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NBA Live 10 Wishlist Supplement

For those unfamiliar with the Wishlist Supplement, for the past few years we have been submitting a supplementary article along with the annual Wishlist to further emphasise points of concern and outline what we want to see in NBA Live and attempt to explain the kind of experience we are looking to get out of it. Although the Wishlist usually provides an extensive list of these items, its length and format do not always allow it to be comprehensive or accurately emphasise the most pressing issues in great detail. The mission of the Wishlist Supplement is to fill in the gaps so to speak, providing a more in-depth look at our feelings about what would improve the game and which elements we like and dislike.

As with previous years, I’ve decided to do a write-up as a supplement to our annual Wishlist to sum up the most popular wishes as concisely as possible while still adding a couple of details that get lost in the shuffle in the point-form Wishlist. So, without further ado, here is the Wishlist Supplement for NBA Live 10.

PC Version

It would be remiss of me not to mention the fond hope of the PC community that NBA Live 10 be ported to the PC from the Xbox 360/Playstation 3 platforms. The lukewarm reactions to recent PC releases has stemmed mainly from them being ports of the Playstation 2 version and various bugs that have gone unresolved as focus has shifted to the next generation of consoles. The popularity of NBA 2K9 on the PC should hopefully indicate our passion for the platform and the willingness of the fanbase to upgrade where necessary to play ported games that demand better hardware and most of all, that there’s a market for it.

It would also be remiss of me to not to mention our two other fondest wishes in regards to a PC version: that it is moddable (similar to previous PC releases) and has a PC orientated user interface, or a UI that at least takes advantage of the presence of a mouse (utilising the scroll wheel, for example).

Gameplay

The expectations of NBA Live 10 remain the same as past years; that players reflect their real life counterpart’s performance (including statistical production) and abilities and teams run the plays and play as they do in real life, at least as long as the rosters remain close to the real thing (obviously it gets difficult when users hold a fantasy draft and/or start making trades). NBA Live 09 certainly showed a lot of improvement in this regard with pretty good shot distribution for the most part.

A couple of the areas that do need to be cleaned up are player animations, which are still a bit jerky at times and still sometimes feel a bit “canned” (especially on some collisions) and players running out of bounds or back across halfcourt without a violation. Perhaps bringing back the “Boundary Force Field” slider could help here in preventing players from stepping out of bounds too easily without having players actually commit the violation and not have anything called. It might also be a good idea to remove the “first step” on the turbo button or tone it down as it’s often more awkward than effective. There should also be fewer running jumpers as it’s difficult to pull up on the run without coming to a stop and losing momentum and/or letting the defender catch up.

Passing is another problematic area in NBA Live 09, at least when not using the Direct Pass icons. Directional passing isn’t very reliable in 09 which results in a lot of turnovers. Passing needs to be a bit crisper so that the ball can be effectively swung around the perimeter and bullet passes can be made to open players and on the fast break. Speaking of fast breaks, they could stand to be improved as well as players fade to the wings too often and don’t continue on to the hoop for the easy bucket when their team has numbers.

Fatigue rate and substitution frequency/AI also need a tuneup. Ideally, the default “balanced” fatigue slider should result in players tiring more quickly as even playing twelve minute quarters, the CPU tends to be able to play all its starters at least 40 minutes which isn’t realistic. A substitution frequency slider would also help curb the issue a bit, but the substitution AI could also stand to be improved with players currently on the floor sliding over to other positions when players are brought in as well as players being subbed in at their secondary positions. That way, teams can have more realistic substitution patterns and better distribute minutes by taking advantage of a player’s versatility.

Loose ball situations are also in need of a bit of a fix; it would be great if we could save balls in bounds and dive for the ball when it’s on the floor. There’s also the odd rebound that hits the floor when it really should be grabbed by a player. Obviously some shots rebound long out of bounds and whatnot but it’s frustrating when you seem to have gotten good position and jumped for the rebound, only for it to pass through your player’s hands, bounce on the floor and get picked up by the CPU. It makes it feel like the rebounding is predetermined which is disheartening because the CPU tends to score on offensive rebounds way too often.

Blocking was certainly improved in the official update for NBA Live 09 but blocks were still a bit too easy on the balanced slider setting, especially when it came to shorter players blocking taller players. The blocks themselves are pretty nice but the frequency could be toned down a little. It would be preferable if more shots were altered than blocked by default.

A control method that is really missed is Freestyle Air, which allowed us to alter shot attempts midair and decide whether we wanted to grab the board, attempt a tip-in or try for a putback dunk on the offensive glass. This is a much missed feature that would be enthusiastically welcomed on the next generation of consoles. A lot of users have also expressed a preference for the pro-hop button over a second playcalling button.

Lockdown Defense could also stand to be better balanced as CPU teams are too adept at recovering when they’ve been beaten, an advantage that is not granted to the human player. It should certainly be possible to play tight, effective defense and players shouldn’t be able to drive too easily but weak defenders should get beaten and shouldn’t be able to immediately snap back in front of their man when their ankles are broken.

Finally, shots around the basket also need to be cleaned up a bit as players will too often fire the ball into the bottom of the rim or try to shoot from behind the backboard. The idea of contextually appropriate shot attempts is good but unfortunately the wrong shots seem to be picked a bit too often, which is unfair because the CPU rarely makes the same mistakes itself. Some dunk and layup attempts also seem to pass through the backboard though not as much as in previous years.

Dynasty Mode

The “push” aspect of Dynasty Mode continues to be successful as the new Dynasty hub and recent innovations such as the free agent negotiation mini-game have proven to be very popular. For the most part, we’d like to see that built upon with more player management as well as owner tasks added, with the ability to disable/automate any tasks as desired. Amongst some of the most popular wishes for Dynasty Mode expansion include the ability to hire and fire head coaches as well as the rest of the staff, the D-League, preseason games and the ability to assign player roles.

As far as fixes go, simulated stats still top the list though this was another area in which NBA Live 09 showed a lot of improvement in. Scoring is pretty good though there are a couple of players who still score more than they should (Steve Nash still seems to sneak in there), usually point guards. Assists, steals, blocks and rebounds are better but the upper range could be a little higher in each category and sometimes point guards who don’t average a lot of assists (like Derek Fisher) rank amongst the league leaders. For the most part things are a lot better but could still stand to be polished a bit more.

Another quick note about league leaders, it doesn’t seem that qualifying stats are taken into account as it’s not uncommon to see players leading in shooting percentages with ridiculously high numbers (eg 100% on free throws) but do not have enough attempts to qualify.

I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that we’d like the normal Reorder Roster function back in Dynasty Mode. When it comes to changing the starting lineups and bench order, the current method of playing around with the Player Rotation and Inactive List menus is, frankly, terrible. It’s clumsy, awkward and half the time the CPU seems to make decisions for you and activate players you just deactivated. Please, PLEASE let us use the traditional roster ordering menu in Dynasty Mode, we’ve wanted this one back since NBA Live 07. The Player Rotation function is great for setting minutes and such for simulation but when it comes to changing lineups it absolutely sucks. If there’s but one minor change to Dynasty Mode functionality this year, please let it be this one.

On the subject of Dynasty Mode functionality, it would be really handy if we could toggle between Interest, Player Salaries and Contract Length on the trade player screen so that we could see who has an expiring contract without having to go through the other GM menus. The green tick/red cross method is great in letting us quickly know whether a trade will work under the salary cap but sometimes we still want more information.

It would also be good if we could enter the NBA Academy manually instead of being prompted to train once a month, though there should certainly be a limit on how much progress we can see within a training session. At the very least, we should be able to run five-on-five scrimmages whenever we want as it would be handy to do so after making a blockbuster trade.

Back on the subject of fixes, similar to the simulated stats the selection of awards winners and All-Stars could still do with a bit of polishing. The game still tends to select rigidly by position when in real life, the mere need to select two guards, two forwards and a centre may mean that two power forwards or two shooting guards are selected to start.

Finally, a lot of players would like to have the ability to control multiple teams in Dynasty Mode and select shorter seasons (eg 29 or 58 game seasons) when they don’t have time to play 82 games and don’t wish to simulate.

Be a Pro & Street Modes

With the introduction of Be a Pro, a lot of people would like to see it developed into a fully fledged career mode locked to a single player, either an actual NBA player or a custom player that they have created. With no NBA Street games being produced in the foreseeable future, the addition of a Street Mode is another suggestion that has resurfaced as a popular wish.

Things we’d like to see brought back

The following is a short list of things from previous games that haven’t been featured in recent NBA Live titles which we’d like to see return in NBA Live 10 (a couple have already been mentioned):

  • Reorder Roster Menu in Dynasty Mode
  • Shorter season lengths for Dynasty Mode
  • Freestyle Air (or equivalent control method; see above)
  • Playoffs Mode
  • Custom Teams (preferably with a variety of generic basketball themed art)
  • Table-based career stats display (as on NBA.com and the backs of trading cards)
  • The ability to save games in progress
  • User profiles with stat tracking
  • The ability to save stats screens and boxscores.
  • Substitution Frequency Slider
  • Injury Frequency Slider

New things we’d like to see

The following is a short list of some of the most desired additions to the game in NBA Live 10:

  • More FIBA teams
  • Ability to hire/fire head coaches in Dynasty Mode
  • Preseason/Summer Leagues in Dynasty Mode
  • Ability to have more than 15 players on your roster during the offseason before trimming it down come training camp.
  • Expanded Be a Pro Mode (see above)
  • Expanded Creation Modes (Team, Jersey, Court, Fan, etc)
  • Players wearing warm-ups (or suits if they’re inactive) on the bench.

Bugs & Other Issues

We’ve compiled a list of bugs and other common issues as part of the Wishlist and another supplementary article but there are a couple that are worth mentioning again. NBA Live 09 has an annoying bug in Dynasty Mode where injured players on CPU teams don’t return to the active rosters after they’ve healed. This is obviously a problem as it may mean a star never gets back into the rotation. Similarly, there are a few too many injuries so a slider to control the frequency would be handy.

Presentation

A common complaint in NBA Live 09 is that the text is too small, especially on stats screens and in the boxscores. The menus themselves are pretty clean and easy enough to navigate however. NBA Live 09 certainly stepped up its presentation with the cheerleaders and mascots and the camera angles are good but the overall presentation could be made to feel a bit more like a TV broadcast with the starting lineup overlays and more stats overlays popping up during the game. NBA Live 365 was obviously a big feature in NBA Live 09 but all the NBA Live 365 scouting reports before games was a little intrusive and detracted from the overall atmosphere.

And speaking of atmosphere, crowd reactions in NBA Live 09 were better but it would certainly be cool to see that further expanded upon in NBA Live 10 with Playoff and Finals games standing apart from regular season games and games in Play Now mode, with more fanfare, more hyped up crowds and of course, an elaborate celebration upon winning the championship (the ability to replay the celebration would be cool, too).

Summary

NBA Live 09 on the Xbox 360/Playstation 3 was a very solid product despite its issues and the console only release did upset a lot of fans. However, if NBA Live 10 continues to build on the positives of 09 and stamp out the most irritating problems then it has a chance to make a huge leap forward and certainly win back a lot of fans. If there is going to be a PC version – and we really, really hope there is – then my final suggestion would be to release a demo the same as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 as we haven’t had a PC demo since NBA Live 2003.

Hopefully our suggestions, bug lists and feedback will prove useful in the production of NBA Live 10. My thanks to the production team for the opportunity to provide the feedback and thanks to everyone in the community who took part in contributing to the Wishlists.