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 improvements that I’d like to see made to LIVE Run and LIVE Events in NBA Live 20 and beyond.
As EA Play 2019 and another preview season loom, we await detailed information on NBA Live 20. We know that the game is coming out and that unfortunately for PC users it will be console-only, but at this early stage, there are still many other things that we are waiting and hoping to hear. While we’ve already submitted our Wishlist and development is well underway, it’s definitely still worth discussing the features and changes that we’d like to see. Not only does it reiterate what we’ve outlined in our Wishlists, you never know what can be pencilled in for post-release updates.
When I discussed ways to improve the online experience in NBA 2K20, I noted that I have become more interested in online modes in recent games, after years of being an offline gamer. I still believe in the importance of robust offline modes, which is why I compiled a list of ways to improve NBA Live’s Franchise mode back in March. The One and its connected experiences have received the most focus in recent years, and I have had some fun with them, jumping on for a game of LIVE Run or taking part in some of the LIVE Events. However, they haven’t felt quite as enjoyable or rewarding as the online modes in NBA 2K. Here are five improvements that could change that.
1. Add Squads with Win/Loss & Stats Tracking
I was actually at EA Tiburon for an NBA Live 16 community event when NBA 2K unveiled 2K Pro-Am. Since I was playing an early version of NBA Live 16, I can confirm that EA had come up with the name LIVE Pro-Am before 2K Pro-Am was announced. Unfortunately they were beaten to the punch by 2K’s announcement, and made to look like copycats. Still, I had a lot of fun playing game after game of that first iteration of LIVE Run with my fellow attendees. At the time, I was sceptical that 2K Pro-Am’s longer games with NBA rules would be as fun. Putting aside some of the issues that have arisen since then, I can definitely say that I was wrong about that.
Being able to play with a regular squad has set 2K Pro-Am apart from LIVE Run and LIVE Events. You can obviously play with friends, but it’s more cumbersome to set up compared to NBA 2K’s team Pro-Am squad and Playground Crew facilities. My experiences playing with random teammates generally haven’t been positive, while I’ve conversely had a great time playing 2K Pro-Am with the NLSC crew. The ability to play as part of an organised squad is vital for a better experience in LIVE Run and LIVE Events alike. Tracking individual stats along with wins and losses also adds a sense of accomplishment and depth to the experience, so that is a must as well.
2. Address Input Lag, Make Jumpshots Viable
My preferred build in career modes is a playmaking point guard that can shoot from the outside and also finish inside with the occasional dunk. I’ve really enjoyed playing with that type of player in MyCAREER and it’s been quite viable online as well, aside from an issue with dunking in NBA 2K18. However, it hasn’t been a fun build to play with in NBA Live. That’s partly due to the restrictive nature of the Icon Path system, but when it comes to playing LIVE Events and LIVE Run, there’s also the problem of jumpshots. Simply put, the input lag prevents jumpshots from being as viable as they should be, and so builds that rely on perimeter shooting aren’t really a feasible choice.
Timing jumpshots online in NBA Live 18 and NBA Live 19 has been difficult, and I don’t think it’s just me. Whenever I’ve teamed up with some random gamers for LIVE Events, I’ve noticed that most people prefer to drive as often as possible, even if their build should allow them to consistently score from the outside or midrange. Perhaps the demographic is just a big fan of dunking, but it’s unusual for modern basketball gamers to avoid the three-pointer as much as the people I’m playing with seem to. I have to believe it’s because it’s very difficult to get a good release with the input lag, so I would suggest that it’s among the key gameplay issues that must be addressed.
3. Allow Reward Crates to be Opened Later
Whenever you earn a reward in one of the LIVE Events, you have to open it straight away. After you’ve collected the reward, if you want to keep playing – as you might if there are multiple rewards on offer – you need to go back into LIVE Events and join up with other gamers again. This may sound like a petty complaint, but it does waste time and get in the way of continuous play. If you’re playing with friends, you need to send the invites again. If you happened to like that group of random teammates you just played with, you better hope that you’re lucky enough to get them again. It’s far less encouraging to play game after game when you’re kicked out to open the crates.
Generally speaking, there’s too much loading when navigating NBA Live’s menus, as well as a lot of back and forth. I’ll say this much for The Neighborhood in NBA 2K: once you’ve loaded into MyCAREER, all the connected modes are accessible, and the menus fairly quick and easy to navigate. It’s a real pain when you accidently enter the wrong menu in NBA Live, and even worse when the game forces you to load through several screens to get to where you want to go (or back to where you were, as the case may be). Letting us delay opening the reward crates would in turn allow us to have lengthy sessions playing LIVE Events or LIVE Run without forced interruptions.
4. Borrow 2K’s Approach to Player Lock Cameras
The camera angles have improved a little in NBA Live 19, but they still aren’t ideal for LIVE Events and LIVE Run. They could stand to be zoomed out a little to show more of the court, and the angle of the player lock camera can be disorientating. It doesn’t help that the camera still tracks the ball rather than your player, so if you’re defending an opponent in the corner away from the ball, the combination of the zoom, angle, and focus on the ball means that both your player and your opponent are not on the screen. Needless to say, this isn’t ideal for defense, and is one of the main causes of defensive breakdowns. The other, of course, is people not caring to play defense.
While the most disinterested defenders are likely a lost cause, I’m confident that the rest of us would gladly dedicate ourselves to playing lockdown D, if the camera angle would allow us to better keep track of our man. The difficulty in playing defense in a basketball game – whether it’s online or offline – should come from the skill of our opponent, along with our ability to anticipate and move smartly; not from the camera angle obscuring our view of the court. It’s usually not quite as bad on offense, but the zoom doesn’t help with good positioning and spacing, either. NBA Live should take some cues from NBA 2K’s player lock cameras, as they’re much better in this regard.
5. More Variety in Rewards for LIVE Events
Maybe I’m showing my age here, but I don’t care that much about the clothing brands that EA Sports has licensed to include in NBA Live. I freely admit that I never have been and never will be on the cutting edge of fashion trends, but I’m just not excited about that gear, especially as a reward in LIVE Events. If it provided boosts like shoes in NBA 2K or different clothing items in Fallout, I might care a little more. Some of the LIVE Events have had some cool rewards such as retro jerseys, players for Court Battles, and even animations. Most of the rewards have been centred on The Streets though, whether it’s streetball animations or clothing. It just gets a little boring.
Personally, I’d be more interested in jumping on the LIVE Events if they offered a bigger variety of rewards. By all means provide apparel, but it would be great to be able to earn a bunch of Skill Points through completing a multi-game event, or to unlock content for The League side of things, such as an NBA player’s animations. If squads are added, then maybe we could earn uniforms, courts, or some unlockable customisation features. There could even be integration with other modes, such as earning cards for Ultimate Team through LIVE Events. Maybe I am just getting old, but I feel there’s so much more that can be done than reward gamers with clothes.
What else would you do to improve LIVE Events and LIVE Run in NBA Live 20 and beyond? Have your say 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.