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 thoughts on making a return to franchise gaming this year.
My recent Wayback Wednesday series on franchise modes in NBA Live and NBA 2K served to remind me of just how much fun I’ve had with them over the years. I’ve wanted to return to franchise gaming for a while now, and writing those articles only added to my enthusiasm. I’ve gravitated towards MyCAREER and other modes in recent years, which is funny given that in MyLEAGUE and MyGM, we now have some of the deepest franchise experiences in the history of basketball video games. There are reasons why my habits have changed, of course, but I do feel like it’s time to make a return to franchise modes.
Now that NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 have been out for over a month, receiving multiple official patches and roster updates, it’s an opportune time to dive into the franchise experience. With the 2018 season tipping off, my interest in creating a fictional reality on the virtual hardwood has also been piqued. I do still have an interest in the card collecting modes, online team play experience, and MyCAREER, so I’ll have to ration my basketball gaming time accordingly. Beyond that, however, I do have a few other matters to consider as I plan a return to the franchise experience that I enjoyed so much as a younger basketball gamer.
To begin with, there’s the question of which game, and which mode. Unfortunately, the new Franchise mode in NBA Live 18 is just not an option. Its concepts and lack of depth four games into the reboot of the series are very disappointing, and I just don’t see myself enjoying it. Hopefully that will change in NBA Live 19 and beyond, but for now, NBA 2K18 is the clear choice. As far as whether I’d prefer to play MyLEAGUE or MyGM, once again it’s an easy choice for me: MyLEAGUE. Its approach has appealed to me since NBA 2K15, and now that MyGM has a story similar to MyCAREER, I have even less incentive to choose it for my franchise game.
Alright, so MyLEAGUE in NBA 2K18 it is. With that decided, which team should I choose? My default choice tends to be the Chicago Bulls, given that they’re my favourite team. Even during their struggles in the years following the dynasty of the 90s, I found enjoyment and satisfaction in playing with them. One of my favourite basketball gaming experiences came when I used them in NBA Live 2004’s Dynasty Mode, though acquiring Kevin Garnett certainly did play a significant role in that. My overachieving Bulls teams of the mid 2000s in NBA Live 06 were also responsible for some of my favourite memories on the virtual hardwood.
Sadly, this year’s Bulls are not really an appealing option. With Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade gone, there’s no star power, no high rated player to facilitate a blockbuster trade. My experiences as a member of the Bulls in MyCAREER have been hit and miss so far. Without the novelty of my own avatar being a member of the team, I can’t see myself having a lot of fun with the current roster. As such, I’m considering which other teams may be more appealing. Some of the frontrunners include the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Clippers, to name a few.
You may ask why I don’t consider introducing and taking control of an expansion team, or perhaps doing something more unorthodox such as creating a league full of the historical or all-time squads. While those are interesting options, I would actually prefer to play with the current NBA. As I’ve mentioned more than a couple of times on the NLSC Podcast, I’ve felt my enthusiasm for today’s NBA wane in recent years. It’s not just a case of being a 90s fanboy hung up on nostalgia either, as I find that the enthusiasm I had even just four or five years ago has dwindled. I feel that a franchise game with current NBA rosters would rekindle my interest in the real league, too.
Once I choose the team that’s right for me, I’ll have to decide on my settings and approach. I’d prefer not to overhaul the league with drastic rule changes, so that’s something I’ll probably avoid. I’m a stickler for realistic stats and season lengths, so I’ll no doubt opt for 82 games. I’ve also always been in favour of playing twelve minute quarters, but that’s not always feasible, these days. I’ll therefore have to choose whether I play shorter quarters and use the stats normalisation option, or just simulate parts of the season when it’s getting a bit tedious. There’s a part of me that takes pride in playing every single game, but again, I can’t always set aside the time to do that.
I’m a big fan of the option to begin a new MyLEAGUE game in the offseason, rather than at the start of the regular season as usual. It’s something franchise modes have needed for a long time. The ability to go back and change history to create a new starting point for the 2018 campaign is intriguing. If I were to choose that option, the Bulls likely would hold a bit more appeal, since I could take them in a different direction in terms of rebuilding or retooling. Once again though, I would like to play with rosters that at least start out resembling the real NBA. With that in mind, I’ll likely just end up starting a new franchise game with the latest roster.
After the season is underway, however, I’ll no doubt grapple with the decision of making some of my own trades, or perhaps trying to replicate what’s happening in the real NBA. MyLEAGUE has the tools to manage the rosters of other teams if need be, so if I wanted my franchise game to reflect the real league as it changes, that would be possible. It’s something that I used to do a long time ago, when playing along with the real season in NBA Live 96 PC. I do like the idea of shaping my own reality though, and making a few changes to my roster here and there. Ideally I’d avoid making too many trades, as I’ve found that often ends up ruining the franchise experience.
At this point, it’s unlikely that I’ll maintain a story thread. While that’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing in the past, and I would like to show my support for the Stories section in our Forum, it’s just a matter of the time and effort that it takes. I’m creating a larger amount of regular original content for the NLSC compared to when I was maintaining my story threads, and I’d rather not neglect one for the other. Of course, I’m sure that I’ll share my experiences in future articles, as well as in the “Our Week in Basketball Gaming” segment of the NLSC Podcast. I’d still like to provide my fellow hoops gamers with an update on how it’s all going, and at times, seek advice.
With that in mind, I probably won’t be starting my new franchise game for a few days, so feel free to pitch a few teams for me to consider. If you’re a fellow Bulls fan who’d like to try to convince me to stick with Chicago, I’d be interested in hearing those arguments as well! Whichever team I pick though, I’m looking forward to guiding them through a few seasons in MyLEAGUE. I won’t be abandoning the other modes of course, but a return to franchise gaming is overdue. There are so many features in MyLEAGUE that I’ve always wanted, so there’s no point putting off a comeback any longer. It’s time to put on the GM suit, and grab the head coach’s clipboard once more.