We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on the current lack of roster editing functionality in NBA Live.
With NBA Live 18, EA Sports’ long-running basketball series has taken some pleasing steps forward. While there’s still room for improvement, it’s had the best reception of any NBA Live game on the current generation, among gamers and reviewers alike. There’s more fluidity on the sticks, the controls have been expanded, and with The One, the game has a much deeper career mode along with some solid connected experiences. NBA Live appears to be on the right track, and even cracked the top twenty downloaded games on the PlayStation Network in September.
The team at EA Tiburon has to feel pleased with the more positive reaction to NBA Live 18, not to mention motivated as they begin work on next year’s game. However, there is one feature that’s conspicuous by its absence in NBA Live 18, and that’s roster editing. We haven’t seen roster editing in the series since NBA Live 10, and gamers are understandably getting impatient to see it return. While other areas of the game have rightfully been prioritised, roster editing is a staple that must return in NBA Live 19. That’s assuming, of course, that there isn’t a way for it to be implemented in this year’s game.
Back in May of last year, I discussed the importance of custom rosters in basketball video games. Nothing has changed in that regard. It’s still vital that we’re able to make changes instead of having to wait for the release of the next official roster update. Whether it’s getting a big trade into the game before the next update is pushed through, correcting a mistake in the most recent roster, or creating a brand new experience, roster editing functionality is a must. Ideally, we also need a method of sharing custom rosters with each other, but at the very least, we need the ability to make our own modifications to the rosters in NBA Live.
Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for roster editing to be implemented in the current generation of NBA Live games. It was disheartening to see its absence in NBA Live 14, but it was also somewhat understandable, given that the game was being rebuilt after years of scrapped plans and false starts. It’s worth noting that the current generation version of NBA 2K14 was also far more limited in terms of roster editing functionality, so we can perhaps chalk it up to teething problems as both games made the jump to the new platforms. However, while NBA 2K would begin bringing back key roster customisation features the very next year, NBA Live did not.
Beginning with NBA Live 15, roster editing has continually been set aside for “next year”. With each new game in the series, those words have become more and more frustrating to hear. With NBA Live skipping the 2017 season entirely in favour of an extended development cycle, the hope was that many past staples of the series, including roster editing, would finally make their return. Sadly, despite the pleasing progress that NBA Live 18 has made, gamers hoping to create their own rosters have once again been left feeling disappointed. At this point, “next year” really has to be next year, in NBA Live 19.
I imagine that there are some technical challenges here. The limited roster editing in NBA 2K14 was partly due to the way that the user interface was designed, and saved files subsequently handled. Obviously, NBA Live would also require some changes to its interface and the way it handles data files in order to accommodate roster editing. That may be easier said than done, at least if you’re talking about patching it into the current game. Implementing roster editing in NBA Live 19 may be quite feasible – and I certainly hope that it is – but adding that functionality to NBA Live 18 through a patch is likely a very different story.
While I’d love to see roster editing patched into NBA Live 18, and would certainly encourage EA Sports to do so if it’s all possible, I’m not expecting it to happen. If some functionality can be added, I imagine it would be quite limited. On that note, ThaLiveKing posted some excellent suggestions for a separate roster editing mode in our Forum. If the development team could indeed use existing assets to give us some roster customisation tools, then that would be fantastic. It would be understandable if Create-a-Player had to be left out, but I know that simply having the ability to trade, sign, and release players, set lineups, and edit player data, would be most appreciated.
Of course, looking ahead to NBA Live 19, in-game roster customisation needs to return with the same depth it had in NBA Live 10. That means the ability to create and edit players, with access to all the necessary bio data and attributes. It means being able to trade, sign, and release players. It means editing tendencies and coaching profiles. It means being able to save multiple rosters and share them with other basketball gamers, preferably through a public in-game sharing service similar to the method that NBA 2K utilises. Further customisation features such as Create-a-Team would be great, but that’s a lower priority than bringing back the basics.
There may be some concerns here regarding the official updates and Synergy Sports data, and that’s understandable. It’s definitely important that the official rosters are frequent and comprehensive. Similarly, Synergy data plays a big role in terms of authenticity, and needs to stay. This wasn’t a problem in NBA Live 09 or 10, though. Both received updates from Synergy while also facilitating roster editing, even providing users with access to edit the Player DNA data for their custom rosters. Admittedly a few things may have changed behind the scenes, but surely NBA Live doesn’t need to choose between having custom rosters and Synergy-driven updates.
Another viable solution – at least from our perspective – would be for EA Sports to develop an external roster editing tool based on the utilities they use internally for updating the rosters, and release it as downloadable content (preferably at no or minimal cost). I’d assume that some functionality would still need to be patched in, in order to load a custom roster before a Play Now game or beginning a new Franchise. That may be more feasible than adding all of the customisation functionality to the in-game interface, but I’m just speculating there. Furthermore, it would certainly be understandable if The One only utilised the latest official roster.
Once again, I have my doubts that roster editing can be added to NBA Live 18, though if it can be done, I’d encourage EA to strongly consider it. If nothing else, roster editing needs to make an overdue return in NBA Live 19. It’s a staple of sports gaming, and even though games have come a long way in terms of official updates, it’s still a relevant and much-needed feature. Granted, there are other areas where NBA Live must improve, and it’s understandable that attention has been focused elsewhere in recent years. Future NBA Live games need to be deep, well-rounded experiences though, and to that end, roster customisation is an essential feature.