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 ways that The Neighborhood could be improved in NBA 2K19 and beyond.
Through articles, episodes of the NLSC Podcast, and posts in the Forum, I’ve made my opinion of The Neighborhood quite clear. In short, I like it about as much as I do MyCAREER stories, which is to say, not very much at all. To me, it’s amounted to a lot of wasted time running around the same mini suburb, going back and forth and enduring long loading screens. Whether it’s changing my animations, joining my friends in 2K Pro-Am or The Playground, or picking up my endorsement money, it’s basically impossible to have a streamlined experience.
However, while I certainly have my criticisms of The Neighborhood, I’d prefer them to be constructive. Even though I’m not a fan of the concept, there are ways that The Neighborhood could be more appealing and user-friendly, not to mention fairer in terms of grinding and potential microtransactions. My guess is that the developers aren’t going to give up on the concept after just one game, and if certain changes were made, I for one would probably find it at least a little more tolerable. With that said, here are five ways that the 2K team could improve on the whole experience of The Neighborhood in future games.
1. Lower Prices/Implement Separate Currencies
Let’s not hold our breath on this one, but one of the biggest problems almost everyone has with The Neighborhood is that it’s a pricey place to live. Prices at the local stores and businesses are jaw-dropping to say the least. Even without working out what VC is worth in-universe, simply comparing price tags to a single game’s salary shows that it’s a ridiculously expensive part of town. One solution would be to do what NBA Live has done, and implement separate currencies for player upgrades and cosmetic items. That way, we wouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other, allowing us to keep improving our player while also enjoying the customisation features if desired.
That seems highly unlikely to happen, though. Rob Jones has addressed the issues with VC in the past, explaining that they’d prefer to keep things simple with one currency and make budgeting part of the experience. While he has a point, it’s also easy to see through the spin: the approach makes 2K money and they’re not about to give that up. The same goes for the second solution, which would be to lower the prices of items so that they’re fairer according to the in-universe value. Haircuts were permanently discounted in NBA 2K18, so perhaps we might see some reductions, but I do get the feeling that the value will leave something to be desired.
2. Don’t Make Hitting the Gym a Necessity
When the trailer for The Neighborhood dropped, some gamers marvelled at the new open world environment; all the new things you could do, and all the new places you could explore. Other gamers groaned at the addition of elements that had nothing to do with on-court gameplay, writing it off as pointless fluff they’d be forced to take part in. Despite assurances that these extra activities were optional, the truth isn’t quite that simple. While shooting hoops in the 2K Zone is just for fun, working out in the gym is basically essential, because of the extra boost it provides to your sprint meter. It’s best to enter each game with 100% boost, which means regular workouts.
This makes a supposedly optional mini-game a mandatory task that’s very tedious and repetitive. Worse yet, Pro-Am and Playground games drain the meter as well, forcing you to interrupt your session. Since you don’t even need to perform well to get the boost, many of us just go to the box jump, start it, and do nothing, rather than play it for the umpteenth time. I’d be in favour of removing the mechanic from the game altogether, but if nothing else, online games shouldn’t drain the meter. In fact, the mini-games around The Neighborhood shouldn’t either. Let it be an advantage in NBA games only, as that might also help with online balance.
3. Full Screen Menus/Better Interface
In theory, the interface in The Neighborhood is refreshing and revolutionary, cutting down the time spent in menus in the name of an immersive, open world experience. In practice, it makes accessing certain features and options more cumbersome, while adding a lot of running around and loading; more on the latter in the next point. The on-court experience is even affected, as shootarounds in the Pro-Am arena take place from the same angle as navigating The Neighborhood, and there’s no rebound control, since that button now brings up the menu. Using doors to exit practice, going back to your MyCOURT to change clothes…it was all much quicker and easier with menus.
Glancing at other people’s opinions of The Neighborhood, it seems a lot of us would still prefer to have the old menus. At least having the option of performing those tasks and selecting certain options through a traditional menu, instead of running here and there, would be most welcome. When shooting around in your Pro-Am team arena, it should be locked to the gameplay controls and camera, just as in MyCOURT. Finally, there are times when I’d like to view the smartphone menus full screen, particularly the Pro-Am team stats since only a few columns are visible at a time on the phone’s smaller screen. Menus may be less immersive, but they’re much more elegant.
4. Fast Travel/Boot-Up Destination Options
There’s a Trophy/Achievement for running the distance of a marathon while in The Neighborhood. I earned it on October 17th, about a month after NBA 2K18 came out. That should emphasise just how much running around The Neighborhood you have to do in order to go to practice, your agent’s office to pick up your endorsement money (I guess he doesn’t trust direct deposits), the Pro-Am arena, or The Playground. It gets old fast, and although the subway and the unlockable bikes and skateboards do speed things up a little, they don’t do all that much to alleviate the frustration of going from place to place in a little slice of game world, over and over again.
I can think of two viable improvements here. The first would be to implement some sort of fast travel shortcuts, either as menu options or within the smartphone. To make a game of it, perhaps it could require visiting locations in The Neighborhood first, a la the fast travel options in Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. Alternatively, users could hit a button while loading into MyCAREER to instead go directly into MyCOURT, the Pro-Am Arena, or The Playground, as we used to be able to do with MyPARK. In lieu of being able to load into the exact same place we were upon previously exiting MyCAREER, either solution would help us get around quicker.
5. Remove The Neighborhood Entirely
Alright, so this is kind of a cop-out because it’s technically not an improvement for The Neighborhood, but it is a solution nevertheless. While it would be a drastic move, especially after only one game, that doesn’t mean it’s an unthinkable change. There’s no harm in deciding that it was the wrong direction, or that the concept needs work before it’s implemented again, and going back to a more familiar approach to the hub for MyCAREER. Drawing a comparison to the WWE series, their player hub often changed up every year or two, especially during the THQ era. It’s better to go back to the drawing board than stubbornly stick with an approach that’s unpopular.
Of course, it’s difficult to say just how popular or unpopular The Neighborhood truly is. I don’t want to say that nobody likes it or ever wanted it in the first place, as that would be projecting my opinions onto other gamers. I have seen a lot of people speak negatively of it, but then again, we’re more likely to offer negative critique than talk about what we like. It’s always busy, but being an integral part of MyCAREER, it can’t exactly be avoided. By that logic, you could say that the main menu is the most popular screen in the game, since everyone goes there. Removing The Neighborhood might feel like a drastic step, even wasteful, but frankly it wouldn’t be the worst idea.
What’s your take on The Neighborhood? Is it something that can be improved upon, is it fine as is, or should it be removed entirely? 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.