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 shower thoughts I’ve had about basketball gaming.
Contrary to what you might believe, I don’t think about basketball gaming 24/7. It’s obviously a passion of mine – I wouldn’t have been running the NLSC for 19 years and counting if it wasn’t – but I do have other interests and hobbies. It is something that is on my mind fairly regularly though, either when I’m playing a game, or creating content for the NLSC. A thought will stroll into my head – sometimes related to what I’m doing, sometimes out of the blue – and I’ll wonder how it didn’t occur to me before then.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “shower thoughts” are ideas or epiphanies that occur to us while doing mundane activities such as taking a shower (which is where the term originates), or carrying out some chore. They’re not all profound pearls of wisdom; indeed, if you go looking for shower thoughts on Reddit or elsewhere that they’re collected, you’ll find a lot of puns and folksy observations. To that end, I can’t promise that these basketball gaming shower thoughts – a couple of which did in fact come about in the shower – will be profound and mind-blowing. Hopefully they’ll at least be amusing or interesting talking points, though.
1. Although it’s a common term, not every game calls it “Create-a-Player”
This one admittedly goes beyond basketball gaming, as it applies to many sports titles (and for the pro wrestling fans among us, sports entertainment titles). Create-a-Player modes have been a staple of basketball games and other titles for many years, but despite often being referred to as such, not all games actually label the function “Create-a-Player” specifically. It’s just as commonly called “Create Player”, or even “Edit Player”, especially in older titles where there were pre-made placeholder players that we’d overwrite with custom ones. Recent NBA 2K games do in fact label the function “Create-a-Player”, but while the name is ubiquitous, it’s not universal.
As a result, we’ve come to use terms like CAPs (“Create-a-Players”) to describe created players, or the formulas to create them (wrestling games of course have CAWs, or Create-a-Wrestlers). We’ll still do this for games that describe them as “Created Players”, or “Custom Players”. I guess it’s a pedantic point in the grand scheme of things, but it’s funny that we want to put that “a” in there even when a specific game doesn’t, and use single syllable abbreviations like CAPs and CAWs. Considering we’re usually sticklers for using the Trademarked Name™ of game modes and functions, we’ve generally been cavalier about Create-a-Player’s title.
2. NBA Live never used the label “Decade All-Stars” in-game
Here’s another example. We came to call the teams of Legends from each decade in older NBA Live games the “Decade All-Stars“. However, I can’t remember any in-game references or promotional material that used that name. For comparison, NBA 2K has featured similar squads over the years (and even brought them back in NBA 2K20), but has generally referred to them as All-Decade teams. That’s arguably a better name for them, but somehow, Decade All-Stars stuck among NBA Live fans back in the day. It makes sense – they’re All-Star teams and each one represents a decade – but I can’t actually remember how we arrived at that particular term.
It’s possible that the name was coined in review or preview of NBA Live 2000, if not by someone in the wider basketball gaming community, but I don’t recall its origin. It’s a sensible enough name of course, and I think it conveys the meaning just as well as “All-Decade teams” does, though that does roll off the tongue a little better than “Decade All-Stars”. As for the in-game labels, NBA Live always dubbed those teams 70s All-Stars, 80s All-Stars, 90s All-Stars, and so on, so it’s easy to see how someone changed “(Decade) All-Stars” into a catch-all descriptor. Yes, it’s over-thinking the whole situation when it makes perfect sense, but that’s how shower thoughts work.
3. Guaranteed rewards could make more money than loot boxes
You know, I hesitate to put this one out there, as it’s making a suggestion for a practice that I dislike in modern basketball gaming. However, it’s something that has occurred to me, especially after NBA Live 18 Ultimate Team utilised guaranteed historical player packs that I felt compelled to drop some spare change on. Although NBA 2K’s recurrent revenue mechanics make the company significant bank, I have to imagine that they’d be even more effective if they sold more guaranteed content in MyTEAM. Whales are obviously spending thousands to rip open packs, but I’m sure that the average user would be inclined to spend on rewards that aren’t random drops.
Conversely, the average NBA 2K gamer is, I believe, adopting a No Money Spent approach. It makes sense when you consider the pack odds. Unless you have enough disposable income to frequently purchase packs and boxes, you’re not going to pay money for a slim chance of getting a card you want. If that card can be purchased directly, though? I think people would go for that. I’ll readily admit that I’d be awfully tempted to drop a few bucks on a bundle that included guaranteed Michael Jordan cards. I hate to say it, but I could justify it more than a loot box, and I think others would too. It’d equal dollars for 2K, and I’m surprised they haven’t tried it yet.
4. Crew would be a much better name than 2K Pro-Am
I know that it’s always controversial when developers change a mode and slap an old name on it, and Crew is one of those issues that NBA 2K gamers do get quite touchy about. The original incarnation of Crew was short-lived, but I’d also argue that its two successors – 2K Pro-Am and The Rec – are just as popular in their own right. I’m not one to get too hung up on names, especially when they’re sensible enough and the actual mode or feature is worthwhile, but 2K Pro-Am has always struck me as odd. The Pro-Am moniker fits in NBA Live, since its mode involves a mixture of gamer avatars and real NBA players, but NBA 2K’s mode is exclusively for MyPLAYERs.
Of course, I have a feeling it’s by design. I was actually attending an NBA Live 16 community event in 2015 and helping to test the new LIVE Pro-Am, when NBA 2K unveiled 2K Pro-Am. I can guarantee the name and the mode were already in place for NBA Live 16 when 2K beat them to the punch and made their announcement for NBA 2K16. Needless to say, it bummed a couple of the NBA Live developers out, as it meant they’d look derivative (and indeed, people accused them of copying 2K). I don’t know if 2K got wind of the name and decided to screw them over, but if so, it was a bit low; especially as Crew would be a much more fitting name for their mode.
5. Games aren’t really designed for their modes’ longevity
We’re able to play 80 seasons in MyLEAGUE, which is mind-blowing when you really think about it. 25 seasons seemed like a long time in NBA Live’s original Franchise mode, and one that I doubt anyone reached without a lot of simulating, or short season and quarter lengths. While it’s great to have that much longevity and depth to a mode like MyLEAGUE, or MyCAREER where we can play 20 seasons, it’s not something that most of us will ever feasibly accomplish unless we pick the shortest settings possible; even then, we’d still need to sim a lot. There are just too many games otherwise, and on twelve minute quarters, it truly becomes a marathon.
Compare and contrast this to Madden, and the NFL’s shorter seasons. Also consider titles like Fallout, which aren’t annual releases and are designed to be replayed and explored for years. Even with the option of simulating at our disposal, the modes really aren’t designed for that much longevity. Players’ abilities evolve over time, but they don’t visually age. Sim ten years into a MyLEAGUE, and Zion Williamson will still look like he’s 20. The same commentators will still be calling games decades later. I’m not suggesting that we trim these modes – though perhaps 80 seasons does qualify as overkill – but certain details just don’t mesh with their overall longevity.
Can you recall any shower thoughts about basketball gaming that you’ve had? What do you make of these topics that I’ve broached? Have your say in the comments, 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.