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. This week’s Five is a list of five things that are simply too awesome to ever happen in future basketball games.
Having compiled several Wishlists and been in many discussions with my fellow basketball gamers over the years, I can say with confidence that as a community, we have some awesome ideas for the games that we’re so passionate about. I can also attest to the developers having great ideas of their own, and I would suggest that the times we’ve been surprised by awesome features is proof of that. Not everything is feasible though, and video game development isn’t as easy as many people still seem to think it is. There are technical challenges to overcome, as well as limitations.
This is something that most of us come to understand the more we learn about video game development. We realise that certain ideas – awesome though they may be – will be challenging to implement. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less disappointing that they may never come to fruition. Furthermore, there are awesome features and changes that will very likely never happen for conceptual reasons, some of which aren’t particularly consumer-friendly. Now, I’ll be glad to be proven wrong about any of the ideas I’m discussing here today; that’d be awesome! It’s a long shot though, as seeing these things happen in future games would definitely be too good to be true.
1. Carry Over Career Mode Progress to a New Game
I was reading a topic that Breems posted in the NBA 2K20 section about making peace with 2K as an offline gamer. It succinctly describes the frustrations that come with the “games as a service” model that 2K has adopted with MyCAREER. It’s an issue that I and many others have discussed before. No matter how much fun you have levelling up a player in MyCAREER, you’re back to Square One as soon as the new game comes out. It makes the new game frustrating (and funnily enough, look worse) because we can no longer do the things we’re used to doing. It’s necessary for longevity and challenge in a new game, but it’s also extremely harsh and off-putting.
There are some feasible compromises that future NBA 2K games could offer here. In short, it would be awesome if dedicated MyCAREER players could carry some of their progress over to a new game. I’m not talking about being able to immediately jump to 99 Overall with maxed out Badges and MyREP, but there could easily be some kind of loyalty bonus that grants a small but not insignificant head start. By the same token, an impressive collection in MyTEAM could result in a leg up in a new game. Awesome as it would be, we’ll never see it happen. The model is too important to 2K’s recurrent revenue and engagement numbers, so there’s no incentive for them.
2. Allow Cosmetic Items to be Re-sold
I’m going to file this one under “highly unlikely”, because MyTEAM does allow us to immediately sell cards for a stingy amount of MT in addition to auctioning them off. With that being said, the ability to re-sell/cash-in cosmetic items in MyCAREER – or even boosts for that matter – is simply too awesome to ever happen. Imagine winning an item from Swag’s or a throwback jersey in the Daily Prize/Spin, and being able to trade it in for a token amount of VC (or perhaps MyPOINTS). At a certain point, you don’t need or want the basic cosmetic items that are available as prizes, so they just sit there in your inventory. What if you could convert them into something more useful?
Obviously, we’re talking “cents on the dollar” here. I don’t expect that you could use your daily prize to pick up a headband that normally costs 1000 VC and get the full amount back. But hey, what if it was 750 VC, or even 500 VC? It’s not a whole lot, especially once you’ve levelled up and attribute upgrades are more expensive. It all adds up though, and a token amount of VC in your wallet is better than a needless addition to your clothing inventory. Unfortunately, as awesome as this would be, I just can’t see 2K giving away any more VC than they already do. Even re-selling items you’ve purchased with VC would be unrealistically generous on their part.
3. Limit or Entirely Remove Microtransactions
The previous two points were leading up to this one. If you’re laughing uproariously at the notion of microtransactions being limited or removed from NBA 2K, then that’s absolutely fair. It’d be awesome if recurrent revenue mechanics didn’t play such a big role in the experience, and thus set the competitive balance. At the very least, it would be more tolerable if faster progress could be made by playing the game, pack odds were better, and prices more reasonable. That’s not how video game publishers make a profit in 2021, though. It’s not realistic to expect 2K – or EA, or Ubisoft, or anyone for that matter – to throw money away in the name of enjoyment and artistic integrity.
By the way, we can argue semantics and nomenclature in regards to games being “pay-to-win”, “pay-to-enjoy”, “pay-for-advantage”, or whatever. Yes, you can spend hundreds of dollars on VC to level up quickly or rip open pack after pack, but you still need to be good on the sticks. However, when gameplay is designed around getting gamers to spend to progress faster, it’s admitting that the game isn’t worth playing. It doesn’t prioritise a fun and enjoyable experience, or even a sense of accomplishment when you think about it. It makes bank for studios though, so it’s awesome for them. It’s going to take legislation, or an unlikely bubble bursting, for things to change here.
4. Separate Online & Offline Play So Both Are Awesome
Let’s set aside all tribalism and petty squabbling regarding online and offline play in basketball games. Both experiences can be a lot of fun for the portion of the userbase that enjoys them, and it’s important that games cater to both crowds. The problem is that doing so is easier said than done. While there are many aspects of the online and offline experiences that can be separated, it’s unavoidable that they’ll share gameplay mechanics and tuning. Ideally, a game will strike a good balance and have strong mechanics that result in a fun virtual basketball experience in online and offline play alike. Realistically though, shared mechanics and different preferences make it tough.
Even if a game launches with a good balance, it’s unlikely to maintain it. Post-release tuning to address a cheesy exploit in online play can end up ruining offline gameplay, due to AI reaction times, or issues related to player attributes. An example would be the nerfed shooting mechanics in NBA Live 19, which ruined offline play because the CPU is more adept at sticking to its man and closing the gap, thus taking away green releases. The sim aspects of NBA 2K have likewise suffered due to changes that were made to appease disgruntled online gamers. True separation of the experiences – or even separate editions of NBA 2K – would be awesome, but ultimately impractical.
5. Provide Complete League Customisation
Here’s one that we can’t pin on the developers/publishers. It would be awesome if we could really customise every aspect of the league. I’m talking about having the team rebranding/relocation features outside of MyLEAGUE/MyGM/MyNBA, as well as the ability to customise league structure and format, and even the default rules. With such options at our disposal, creating authentic retro season rosters would be a snap. Of course, implementing these options and ensuring that everything still works with those modes is easier said than done. There’s a reason that it took a while to get the options we have now, and it has nothing to do with laziness or lack of imagination.
That’s not all. Anyone developing a video game that utilises the NBA license is bound by what the league wants, and is willing to approve. The ability to convert NBA 2K into an authentic college basketball game through in-game options and customisation features would be awesome…for us. It’s not something that the NBA would be too thrilled about though, and 2K has to follow their rules and guidelines. It’s the same reason we don’t have official modding tools, whereas Bethesda provides them for the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. Bethesda is at liberty to grant gamers access to their intellectual property. Whether it’s 2K or EA, the NBA ultimately has the final say.
What are some other awesome ideas and features you’d love to see in basketball games that are just too unlikely to ever be implemented? Do you think any of these ideas may one day be feasible? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.