Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
As I’ve mentioned several times before, I’m a huge fan of Dynasty Mode, as it’s been my game mode of choice in NBA Live since it was implemented as Franchise Mode way back in NBA Live 2000. Before the game came out last year, I talked about the things that I wanted to see in NBA Live 14’s Dynasty Mode, though I did temper my expectations somewhat as I knew there was much to focus on as the development team looked to relaunch the series.
As it turns out however, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by what Dynasty Mode has on offer in NBA Live 14. While there are still improvements to be made, features to be added and elements to be tweaked, the mode has returned fairly well-rounded and with some pleasing additions. As such, this week I’m listing the five best things in NBA Live 14’s Dynasty Mode.
1. The new Player Rotation Menu
Yes, I’m going to talk about this again. One of my biggest gripes in Dynasty Mode in the last few NBA Live games before the series went on hiatus was the lack of the traditional Reorder Roster menu. The replacement Rotation menu was clunky to use and didn’t allow the user to completely reorder the bench while adjusting their starting five. Year after year, we pleaded for a better solution (or simply a return of the old Reorder Roster menu) in our annual Wishlists.
When the series finally returned with NBA Live 14, with it came the best of both worlds: a Player Rotation menu very similar to the one seen in the NBA 2K series, allowing the user to completely reorder their lineup while also setting each player’s playing time in number of minutes, rather than a percentage of the available court time in 5% increments. For the Dynasty geek that loves to tinker with their lineup, it’s absolutely perfect. It took a few years after it was originally dropped in NBA Live 07, but we’ve finally got the basic functionality that we needed and wanted for reordering our rosters in Dynasty. It may seem like a small feature, but it has a big impact.
2. Very Acceptable Simulated Stats
A big part of being a Dynasty geek is taking a keen interest in the accuracy of the simulated statistics. Ideally, I’d like to see them reflect the kind of performance that we’d expect to see the players produce in real life, with their numbers on the season being in the ballpark of their usual statistical output. Back in the day, NBA Live was able to produce very accurate results through the use of DSTATS (dummy stats in the player database), but that method was ultimately abandoned as it didn’t account for player growth and decline after a few seasons.
The game has had mixed results since DSTATS were eliminated and simulated stats have instead been based entirely on player ratings. NBA Live 14’s sim engine probably has the best results since NBA Live 06 and I’d say its performance is comparable to the simulated stats that we’ve seen in recent NBA 2K games. There are some odd results – Mario Chalmers averages too many assists which results in LeBron James averaging too few, a handful of players perform a little better than they should, and so on – but it’s acceptable at the very least. The award winners and All-Star selections aren’t too bad, either.
3. A reasonable amount of depth
There is definitely room for improvement in Dynasty Mode, which will hopefully happen as soon as NBA Live 15. It would be nice to see training drills return (along with team scrimmages) and a couple of menus appear to be missing – as far as I can tell, you can’t view a list of the season’s transactions or previous award winners whenever you want – but the mode is still fully featured and has retained most of the good stuff from previous games.
The negotiation mini-game is still present when attempting to sign free agents in the offseason. 10 day contracts aren’t in the game and restricted free agency isn’t really represented, but the veteran minimum and Mid-Level Exceptions are there, along with the rest of the salary cap rules. Trades, the trading block and free agent pickups are available in the regular season, you can assign training time to players, there’s a Mock Draft and rookie scouting, Draft Day trades, staff upgrades…basically, it’s a combination of the core features of Dynasty Mode in the last few PC releases and NBA Live 10 (sans the NBA Academy). Again, there’s room for improvement and features that I’d like to see added, but as it stands, it’s still fairly comprehensive.
4. Presentation and atmosphere
NBA Live 14’s Dynasty Mode isn’t quite on par with Association mode in NBA 2K14 current gen (and MyGM in NBA 2K14 next gen is on another level entirely), but there’s been some improvement in this area. NBA Live 14’s menus are aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate in general, but beyond that there are some nice touches to the presentation and atmosphere in Dynasty Mode.
As in NBA 2K’s Association Mode, we have generated news stories with player and coach quotes, detailing the awards races, recent games, their outlook on the season and so on. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a definite improvement for NBA Live. The Draft Lottery and Draft Day screens have been spruced up a bit, presumably to look a little more like an ESPN broadcast. The “push” aspect introduced in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of NBA Live 08 has been retained, as information and features are easy to find. As JaoSming noted in a recent Podcast, it’s lacking the immersion of the Academy, but I feel that what is there is actually pretty slick.
5. Little details that make the mode
As I’ve explored Dynasty Mode in NBA Live 14, I’ve found a handful of minor details that nevertheless enhance functionality and the experience in general. For example, when selecting players on the Trade Players screen, all of their relevant details are now viewable: their overall and individual ratings, their age, and their full contract details including salary and number of years remaining. In previous games, you’d need to backtrack and check a couple of other menus to make sure you had all that information. I also like that they’ve retained the display of the team’s cap and roster situation, along with the indicator that the proposed trade works under the salary cap.
When a lengthy simulation is interrupted by a notification, such as an injury, trade offer or power rankings update, the game will ask whether you wish to resume simulating if you choose to adjust your lineup, review the trade or view the rankings. Basic, but a handy feature to have all the same. The generated names for rookies also seems to be a little better, as there are less weird combinations and uncommon names than in years past. It feels like a decent amount of attention has been paid to functionality and the finer details, which is definitely good news moving forward.
That’s going to do it for now. What are some of your favourite aspects of Dynasty and Association Mode? What kind of features do you want to see added in the future? Do you think MyGM is the right concept moving forward? Have your say in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for checking in this week, please join me again next Friday for another Five.