Game Over Online ~ Season Ticket Baseball

GameOver Game Reviews - Season Ticket Baseball (c) WizardWorks, Reviewed by - Westlake

Game & Publisher Season Ticket Baseball (c) WizardWorks
System Requirements Windows, 486, 16MB RAM, 80MB HDD
Overall Rating 55%
Date Published Wednesday, July 18th, 2001 at 11:38 AM

Divider Left By: Westlake Divider Right

Baseball simulations invariably disappoint me. I always hope for something that accurately depicts the life of a baseball general manager (GM), but then what I find are games that add a lot of extraneous stuff or focus so much on simulating baseball games that they overly simplify the GM's job. Someday I might find the baseball simulation that does everything I want, but until then I'll have to settle for the likes of Season Ticket Baseball, the latest offering from Out of the Park Development. It's a game that can be fun to play, but it does more than a few things wrong, and in the end I don't think you'll find it to be more than a momentary diversion from your fantasy leagues or from real live baseball itself.

If you've never heard of Out of the Park Development, they're the group behind the Out of the Park Baseball (OOTPBB) series. In fact, they just released OOTPBB 3 in March. So how does Season Ticket Baseball differ from their other games? Well, it doesn't. Season Ticket Baseball is just OOTPBB 3 with a couple of features removed and a lower price tag. Now, if Out of the Park Development hadn't changed the name of the game, I'd guess they were trying for some name recognition by releasing a budget title through WizardWorks and Infogrames. But since they did change the name, and since the game box and documentation fail to mention the game's relationship with OOTPBB 3 -- and since I tend to be pessimistic in nature -- I'm going to assume the words “money” and “unsuspecting pubic” feature largely in the reason for the release. Regardless, Season Ticket Baseball has a fairly dubious reason for existing.

But on to the game itself. Season Ticket Baseball is a text-based baseball simulation, and, like other games in the genre, there isn't much in the way of graphics or sound, and there isn't an arcade mode. If you want to actually play baseball, then I suggest you pick up a copy of High Heat Baseball. With Season Ticket Baseball you get to run a complete baseball organization -- including a major league team and three minor league teams -- and you get to take on the responsibilities of the manager, GM, and owner. That means every aspect of the organization is under your control, from calling plays during games to making trades to drafting amateurs to setting ticket prices. Plus, you have to balance winning today with winning tomorrow, and you have to keep your organization under budget, so it's no easy task.

For a baseball simulation to be successful, it has to do four things well: it has to create the feeling that you're actually involved in Major League Baseball (MLB), it has to simulate games accurately, it has to make the GM's job (reasonably) realistic, and it has to provide an interesting career mode. Let me discuss the MLB “atmosphere” first, since it's the area where Season Ticket Baseball fares the worst. Out of the Park Development didn't purchase licenses from MLB or the Player's Association, and so the players that come with the game are fictional, and, if you want the teams to have names, you have to type them in yourself. Plus, the included baseball parks are also fictional (I think), and while you can create new ones, you have to know 22 pieces of information for each park, and the game forces you to use “normal” ratings for the park's batting average and home runs. That last restriction is just bizarre, and it makes trying to add new parks almost pointless.

Out of the Park Development wiggled around the need for a Player's Association license by allowing you to grab information from the Sean Lahman baseball database. The database has a complete record of the players and leagues from the history of MLB, and Season Ticket Baseball makes it easy (with just a click or two) to import a full league and start play with all the teams and rosters intact. The problem here is that the importing is less than perfect. The database doesn't include all the information the game needs (like lefty-righty splits) and so the game has to make some things up, the game often gets confused by what positions players should qualify for (like Richie Sexson in center field), the game doesn't read slugging percentages correctly so players' career averages are off, and -- most importantly -- players with limited but successful playing times (like Glenallen Hill and Luke Prokopec) turn into full-time superstars. These are all problems that could have been avoided if Out of the Park Development had bought the Player's Association license and built their own database; all the problems do now is show what happens when a developer tries to create a game on the cheap.

Where Season Ticket Baseball performs the best is in simulating games. For starters, the results seem pretty accurate. I imported last year's stats into the game and then simulated the season 10 times and noted the results. I found that the game assigns way too many errors to outfielders (Travis Lee made 120 errors in center field one year), and while the problem has something to do with the poor importing of player data, the simulation engine itself seems to be flakey in that regard as well. Otherwise, the numbers put up by players and the won-loss records put up by teams looked reasonable, and while there were some outliers -- like Glenallen Hill hitting 70 home runs one year -- baseball is a game where strange things can happen. (For those who are curious, the Red Sox led all teams by winning the World Series three times.)

Managing games also works well. The interface is quick and easy to use, the announcer-style descriptions of the plays are nice, and Season Ticket Baseball allows you to control what parts of the game you want to manage -- including none of it, if you just want to watch. Also, the granularity of the simulation is an at-bat (rather than a pitch) so you don't have to call pitches, and the game moves along quickly. Lastly, if you decide to let the computer manage your games for you, you can set up some tendencies for it to follow, like how often it should steal, bunt and so forth.

Where Season Ticket Baseball has some problems is in the GM aspect of the game. Too many parts of the job are overly simplified, muddled, confusing, or just plain handled badly. For instance, there is a 15-day disabled list, and it works just as it should, but you can also move players between the majors and minors any time you want (which you shouldn't be able to do) and so you don't have to use the disabled list at all. There is also some sort of weird (and unexplained) system where players get their contracts renewed at the league minimum until they hit a certain service time (I think), at which point they become free agents. But that's not even close to what happens in MLB baseball, and there isn't any reason to simplify the situation. Lastly, the free agent process works badly. When you have a potential free agent on your team, you only get four chances to reach an agreement with him, and you have to guess not only the amount of the contract, but also the length. Since players often don't tell you what they're looking for, getting the guesses wrong and losing your free agents is more than a little easy. And then, when you try to sign free agents during the off-season, the process goes in ``rounds,'' but all the good free agents go in the first round, and so you're put in a situation where you don't know how many free agents you've signed until it's too late to do anything about it.

Season Ticket Baseball also has its share of problems in career mode (where you control the same team for multiple years). The computer GM's aren't very smart. They often give long-term contracts to players nearing 40 -- and players are often still productive at 40, which is just as bad -- and they have no problem throwing away millions of dollars on players they don't even plan to use on their major league rosters. Worse, the computer GM's are amazingly schizophrenic when it comes to trades. Sometimes they'll make a prospect untouchable and other times they'll agree to a trade and then let you throw in three or four prospects for free. I played a team for 20 years in career mode, and the computer GM's were such poor competition that I went to the playoffs 19 times and won the World Series 11 times. Career mode just isn't any fun to play when it's that easy to win.

I guess I should have known I was in trouble when I saw that the developers misspelled the word “extension” every time they used it in the game (and, gee, it only appears every time you look at your roster). I've brought up the need for more quality assurance in about four reviews in a row now, but there you go. Season Ticket Baseball is essentially the re-release of a game that's been out for four months, and it's even had its first patch, and yet it still has a multitude of problems, some simple and some not. Somebody out there should feel embarrassed -- but not you, unless you buy the game.

[ 30/50 ] Gameplay
[ 19/25 ] Accuracy
[ 08/10 ] Interface
[ 07/10 ] Technical
[ 01/05 ] Documentation

Points off for re-releasing an existing game and not indicating that fact in the game box or documentation: 10


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