Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of some of the quietest additions that have been made in basketball games over the years.
Not all additions to basketball games receive a big announcement and a lot of fanfare, be they a brand new feature, or content pushed through during the season. As demonstrated just last week, new content in particular can be added very quietly. Of course, when it comes to the preview season, both EA Sports and Visual Concepts do tend to go to much greater lengths to inform us about new additions to NBA Live and NBA 2K. It stands to reason, as along with improvements to existing features, any exciting new additions are strong selling points that are likely to move units.
With that being said, even during the preview season, there are additions that seem to fly under the radar. There are a few reasons as to why this may happen. A long time ago, the preview season wasn’t as comprehensive and in-depth as it is now. There’s also oversight, and underestimation of a feature’s appeal. Alternatively, something may be kept under wraps to keep it a surprise, though this runs the risk of wasting a good selling point. Some additions may be kept quiet to avoid potential controversy. Whatever the case may be, there have been several additions to basketball games that have had little to no hype or promotion. Let’s look at five of them.
1. Additions to the Legends Pool in Various NBA Live Games
The debut of NBA Legends in NBA Live 2000 was naturally a big deal. EA Sports made sure to announce it ahead of time, especially when they secured the likeness rights for Michael Jordan. A few Legends subsequently had to be removed when their agreements with EA expired, but on the bright side, we also saw a few new Legends added over the years. Players like Clyde Drexler, George Mikan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were not included in NBA Live 2000, but would come to join the roster of Legends in subsequent releases. Spud Webb, Larry Nance, Tom Chambers, and other former players were also added in later years.
Strangely, these additions never seemed to be mentioned during the preview season. Admittedly, it was usually only a couple of players here and there, which pales in comparison to the historical content that has understandably been heavily promoted in several NBA 2K games. Still, it’s a little odd that we didn’t hear anything at all about the new Legends, though we were obviously pleased to see that they’d been added. Historical content definitely wasn’t a priority for NBA Live after 2000, and taking into account the more subdued preview seasons of that era, it makes sense that EA didn’t make a point of mentioning those additions, appealing as they were.
2. Sim Intervention in NBA Live 15
It’s fair to say that the traditional franchise experience has not been a high priority in NBA Live since the series was rebooted in 2013. It’s a shame, and it’s a trend that I hope we’ll see change in NBA Live 19. That’s not to say that nothing at all has been done with the Dynasty and Franchise modes however, as both have received new additions here and there. One of the best additions that EA kept very quiet about was the return of Simulation Intervention in NBA Live 15. An innovative feature, especially after its expansion in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of NBA Live 08, it was great to see it available in Dynasty once again.
Presumably, the lack of a mention during the preview season was due to the fact that Dynasty wasn’t a priority, and Sim Intervention was really the only major addition to the mode. Again, it underlines how the franchise experience has been an afterthought, which hopefully will change now that NBA Live 18 has taken some pleasing steps in the right direction. At the same time, I feel that EA should do a little more to mention features like this during the preview season. 2K’s developer blogs generate hype and get basketball gamers talking, so for EA, it would be worth mentioning any nifty additions that have been made, be they brand new ideas, or familiar features.
3. Free MyCOURT Customisation in NBA 2K18
When it comes to the recent preview seasons for NBA 2K, Visual Concepts has said very little for the first couple of months, only to start dropping trailers and developer blogs left and right when the new game is just weeks away from release. It was no different with NBA 2K18, as it was only two weeks before the game’s release that we learned about The Neighborhood. Something we didn’t hear about when the new open world approach and Road to 99 was being explained is that MyCOURT customisation would now be free. Once we unlocked that ability by attaining an Overall Rating of 75, we wouldn’t have to spend any VC to spruce up our private court.
It was a pleasant surprise, but there’s less goodwill in the change than first appears. MyCOURT customisation was obviously made free to offset the expense of other items in NBA 2K18’s MyCAREER, as well as the attribute upgrades. Revealing that you’d no longer have to spend VC on MyCOURT decals could have let the cat out of the bag regarding NBA 2K18’s aggressive approach with the VC-driven economy in The Neighborhood and general encouragement of microtransactions; if only through making us wonder “alright, what’s the catch?”. Like the absence of player upgrades and VC in this year’s abbreviated Prelude, there’s a reason this was kept very quiet.
4. Changes to File Structure in NBA 2K PC
While our modding community has done some fantastic work with the PC releases of NBA 2K, it hasn’t been as easy as working with NBA Live back in the day. Not only did EA use file formats for the rosters and artwork that were easy to develop tools for, when NBA Live 2003 was released, they actually provided us with a Customisation Guide that explained the file and folder structure for CustomArt. Granted, EA didn’t freely advertise the modding capabilities of NBA Live PC, but there was some acknowledgement of the hobby, and a clear effort to help out with resources and modder-friendly assets. Visual Concepts, comparatively, hasn’t been quite as helpful.
That’s not to say that they haven’t subtly lent us a hand here and there, though. While we still don’t have roster files that can be easily edited externally (like NBA Live’s DBFs), the container structure for art files was changed so that assets are a little easier to find. The format hasn’t changed too much either, meaning that in many cases, existing tools and techniques haven’t become completely obsolete. Moving forward, I’d love to see modder-friendly roster files and modded art file support that doesn’t require an unofficial plugin, but let it be said that the PC team for NBA 2K have quietly implemented a few changes that helped us out a little.
5. Continued Roster Updates in NBA Live 09
EA’s decision to keep updating the rosters for NBA Live 10 after NBA Elite 11’s cancellation wasn’t a surprise, as they announced their plans in an effort to show goodwill and maintain interest in the brand. No such announcement was made as NBA Live 09 was being superseded by NBA Live 10, but as it turned out, the former’s roster updates didn’t conclude with the 2009 season. Whether it was initially a mistake that EA Sports simply decided to run with, or an intentional small gesture of goodwill they thought might encourage gamers to keep supporting the brand, NBA Live 09 ended up quietly receiving roster updates through 2010.
The quiet approach to continuing the NBA Live 09 roster updates adds credence to the theory that it was a mistake. At the very least, they weren’t a high priority, as evident from the lack of detail in the updates themselves. While new rookies were added along with the latest transactions, they all had the same generic Create-a-Player face. Compare this to the 2011 season updates for NBA Live 10, where at least a little effort went into the appearances of the newly added players. As much as NBA Live 365 had been hyped with the “made fresh daily” slogan and previews, the extended roster updates turned out to be one of the quietest additions in basketball games.
What are some of the quietest additions or changes in basketball games that you can recall? Should EA Sports and Visual Concepts do a better job of hyping up and letting us know about smaller additions in future games? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.