Out of the Park
Reviewed: Management games, of any genre, are not for the faint-hearted. Not only is there a mountain of information to deal with, but if you're into the subject matter, it doesn't take long before the simulator takes over your entire life.
If baseball is what gets you cooking on gas, prepare to say goodbye to your family, become a recluse, and thrive on a world of management decisions and statistics: Out of the Park 9 is available on Linux.
Out of the Park 9 is, as the name suggests, the latest in a long line of baseball management games, but this incarnation is the first for Linux. It's no half-baked port either, as it has a proper installer and runs without the need for Wine or any other wrapper. Installing is simple - the only unusual dependency is that you have MySQL installed.
If you've not run a management game before, you'd be well advised to read the manual before you begin. Well, we say read, but you're better off skimming through it, because at over 600 pages you'd be spending more time reading than playing.
First-time players will probably want to use the Quick-start option, which enables you to choose either ABA, which is a custom league of 16 teams created by members of the OOTP community, or Majors, which is the same as choosing a new Major League game except all the hard work has been done for you.
Choosing players can be an involving but satisfying task.
Once you've started your game, it's a good idea to examine your game settings, and this is where a good read of the manual will be essential, as you'll need to determine many different aspects, from how the AI works to how you scout for new players.
Pitch a no hitter
As the manager, you are placed in control of every last aspect, from employing scouts, extending player contracts, promoting or demoting players and so on. You can also choose from a variety of playing styles, simulating each and every game or taking a more general approach by running whole weeks or months at a time.
You don't have to worry about the length of time it takes to simulate a game, because one of the new features is a faster simulation engine, which means you can run through an entire season in around half an hour. It's not all stats of course, and you can replay individual matches on a hit-by-hit basis, with a running commentary provided below the representation of the field.
It's not all about stats and management skills - you can simulate matches too.
One of the main attractions of a management game is to incorporate your favourite players, either within their existing teams, or as part of a fantasy league. While previous versions used entirely fictional characters, you can now add real-life players, although you may find their real-life performance doesn't exactly match that of their in-game showing.
If you're a baseball history buff, you'll appreciate the ability to add games pre-1901 and even compare modern play styles with previous eras.
At just under $40, OOTP9 will probably find more favour with dedicated baseball fans than John Q Gamer, but you can at least download and run the fully working demo first. Great for budding managers, but a little too intense for casual fans.
Verdict: Your chance to manage your very own baseball team and take control of every aspect imaginable. 8/10