand to hockey. They have a thriving fanbase in forums and on Discord. If you ever have an issue or suggestions, the developers and thousands of players are online and ready to help.
Gaining market share is a difficult game to play, especially these days when so much can depend on getting a celebrity endorsement or viral videos. But OOTP goes after a different audience. Any sports fan will enthusiastically debate the greatest teams of all time. OOTP lets you live out that fantasy with teams from 1871 to the present.
The real strength of OOTP is, of course, their real statistics. To say this game is loaded is an understatement. It pretty much has the entire history of baseball at your fingertips. Teams include:
- Early Years (1871-1900)
- Deadball Era (1901-1920)
- Baseball’s Rebirth (1921-1945)
- The Golden Years (1946-1960
- Baseball Boom (1961-1979)
- Defensive Ear (1080-1992)
- The Power Years (199302004
- Modern Times (2005-Present)
- Negro Leagues (1920-1950)
- Minor Leagues (1915 – Present)
Notably absent are NCAA college teams (now possible due to NIL agreements, but not for cheap), Olympic teams, and teams from the recently completed World Baseball Classic. All those licenses cost money and lets face it, most people want the professional players and teams rather than one-off tournaments.
But all is not as accurate as it once was in OOTP. In a step away from historical accuracy, teams with names that are now considered inappropriate or insensitive are converted to modern names. Bob Feller’s amazing career for the Cleveland Indians has been magically changed to the Guardians. I hope those offended by revisionist history can somehow summon the will to carry on.
Little things matter in this simulation. The level of detail OOTP 24 goes to borders on insanity. You could easily spend all day scouting players and coaches for the right combination. The relationships between players and coaches can determine if a player stays with your team. So picking the right coaches can be important, and OOTP gives you their reputation, personality + and -, management style and where they are most focused. It even gives ratings for relationships.
If those statistics were not enough, even historical transactions are accurate. Do you think the A’s should have kept Johnny Damon? Try it out. Little details are abundant, and choices and consequences are many. Still think Cleveland should have won 2016 World Series over the Cubs? See if your team management skills could have saved them and bring glory back to Cleveland. What if WWII didn’t happen and some of the greatest players of that era kept playing in their prime years? Anything is possible in OOTP 24. You can even make your own ballparks. The included ballpark construction kit gives you all the tools to create your favorite local park or long-gone major-league ballpark.
I haven’t played OOTP in a few years. Getting married and having a family curbs, well… pretty much everything else. I was happy to find that the core of OOTP hasn’t changed much and shouldn’t. But the developers managed to update things in so many places and add even more crazy details. For instance, if you play the 1980 season (or any season) you can load up a map of all the teams (major and minor leagues) on Google Earth. Is that of any use? Not really, but it’s there to serve your curiosity and help immerse you in the time period and the game like so many other things.
The majority of updates I noticed are focused in the game presentation. Now, just to be clear, OOTP is certainly not trying to compete with Sony’s MLB The Show, or arcade style favorite The Bigs, or any other console baseball game. But they still upgraded the graphics enough to make it look closer to attending a real game. Simulations are known for sticking to the overhead X’s and O’s style of play, leaving the details up to the imagination of the player. OOTP has expanded that to include various views from the stands. It almost feels like you could be keeping the score right in the program.
To be sure, OOTP is still firmly grounded as a statistical simulation, so options are available for the usual 2D views. The 3D views feel like a nod to console players; however, the animations are not anywhere near the level of realism of pretty much any console sports game. It’s good to have options, and OOTP has plenty, but I will probably stick with 2D and leave the game action to my imagination for now.
New this year to OOTP is a Topps trading card themed game called Perfect Team. There are similar efforts in other games, and similar to other games this is a good way to monetize their efforts. Thank you, EA, for that nugget of gaming history. In OOTP you can buy packs (you get some free ones to start) and collect cards from past, present, and future players. You can play against others online and compete in tournaments. It’s a fun distraction and I look forward to even better implementation in future versions.
This game is just so in-depth that its nearly impossible to write the deep-dive review it deserves. One could easily right a 100-page manual on OOTP. Everything I’ve seen in OOTP 24 is next level statistical accuracy, and it’s fun. I’ve never seen anything close to OOTP in any sport. I’ve played historical hockey, soccer and football simulations over the years and nothing touches OOTP 24. If you love the game and have hours to spend enjoying every statistical detail off the world of professional baseball, OOTP 24 is worthy of your investment.