Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five lists five intriguing ideas that are sadly unlikely to work in practice.
If you glance back at Wishlists over the years, it’s fair to say that we’ve all had some great ideas for the basketball games we enjoy. I don’t want to sell the developers short either, as many of them are likewise creative and passionate basketball fans with an eye for detail, and they’ve come up with ideas that we’ve never thought of. Not all ideas are feasible of course, but imagination has allowed the genre to continually innovate and expand far beyond the earliest classics. It pays to think big, and then work out what is and isn’t possible, and how the possible can be implemented.
Of course, some ideas are technically possible, but nevertheless impractical. They’re great concepts and potentially useful features, but implementing them simply wouldn’t be a good move. There might be a major drawback that would make an idea divisive, and detract from the experience if it’s not optional. An idea may seem like a great solution on paper, but would be too reliant on goodwill and the honour system in order to work effectively. That’s not to say that all of these ideas absolutely couldn’t ever work, but sadly I don’t think they would without closing a bunch of loopholes and detoxifying the userbase, particularly online. They’re intriguing, but unfeasible.
1. Vote-to-Kick in Online Play
A common cause of toxicity when playing with randoms online is the desire some people have to just be a nuisance. Whether they jump on with the intention to troll, or they’re just upset about their touches or teammates’ performance – fairly or not – they start sabotaging the game (often referred to as “selling”). Flopping, carelessly fouling, standing out of bounds and/or not defending, spamming timeouts and turning the ball over…if you’ve played NBA 2K online, you’re familiar with these tactics. An idea that is often suggested to combat this is a vote-to-kick option that would allow the rest of the players to remove a troublemaker before they’re able to completely ruin a game.
It’s a sensible suggestion, and a function that other online games have included. The issue with implementing a vote-to-kick function to eliminate toxicity is that it invites a different kind of toxic behaviour. Realistically, it’s going to be used by squads of three or four in The Rec to kick out solo players, or a duo who have joined in their session, even if they’re not doing anything wrong. Instead of a friendly and sporting community using it to discourage the bad eggs, it’s just going to be used to cause more grief. Even if it’s tied to Teammate Grade, it’ll likely either be too easy to kick people unfairly, or too difficult to kick deserving people before they can do any damage.
2. Post-Game User Feedback
So, if you can’t kick gamers during a session, what about providing feedback on them afterwards? This could also apply to opponents as well, whether in the online team play modes, or in head-to-head gameplay. Positive feedback would make it far more likely that you’re teamed up or matched up again when you’re both online. Negative feedback would obviously have the opposite effect. An overall reputation score would identify your trustworthiness and factor into matchmaking in general, and in the worst case scenario, place restrictions on your account. Again, it’s an idea that has merit, but it could easily be abused, and possibly even become dangerous for gamers to use.
Like a vote-to-kick function, it relies on people being honest and honourable. Sore losers and unsportsmanlike winners alike could tank a player’s reputation with unfair feedback. A “clean” player would then presumably get stuck being matched up with and against trolls, which the system is supposed to prevent. Without a manual review system – which seems unlikely – it’d be too easy to cause harm. Also, even if feedback is anonymous, it’s probably going to be obvious when your rating changes following a game. That could lead to retaliation, from negative feedback and nasty messages all the way up to doxxing and swatting. In short, it’d be ineffective at best, risky at worst.
3. Non-Storyline Injuries in MyCAREER
Let’s move away from online toxicity and consider intriguing ideas that could add to the gaming experience. For gamers who prefer the NBA side of MyCAREER, it’s a blast – when you’re not being forced into horrible quests and unskippable story beats – but can also lack challenge and variety. An example that springs immediately to mind is that while CPU players can and will suffer both minor and major injuries during the course of a season, the only way that your MyPLAYER will be sidelined is if it’s part of the story. As such, it’s sometimes been suggested that it should be possible for your player to be injured during gameplay, just as it was in the original My Player mode.
As someone who has played through multiple seasons of MyCAREER in NBA 2K14 and enjoyed how injuries have affected the tale that each year weaves, I like the idea on paper. In practice though, it might not be as fun as we think. As it stands, injuries can prevent us from experiencing a matchup that we’re looking forward to playing. It’d be a bummer if our own injury was the cause of that; scripting us to miss games has already caused problems! If we could disable injuries or override them, and they didn’t affect online play, unscripted MyPLAYER maladies are an intriguing idea. Of course, with all of the necessary grinding, we’d probably rather not have to sit out!
4. First-Person Camera View
This is one of those intriguing ideas that goes right back to our Wishlists of the 90s. Back then it was sometimes referred to as a “Doom-style camera”, since if you wanted to make a comparison to a first person shooter, Doom was the go-to example. There have been basketball video games that utilise a first person perspective, though it’s usually been QTE-based games like Slam City with Scottie Pippen, or VR games (including the VR version of NBA 2K). As far as titles with traditional gameplay, I can’t recall one that can be played entirely from a first person view. I’d suggest there’s a reason for that, even if it sounds like a fun way to put us on the virtual hardwood.
Consider that some people can’t enjoy first person shooters because it induces motion sickness. Obviously a first person camera would be just one of the options in a hoops title, but the point is that a lot of people probably wouldn’t enjoy it. Even if it doesn’t make you ill, the need for the camera to be constantly on a swivel to keep track of the action would be extremely disorienting if it happened automatically, and incredibly difficult to control if it had to be done manually. Like many intriguing ideas for a more immersive experience, it’s a fun concept until you have to figure out how it would work in a way that’s actually viable. Personally, I don’t think this idea is.
5. MyTEAM Auction House Regulation
I’d suggest that most of us are aware of the biggest issues with MyTEAM. Whether it’s the loot box mechanics, the cost of packs, pack odds, the quality of rewards, or issues with specific players, it seems the community is on top of them. Something that I don’t think gets discussed often enough however is just how broken the economy is when it comes to the Auction House. It’s not that it isn’t ever acknowledged, but the out of control prices thanks to third party sites that sell MT is a major problem. It’s virtually impossible for the average MyTEAM gamer to feasibly bid on or buy cards. Even when cards aren’t being sold for millions of MT, they’re still often overpriced.
The solution would be some sort of regulation: price guides, fair market value when immediately selling a card, and caps on starting bids, maximum sale prices, and MT wallet size. If there’s no way to prevent these third party MT sellers, then such limits could at least reduce their appeal, and institute a fairer economy. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a feasible solution, as there’d be too much pushback. Many people balk the moment you mention restrictions and regulations, even when it’s sensible and beneficial. They may agree there’s an issue, but they’d rather have a broken system in the name of “freedom” than fix problems using regulation. So, there goes that idea.
What’s your take on these ideas? What are some intriguing ideas for basketball games that you’ve had or heard that just seem too unlikely to work for whatever reason? Let me know 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.