The Sports Desk – Diving Deeper Into OOTP Baseball 19
OOTP Developments just announced this year's entry in its lauded simulation series, OOTP Baseball 19 (due for PC, Mac, and Linux on March 22), and while the studio isn't ready yet to show off one of its big features – the improved 3D stadiums and better player A.I., models, and animations – the game's creator Markus Heinsohn and OOTP Developments chief marketing officer Rich Grisham spoke with me about various aspects of the title.
Heinsohn and Grisham discussed many of the title's new features, detailing aspects such as changes to the ratings system and the new free fantasy-based online card mode: Perfect Team – which Heinsohn says at some point will also be added to OOTP Developments' Franchise Hockey Manager and planned football sim title.
Heinsohn is proud of what the small studio is delivering for OOTP Baseball 19 no matter what angle you approach the game from. "Each year it's not like we add three or four headline features or headline improvements," he said, "but every year we tweak so many things sometimes we don't even keep track. The game has grown so big that ... now this sounds really cheesy but, sometimes when I play it myself I sometimes I discover features that I had forgotten about because we added them like 10 years ago. It's incredible. It's at a state right now where you can discover so many things and try out so many things. Like I said, we're tweaking so many things that I'm sure that there are a lot of tiny bits and pieces that will be surprising to lots of customers who were waiting for certain kind of tweak over the years and now it's finally in there."
Will there be a demo for the title?
RG: "Truth is, we just don't have the resources to put a demo together. We'd have to not deliver on a couple of features if we had to build a demo. We'd love to do one, but we can't fit it in." Grisham adds that at some time there will be a private beta involving hardcore users which is separate from the spring public beta planned just for the Perfect Team mode.
On the Perfect Team mode:
The mode is being created by outside devs that the studio has hired and brought in-house just to work on Perfect Team. The feature is being added after launch, and the studio is using new server technology to make it happen. "Honestly, we wanted to have Perfect Team ready for launch," says Heinsohn, "but it's a very, very complex thing ... but we're taking our time. We don't want to rush something that in the end crashes all the time and has lots of server downtime and things like that. We just want to get it right."
Heinsohn says that while it's "incredibly difficult" to balance a mode like this to cater to both those who want to pay for shortcuts versus those who would rather grind in lieu of spending money, the team wants to make it fun and feasible for those both. In general, the mode follows other fantasy-based card modes like Ultimate Team in that you play the game, earn in-game currency, and spend it on packs. Perfect Team has a league structure, but it is not replacing the game's traditional online leagues.
When I asked Grisham if the studio had considered paid DLC for the series, he said it had, but only in the most general sense and that "paid DLC does not match the way we build and design our game."
Since the mode is coming out after the game's launch, does this give you the ability to expand the mode even from what it is now?
MH: "Yes, definitely. I expect 25 percent of it to change during beta and open beta. I totally expect the game mode to change. Obviously the basic ideas probably will not change much, but there will be tons of things which we currently have planned in a certain way which will probably change because of customer feedback."
Looking further into the future, Heinsohn added: "Obviously [Perfect Team is] not only in the future for OOTP Baseball, but we're going to add this mode in a future version of NHL Franchise Hockey manager as well. And then we're also working on an American football game, and this in the future will also have this mode."
With similar modes like MLB The Show's Diamond Dynasty and EA Sports' various Ultimate Team iterations, what is going to make Perfect Team different?
MH: "We will have a unique twist, something to our knowledge hasn't been done before."
On the improved scouting:
RG: "We have gone in and redone the entire scouting process. We're bringing a lot more information to light, and we're bringing that to light in what I feel is a much more clear and concise way. Plus, we're giving a lot more agency to the players to sort of customize how they want to target players."
Improvements to tournaments:
Players now have the ability to mix-and-match the game's teams (including historic ones or from different leagues) to create whatever tournaments they want as well as fiddle with the competitions overall structure. Tournaments can even be dropped into your regular season similar to English soccer's FA Cup.
Improved in-game decisions and roster management:
OOTP Baseball 19 includes some playoff options such as your starting being taken out and putting in your closer really early. Grisham also mentions doing double switches in a smarter amount of time.
On new implementing possible new MLB rules such as a pitch clock:
Heinsohn says that the studio is looking to add any potential rule changes for the season "that make sense from a gameplay perspective."
What did you want to address with the re-worked ratings module?
MH: "The rating system is now by default one that calculates the player ratings relative to league average. In the past the ratings were absolute values, so if you played a 1910 league in the dead-ball era, no player had a high power rating and most looked alike. Now, you can see who the best in the league are because the individual HR ratings are based on the league average HR rating, and a 80/80 is three standard deviations better than average, if I recall correctly."
The ratings and overall performance of one player in particular – Angel's Japanese wonder Shohei Ohtani – is also being watched. Ohtani first has to play his first regular season game before he can be added to the rosters. "Then we'll have to monitor his performance and potentially adjust ratings based upon the real-world success (or lack thereof) that he has," says Grisham. "Also, we're going to have to see how he is used in games. Will he pinch hit? Will he be assigned a specific pitching role or will he be used in different situations? All these things will be monitored and then we'll make adjustments as we can."
In general, are certain player ratings weighted more than others?
RG: "Well that comes down to era and importance. So, one of the cool things about our game is if you're playing in the 1920s it is different than if you're playing 2018. So a lot of it comes down to the era. If you're playing in 2018 right now, chances are that you're probably going to have more success if you build a bullpen with five or six guys who are throwing a 102 mph. But that's the blueprint for success in 2018, but it's not guaranteeing success. It's not like we make major changes every year. 'Oh, home runs were way up, therefore let's jack everything up.' It's not that. But you definitely want to know what kind of an era are we playing in. Are we playing in a pitcher-dominated era? Are we playing in a hitter-dominated era? And based upon that, certain aspects of certain player ratings will be more or less important. But again, it's not like a cheat code where it's like, 'If it's this year, you load up on this and you win.' There's a couple of million variables under the covers that dictate a lot of stuff."
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A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week
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FIFA 18 PC Patch Addresses Scoring Exploit & More
This includes FUT Weekend League issues such as time of day and top 100 players avoiding playing each other.
Deep Silver Publishing Dakar 18 Racing Title In 2018
The cross-country rally game hits the PS4, Xbox One, and PC this year.