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.
In previous Friday Fives, I’ve mentioned that I’m not a big fan of the “hold Shoot” method of shooting free throws that is currently used by both NBA Live and NBA 2K. While I’m still partial to the old T-Meter approach, it’s admittedly outdated and probably a little too old school at this point, so I’d be in favour of both games implementing a new method altogether.
Don’t get me wrong. The current method is serviceable, straightforward and provides the user with enough on-screen feedback to become reasonably proficient from the foul line (at least in NBA 2K). However, it does have its drawbacks and I believe that it’s time for some innovation in this area of the game. So, without any further ado, here are five reasons why I want to see a new method of shooting free throws in NBA Live and NBA 2K.
1. Precision on made free throws
In a nutshell, I want to have full control over free throw shooting. When I make a free throw, I want it to be because I’ve aimed it well, not drifting too far left or right, nor leaving the ball short or shooting it too long. I want to be able to attempt to bank in a free throw if I wish, or see an attempt rattle or roll in if my aim is slightly off, but still true enough with a soft enough touch for the shot to drop.
I don’t feel that the “hold Shoot” method truly offers that level of precision. A perfect/excellent release will ensure a made free throw every time, while early and late releases of the Shoot button reduce your chances of making the attempt, depending on the player’s abilities and just how badly you’ve timed the release. Again, it’s a serviceable method, but it’s not as precise as I’d like. It takes some control out of our hands and leaves us at the mercy of a random chance, which isn’t fun when the AI is feeling vindictive.
2. Precision on missed free throws
At the same time, I want to have precision in free throw shooting so that we also see logic in missed attempts. With the “hold Shoot” method, it doesn’t feel like there’s too much of a rhyme or reason to the way that free throws are missed. Badly mess up the timing or get unlucky with a release that’s slightly early or late, and the free throw will be missed in a somewhat random manner. I want to miss an attempt because I aimed too far left or shot the ball too hard off the back iron. Just as I want full control over a made free throw, I want full accountability for a missed one.
Having precise control over the aim when shooting free throws is also important for intentional misses at the line. When the time comes to intentionally miss a free throw to try for the offensive rebound to get another possession (and hopefully a basket), we need to be able to aim a miss the way we want. If I want to miss right because my strongest offensive rebounder is on that side of the lane, I should be able to do that. If I want to try to miss hard off the rim and get the rebound myself at the free throw line, I should be able to do that too. Naturally, there should be a risk/reward factor to these strategies and they shouldn’t always work – just as in real life – but with the current method, we don’t even have the ability to attempt them.
3. Realistic ball and rim interactions/physics
Continuing on from the above points, if we have precise aiming when attempting free throws, we should also have realistic and appropriate interactions and physics between the basketball and rim. If the aim is perfect, the free throw swishes. If it’s ever so slightly off, the ball might graze the rim as the shot goes down. When the aim is wide or the shot too short or too long, the ball will bounce off the rim in the correct direction and at the appropriate velocity.
Once again, I don’t feel that we get that with the “hold Shoot” method. It’s not that the ball and rim physics that we currently have don’t look realistic, but because there isn’t an aiming system, it’s kind of random as to the way the ball goes in or misses. Sometimes, perfect releases almost rattle out before dropping in, while poorly timed releases that do end up going in catch nothing but net. Whether a poor attempt ends up missing left or right is also left up to the AI. If we have a method where we can properly aim free throws, the ball is going in or coming off the rim the way it logically should on any given attempt.
This is perhaps my biggest gripe with the current method of shooting free throws in NBA Live and NBA 2K. It’s particularly annoying in NBA 2K because we do actually get on-screen feedback about the quality of free throw attempts. That’s a good thing of course, but when there’s a lack of consistency, you can’t help but feel that the game is very blatantly screwing you over.
Free throws that have a perfect/excellent release go in all the time, which is fine. I believe that’s the way it should be. However, when it comes to releasing the Shoot button outside of the “perfect” window, it’s not uncommon to have inconsistent results, often within a single trip to the free throw line. It’s puzzling when the first attempt is graded B+ and misses, while the second attempt also garners a B+ grade and goes in. It’s even worse when an A- release clangs off the rim but a C+ release swishes home. Striving for more consistency could improve the current system but in my view, a new method would be an even better solution.
5. Proper representation of a player’s abilities at the line
To be fair, the current method doesn’t do a terrible job here. It is easier to knock down free throws with good foul shooters and more difficult to make them with players who struggle at the line. The timing and release window on the Shoot button is not only affected by a player’s free throw ability, but also their shooting form. This is something that I both like and dislike. On one hand, it represents player individuality quite well, but it can also be needlessly complex for players who have a long and/or awkward shooting form.
At the same time, free throw shooting can also become too easy once you’re familiar with a particular player’s animation and release window. One of the things that I liked about the T-Meter back in the day is that even though you had an easier time with players who were strong free throw shooters, you could just as easily mess up an attempt in a way that was all on you. With the T-Meter method, there was consistency in the shooting mechanics from player to player, yet there was still differentiation in their abilities and the difficulty changed accordingly. I’d like to see a new method that adheres to those principles, with players obviously retaining their individual shooting forms for aesthetic accuracy.
Before I wrap up, I should once again note that while I do like the T-Meter, it is very old school and bringing it back in the same form probably isn’t the best solution moving forward. Of course, “hold Shoot” is a pretty old school method in its own right, as it was being used way back in the days of Microsoft’s NBA Full Court Press. I’d like to see some of the principles of the T-Meter utilised in a new method however, one that gives us more control over free throw attempts with results that are consistent with our actions and performance.
That’s all for this week. What’s your favourite method of shooting free throws in basketball video games? If a new method was to be implemented in NBA Live and/or NBA 2K, what should it be like? Do you feel that the “hold Shoot” method is in fact the best way to go? Let me know in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.