We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games.
In the best case scenario, the release of a new NBA Live or NBA 2K title will tip off several months of enjoyable basketball gaming. Ideally, we’ll see enhancements to the gameplay and game modes, with troublesome issues being resolved and much-desired features being added. In short order, we’ll start building our Ultimate Team or MyTEAM, meet up with friends for some Pro-Am games, choose a team for Dynasty, MyLEAGUE, or MyGM, or step into the shoes of an NBA player with a new Rising Star or MyCAREER game.
Of course, even if we’re enjoying a new basketball video game as much as its predecessor – or enjoying it more, as the case may be – it’s possible to feel at least a little bit of regret about what we’ve left behind. If we spend a lot of time with a game, sinking hours upon hours into a mode that has us hooked, it can be hard to move on. The bar will be set very high for the next game, and recapturing the magic that enchanted us for close to a year is easier said than done.
That’s how I felt when I made the jump from NBA 2K13 to NBA 2K14, and tried to follow up on a memorable MyCAREER experience.
As I’ve previously mentioned, my NBA 2K13 MyCAREER game with the Denver Nuggets is one of my favourite basketball gaming experiences, right up there with my Dynasty games with the Chicago Bulls in NBA Live 2004 and NBA Live 06. It was the first time that I really felt hooked by MyCAREER, and despite the fact I’m traditionally a franchiser gamer, MyCAREER was the mode I played the most in NBA 2K13. It started as a quick look at the mode so that I could offer up some impressions of it, but it soon turned into much more than that. I even started a story thread about it, despite originally having no intention of doing so.
It was a great ride. After being drafted by the Denver Nuggets, I found myself earning minutes as the backup shooting guard, eventually cracking the starting lineup. However, Ty Lawson went down for the season with an injury, and I was suddenly thrust into the role of playmaker, starting at point guard. Apparently, it was the role I was born to play, as I ended up leading the league in assists, racking up several double-doubles and a few triple-doubles, and steadily improving to become a 79 Overall player. Winning the Rookie of the Year award felt very satisfying, especially after a few struggles early on in the season, and the occasional unwarranted benching.
I think it’s also fair to say that I had a positive impact in the Mile High City as the team went 73-9, a feat that no longer seems out of reach, though it was certainly an overachievement for the 2013 Denver Nuggets. We stormed through the Playoffs, and defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Finals was my real breakout party. My teammate Andre Iguodala had been the regular season MVP, but some of my best scoring outbursts along with some big assist numbers, a near triple-double in Game 1, and a triple-double in the title-clinching Game 5, saw the Finals MVP award end up in my virtual trophy case.
It was a gratifying end to a fun rookie season, in which I’d improved greatly, found success as I grew into my role, and really enjoyed role-playing as my MyPLAYER. Despite losing Iggy to the San Antonio Spurs in the offseason, I was able to lead the Nuggets to a 35-0 start in year two. As the midway point of the season approached, we were 38-1 and I was averaging around 22 points and 14 assists per game, while shooting 63% from the field. I did take a break to work on a few projects for the site, and I ended up neglecting my story thread, but I was playing my MyCAREER more or less up until NBA 2K14 was released.
As it happened, I wasn’t actually able to play NBA 2K14 PC as soon as it came out. I’d pre-ordered the DVD-ROM version from an online store, but my copy still hadn’t arrived after a couple of weeks. After making some inquiries and discovering there’d been a mix-up, I cancelled my pre-order, obtained a refund, and purchased the Steam version. These days, the PC version is Steam-only, but even if it wasn’t, that’s the version I’d opt for. As it happens, I’ve also avoided buying from that store since. Anyway, once I finally had NBA 2K14 PC installed, I was eager to start a new MyCAREER, hoping that I’d have just as much fun with it as I did in NBA 2K13.
After discovering how much I enjoyed playing point guard, I opted to set it as my position upon starting a new MyCAREER in NBA 2K14, where I ended up being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves at ninth overall. I played ten games of that MyCAREER, averaged 7.4 points and five assists, and cracked the starting lineup in my tenth career game. During that span, the team went 6-4, which was respectable given the roster. Still, about the most exciting thing that happened was a new billboard celebrating the fact that I’d become a starter.
Even though it had taken me a little while to really get rolling in my NBA 2K13 MyCAREER, in NBA 2K14, I wasn’t gripped by the same motivation to persevere. Something about playing the mode just didn’t feel right. The enthusiasm that had been there the previous year was gone, and I just didn’t feel driven to try and replicate (or exceed) my previous performance and achievements.
Admittedly, that was at least partly due to the fact that I was starting all over again. I wanted to do the things that I’d been doing after building up my ratings in NBA 2K13, and my NBA 2K14 MyPLAYER obviously wasn’t good enough yet. That was frustrating, but it wasn’t the only problem. I missed playing for the Denver Nuggets. I missed my virtual teammates, and the history we’d made together. Weird as it seems to say, I didn’t feel like I belonged on the Timberwolves. Even though I’d spent a lot of time in MyCAREER over the past year and the mode was very familiar to me, in NBA 2K14, it felt foreign, and oddly unwelcoming. It was a strange phenomenon.
Incidentally, I gave MyCAREER in the PlayStation 4 version of NBA 2K14 a try when it was released, but…well, if you’ve listened to the NLSC Podcast or read some of my previous columns, you know how I feel about the story-driven, cutscene-heavy approach. If not, this Friday Five from a couple of weeks ago pretty much sums up my feelings on MyCAREER, and what I’d like to see it do moving forward.
Getting back to the PC version of NBA 2K14, I found myself wishing that I could have somehow imported my NBA 2K13 MyPLAYER into my new MyCAREER game. I wished that I could’ve received a bit of a head start on my ratings, so that I wouldn’t have to grind my way back up to being a decent player again. If nothing else, I wished that I was still playing for the Denver Nuggets. I actually had more interest in going back and picking up my NBA 2K13 MyCAREER than I did trying to make things work in NBA 2K14’s mode. In fact, I’d still be interesting in doing that at some point, as I do like dusting off old saved games every now and again.
I’ve actually never felt this way with any of my favourite Dynasty games in NBA Live. I’ve gone back to my NBA Live 06 Dynasty a couple of times, and may well do so again in the future, but I’ve never really missed it or any other memorable Dynasty; I’ve been able to move on in subsequent games. Of course, it helps that I’m controlling a team that I can easily choose to control again, rather than a single player. With MyCAREER, I put myself into the game, so there was a more of a personal connection. Throw in the fact that I was starting over with low ratings, and I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to keep playing MyCAREER in NBA 2K14.
While my NBA 2K13 MyCAREER being particularly enjoyable is a big factor here, I think it’s a problem that’ll always affect the mode to some extent. More than any pre-order bonus, I’d prefer a loyalty bonus: an immediate boost to your MyPLAYER, based on your efforts in the previous game. I’d also suggest borrowing a feature from NBA Live’s Rising Star, and let us choose our starting team if we don’t like the results of the Draft. Directly continuing the previous year’s MyCAREER in the next game would surely be too difficult to implement, but allowing for some kind of connection, some measure of continuity, might just chase away some of those new game blues.