MLB Front Office Manager Preview
If you were the kind of kid who alphabetized, categorized, and fully protected all his baseball cards, and if you stay awake nights agonizing over you fantasy baseball team, than perhaps the standard, run-of-the-mill baseball games don’t do anything for you. Maybe you crave ultimate control; maybe your dream job is to be a manager in the big leagues. Welcome in 2K’s MLB Front Office Manager, scheduled to release towards the end of next month and guaranteed to cater to the hardcore. If you’re not familiar with such titles, than this one probably isn’t your cup of tea, primarily because you don’t actually control any players on the field. No, your job as manager is to manage. According to GameSpot, 2K is well aware of their target audience, and it doesn’t include the guys who sat back for a few rounds of RBI Baseball back in the day and only watch the ESPN highlights while falling asleep at night. So if you even have to question whether or not this one will appeal to you, the answer is probably “no.” As for the rest of you…
From the start, you will step into the shoes of a Major League manager, and you’ll even be able to allocate points in classic role-playing fashion: you can boost up certain leader skills – like scouting, for instance – and you can even choose a background for your character. Maybe you were a successful player for many years, or perhaps you have an established business background that makes you a savvy negotiator and mediator. Obviously, you will have the opportunity to increase your skills provided you succeed; falling short in your victory-oriented goals will actually cause your ability level to fall, so don’t go in thinking, “hey, I can only go up!” Nope, despite the almost complete lack of player control, Front Office Manager wishes to be as realistic as humanly possible…from a managerial standpoint, of course. If you mess up enough, you can even get fired! Can you imagine being tossed out of the clubhouse by an irate owner, unsure of where your next home will be? This won’t be a walk in the park; there’s a whole lot that goes into being a manager, and therefore, the level of statistical depth in this game is mind-boggling.
Because you’re the general manager, your work starts in the off-season, so it’s actually fitting that this particular title drops in January. You need to scout about for new talent, test the trade waters, handle player contracts, and bear in mind that other GMs aren’t mindless drones. As it turns out, Blue Castle Games will cause competing GMs to have individual agendas, so you need to take this into account when you approach them for trades. If you’re approaching Atlanta for a possible deal, for example, it might be a good idea to come with the prospect of offering a few young pitchers (well, this is based on current reality, which may or may not be reflected in this game). And let’s not forget that despite the title, we’ll go beyond the MLB, as five levels of minor league ball will be included, as well as “Japan bidding,” which is exactly what it sounds like. These days, one has to keep an eye on both the minor league and Japanese talent, so it only makes sense that both are featured. Furthermore, to add even more depth (and insanity) to the presentation, there will be online play in addition to the standard offline.
We just previously wondered if Front Office Manager would reflect real life, and at the very least, we’ll get the history of all players at our disposal. Acquired stats play a major role in this particular simulation, and if a batter has particular success against a certain pitcher, that will be on display in the game. This combines with the massive stat-tracking mechanic that includes everything from the basics like speed and power to the technical, like a player’s on-base percentage against a certain team or a pitcher’s ERA when facing left-handers. Everything is going to directly affect the outcome of a game and a season, so you need to be diligent. You need to pay close attention to the mountain of statistics any good manager faces, and if you don’t, another manager will simply out-coach you. Then again, this is exactly what most hardcore baseball fans want, so it’s hardly a downfall and besides, the huge amount of statistical emphasis won’t make the experience turgid and boring. Believe it or not, you won’t spend all day trying to finish one game.
As a matter of fact, even though we get full 3D displays of all the action on the field, and despite all the decisions we have to face, a game can be completed in only 10-15 minutes! During the game, you’ll make all the calls, and that includes everything from pinch hitters to squeeze bunts to communicating with the bullpen (and everything else in between). But you won’t have to deal with commercials, pitchers taking a year and a half to throw the next pitch, and batters taking two years to get through their quirky, superstitious plate routines before stepping into the box. This means you can really zoom through a season and you won’t have to sacrifice any depth. MLB Front Office Manager is catering to a very niche demographic, but for that niche, it should be a clear-cut winner.
12/11/2008 Ben Dutka