For computer/console baseball fans, these are surely the best of times. With titles like Out of the Park Baseball 9, MLB 08: The Show, PureSim Baseball, and the grossly underrated MLB Power Pros, there’s a baseball game for everybody – sim fan, arcade fan, online league fan, and hardcore stat cruncher. In just the last two years, 14 different baseball games have appeared for computers and various consoles. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.
For over ten years, the Baseball Mogul series has ranked among the best of the text-based baseball games. The newest version extends that tradition, but heat from the competition – primarily Out of the Park Baseball 9 – makes the case for owning Baseball Mogul 2009 more difficult to prove this year.
Sim fans who enjoy stat-driven realism, what-if scenarios, and historical replays have several good options available to them. Roughly speaking, Baseball Mogul is geared toward newcomers; PureSim Baseball (which hasn’t seen an update this year) is aimed at intermediate players who want more control setting up leagues and controlling financial models; and Out of the Park Baseball is designed for the player who wants total customization and multiple styles of play.
This year’s iteration of Baseball Mogul has gone a long way to improving the user’s experience and making it even easier for new players to set up a league and be up and running in minutes. A new startup wizard provides options for modern, historical, fictional, expansion or customized universes. The game uses the term “universe” to denote the meta-setup that includes leagues and feeder-leagues, schedules, rosters, and so on.
An updated play-by-play screen has been added with new sound effects to enhance the atmosphere of the game and provide a touch of realism. It’s a nice addition, but no one will mistake the simple Baseball Mogul game screen for MLB 08: The Show. This is a text-based game, and it looks the part. Players expecting even rudimentary graphical glitz will be sorely disappointed. If anything, this year’s version of the game may have squeezed a few too many stats and other information into the user interface. It can take awhile to get accustomed to so much data on a single screen.
A recent Supreme Court ruling allowed games like Baseball Mogul and fantasy leagues to use the names of real players without paying a licensing fee. This means the game ships with 2008 Opening Day rosters including career stats, ratings, contracts, and data for over 2,500 minor leaguers. In the past, players relied on fan-made roster files for actual player names. Despite the court ruling, players are likely to continue turning to forums and fan sites to provide official MLB logos, stadium and player photos, none of which are included in the game.
Be ready for a mountain of text.
Baseball Mogul 2009 also includes an updated stats database with more than 10,000 players from 1901 to 2008. You can play as any team in any year, with a revised pitch-by-pitch simulation engine for each historical era. The ubiquity of Sean Lahman’s extraordinary baseball database has made it possible for nearly all text-based baseball games to access reams of historical stats and integrate them into gameplay. Baseball Mogul makes this easier than ever. There is something wonderful to be said for a World Series between the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1973 Oakland A’s.
Overall, the game simulates seasons fairly accurately with relatively few crazy anomalies. Occasionally an unlikely player such as Mark DeRosa will hit 40 home runs in a season, but in general the game keeps outlier performances to a respectable minimum. I simulated 5 current seasons, and the Tigers and Red Sox each won it all twice, the Phillies once.
Baseball Mogul 2009‘s biggest problem is its competition. Whereas in the past it enjoyed an ease-of-use and a newbie-friendly advantage, this year’s edition of Out of the Park Baseball has largely closed that gap. Multiple setup wizards, interface improvements, and a generally more streamlined experience make OotP a serious threat to Baseball Mogul, especially for newcomers. Given its impressive array of deep and customizable features — and the fact that it is available for both Mac and PC — it is difficult to recommend Baseball Mogul over OotP. The recent announcement that OotP is now available for purchase on Steam could could seal the deal for many players.
Nevertheless, fans of the Baseball Mogul series will be pleased with this latest edition, and its new features make the game more enjoyable than ever. As any text-based baseball player will tell you, personal preferences play a big role in one’s choice of games, and this certainly holds true for Baseball Mogul vs. OotP. Fortunately, both games enjoy thriving and helpful communities of fans eager to help. I recommend downloading demos of each and trying them out before making your decision.