REVIEW: OOTP 16, Still Very Good

Game: Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2016 (website)
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, mobile
Release Date: 2015
Metascore: n/a
Techgraphs score: 4.3 or 86 B

General Reaction
OOTP is our most reviewed and highest reviewed game of all time. It takes all the high-level problem solving of a real baseball front office — salary management, roster management, owner expectations, and so on — and somehow condenses them all into a single game. The game is addictive. It’s fantastic.

That said, I’m trying to review this latest edition as critically as possible. And it’s hard to critique something you’re hooked on. But the game does have some flaws, and I will address those. But overall, it’s another excellent submission to the OOTP franchise.

Ratings

Graphics: 4.0 stars
Let’s face it; you’re not going to play OOTP for the graphics. The only 3D component of the game — an optional view for the in-game management — leaves a lot of a room for improvements. It’s not really a problem, per se — more of a “Where’d it go?” The old versions of OOTP had this realistic face generator. It was really impressive. But I can’t find it among the add-ons now. So we end up with this:

I had no idea Brett Gardner looks like a 45-year-old tax accountant from New Jersey!

I had no idea Brett Gardner looks like a 45-year-old tax accountant from New Jersey!

Concept & Game Modes: 4.5 stars
OOTP does a nice job of not stretching itself thin with game modes. The database and formulas that serve as the foundation for this game would not be at their best in a “Path to the Majors” or a work-your-way-to-the-top game mode. So having a single player GM/coach mode and a multiplayer GM/coach mode is probably sufficient to please 90% of fans.

It would be interesting, however, so see an arcade mode — hear me out! The latest changes to OOTP have created a system where the player (you, sir or madam) are given a salary and contract based upon your reputation and recent success. What if the game took a page from the NBA 2K video game series and made those salaries worth something? Perhaps players could spend their salary on negotiation classes, improving insight and success rates during trade or salary negotiations. Perhaps players could spend on charitable enterprises and improve their reputation — thereby unlocking more prestigious managers and executives. Or perhaps players could spend money on special camps that have a chance to boost a few players’ rating in special areas (“Send [these three players] to the Barry Bonds Hitter Clinic? Grants 10% chance for increase in either Power or Eye rating. Cost is $100K per player.”).

This kind of stuff actually incentivizes earner a higher income. And it’s just kind of fun.

Gameplay & Interface: 5.0 stars
The interface hasn’t changed much in OOTP 16, but there have been a few minor tweaks that I think show the developers’ really care about user feedback. Lots of tiny things like:

This is a nifty little added feature. Saves a few clicks for all the top draft picks.

This is a nifty little added feature. Saves a few clicks for all the top draft picks.

I’m giving gameplay and interface a perfect score, but a big part of me wishes I could experience it all over with rookie eyes. Of course the interface seems easy to me; I’ve been playing OOTP for a half decade.

Glitches: 3.0 stars
There’s a lot of little things that impede my enjoyment of the game — problems that didn’t exist before. Ratings filters don’t seem to work in the Find a Player section (a great new addition, if it actually worked for me…).

And more than that, the new owner goals feature had serious signs of inconsistency. Several times early in my franchise, the owner could not recognize the fact that I had completed an assigned task:

Um, okay?

One of several glitches. The owner did not like my having acquired Jake Peavy, apparently, nor could it recognize the fact I improved the team record. :/

More troubling, though, is that there are numerous issues with player valuation. The AI does not seem to value pitchers correctly (a lot of trades that should go through, don’t), and seems to struggle to identify medium-quality talent. Either everyone is a five-star prospect or not a prospect at all. In general, scouts seem to have a bad grasp on pitcher value (a starting pitcher with three strong pitches and good makeup will still have a 21 potential on the 20-80 scale).

How is this not a good pitcher?

How is this not a good pitcher?

And then, after several years into my franchise, the talent pool disappeared. International free agents stopped being prospects all together (except for a few hidden gem pitchers who had great ratings everywhere except their potential ratings); the draft only had one or two premium prospects at most (normally the first round should land everyone a premium prospect); and since I had a world of difficulty convincing other GM that their pitchers had differentiating between a prospect and Quad-A filler, fair trades were hard to come by.

Say what I will about the relative simplicity of Baseball Mogul, at least the ratings are close (as close as a scouting system with variability should be).

Rosters: 5.0 stars
This is always the strength, nay, the stupid strength — so strong it’s dumb — of the OOTP franchise. You won’t find a more accurate system of minor league players and managers.

See Also:

98 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2015 (PC)
98 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2014 (PC)
97 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2013 (PC)
96 A+ Baseball Mogul ’13 (PC)
96 A+ MLB ’12 The Show (PS3)
82 B- MVP Baseball 2003 (PC)
79 C+ MLB 2K12 (PS3, XBOX 360, Wii, PC, etc.)
74 C MLB Ballpark Empire (Facebook)



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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.


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Michael
Guest
Michael

“That said, I’m trying to review this latest edition as critically as possible.”

Well then, you might have mentioned the biggest flaw with the underlying model – HR/FB variability is unrealistically low. xFIP is not available as a stat in this game, but then why would it be? Noone’s HR/FB ever regresses towards the mean, it’s completely determined by the pitcher’s “movement” score.

This is pretty much reason #1 I quit playing OOTP, applying actual baseball logic didn’t work because of this flaw in the model.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Oh and I almost forgot, the second biggest error in the underlying model – rather than correctly modelling a times through the order penalty, starters get a blanket penalty based on their repertoire. This can be exploited by hooking starters very quickly and then having a bunch of long relievers do much better than they would in real life.

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

Oh man, glad you brought up the trading issues. The player valuation system is a lot worse than it has been previously. With the game’s default settings you can’t trade a medium level player for ANYTHING, except for monster contracts teams are trying to dump. Teams never offer prospects unless you’re offering a prospect. If you change the Trade Difficulty setting from Average to Easy, suddenly you can dominate any and every trade. I got Bryce Harper for a 26 yo 4 star SP and a single-A prospect. There could be three settings between Average and Easy, but instead there’re none.

mustbunique
Guest
mustbunique

Can somebody do an iOOTP review? I really like OOTP, but being able to take the game with me on my iPad makes iOOTP the clear choice for me over OOTP.

Wildcard09
Guest
Wildcard09

Not sure if there should/would be significant differences between games, but I’ve actually noticed the opposite problem you and some other commenters mention regarding trades. I have difficulty set to default, and it seems like I can routinely trade 4 middle-of-the-pack prospects and whatever MLB player I’m trying to upgrade for a stud player. To wit: I acquired Kershaw in 2016 for Drew Smyly and 4 mediocre prospects. I also made a very similar deal for King Felix, although I can’t remember the starter I traded away.
Also, I’ve noticed how incredibly easy it is to re-sign players to extremely team friendly, short-term deals. Basically I don’t offer contracts that will take a player past age 32 or so, and I’ve never had issues.
I guess I could turn difficulty up, but I’ve never had to do this in previous versions, and wouldn’t see why it’s changed so drastically, unless I’ve just had a really “lucky” streak.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

The frustrating thing for me is that it’s not that hard to construct a model that assesses surplus value for players, prospects, draft picks, etc. Granted, that approach can fall well short sometimes but it would be a heck of a lot better than what the software currently does.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I agree with all of what Michael posted above. OOTP is a fantastic, gorgeous interface, but the underlying model has some major flaws. Diamond Mind is probably better as a simulator. It’s too bad you can’t get the best from both.

As for the “arcade version”, it already exists! “Inside the Park Baseball” is what you’re looking for.

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