The folks at Out of the Park Developments are a bit like Pete Rose; they never take a play off. My first experience with the franchise was Out of the Park Baseball 8. The game engine was already great, and I kept myself entertained for hours playing in a fictional league I had crafted. Given the quality of the game at that point in time, some developers may have switched on cruise control and simply updated the rosters in future versions. However, OOTP Developments continues to add greater detail and depth to what was already the most immersing baseball simulation.
In this year's version, Out of the Park Baseball 15, the development team has added new international leagues, including the Korean, Taiwanese, and Dutch (Honkbal!) leagues. As always, you can play the current season (and beyond), pick an historical league, play the minor leagues, or create a completely fictional league. I can't imagine that anyone would ever get bored with the Major League or historical simulations, but if you do, a fictional league is for you. The number of teams, divisions, playoff spots, season length, scoring environment, and more are completely under your control. You can play a deadball era-style game, but with a modern league format, or you can re-play the sillyball era with an inclusive, NBA-type playoff structure. Do you yearn for a salary cap to restrain those nasty Steinbrenners? You can do that, too.
The game's interface has been cleaned up in this year's release. For example, the manager's home screen now displays more information in a neater, more organized manner. The menu tabs at the top of the screen have a sleeker, more modern design as well.
OOTP 15's default screen resolution is now optimized for widescreen monitors and laptops. While this was a welcome addition, the default window size did present the only real problem I encountered while trying out the game. OOTP 15 only launched in fullscreen mode on my computer. That works well when I plan to play an extended session. When I'm trying to multi-task, I like to keep OOTP in its own window that I can call up or minimize as needed. However, I had some difficulty displaying OOTP 15 in that way. After some time, I discovered that the problem disappeared when I changed my settings so that my toolbar is hidden. That fix seemed a bit counter-intuitive to me, but I realize that it's a very minor issue.
Although the new international leagues may be the new feature with the widest appeal, the addition of 3D stadiums with animations for the flight of the ball might be the most striking upgrade.
You still should not expect lifelike animations of players and gameplay; that's not what OOTP 15 is trying to do. That said, 3D stadiums are a nice bit of polish on a game that remains a simulation at heart.
In prior versions of the game, it was notoriously easy to fleece opposing GMs by trading away high-priced, aging veterans for young stars and top prospects. This seemed to be less of a problem this year. My major trade for the season was a swap of Zack Cozart for Boston's Jackie Bradley, Jr. (followed by a signing of Stephen Drew). As always, there are two "fixes" to this problem. One, you can simply avoid proposing trades that are clearly one-sided. Two, you can play in leagues with other humans, removing the AI from trades altogether.
Bottom line, I would certainly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys baseball simulations or video games. The game retails for $39.99 at OOTP Developments' website and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There's even a version for the iPhone, but I haven't played that one. If you have some hesitation that the game might not be for you, I can say that anyone who craves baseball enough to frequent Red Reporter will likely enjoy the experience.