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. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few ideas for customising 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K18.
Following a few frustrating sessions of 2K Pro-Am as of late, NLSC THRILLHO enjoyed a good run last Friday night. Arcane, Valor, and I were able to go 4-1, finishing up the evening with a payback victory over the lone team that defeated us. We also each had some good individual games, padding our stats here and there. It was refreshing to have a session where everything was clicking for us as a team, and we didn’t feel robbed by the way the games played out, at least for the most part. A slow start last year and some rough weeks have left us with a losing record overall though, as we’ve stuck with our original squad in order to keep our custom branding.
Of course, even though our record isn’t impressive, we’d like to think that our branding is among the best that we’ve come across. Arcane designed our uniforms and court, as well as our sideline banners with all their Milhouse and Thrillhouse references. Unfortunately, it took us quite a while to get to the point of being able to customise all of our branding, due to the changes that Visual Concepts made with the new rank system in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am. Even though the approach does have merit, there are some changes I’d like to see made to the way that customisation is handled in 2K Pro-Am this year in NBA 2K18.
The introduction of ranks to 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K17 has changed the way that customisation functions are handled. At the Amateur rank, no customisation options are available beyond the team name. Once teams have reached the Pro rank – usually after winning ten games – colours can be chosen, along with a generic or NBA logo. It isn’t until the Elite rank that a team can use the image importing function to create custom branding for its logo, court, and jersey designs. Although Visual Concepts haven’t really explained why this change was made, it was likely to provide incentive to play and a reward for winning, as well as reduce the likelihood of trolling designs.
Unfortunately, whatever the specific reasons, it ultimately meant that an appealing feature that was available out of the box in NBA 2K16 now had to be earned. That was frustrating enough, but to compound matters further, 2K weren’t forthcoming with the number of wins or winning percentage that was required to reach the Elite level. User experience has also varied, making it difficult to pin down any figures. Some teams reached Elite after around twenty wins, whereas it took others closer to a hundred. We temporarily reached Elite with over a hundred wins, but a losing record. The qualification seemed random, with plenty of exceptions being made.
Therefore, I would advocate clear, fair, and consistent numbers for reaching each 2K Pro-Am rank in NBA 2K18, and thus unlocking the customisation functionality. Personally, I feel that image importing should be available at the Pro level. Conceptually, it makes sense that a Pro team would put more effort into their branding than an Amateur squad, who should at least be able to pick custom colours. I also believe it would be fairer to unlock custom images after a number of games played, rather than games won; say, no more than thirty. A great record could perhaps unlock it earlier, but again, this target number should be consistent and specified.
Alternatively, customisation functionality could be tied to a user’s experience in 2K Pro-Am. If custom images and colours were unlocked by the number of games the team owner has played, it would mean that users forming a brand new squad wouldn’t necessarily have to grind to get access to the customisation features. This approach would be particularly useful if there’s a falling out with the team owner, or the owner simply stops playing and isn’t around to make changes to the branding. Even in the event that a squad simply wants to wipe the slate clean to start a new “season”, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to take their previous experience into consideration.
In terms of the customisation features themselves, I’d also suggest a few changes. While I’d normally advocate allowing as much freedom as possible, I don’t think it would be unfair to impose a few design standards. For starters, home jerseys in 2K Pro-Am should be primarily white, to avoid clashes with the road jerseys. Since NLSC THRILLHO’s road jerseys are primarily blue, we’ve found ourselves clashing with teams that have shunned tradition and made blue home jerseys. In a similar vein, there should be some restrictions that prevent court markings from being difficult to spot, and floor colours that obscure player indicators and meters.
The ability to create a couple of alternate or retro-themed jerseys, along with the ability to select the jersey of your choice before readying up, would also be a cool feature to have. Once again, in order to avoid clashes, any alternate jersey designs would need to be specified as home or away uniforms, and comply with restrictions relating to their colour. Since some NBA teams are now playing a few regular season games with an alternate court design, that’s another idea that could be incorporated into 2K Pro-Am’s branding options. As with the team jerseys, it would be up to the team owner to choose the alternate design before everyone readies up to play.
Although a menu similar to the traditional pre-game jersey selection screen in other modes would be handy, this approach could also be achieved by allowing for a number of home and away presets, similar to the car presets in Rocket League. Team owners would therefore be able to experiment and create new designs, without losing a saved design and having to recreate it if they want to switch back. Even with a single active preset for the home jersey, road jersey, and arena, owners could easily switch between alternate designs in between games, without having to make any edits each and every time.
From a team management perspective, it would also be handy to be able to either transfer ownership to another user, or at least appoint a co-owner. As it stands, a team owner doesn’t need to be online for the squad to play, a change that has benefitted the squad aspect of the 2K Pro-Am experience in NBA 2K17. However, if the owner is absent, nothing can be done as far as customising the branding, or inviting new members to join the squad. It may be difficult to accomplish with the way that user accounts function, but there are occasions where transferring control of a team, or at least giving management access to a second user, would be very useful.
2K Pro-Am already has some solid customisation options in place, but they could be even better. When it comes to the qualifying figures for each rank, NBA 2K18’s approach needs to be fairer, more consistent, and above all, transparent. Advanced customisation should be available sooner, retaining an incentive to play while avoiding burnout, or having to start over in order to meet the required conditions. Additional presets, and reasonable restrictions to discourage trolling designs, would also enhance the experience. With 2K’s eLeague launching next year, hopefully 2K Pro-Am will receive further enhancements, from customisation to gameplay.