David Goldfarb is a game design veteran whose credits include Payday 2, Mirror’s Edge, Battlefield 3, and other titles in the so-called AAA space. Before he embarked on a career that’s now 15 years old, though, he was a big fan of baseball simulations, which currently occupy a growing niche in the industry.
“I’ve been playing baseball games since Strat-o-Matic and Earl Weaver baseball, over 30 years, I think,” says Goldfarb, who has been rooting for the New York Mets since the age of 6 or 7. “I also had the Pursue the Pennant tabletop game, which quickly morphed into the electronic version. I suspect I spent the most time with Micro League Baseball. Up until OOTP, anyway. I just love the game.”
Asked how he got into playing OOTP, he replies: “I think it started with having no good substitute for Micro League Baseball or Pursue the Pennant (which was very good but not season to season, if I recall) and wanting something that would allow for dynastic play over many multiple seasons.”
Goldfarb adds: “I really love the idea that OOTP lets you see ‘what could have been.’ Watching if history will repeat itself or diverge. My favorite examples are probably J.R. Richard or Eric Davis – both players I loved for their uniqueness and who I was saddened to see never achieve what they might have achieved given a simple roll of the dice. Or seeing new generated players appear and develop into superstars alongside ‘real’ players.”
He says he plays OOTP “to see how the simulation adheres or diverges from the real outcomes, and specifically, for the player careers. One of my favorite stories along those lines was when a fictional player came up that was so remarkable and so weird that I actually posted about him on the forum. It’s super gratifying to look back on that. I had been a Bill James disciple since about 1985, so it was nice to see the theory born out.”
Baseball’s ‘Discreteness of State’
Like other designers who play OOTP, including Civilization IV lead designer Soren Johnson and Civ V lead designer Jon Shafer, Goldfarb has much to say when asked about OOTP’s relation to strategy games.
“I think this is a good analogy,” he responds. “The interesting thing to me (and there are so many) about baseball is its discreteness of state compared to most other sports. At any given point you only have so many moving parts compared to something like football. I think the genius of its ruleset (no time limit, 9 innings, 3 outs per inning) lends itself to deep, almost philosophical contemplation of statistics and has made it easier to analyze in terms of qualitative/sabermetric analysis than other games. Baseball is sort of perfect in that way and it makes sense that the chief advances in the field came there first.”
Baseball sims also bear an albeit smaller resemblance to role-playing games (RPGs), a genre that Goldfarb turned to in mid-2014 when he announced he was leaving Payday developer Overkill and starting an independent studio that would be creating an RPG. Could any lessons learned from playing OOTP factor into the development of this new game? We shall see.