Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! For the uninitiated, this is a new weekly feature appearing every Friday, discussing five items of interest in list/countdown format. Topics you can expect to see covered include issues related to basketball video games, goings on in the real NBA and other subjects of interest to our community.
This week, I’m counting down the five improvements that I believe are needed in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER mode. Although I’m traditionally more of a Dynasty and Association enthusiast, over the past couple of years I’ve been drawn in by My Player/MyCAREER and enjoyed it immensely. However, there are a couple of bothersome issues that detract from the experience, so these are the things that I’d most like to see addressed for MyCAREER in NBA 2K14 and beyond.
Let’s tip things off with…
5. The ability to make changes to your Player’s position (within reason)
In my current MyCAREER game, I’m a 6’4” shooting guard playing for the Denver Nuggets. Ty Lawson has gone down with an injury and is likely out for the season, which has given me the opportunity to step into the starting lineup alongside Andre Iguodala in the backcourt. I’ve found that I enjoy that role a lot more and have had some big games distributing the ball, including a couple of 20+ assist performances.
The thing is, I’m still listed as a shooting guard. For the moment, the game doesn’t seem to mind that and the coaching AI is happy to keep starting and subbing me in at point guard, but I’d like to be able to make it my primary position so that playing me there is the preferred option for the rest of my career, regardless of whether or not another player is injured, I remain with the Nuggets or end up going somewhere else.
I’m playing the game on PC so I do have the option of using a Trainer to make changes, but that runs the risk of causing all kinds of delightful bugs elsewhere in the mode and I’ve heard that changing your Player’s primary position in particular generally screws a lot of things up. It may be a more viable option once REDitor is released, but it’s an option that should be available in-game.
To keep things within reason, perhaps the game could allow you to specify a secondary position when creating your Player. During the course of your career, you could then elect to switch the primary and secondary positions, according to the type of player you evolve into and where you’ll best fit in on a roster.
4. More options for your career path when starting out
I like the current approach of MyCAREER: start with the rookie showcase game, establish your Draft stock, get picked and find your place in the rotation. Considering that the ultimate goal of MyCAREER is basically to qualify for induction into the Hall of Fame so that you can get that special cutscene, it’s an appropriate way to start the game.
However, not everyone wants to take that path. Some gamers would rather be career role players. Others would like more of a challenge out of the gate, with the possibility of being sent down to (or starting in) the D-League, as in previous games. The player style templates that govern your starting ratings are also a little restrictive and in the case of the all-around builds, a little underrated in certain areas which makes for unnecessary grinding…more on that later.
There would obviously have to be limitations on this but it’d be awesome to be able to choose from different career paths and starting scenarios, depending on how quickly you want to become a star player, whether you actually want to become a star player in the first place and whether or not you truly want to work your way up from the bottom rung.
This choice would also allow for a few more starting ratings templates, some of which would be a little more generous than the current ones while others would be much more challenging to start out with. That way, everyone should be able to get the kind of experience they want out of MyCAREER.
3. Less focus on your Player, at least until he becomes a star
This probably sounds like an odd one to some of you. After all, MyCAREER is about the experience of being a (fictional) NBA player, so naturally it’s going to focus on you. However, as Leftos and I discussed in a recent podcast, the focus is a little too much on you, especially while you’re still just more of a role player.
It makes sense to a certain extent. You’re experiencing the mode from your player’s perspective, you want to hear about them and it’s natural that the virtual commentators and fans will be paying attention to a promising rookie. The fake Twitter is kind of fun (though it’d be nice to be able to respond to some of the comments) and it’s great when the announcers acknowledge your previous performances and your attitude during press conferences. But a little too much is made of it when you’re still only the fourth or fifth most important player on the team.
I’m currently averaging around 9 ppg, 5 rpg and 8 apg, which I feel are solid numbers for a rookie who’s not the star of the team. However, because the team has the best record in the league, somehow I’m an MVP candidate. Mind you, so are three other Nuggets players, so the award logic is still kind of buggy to say the least.
You also tend to get too much of the credit or blame on the fake Twitter when your team wins or loses. I’ve been chided for being lazy on the boards and my lack of rebounds cited as a concern despite a dominant victory, just because I’ve only grabbed two of them…while playing point guard, spending most of the game on the perimeter and chipping in a decent double-double with around 12 points and 16 assists. While it’s only really for flavour and does actually serve to represent some of the sillier comments you may see Tweeted, it does detract from an otherwise effective “atmosphere” feature, by tying generic and ill-fitting critiques to a particular statistic.
2. Fair amounts of Skill Points
I was tempted to put this at number one because it’s a significant issue in NBA 2K13 and an example of a controversial practice in sports gaming these days. The amount of Skill Points you receive after a completing a game is at times downright insulting, to say nothing of SP awarded for completing drills. In my review of NBA 2K13, I noted that it was obviously done because of the Virtual Currency system, which allows gamers to use real money to purchase upgrades for their Player and is completely absent from the PC version.
It’s a controversial practice because it’s often seen to be money grubbing, punishing gamers who don’t want to shell out any extra bucks on a game they’ve already spent money on to buy in the first place. It’s an even touchier subject when you start talking about online leagues and the possibility of gamers with more disposable income immediately gaining an unfair advantage. In terms of MyCAREER, you don’t have to buy those Virtual Currency packs, but be prepared for a lot of grinding to boost your player. Once again, the PC version doesn’t utilise VC at all, so grinding is your only choice on that platform.
VC likely isn’t going anywhere as that sort of thing is becoming common practice these days and when you’re talking about single player modes, you can argue that it’s a fair option for gamers who lack patience but have some loose change to spare. Unfortunately, that approach leaves everyone else to grind their way through minimal player upgrades with low Skill Points bonuses (I once earned 225 skill points for a “Good” performance, then 213 Skill Points for a “Fair” one the next game) and a paltry rookie salary. The standard amounts of Skill Points earned should be higher and fairer in NBA 2K14.
Of course, it’s difficult to amass a fair amount of Skill Points without number one on this week’s list:
1. Better and fairer grading logic
I rank this at number one as not only is it tied in to the previous complaint, but it’s a potential constant annoyance game in and game out, on any given play. The grading system and logic did improve in NBA 2K12, but it doesn’t seem like anything was done with it in NBA 2K13 and as such, there are still some troubling issues.
The problem is that it still feels like the grading system is geared towards penalising players. You can play flawlessly for five minutes then make a couple of mistakes in quick succession and go down a whole grade. It doesn’t help that the grading also feels inconsistent, sometimes appearing to depend on whether you’ve had marks awarded or docked recently.
“Allow man to score”, “Good shot defense”, “Bad call for pass”, and “Good/Bad shot selection” are some of the worst offenders in this regard, not appearing to take the context of the situation into account. I’ve forced an opponent into a fadeaway three from about 30 feet out as the shot clock was expiring, which went in; a classic CPU middle finger. Because I wasn’t right up in his face when he launched that desperation shot, I was penalised for “allowing” him to score. I’ve also been chided for calling for a pass while wide open underneath the basket and had very sketchy declarations about my shot selection, both ways.
Other penalties, such as “Allowed inside pass” and “Give up offensive rebound”, also don’t seem to take context into account. If you force your player to pass out of a layup to a teammate standing next to them and then they receive an immediate pass back, you’ve allowed a pass inside. If you’re a smaller guard caught battling a player like Dwight Howard and can’t get the board, you get penalised for giving up the offensive rebound as much as a big who puts in a lazy effort on the glass.
It also doesn’t help when assists don’t register – what qualifies as an assist is inconsistent, but in that respect it’s not completely unrealistic, I suppose – and turnovers are tallied in your stat line when it’s actually your teammate committing them. It robs you of much needed Skill Points, which as previously mentioned are often insultingly low to begin with. In short, tweaks, fixes and improvements to the grading system and logic, with slightly bigger rewards, would be most welcome in NBA 2K14.
That’ll do it for this week’s Friday Five, thanks for checking it out! I invite you to post the five things that you would most like to see improved for MyCAREER in NBA 2K14 in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. I’ll be back next Friday with another Five.