MLB Front Office Manager First Look

Fantasy baseball enthusiasts now have yet another reason not to sleep.

23 Comments

Just when you thought 2K's five Major League Baseball games (MLB 2K8, MLB Power Pros 2008, MLB Superstars, 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars, MLB Stickball) were as far as any developer could milk an exclusive license in the span of a year, 2K has provided yet another twist on America's pastime. MLB Front Office Manager, developed by Blue Castle Games, places the user in the role of general manager of a Major League Baseball franchise. We had a chance to break down all of the wheeling and dealing in this latest offering at 2K's press event earlier this week.

With batter-pitcher history driving the simulation engine, would-be GMs will have plenty to keep themselves busy on gameday.
With batter-pitcher history driving the simulation engine, would-be GMs will have plenty to keep themselves busy on gameday.

As its title suggests, FOM places gamers in charge of managing a professional baseball franchise with a level of control and complexity that will make the casual fan dizzy. Former player and current Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane served as a consultant on the development of the game to ensure as authentic a GM experience as possible. By 2K's own admission, the game targets a specific niche: the roughly 3.5 million participants of Fantasy Baseball leagues. It is 2K's hope that this hardcore baseball audience, many of whom spend two to three hours every day managing their fantasy rosters, will see FOM as a convenient alternative (or even a complement, assuming those individuals forgo sleep).

Your employment as GM begins with the typical character creation features. In addition to aesthetics, though, FOM allows you to assign points to various disciplines such as scouting and player negotiation, and even allows you to select from a number of backgrounds such as a lawyer, former player, or talent scout. Combined, your disciplines and background will affect the facets of a GM's profession in which you'll excel. As you continue your career, success as a GM will earn you points to further increase your disciplines. Likewise, bad decisions will result in a regression of your disciplines and will eventually lead to your dismissal as GM. Of course, with 29 other teams to ruin, chances are that another franchise will offer you a second chance.

FOM features a brand-new engine designed to create a simulation realistic enough to satisfy even hardcore fantasy baseball enthusiasts. In contrast to other simulation engines that factor only player attributes to determine results, FOM utilizes actual stats compiled over the player's career to drive its simulation. This includes factors such as a batter's historical success versus that of a particular pitcher, how effective a pitcher is at high pitch counts, and success with runners in scoring position. As baseball fans are naturally attracted to statistics, FOM includes a level of statistical analysis that could rival most sports Web sites. Various splits are available to track player performance in particular months, home or away, and versus Right- or left-handed pitchers, all of which affect gameplay. If you can imagine a metric, it's probably in the game.

The statistics don't stop with current major league players, either. FOM includes five levels of minor league teams associated with your franchise ranging from AAA ball down to short-season players. Although the actual names of these minor league players can't be used, these players are otherwise accurate representations of the real thing.

Based on the depth of statistics, you can probably guess the level of off-the field depth in the FOM. As GM, it will be your task to engineer trade offers, develop scouting pipelines, negotiate player contracts, and oversee the development of your young talent. You will need to balance your zeal for trading with the effect trades may have on team synergy and player morale. In an additional twist, AI-controlled GMs will have their own agendas and it will be up to you to evaluate their mind-sets when proposing offers. FOM includes multiple levels of player arbitration and even includes a "Japan bidding" phase where franchise can bid for the right to negotiate with some of Japan's top talents. In addition to an offline career spanning 30 seasons, you can even pit your GM skills online against up to 29 other players in an online dynasty.

Although only the most hardcore fans may be able to stomach numerous seasons of watching every pitch, FOM's simulation engine includes a full 3D presentation including accurate in-game player models and stadiums. Fortunately, the simulations play out faster than a typical baseball game, with all of the annoying plate pauses and commercial breaks removed. According to the developer, without user interference, a game will typically play out in about 10 to 15 minutes. While this is an option, you will also be able to call the shots when you choose. You have the option to call down to the dugout and direct intentionally walking batters, make a bullpen changes, call for steals and bunts, and alter defensive personnel and alignments. But you won't have the ability to select specific pitches.

Unfortunately, dressing the part won't make your trade offers any less asinine.
Unfortunately, dressing the part won't make your trade offers any less asinine.

As you may imagine, FOM's interface is menu heavy, providing access to the various statistical metrics and trends to keep you apprised as general manager. What is surprising is that FOM manages to bring this depth to the console as well as the PC. While other console-based franchise management titles have struggled to create effective navigation tools, FOB's vertical menu interface is both clean and intuitive without compromising the depth one would expect from a game in this genre. Top-level categories include submenus (many of which include further submenus) similar to navigating a sports Web site. To help you sort out the complexities of running a Major League franchise, an e-mail feature is provided to keep you appraised on the goings-on around the league.

2K's Front Office Manager should provide hardcore baseball fans, especially those who participate in fantasy leagues, with an engaging and authentic experience in the life of an MLB GM. MLB Front Office Manager is due out in January on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Be sure to look out for additional information on the game as we approach its release.

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Avatar image for ckcsox
ckcsox

This could be the greatest or worst baseball game ever made. I have bought or rented every baseball game since '04 and always been disappointed with the lack of authenticity of the GM/Season modes. If this game turns out to be as good as it sounds I wont sleep until spring training.

Avatar image for Tonedef66
Tonedef66

Ar first it sounded kinda cool cuz it hasn't been done with an MLB license yet. Then I looked at the long list of other gmes 2K is using to stretch the exclussive MLB license (5 to be exact) and it became clear that it's just another side project. I mean, look at the release date of this game. Almost 2 months before baseball really begins? Looks like 2K is trying to cash in on the desperate die hard fans.

Avatar image for mike_male
mike_male

It looks good, im a hardcore baseball fan, but some things i want and dont want in a game liek this. I dont want to have to watch every game like NFL Head Coach makes u do. I do want their to be a fantasy baseball type thing online.

Avatar image for Djdiddles77
Djdiddles77

Sounds kind of like the NFL coaching game! Since it will be cheaper that will help but these games are hard to do correctly and also make it fun! Sounds like they are marketing towards the right crowd though!

Avatar image for yankees0255
yankees0255

its not coming out for $60, Gamestop is selling it for $40 which is a good idea to try and boost sales.

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Jcowboys

this game is gonna be awesome

Avatar image for Padrepride
Padrepride

this game looks beastly

Avatar image for coyoterys
coyoterys

I was very interested until he said you cannot call every pitch. I love calling a game behind the plate. Hope they release a demo, I wanna see how much game time / on field decision making we control. Guess I prefer the role of Manager more than General Manager.

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Store24

Can't wait! But they say they are going after us Fantasey baseball payers... So why not just make it fantasy baseball?? I would love an Xbox game like this that would actually work off of the real day to day stats of the games like fantasey baseball does. And if they could throw in a live graphic simulator of real games they they would really have something! Kind of like the little live graphic "Gameday" you can watch on MLB.com, do that but with full blown graphics. Now that would be sweet!!!

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philippelemieux

This reminds me of a game I used to play on my computer 12 years ago...Baseball Moguls. I'm really intrigued by it. Sounds like it could be fun.

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DaveDaDude

This could get me started in Fantasy Baseball again. :-)

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lucamet85

Reminds me of NFL Head Coach. It will be great for the super hardcore guys, but for people who are more casual players, it will just be confusing, unnecessary, and I think most aren't going to put $60 down for it.

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gmaster666

why is it that this game sound and looks like a failure...put the breaks on this 2K cuz u guys might be the only 1 playing this game

Avatar image for MURDA_B
MURDA_B

Too long

Avatar image for valdarez
valdarez

Interesting note, one of the mods on the 2K Sports forums suggested the title for the game. And no, it wasn't me. (though I think my suggestion was better!) MLB General Manager - By the Numbers :)

Avatar image for Vance_009
Vance_009

looks good, will keep check on this.

Avatar image for ShankDogg
ShankDogg

"Only way this is fun is if you can manage a team that is in an online league." You can. Though I didn't get to test out the online to see how easy it is to find others to invite into a league.

Avatar image for gfxarts
gfxarts

Only way this is fun is if you can manage a team that is in an online league.

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neil4688

Hopefully its not as glitchy as 2k's baseball game last year.

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junglejim99

While it may not be a pretty graphically, Out of the Park Baseball 9 (OOTP9) does everything this game does and much, much more.

Avatar image for jkwon0709
jkwon0709

Somethong worth keeping an eye on. I've been waiting for a game like this for awhile, hopefully it does alright.

Avatar image for adonis2109
adonis2109

Gesundheit.

Avatar image for Media_Mind
Media_Mind

achooo