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 NBA Live 19 needs to have.
Wishlist season is upon us, so we’re currently collecting constructive feedback to send along to the development team at EA Tiburon! As always, one of our goals with the Wishlist is to prioritise our feedback, so that the team has a good idea of what we most want to see fixed, improved, and added in the next edition of NBA Live. I’m currently working on my list, and I encourage everyone to start posting their ideas as soon as possible. NBA Live 19 is already in pre-production, so the sooner we submit our Wishlist, the more likely it is to have a positive impact on this year’s game.
To get the ball rolling, and to give you an idea of what I feel are the most pressing issues as we look ahead to NBA Live 19, I’ve decided to compile a list of the five things I believe the game needs to have. Opinions will certainly vary, which is why we have the Wishlist to get a good cross-section of what the community wants, but basically, I’d describe these as the five areas where significant improvements will help NBA Live take the next step. NBA Live 18 was a reasonably successful comeback for the series, but to stay on the right path and take the game to the next level, this is an overview of what I feel the development team should focus on.
1. Further Roster Editing & Sharing Functionality
It’s probably fair to say that most of us were caught completely off-guard by the very welcome addition of roster editing via a title update back in December. I for one did not expect it to happen until NBA Live 19, so it was very exciting to see it added before then. There’s more that can and should be done, though. First of all, lineups need to be expanded to incorporate Two Way players and the thirteen-player active roster, so that rotations are accurate and team rosters are complete. Also, it’s crucial that we can share custom rosters with each other. NBA 2K’s approach of a public file sharing server would certainly be a suitable solution here.
As far as specific roster editing functions are concerned, there are plenty of ideas that I could throw out there, including Create-a-Team, Create-a-Legend, and so forth. I do want to see those functions, but it’s not absolutely crucial that we see them in NBA Live 19. It’s more important that the creation and editing tools are expanded to include all bio data so that we can give created players appropriate draft information, as well as some more advanced face creating options. The ability to assign animations and dunk packages is another feature that I’d like to see brought back, along with some basic editing functions in Franchise. Once that’s done, bring on the other tools!
2. Deeper Modes
Not to harp on a point I often make, but deep game modes are what provide the replay value in basketball games. At this point, franchise, team building, and career modes have come too far and evolved too much for NBA Live 19’s modes to get away with being bare bones in any way. NBA Live 18 introduced a fine career mode in The One, but it could stand to be deeper. Features like trade requests, league and team histories, game-to-game goals and training sessions for additional XP, a place to shoot around with your player, and an ability to directly purchase basic accessories using RP, would further flesh out the mode and enhance the overall experience.
Franchise mode needs to be brought up to speed. A return to the traditional daily calendar would be preferable to the current weekly approach, but we also need to have negotiation mini-games, jersey number editing (with retired numbers being unavailable), head coaching changes, scouting during the season, team scrimmages and training, league and team histories, and other features we used to have, or have wanted to see for years. A mode like Domination would be great for Ultimate Team, too. In terms of bringing back former modes, All-Star Weekend and a standalone Playoffs mode would provide us with many ways to stay hooked on NBA Live 19.
3. Continued Improvement in Animations, Fluidity & Responsiveness
I know I’ve said it in previous articles and on the NLSC Podcast, but when there’s an animation in NBA Live that looks good, it looks really good. However, when it comes to the animations that aren’t so great, they look downright awkward and unrealistic. While the experience on the sticks is important, it’s also vital that a current gen game makes a good first impression by looking the part, so continued improvement to animations is a must for NBA Live 19. That means continuing to add a variety of new dunks, layups, jumpshots, free throws, dribbling moves, and post shots, while also phasing out the old animations that look clunky.
There are also animations that look pretty good in slow motion, but play out too quickly at regular speed, making them look stiffer and more robotic. With that in mind, replacing awkward animations with better ones, and smoothing out existing animations (and transitions between animations) so that they’re more fluid would be a big improvement in NBA Live 19. This should also improve the overall feel of the game, which was a lot better in NBA Live 18, but could still stand to be a tad more responsive. I wouldn’t want to see the game sacrifice its physicality and foot-planting, but the look and feel of the game must continue to improve.
4. Real Team Styles & Strategies; Greater Differentiation
In many ways, NBA Live 18 already has the basis for being a very good, sim-oriented NBA game. As I just noted, making the game more aesthetically pleasing and realistic is a big part of taking the next step, along with making it continue to feel better on the sticks. Another key element, however, is to properly replicate real NBA strategy, and NBA Live 18 comes up a little short there. Pretty much every team is looking to drive to the basket on every play, and there are too few three-point attempts, pick-and-roll opportunities, and foul calls in the paint. Some of the updates seem to have addressed those issues to some extent, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Basically, we need to see greater differentiation between teams’ styles and strategies, with teams calling the plays they actually run, and playing like their real counterparts. Correct shot distribution and stars standing out from the pack is also an important aspect that gameplay needs to have in order to be as realistic as possible. It needs to be a little tougher for the user and CPU to score inside, and players should be working to get open for better outside looks more often. NBA Live 19 shouldn’t alienate more casual gamers, and there should always be an element of “pick-up-and-play”, but the NBA side of gameplay needs some work in terms of realism and strategy.
5. Several Long-Absent Features
With the series on firmer ground than it was in 2013, it’s time to start adding features that have fallen by the wayside, or are long overdue to be implemented. Injuries come immediately to mind. We haven’t seen in-game injuries for a long time, so that’d be a big thing for NBA Live 19 to bring back. As I mentioned earlier, bringing back the All-Star Weekend and adding tasks such as the ability to hire and fire head coaches in Franchise mode would add depth that is currently lacking. Other examples include more detailed statistics (advanced metrics and Per 36), quarter-by-quarter stats, subs between quarters, and retro content outside of Ultimate Team.
Something that I’ve noticed while revisiting older games and writing retrospectives for our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content is that there was a time that the NBA Live series was being extremely innovative. Obviously, in recent times it’s been more important that the game try to catch up and build a solid foundation, but I believe it’s come to a point where NBA Live should be a little more ambitious in fleshing out the game with modes, content, and an overall deeper gameplay experience. The examples I’ve given are by no means a comprehensive list, but the point is that there are a lot of long-standing Wishlist items, and it’d be great to start seeing them in NBA Live 19.
What are some of the things that you believe NBA Live 19 has to have? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Once again, don’t forget to contribute to our NBA Live 19 Wishlist topic, too. 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.