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 originally planned for last week’s Five to be the final instalment in my current series of articles discussing what I’d like to see in future NBA Live games, beginning with NBA Live 18 later this year. However, there are a few more ideas that I wanted to put out there, as they didn’t quite fit into any of the previous areas that I was focusing upon. While it’s crucial that core elements of the gameplay and existing game modes are fixed and enhanced, and that features such as roster editing return, there are a couple of other ideas that I believe would help make future NBA Live games even better.
These are the ideas that cater to specific needs and preferences, and contribute towards making NBA Live a deep and well-rounded game. Again, getting the gameplay right, enhancing the existing game modes, and implementing roster editing are all improvements that are absolutely vital, but once progress has been made on those fronts, it’s important that NBA Live innovates and expands upon its content, as the series once did so well. There are certainly more than five things that can be suggested here, but these are the ideas that either appeal the most to me, or I believe will have the biggest impact.
1. Bring Back All-Star Weekend
Having just written about All-Star Weekend for Wayback Wednesday, and with the 2017 event tipping off today, this suggestion is obviously fresh in my mind. As I said in my retrospective, finally getting the All-Star Weekend in NBA Live 2005 was a big deal, and one of the most significant additions in the history of the NBA Live series. It not only adds depth to Dynasty by representing an important event on the NBA calendar, but it provides gamers with something fun to play in between games. It was great being able to jump into the Slam Dunk Contest or Three-Point Shootout whenever you wanted.
While I would like the NBA Live series to innovate and not just rehash old ideas, I would suggest bringing back the Slam Dunk Contest with similar mechanics, at least upon the mode’s return. They were intuitive and effective, and changing them up is an idea that can be explored once the mode is back in the game, if indeed there’s a need to do that. The other events are fairly straightforward, though one possible improvement would be the ability to customise the All-Star and Rising Stars rosters. Throw in the enhanced presentation we have these days with the ESPN branding, and an All-Star Weekend mode should be very well received.
2. Bring Back Playoffs Mode
Much like roster editing, a standalone Playoffs mode is an old staple of basketball video games that remains relevant today. While most of us generally want to experience the NBA season from start to finish – whether in a franchise or career mode – there are times when we’d like to skip straight to the postseason. The ability to set up our own custom Playoffs brackets at any time is something we had as far back as NBA Live 95, and when it returned in NBA Live 10 after being absent for a few games, a lot of us were very glad to see it; especially given the new atmosphere settings.
There doesn’t need to be a whole lot to the mode. As long as gamers can customise (and perhaps even randomise) the teams and their seeding, control multiple teams, and choose custom series lengths if desired, the only other requirement would be Playoff-specific atmosphere and presentation. If there is room for a couple of other options, I’d also suggest that being able to choose the old 5-7-7-7 format (and a shorter 3-5-5-5 variation) in addition to 7-7-7-7, 5-5-5-5, 3-3-3-3, and 1-1-1-1, would be welcome. When the NBA Playoffs tip off in real life, it’s fun to be able to play along in video games as well, so a standalone Playoffs mode would be a solid addition.
3. Expand the NBA’s Presence in Online Modes
That may sound like a strange suggestion, but allow me to explain. While it’s currently possible to play online with real NBA team rosters, we’re basically limited to head to head games and series. I know that a big part of playing online these days involves taking part in games with your own avatar, and whether you’re talking about LIVE Pro-Am, 2K Pro-Am, or MyPARK, I think those are great concepts, and a lot of fun. However, I also believe that the NBA should have a bigger presence in online modes. I touched upon adding more NBA content to LIVE Pro-Am and online Dynasty in my previous articles, but there’s more that can be done.
In addition to featuring more NBA challenges in LIVE Pro-Am and implementing online Dynasty (or some sort of online league), there are a couple of other concepts that future NBA Live games could bring back. Online Team Play with NBA squads would be a nice change of pace, and a throwback to the original mode. Similarly, adding an option to play with real players in LIVE Run – paying homage to the original adidas LIVE Run – would definitely appeal to a lot of basketball gamers. At the end of the day, NBA Live should always remember the “NBA” part of its title, and look to incorporate authentic players and teams across the entire online experience.
4. Feature Legends Outside of Ultimate Team
This one could be tricky. EA Sports has obviously licensed several NBA Legends to appear in Ultimate Team – from significant players and mid-tier stars to many of the all-time greats – but NBA 2K has set the bar very high as far as historical content is concerned. Michael Jordan also has an exclusive contract with Visual Concepts, and it seems unlikely that NBA Live would be able to top or even match what 2K has done in terms of historical teams. Without His Airness, and possibly the likeness rights of several other key retired players, EA would be severely limited in what they could do.
With that being said, there’s no reason why NBA Live can’t still do something with historical players outside of Ultimate Team. It’s definitely good to have them as collectibles in LUT, but it would be fun to use them in other modes as well. If custom rosters are returning – and they certainly must – then simply being able to place Legends on current teams would be a start. The Decade All-Star teams are another concept that could be brought back. Sure, there’d be a few noteworthy omissions, but that was often the case in older games as well. It would ultimately be a little extra content, and that never goes astray.
5. Release a PC Version
You had to know that this one was coming. Now, when it comes to basketball gaming, the PC platform does present a few issues. While porting games from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is reportedly easier than it was with the previous generation, there are still challenges when it comes to supporting all the different hardware. Overheads can be lowered by sticking with digital-only distribution, and in Origin, EA does have its own digital platform. However, PC basketball gamers have always made up a small part of the userbase, so EA’s decision to move away from the platform – while unfortunate for us – is understandable from a business perspective.
However, there is definitely a passionate basketball gaming community on PC right here at the NLSC (and elsewhere), and many gamers would welcome an alternative to NBA 2K. If NBA Live brings the goods in all other areas, and the hypothetical PC version was as moddable as the older releases were, then I feel quite confident that there’s an enthusiastic audience waiting for it. PC gaming certainly isn’t dead, and while PC basketball gamers may be a niche demographic within a niche demographic, they absolutely exist. A greatly improved NBA Live that brings the PC platform back into the fold would earn a lot of goodwill, and no doubt be gratefully received.
That wraps up this series of articles, but with NBA Live 18 in production, the discussion obviously isn’t over. Feel free to share any of your further ideas in the comments section below, as well as in the Wishlist thread originally created for NBA Live 17, over in the NLSC Forum. I’ll be moving on to some new topics next week, but in the meantime, thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.