30 May 2017

Escape into MLB Manager 2017

One of the most impressive baseball games on the market is the Out of the Park (OOTP) series.  The creators of the game try to comprehensively include everything that we learn about baseball each year.  Going onto their forums and seeing how different studies are incorporated into the game is fascinating.  Their usage of projection modeling, skill-dependent age curves, and a vast array of other research is impressive largely because they really do not have to do it to create a great game.  Regardless, they do that and it regularly is a solid game.

The downside of the OOTP series though is the level of resolution the game provides.  You are able to provide judgement on almost every single possible aspect of the game.  If you work hard enough, you can actually find inefficiencies in the market.  Although the game lets you take a lower resolution, 35,000 ft scale of the action, I have always felt like I was cheating myself out of what the game could truly provide if I was not diving deep and doing insane things like determining my short season A rotation and lineup platoons.

As my life has become fuller with more and more obligations, I found myself less and less able to be able to immerse myself into that game.  With that in mind, my attention has been drawn to their mobile offering MLB Manager 2017 (Out of the Park Developments, $4.99).  This is OOTP light.  The same structure and concepts are there, but not to the extent informed by the research into OOTP.  Still, it is a fun jaunty experience that still holds onto the more entertaining aspects of the game.

Love you, Nick!
The interface is far better than what it was in the first version I tested a few years back.  In that one, it took a good week to learn how to strike the screen to get it to respond.  In this one, I think they scaled back the buttons and made it all much more intuitive.  The better organization has led to a much more enjoyable interface.  For an rpg style game like this, interface trumps all.  While it still requires a little time to figure out and sometimes the buttons cannot only be overridden by a single button with no indication of which button that might be, it is almost perfected.

The AI assistant seems perplexed at times.  Zach Britton is a hidden elite starter.  Some players are convinced they are 7th inning relievers when they are actually no. 1 slot pitchers.  Lineups appear to be optimized using dated algorithms.  There are always cheap, dependable 4th and 5th starters every year for a couple million.  So, if you are paying attentions and can connect the dots, there are a lot of areas to improve yourself.

One area of simplicity in the mobile model is stripping the uniqueness of the coaches.  One interesting aspect of the broader game was being able to stylize your entire organization in order to fit your perspective.  In all honesty, the OOTP series probably goes too deep into that stylization and the mobile platform is probably more realistic.  That said, I think I would like it if I could choose between different types of managers.

I have also noticed some roughness here and there.  Sometimes the in game feed notes back to back home runs that actually have batters in between those home runs.  I had a pitcher disappear from the disabled list without being informed that he might have retired.  I routinely get trashed by my fan base for releasing home grown top ranked relief pitchers who give up a 6.00 ERA every year.  Also, I don't think the baseball quotes they splash on the screen during the modeling is checked.  Because, what does this one mean?
Sure, women sportswriters look when they're in the clubhouse. Read their stories. How elsedo you explain a capital letter in the middle of a word?  --  Bob Uecker.
In the end, this is a small group putting this game out every year.  It is not completely refined and that level of refinement should not exactly be expected.  What is expected is a game that continues to get better year after year without any disinterest coming into the picture.  What the issue I think is, is that the people behind this game and OOTP keep trying to reach for what is bigger and better, so some things pass by the QA/QC.  But really, my only negative comments here are on the brittle edges.  The core of this game is wonderful and has helped me pass the time during long train commutes as well as after I put the kids to bed and need a moment to relax.

For five bucks, you can get back a piece of mind.  Also, it can help you forget for a moment that the Orioles might be in a skid and pretend that everything is fine.


David said...

Can you play this on a PC? I really hate staring at my phone more than I have to.

Jon Shepherd said...

You would want OOTP 18.