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.
I’m on a real 2K Pro-Am kick lately, as I’ve really been enjoying getting together with Arcane, Kenny, and other members of our community to play a few games each week. However, while we do have a lot of fun at the Joel Anthony Arena – whenever we’re lucky enough to play there – we also have our fair share of frustrating moments. As I mentioned in Monday Tip-Off, some of our problems are self-inflicted, but there are a few issues that I would say do stem from gameplay imbalance and quirky logic. Obviously, these problems also affect the MyCAREER experience as well.
Apart from the story-driven approach, issues with the grading logic are one of my biggest complaints when it comes to MyCAREER (and now Pro-Am as well). Having recently gone back and played a few games of my memorable MyCAREER in NBA 2K13, I was frustrated to realise that I’m still experiencing some of the same problems in NBA 2K16. In order to enhance the MyCAREER and Pro-Am experience in NBA 2K17, I believe that the following five issues need to be addressed.
1. Grading Still Seems Biased Towards Punishing
This is the overarching theme of most of my issues with the grading logic in MyCAREER and Pro-Am. As much as I enjoyed my MyCAREER game in NBA 2K13 – as I’ve said on numerous occasions, it’s one of my all-time favourite experiences in a basketball video game – I was often bothered by the way that the grading system seemed to be skewed towards punishing mistakes than rewarding good play. This was apparent in two ways: penalties subtracted from the grade more than rewards added to it, and generally speaking, there were more ways to be penalised than rewarded.
Since then, a few improvements have been made. There are some small grade boosts for running plays correctly (even when you don’t manually call a play), making multiple defensive stops, and so on. That’s been great to see, but those boosts are still small compared to the deductions for mistakes and bad decisions. It’s probably easier to identify mistakes than good play, but it’s frustrating when a couple of errors impact your grade more than a consistently solid performance. More cynically, it feels like a way of shaving some VC from your earnings, making it more of a grind to upgrade your player, and push you towards splashing out some real currency.
2. Some Penalties Are Just Puzzling
Someone may have to correct me on this, but it still seems like the wrong players are registering turnovers. At times, it seems as though the game isn’t sure how it wants to tally turnover numbers; sometimes it seems to register them correctly, but other times it will make strange decisions, such as giving the turnover to the passer when the recipient fumbles the ball, or catches the ball and then steps out of bounds. Maybe I’m wrong about the way stats are tracked in the NBA, or maybe it’s one of those things that’s been quietly changed behind the scenes, but I’m fairly certain that’s not the way it works.
It reminds me of an annoying bug way back in NBA Live 06, where deflecting passes out of bounds counted as a turnover for the defender, even though they never had possession of the ball. Of course, that usually had little effect beyond slightly inflated turnover numbers in the boxscores. In MyCAREER and Pro-Am, it means significant deductions from your teammate grade, contributing to a hit in VC earnings, and possibly an unfair benching or quickly getting booted from a game. Throw in things like penalties for losing the ball on reach-in fouls, or penalties for losing the ball but no rewards for knocking it loose, and the logic really is quite puzzling at times.
3. Shot Selection Logic Is Often Contradictory
Thankfully, there has been some improvement in this area in recent years, but I do still find myself scratching my head – or more accurately, exclaiming in disbelief – at what the game considers good and bad shot selection. There are fewer penalties for taking less than ideal shots when the shot clock is winding down, or you feel inclined to fling up a long three at the end of a quarter, but then there are attempts that are definitely being unfairly penalised. I’m talking about shots that are wide open, within your range, and definitely aren’t terrible ideas given the circumstances.
At the same time, I’ve been rewarded for good shot selection when I’ve definitely taken a bad shot, so the logic feels inconsistent and contradictory. It’s another area where the apparent bias towards punishing mistakes rather than rewarding good play is a problem, because a couple of bad shots drag down a grade faster than a couple of good shots can keep it afloat. When your shot selection isn’t considered to be markedly good or bad, an attempt won’t affect your grade either way, as long as it isn’t blocked. Once again, it’s an example of a couple of mistakes outweighing long stretches of solid play.
4. Context Isn’t Accounted For Often Enough
In all fairness, I have to imagine that this is very difficult to achieve. It’s unreasonable to expect perfection in video games in general, and I couldn’t begin to suggest how all the different variables could accurately be accounted for when coding the grading logic. However, there are some very talented folks at Visual Concepts, so I’m hoping they’re able to take a run at making some improvements in this area in NBA 2K17. In short, some of the penalties just don’t seem to take a few key factors into account, resulting in effort going unrewarded despite the odds being against you, or miraculous plays by your opponent being considered egregious mistakes on your part.
I’ll throw a few specific examples out there. The “give up offensive rebound” penalty will still be handed out even if you’re a small guard being out-rebounded by a much bigger player who’s better on the boards; even when you’ve still done the best you can. Take a good shot that your opponent somehow manages to hustle over to block at the last minute? You can expect a big deduction. Another very frustrating occurrence is being hit with a “leave assignment” penalty because the defensive indicator can’t seem to make up its mind as to who you should be guarding. It adds to the feeling that the grading logic is stacked against you, and finding excuses to penalise.
5. VC in MyCAREER & 2K Pro-Am Seems Random
If anyone has figured out the formula that determines how much Virtual Currency you receive as a result of your performance in MyCAREER and 2K Pro-Am games, I’d love to know it. Even if I didn’t have any complaints about the grading logic, that would be useful information for all basketball gamers to have. As it stands, however, I’d be really interested to know how VC earnings are calculated and whether they’re consistent, because the amount often feels random. Good performances obviously do net more VC than poor ones, but the amounts are tough to figure, and seem to fluctuate wildly within the scope of good, fair, and poor performances.
For that matter, I’m often surprised at how the game rates my performance. I’ve had games where I’ve had an A+ teammate grade with solid numbers across the board, and yet my performance was only rated as being “fair”. In some cases, a couple of extra turnovers or missed shots probably hurt my overall grade a little, but it often seems a bit harsh. I suppose at the end of the day, I’d just like to see some more transparency about how the grading logic works, and VC rewards calculated. Since that’s how we upgrade our players in MyCAREER and Pro-Am, it should be fair, consistent, and easily understood. We shouldn’t feel cheated after a strong performance.
Have you encountered any frustrations with the grading logic in MyCAREER and Pro-Am? What are some of the improvements that you’d like to see? Do you have any corrections, or answers to my questions? Join in the conversation in the comments below, and as always, feel free to chime in over in the NLSC Forum as well. 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.