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 offers up five reasons why a standalone Playoffs mode is essential in NBA Live and NBA 2K.
The 2018 Playoffs are well underway, with one second round match-up already set and all other first round series currently on the brink of being decided. The race for the Larry O’Brien trophy is kicking into high gear, with most of us having fun either cheering on teams and players that we like, or cheering against the ones that we don’t. I’m sure that quite a few gamers are replicating the excitement of the postseason on the virtual hardwood, having reached that point in modes like MyLEAGUE, MyGM, Franchise, or MyCAREER, or alternatively playing through a standalone tournament in Playoffs mode.
Of course, while it’s long been a staple of NBA video games, the standalone Playoffs mode has been left out of several titles. Despite the Playoffs being the only mode of play in NBA Live’s forerunner, the aptly titled NBA Playoffs series, it’s been missing from several of EA Sports’ subsequent hoops titles, including NBA Live 18. It was also dropped from a few games in the NBA 2K series, but fortunately it’s currently available as an option in the MyGM/MyLEAGUE menu. While other modes may be more popular – and let’s face it, bigger money earners – it’s essential that a standalone Playoffs mode remains in NBA 2K, and returns in future NBA Live games.
1. Basketball Gaming Staples Are Vital
Although there are understandable reasons for modes being removed from basketball video games – usually coming down to technical issues or a lack of popularity – we still end up missing them. For a sim hoops game to offer a well-rounded experience, there are certain modes that it absolutely must have: multi-season franchise, single player career and the connected online modes, online head-to-head, team building, practice/shootaround, and of course, a standalone Playoffs mode. While single season play can feasibly just be included as a franchise mode option, a mode in which we can immediately set up our own Playoff brackets and play them is still very much needed.
Sim-oriented basketball games have been around for a long time now, and we’ve seen their modes get deeper and better as the years have passed. Beyond that, we’ve come to expect that basic modes and features that were in the game twenty years ago will continue to be included. That’s why we grumbled when roster editing was absent from NBA Live, and why it was such a big deal when it was added to NBA Live 18 via a patch. Basketball games that lack staple modes and features feel incomplete, failing to give us the full experience that we want. With a standalone Playoffs mode being one of those staples, I would certainly classify it as essential.
Should a basketball game lack a standalone Playoffs mode, there is technically a viable workaround. As long as there is some kind of season or franchise mode, it’s possible to simulate to the end of the regular season and get straight into postseason action. Features like NBA 2K’s Start Today option offer even more flexibility in terms of getting to the Playoffs quicker, and should you select it on the appropriate date, you’ll even begin with brackets that reflect the current season. Beyond that, a lot of gamers do like to experience the journey by playing through the season, and in the career modes in particular, it’s generally undesirable to simulate too much.
However, not everyone wants to wait, grind, or simulate to get to the Playoffs. Also, while it isn’t difficult to set up a new franchise game and sim through to the Playoffs, it can still be a tedious process, and the brackets won’t always be desirable. Having a dedicated mode that allows gamers to set up their own brackets and start playing a custom postseason is a far more convenient solution than a lengthy workaround, with far more control over the experience. It’s the same reason NBA 2K needs a standalone dunk contest and three-point shootout mode. Sure, you can sim through a season and play them for fun or practice, but it’s incredibly cumbersome to have to do so.
3. The Fun of Running Simulations
Basketball video games are great for “What If” scenarios. They don’t exactly prove anything, of course, but it’s still fun to see the results. As long as hoops titles have had standalone Playoffs modes with simulation options, gamers and content creators alike have put them to use to predict what’s going to happen in the current postseason. Both EA Sports and Visual Concepts are obviously aware of this as they offer up their own simulations using their latest releases, posting the results on their social media. With a Playoffs mode in the game, it’s a lot easier for any of us to do it, since we can set up the brackets accordingly, and then run as many simulations as we like.
Arguably, the simulation aspect is more for content creators who want to post some sort of “Who does NBA Live/NBA 2K pick to win the championship?” type feature, but it’s something we all might be inclined to do at one point or another, either out of curiosity or perhaps to test the results using a custom roster update. Most gamers are probably more interested in playing along with the current postseason, but that could also be considered a form of simulation in its own right. Whatever the case may be, there are times when we want to set up the current postseason in a game, and compare the results to real life. That’s much easier to do with a Playoffs mode on hand.
4. Suitable for All Kinds of Scenarios
Needless to say, a Playoffs mode isn’t just useful for simulating or playing through the current NBA postseason. With its bracket structure, it can be used to set up all manner of scenarios. Most modes over the years have allowed East teams to be placed in the West and vice versa, offering the opportunity to realign the league and see how teams would fare if they were in the opposite conference. When it comes to the NCAA mods that our community has produced, setting the format to single elimination is a viable method of emulating the Sweet Sixteen onwards. The same goes for other mods, such as those that replicate foreign leagues and international tournaments.
With all the extra content that’s in NBA 2K these days, there’s fun to be had even before any mods are created. The classic teams, and newly added All-Time squads, are all playable in Playoffs mode. This means you can have a playoff between teams boasting the best players in franchise history, a tournament to crown the champion of champions or the best team of all-time, or indeed mix those squads in with current NBA teams for a wild “What If” scenario. That experience can also be extended by placing the teams into a custom MyLEAGUE game, but if it’s a tournament you’re after, or you just want to get straight to that stage, Playoffs mode is the way to go.
5. The Real Playoffs Inspire Us to Play
A recurring theme of all the reasons I’ve mentioned so far is the desire to immediately start playing through the postseason tournament. Our desire to do that, or indeed play any particular mode in a basketball video game, is often influenced by what’s going on in the real NBA. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets hyped to play through a virtual Playoff when the postseason is underway, longs for All-Star Weekend mode when the annual classic rolls around, or feels like assuming the role of GM when the Draft and offseason are taking place. Starting a new franchise game also tends to be far more exciting when the real season has just tipped off.
Playing through a season to get to the Playoffs is a rewarding experience, whether it’s a franchise or career mode. However, with the way that other responsibilities can get in the way of gaming, you’re not always going to be level with the real NBA season, or indeed, ahead of it. If you’re ready for the excitement of the postseason and there’s still twenty games left in your regular season, they’re going to feel like a real grind. The answer….well, you get the idea by now. It’s great to see Playoffs mode in NBA 2K, and with NBA Live still aiming to improve, there’s no question that it’s essential that this staple mode – and namesake of its forerunner series – returns very soon.
How often have you used Playoffs mode over the years? Do you have any fond memories of setting up and playing through custom brackets? 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, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.