A lot has changed in the last 15 years. I’m not fresh out of high school anymore. I have patches of gray in the chin portion of my beard. I stress over hopelessly boring things like brewing the best possible cup of coffee and mowing perfectly straight lines in my backyard. Perhaps most importantly, my favorite baseball game isn’t just some text-driven science experiment marred by an ugly interface and the constant need for a German-to-English dictionary to get through the menus.
All these years later, Out of the Park Baseball is a full-fledged powerhouse with an increasingly attractive appearance, an ever-expanding amount of statistics, and actual in-game animation that hints at the greatness that could still be yet to come in the future.
OOTP’s evolution makes me proud to say I’ve been playing the franchise since its very early years. At a time when competing titles such as Baseball Mogul and Diamond Mind Baseball were still around and actually in demand, I had no way of knowing what kind of product I was getting when I bought my first copy. I just knew my expectations for realism in a baseball game went far beyond what the graphical iterations could provide me, and believe me, I tried them all. The second I put together my first fictional league and drafted my first team, I was completely hooked, and I’ve never looked back.
Of course, you can still do just that in OOTP 19. I do, in fact. I now have my fictional league down to a science, including all the team locations and nicknames and the five levels of minor league affiliates. This is easier than ever this year, as all nicknames programmed into the game now come with customized logos. My Oklahoma City Stars team looked pretty nifty right out of the gate without me having to make any changes at all.
I like to make my own baseball universe and play out each game in painstaking detail, but the true beauty of OOTP is that you can do anything you want. You can recreate history, you can compete online, you can play along with the real season taking place and compare the stats of actual players with their digital doppelgangers, or you can just sit back and run the organization from a front office perspective, simulating years on end and making changes to the roster as you see fit.
That said, the in-game improvements are really something every player should experience at least once. The animation is significantly improved from just last year’s edition, and I shudder to think of a time when the on-field action mirrors the accuracy of the ridiculously in-depth statistical system — something the engine always had going for it from day one.
Now, that could just be me dreaming. There may only be so far the graphical side can progress in the end, and if so, that’s something I can happily accept. It may even be for the best. As much as I love OOTP, have always loved it and will continue to love it, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to pull myself away if the in-game portion ever matched the back-end side.