16 April 2012

OOTP13 is an Inside the Park Homerun

Outside of the Park 13 is the latest in a long running baseball computer game series ($39.99;
http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/out-of-the-park-baseball/).  The appeal of this games is that you are able to personally run an entire franchise.  Depending on how involved you would like to be, you could be as micromanaging as dictate how every lineup, depth chart, pitching decision, and player acquisition move plays out in your organization or you can hand your majors, minors, and scouting to your hired personnel while you focus on simply making trades.  It can be a very detailed playing experience for you or one that is quite pedestrian.  It all depends on how you want to run it.  Regardless (as best as I can tell), the game play takes time because the program actively seeks out player moves and simulates every single game from short season rookie ball to the majors.

That depth is where the title of this post comes from.  It is an impressive game, but it requires a great deal effort to truly maximize the games' potential.  It has been years since I last was into the whole gaming experience.  I cut my teeth on the original Nintendo and became rather unbeatable on several Super Nintendo games (I maintain Super Castlevania IV is the greatest game ever and I am ashamed as to occasionally wishing I had the soundtrack).  My last foray was an interest in playing Halo at a flat I rented with a couple other people during the first year of my doctoral studies.  Beyond that, softball, long distance running, foreign films, and traveling have become passions that have pushed out games for me.  Outside of the Park 13 piqued my interest because I wondered how well it could project seasons...something for which I do not think it is truly designed.

The current version of the game has the entire major and minor league rosters (with injuries) as of Opening Day.  The new CBA is fully integrated into the league rules and, after playing one season, the Houston Astros will move to the AL West.  The universe is also expanded to the inclusion of professional baseball in Japan as well as other actual international leagues (these other international leagues are populated with fictionalized players, I think).

For those who love to game, there is a real time simulation mode that gives a GM's perspective of what is happening in real time.  This includes updates of games in progress, notifications of important events, and other tidbits.  It was designed to give more meaning to the end of the season.  They also have put in something called an interactive storyline where players do things like lash out at the media or other teammates while the GM must consider where punishment in meted out.  There is also online play that many people enthusiastically play.

In the 40 or so hours I played the game, the only peculiar thing I found was that I could make one kind of seemingly unfair deal.  This is a great improvement over other games I had played in the past where you could stack countless non-prospects or bench players for cheap, good players.  The deal I found possible was that if I had a player who was average or below average and I had about three or four years left at 15MM, it was possible to deal said player for someone who was worthless at about 20MM.  From my perspective that is a steal because it saves the team 25MM while giving up someone who was going to be a deadweight on the team.  That...is the only hangup of the AI that I found I could exploit.

As someone who enjoys projection systems, I found other aspects of the game to be more interesting.  Although I may disagree with the projections, the outcomes are actually pretty consistent with what looks to be a rather realistic bell curve as projections go.  I ran through ten season simulations and kept track of several players.  Although the game does present WAR...I found it to be peculiar in how I would imagine WAR to be, so that will be a question I will be asking them later on.  Instead, I will present FIP and batting slash lines

Weiters 262/328/431
Andino 247/303/353
Reynolds 224/312/504
Betemit 266/340/458
Hardy 257/298/412
Reimold 260/319/447
Jones 280/322/473
Markakis 283/347/422

Arrieta 5.15
Hammel 4.70
Matusz 4.58
Chen 4.08

All of those numbers look reasonable to me.  The standard deviation varies slightly depending on the player, but the typical range would be +/- .020 for BA and OBP and +/- .030 for SLG.  Standard deviation for FIP ranged from 0.32 to 0.75.

The Orioles wound up winning between 67 and 73 games 90% of the time.  They were not the worst team 20% of the time.  AL East crowns went to the Yankees four times with the Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays at two a piece.  Six times the AL East had a wild card team with an additional two times having both wild card teams.  The Yankees and Brewers were considered the favorites to make the World Series with three appearances a piece.

Median Win Values in 10 Simulations
AL East
Yankees 95
Red Sox 89
Rays 86
Jays 85
Orioles 70

AL Central
Tigers 84
Royals 79
Indians 74
White Sox 72
Indians 71

AL West
Rangers 95
Angels 89
Mariners 78
A's 74

NL East
Phillies 90
Braves 87
Marlins 87
Nationals 87
Mets 71

NL Central
Reds 90
Brewers 85
Cardinals 77
Cubs 76
Pirates 68
Astros 67

NL West
Dodgers 85
Diamondbacks 84
Giants 82
Rockies 82
Padres 70

Should You Buy It?
I think if you are looking for a game that doubles as an easy simulator, then it is difficult to justify this game as being the right tool for you.  However, if you want a simulator that enables you to take a role as a GM and enjoy a realistic game, then this is right up your alley.  I am thoroughly impressed with the attention to detail in this game.  After a Baseball Prospectus article came out in February about the value of pitch framing in catcher, the development crew for this game immediately incorporated the concept.  That is impressive and that sort of comprehensive attention is an element of this game that to my knowledge has no peer.  Of course, we do not know whether we can adequately project such abilities, but I think you have to applaud the development team for considering these attributes and trying their best incorporate them.

I am planning on using the game as a simulator as the season progresses, but it will be difficult for me to do so.  It shall be interesting to see how many times I will be able to use it to provide answers to questions that pop up in my head.

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