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 discusses five hopes that I have for the 2018 basketball gaming season.
As I noted earlier today, with the release of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18, a brand new season of basketball gaming is now underway! My pre-order of NBA Live 18 downloaded a couple of days ago and then unlocked at midnight Australian Eastern Time, so I stayed up quite late playing the game and sharing some initial impressions on Twitter. As of this writing, the day one patch for the PlayStation 4 version of NBA 2K18 has just finished installing, and I’ve almost finished downloading the PC version on Steam as well. I anticipate that I have a big weekend of basketball gaming ahead of me.
With any luck, we’re all in for twelve months filled with fun basketball gaming experiences. I’ve felt optimistic about this year’s releases through most of the preview season, and I came away from both the NBA Live 18 demo and The Prelude to NBA 2K18 with some positive impressions. I’d like to spend more time with the full versions of both games before I offer up some in-depth impressions (and eventually, comprehensive reviews), but as I look ahead to the 2018 season of basketball gaming, I do have a few hopes for the experiences that will be on offer in this year’s releases.
1. Quick Resolutions to Bugs & Issues
No video game is perfect. As much as we wring our hands and mutter about the practice of day one patches and games that ship with troublesome issues, it’s inevitable. Throughout the generations, video games have become more and more complex than their predecessors. Expectations are higher, and development cycles can be very unforgiving, especially for annual sports titles. There are always going to be bugs, but fortunately we are in an era where a lot can be done with title updates, and developers are much more committed to post-release support. We no longer have to beg and petition developers to release official patches as we once did.
It’s vital that when major problems are identified, fixes don’t take too long to come through. Granted, creating those fixes can be easier said than done, and we don’t want to see rushed patches that end up causing more damage. However, we also don’t want to be waiting for weeks to see a resolution to problems that render a mode, or indeed the entire game, unplayable. Hopefully we won’t encounter too many of those issues to begin with, but if there is a major bug or glitch, we need to see title updates, or at least hotfixes, as soon as possible, whenever it’s feasible. Both development teams are passionate and committed though, so I’m sure they’ll both be on top of things.
2. A Consistent Basketball Gaming Experience Following Patches
Of course, post-release updates for video games can have their drawbacks. While many patches add new content and fix annoying bugs, as noted above, they’ve also been known to create brand new problems. This is an unfortunate side effect of programming and software development in general, and it’s as frustrating for the developers as it is for us. In the best case scenario, hotfixes can be pushed through relatively quickly. The bigger problem might be tuning updates, which are pushed through far more regularly for NBA Live and NBA 2K than the major patches.
A lot of people felt that the tuning updates for NBA 2K17 ultimately did more harm than good, and it did seem like the experience changed drastically throughout the course of last season. Some of the changes did feel like improvements, but unfortunately it was the undesirable tweaks that seemed to stick more often. 2K reps have indicated a desire to tinker less and aim for more consistency this year, which is definitely a preferable approach. I hope that both NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 can provide a consistent basketball gaming experience, evolving and stamping out issues as necessary, but not trying to fix what isn’t actually broken.
3. Consistency & Quality With Content Updates
In addition to taking care with tuning updates and official patches, and releasing those fixes in a timely manner, I’d like to see consistency and quality with the content updates for NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18. Around March 2016, it seemed that EA Sports gave up on pushing through new content for NBA Live 16. New rosters did come through right up to the 2016 Draft, meaning that the Derrick Rose trade was included in the final update for NBA Live 16. However, LIVE Season, BIG Moments, and Ultimate Team challenges stopped being updated over a month before the end of the 2016 regular season. Hopefully, NBA Live 18 will be kept fresh all year long.
This wasn’t really an issue last season with NBA 2K17, which continued to push through new MyTEAM challenges and packs even as the 2017 NBA Finals were drawing to a close. The roster updates were also reasonably consistent, though it seemed that the injury free version of the official rosters still had players flagged as injured for most of the season. Obviously it’s impossible to completely avoid human error, and other issues will arise, but hopefully there won’t be major delays for roster updates (especially with NBA Live 18, which lacks roster editing), and that there will be a steady stream of fresh content throughout the basketball gaming season.
4. Minimal Grinding
I’ve talked about the grind of basketball gaming before, and as much as I did enjoy NBA 2K17, it was a little rough. It took quite a while and a concentrated effort to level up to 95 Overall, as well as to earn Hall of Fame level Badges for my Playmaker point guard. There was unquestionably an incentive to spend a little real currency on Virtual Currency in order to speed up the process, and that’s exactly what I did. Thankfully, it seems that we start out with slightly better ratings this time. 60 Overall isn’t that much better than 55 Overall, but it’s something. With the Road to 99 feature and visible goals to unlock Badges, I hope that we don’t have to grind as much.
Contrary to the previous point, this is where NBA Live has generally done a better job than NBA 2K. Your player in The One (and previously Rising Star) starts out with higher ratings, which rise a little quicker due to NBA Live’s approach to its upgrade system. At the same time, NBA Live 18 has introduced Loot Crates which contain gear and in some cases, animations. These are purchased with Reward Points which are admittedly earned relatively quickly, and are a separate currency that isn’t used for player upgrades. Still, crates are luck of the draw compared to NBA 2K’s store approach, so there could be a little bit of a grind here. Hopefully, it’s mostly fair.
5. Enough Time To Do Everything That I Want
I spent a lot of time with NBA 2K17 over the past year. I started my MyCAREER with last year’s Prelude, and continued it through to the second season in the full game. I also played five hundred games of 2K Pro-Am, hit up MyPARK for over a hundred more games, and dabbled with MyTEAM. The fact that only one game was released last season allowed me to spend a lot of time with it, and as it stands, I still didn’t get into a MyLEAGUE game as I had originally intended. This year I’ll once again be splitting my basketball gaming time between two titles. Previous attempts at doing this suggest that it could pose a bit of a challenge.
Right now, both NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 hold a lot of appeal for me, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to ration my time and get the most out of each. I expect that I’ll end up making a decision as to what I want to play the most of in both games, and switch back and forth when I feel like a change of pace. I could also see myself using the simulation functions and options like the accelerated clock a little more often, in order to make consistent progress in both games. At the end of the day, though, if I find that I’m generally satisfied with both NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 throughout the 2018 basketball gaming season, it will ultimately be a good problem to have.
Once again, I’ve been feeling quite optimistic throughout the preview season, and I believe that this could be a great season for basketball gaming. How optimistic are you feeling right now? What hopes and expectations do you have for the next twelve months of playing NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18? Have your say in the comments section 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 with the new releases, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.