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 2K19 needs to have.
As I mentioned last week, Wishlist season is upon us. These days, we don’t just collect feedback for NBA Live, but also the NBA 2K series as well. Our NBA 2K19 Wishlist topic is open for constructive feedback, which we’ll be looking to pass along to the development team at Visual Concepts as soon as possible. As with NBA Live 19, NBA 2K19 is already in pre-production, so it’s important that we get our Wishlist in as soon as possible, in order for it to have the best chance of making a positive impact on this year’s game from 2K Sports.
While it’s impossible to compile a comprehensive Wishlist in just five points, I do have some ideas about what I’d like the general areas of focus to be for NBA 2K19. I certainly don’t pretend to speak for all basketball gamers – as I said last week, our Wishlist itself is intended to get a good cross-section of what the community wants – but having spent a considerable amount of time with NBA 2K18, and the series in general over the past six or seven years, I do believe that I have some suggestions that would benefit NBA 2K19. While the game is obviously wildly successful, I also feel that there’s ample room for these technological and conceptual improvements.
1. Fairer & Less Intrusive Approach to Virtual Currency
The issues with Virtual Currency, pay-to-win mechanics, and the general lack of goodwill in NBA 2K18 are well-documented. While it’s left many gamers frustrated and hoping to see the demise of VC, we have to be realistic. With the success of what the company has dubbed “recurrent revenue”, it’s not going anywhere. However, it is possible to retain the VC system and the revenue stream it provides, while at the same time being fairer to gamers. It means being less aggressive and intrusive, while also, giving us more value for money (virtual or otherwise). The overall experience should not be affected so heavily by pressure to spend more cash.
This could be accomplished by raising VC rewards, as well as lowering prices for player upgrades, animations, cosmetic items, and even MyTEAM packs. If the game is going to utilise a universal currency, gamers shouldn’t have to grind so hard and budget so stingily. Bringing back the difficulty modifier would demonstrate a lot of goodwill. The companion app could offer better rewards, with less tedious ways of earning them for those who aren’t interested in playing the card game. Finally, the gaming experience needs to be prioritised. By all means give us incentive to drop some extra money on microtransactions, but don’t force our hand by design.
2. Online Balance & Better Matchmaking
One of the many great points that was raised in this post over on the NBA 2K Reddit was that the game lacks proper matchmaking options. This makes the game far less friendly to newer players, as well as more casual online competitors. Without a more sophisticated matchmaking system, such as the one in Rocket League for example, it’s all too easy for players of very different skill levels to be matched up in 2K Pro-Am, MyTEAM, or really any mode with online play. In The Playground, you do opt for specific opponents by choosing to line up at the Got Next hotspots, but you’re not necessarily going to be placed on a server with competition at your level.
Without balanced matchmaking, gamers don’t have a chance to learn and get better against competition that’s more their speed. As the Reddit post explains, this may be fine for elite players, but it’s alienating for the less experienced, and everyone has to start somewhere. Online play in general is quite unbalanced, especially in the modes connected to MyCAREER. There are still cheesy Archetype builds, and seven footers are overpowered at both ends of the floor, even well before they’ve levelled up to 90+ Overall. It’s telling that the NBA 2K League is going to use special avatars, with a narrower range of Archetypes. That balance needs to be in the retail game, too.
3. A Serious Effort to Stamp Out Legacy Issues
For quite some time now, the NBA 2K series has set the standard in terms of the NBA sim experience. The game has evolved, innovated, and improved throughout the past couple of generations, and as such, has been rightfully praised. However, a few cracks have been appearing in the foundation, so to speak. Right now, there are a number of legacy issues that are testing the patience of 2K gamers, from gameplay problems to bugs. The NBA 2K team’s willingness to add new and innovative features and content is commendable, but once the initial excitement wears off, we’re left grumbling about the same problems, some of which have been bothering us for years.
Rather than a ton of shiny new gimmicks or bonus content, NBA 2K19 needs to fix and fine tune some of the issues and features already in the game. The bug that resets controller settings has survived multiple games, and multiple title updates. Psychic steals by CPU opponents are as cheesy as ever, as are other canned moments such as reach-in fouls, easy passes that somehow go terribly awry, body steals, bad clipping, unbalanced MyPLAYER Archetypes, zigzag cheese, and so on. Patches have tried to address some of the issues (notably the zigzag cheese), but the long list of gameplay quirks and bugs need to be fixed more than we need to see gimmicky new concepts.
4. Better Physics & Mechanics
There is some impressive tech in NBA 2K, and we’ve seen the team implement some noteworthy enhancements over the years, without having to rebuild the game from scratch. That’s why it’s so puzzling that we’ve seen some regression in key areas, such as clipping, physics, and player motion. There are a lot of great-looking animations in NBA 2K18 and the controls are responsive, but there’s also a surprising amount of skating. Players frequently clip through each other while dribbling, although the CPU can pull off a lot of body steals. I don’t want to see the return of “stonewall defense”, but there needs to be more physicality outside the paint, and slightly tighter controls.
In terms of mechanics, I feel that shooting is a big problem in NBA 2K18. It’s been discovered that a Good release is basically a nerfed Excellent release, with a lower chance of going in than a Slightly Early or Slightly Late release. It’s been done to make shooting less cheesy through raising the difficulty of getting a Green release, but it essentially means a near-perfectly timed Good release is worse than one that’s slightly early or late. That issue needs to be resolved in NBA 2K19. I’m also in favour of bringing back the Shot Meter on layups as long as they require timing, and making the meter bigger, as it was in NBA 2K17.
5. Options for More Streamlined Experiences
I don’t want to downplay the amount of work that has gone into concepts such as the MyCAREER stories or The Neighborhood. As with VC, I also realise that they’re highly unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon. However, I believe there’s merit in offering gamers more streamlined experiences that cater to simpler tastes. Just as MyLEAGUE offers a more traditional franchise experience while MyGM is RPG-based, I’d like to see a MyCAREER option that foregoes a story and predetermined character, and utilises menus over an open world environment (or at the very least, offers menu shortcuts as an alternative to running around the hub world).
Another way that NBA 2K19 could offer more streamlined experiences would be to allow some of the presentation features to be toggled on and off, as well as making it possible to skip cutscenes quickly and easily. While many of those aspects are part of the immersion and overall experience, they can also be tedious, especially if you’re short on time and just want to play. I’m still in favour of getting rid of “Got Next” or offering an alternative matchmaking process in The Playground, too. Ideally, the time spent between gameplay should be minimal, unless the user is actively choosing to take their time buying items, customising their player, or watching cutscenes.
What are some of the things that you believe NBA 2K19 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 2K19 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.