Published on April 24th, 2016 | by Patrick Garde0
Interview with Brad Cook of Out of the Park Developments
Recently, we talked with Brad Cook, PR Manager of Out of the Park Developments, the developer behind the popular MLB Manager series on iPhone, iPad and Android. We discussed their history, differences in developing games for the PC versus mobile, having an MLB license, their future, and a whole lot more.
Could you share with us the background of Out of the Park (OOTP) Developments?
OOTP Developments was founded in 1999, when Markus Heinsohn released the first version of Out of the Park Baseball. Andreas Raht joined him to work on the game a few years later.
How did you arrive at the name?
Since the flagship product was Out of the Park Baseball, Markus felt it was best that the company name reflect the name of the game.
What’s it like working with OOTP Developments? We know that your lead developer, Markus Heinsohn, is based in Germany. Are there other staff/personnel based in other parts of the world? Are there any advantages and disadvantages with your work setup?
I really enjoy working for OOTP Developments. I’m based in northern California. Having a remote workforce has certain advantages, such as being able to hire the best people anywhere, along with fewer costs for office space. Markus actually has a small office space down the hall from his apartment in Hamburg, where he works with Jorin, the programmer who works on the 3D aspect of OOTP, the Android version of MLB Manager, and other things as needed. Other employees based in Hamburg pop by sometimes, and we had a full house during a week of company meetings in June 2014.
The downside, of course, is that everyone is in different time zones, so I’m starting work just as they’re wrapping up their days. I also can’t just pop by someone’s office to ask a question, so everything has to be handled by email and Skype. That never creates huge problems, but it can leave everyone feeling a bit disconnected, especially those of us who aren’t in Germany.
The full OOTP Dev staff is:
Markus and Andreas: Markus is in Hamburg and Andreas lives in a small town not far from there.
Daniela: Our graphic designer who lives in Hamburg.
Jorin: A programmer who works on OOTP, the Android version of MLB Manager, and other tasks. He lives in Hamburg.
Sebastian: The lead developer on MLB Manager and Franchise Hockey Manager. He lives in Hamburg.
Malte: An FHM programmer based in Hamburg.
Matt: An OOTP programmer who is based in Toronto.
Jeff: The producer on FHM and the guy who leads the Beta team and handles other tasks for OOTP. He lives near Vancouver.
Cole: The PR and marketing guy for FHM. He lives in eastern Canada.
Gary: The head of our tech support team. He’s based in the US.
Lukas and Howard: They lead our rosters team and are based in the US too.
In 2013, OOTP Developments branched out into ice hockey with Franchise Hockey Manager. A year later, it was announced that an American football sim is in development with Beyond the Sideline Football. Are we going to see OOTP developing another simulation & management sports game in the near future?
Possibly. If anyone reading this wants to pitch us on a management game, we’ll listen, but they need to be ready to execute if we say “Yes.” FHM and BTS Football both came to us via developers who had done the initial work on the games and were ready to bring them to fruition. We don’t have the resources to simply add another game right now.
Recently, starting with OOTP 16, the game now features licenses for Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball. What are the pros and cons of having an MLB license?
The major upside is that MLB gives us “street cred,” so to speak. Sure, the game has always had modding options, but having the official league and team logos, including historical ones and the World Series trophy, is attractive to new customers who stumble across us on Steam or elsewhere. Knowing that the game is officially licensed makes it easier for some people to make the purchase.
Having the license also gives us more exposure, which in turn helps sales too.
The only real downside, and it’s not a major one, is that we need to have MLB review everything, including the game itself. That hasn’t caused any problems, but it does mean we have a layer of approval to go through before putting out newsletters, debuting the next version, etc. It’s worth it, though, so we can have the license, and the MLB people have been very easy to work with.
The mobile version, MLB Manager 2015, is covered by the license as well. Did the rebranding from iOOTP Baseball to MLB Manager help in terms of sales?
Yes, definitely. Having MLB in the name helps tremendously when people stumble across the game on the App Store and Google Play Store.
MLB Manager 2015 has a metascore of 83/100 on Metacritic and we rated it 4 out of 5 stars on our review. Did you anticipate to receive a favorable reaction from critics and gamers?
Yes, the mobile game has been well received since the first version came out in 2011. Since it was piggybacking on an established game series, we knew it would do well.
The mobile game was released on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. Are we going to see it on other platforms?
That’s not planned at the moment.
What game engine did you use for MLB Manager 2015?
The game uses the same sim engine as OOTP, along with the same AI and other internal components. I’m sure those things have been modified a bit, since the mobile game doesn’t have all the features OOTP has, but since I’m not a programmer, I don’t know all the specifics.
The first version of OOTP was released in 1999 for the PC. In 2011, iOOTP was launched on the iOS App Store. What are the differences in developing games for the PC as compared to mobile?
While mobile hardware is improving by leaps and bounds, we’re still limited a bit by it, so we can’t, for example, implement full minor leagues, at least not without eliminating a wide range of devices that couldn’t handle the game. (I don’t know this for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the new iPad Pro could handle it, for example.)
So, developing on the PC allows a “the sky’s the limit” mentality, since we’re not restricted by the available hardware. We can also sell the game in many more places, so we have more visibility for OOTP.
What’s the future like for OOTP Developments?
It’s very bright. We will have three of the four major North American sports covered in the next couple years, and we have a dedicated and loyal customer base that keeps us going. The competitive landscape is also very favorable for us.
Finally, any last words to our readers?
We hope that anyone who hasn’t tried our games yet gives them a shot. They’re the closest you can come to being a pro sports GM without being actually hired by a team.