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 to improve Ultimate Team in NBA Live 20.
Due to its extended hiatus, NBA Live was the last EA Sports title to implement an Ultimate Team mode. Along with Franchise and The One, its presence provides the game with the staple experiences of a franchise, career, and card collection/team building mode, and has proven to be a welcome addition. However, while Ultimate Team is a mode I’ve enjoyed since the reboot, it shares the same problem that other modes in NBA Live have suffered: it’s still too barebones. To that end, just as I have ideas on how to improve Franchise mode, I have suggestions for Ultimate Team.
After enjoying the mode so much in NBA Live 18, I felt disappointed by NBA Live 19’s Ultimate Team. Quite a few changes were made that I believe were done with the best of intentions, but the result was that an already thin mode became even thinner, despite making a couple of additions. It’s not too late to correct course however, as a lot of the building blocks are in place. LUT also made a great move in NBA Live 19 by removing contracts, something that NBA 2K’s MyTEAM should also implement. Generally speaking though, Ultimate Team should borrow ideas from MyTEAM, as well as bring back or expand upon concepts that it has featured in previous iterations.
1. Expand Card Types & Collection
There was a time when I thought that Ultimate Team’s simplified card levels were a better approach than MyTEAM’s broad range of metal and jewel designations, but now I have to say that I prefer NBA 2K’s method. The cards in NBA Live 19 have been disappointing, especially the approach of starting out with really low-rated versions of players. I understand that it was meant to balance LUT and save the best cards for release later in the year, but I strongly believe it’s a mistake. By all means hold back a few cards to spread content out over the year, but the 60 Overall versions of cards that were available at launch were not a good look, nor fun to play with.
I’m not suggesting that LUT completely copies MyTEAM’s nomenclature, but I’d like to have more variety in the types of cards, and special cards that are actually worth gunning for. I would suggest copying MyTEAM’s approach of having a collection that you can complete, with empty spaces acting as a collection guide and shortcut to searching the Auction House. The variety of cards and a collection guide are more in line with trading card collecting, which is obviously what Ultimate Team is inspired by. We also need to see some more Legends, along with the return of the retro logos, courts, and jerseys, as collectable items that we can use to customise our teams.
2. Add More Sub-Modes
On the surface, Ultimate Team offers a lot in the way of challenges and gameplay. If you scroll through the Fantasy Challenges menu, you’ll see a ton of content. Not only have new challenges been added throughout the season, but NBA Live 19 launched with a bunch of them; possibly more than any other iteration of Ultimate Team upon release. The problem is that there isn’t much variety. Most of them comprise of a lot of games against the same squad, with a pack or token amount of coins on offer once you clear all of the games. It’s a tedious grind and the rewards aren’t always worth it, which is why I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into Ultimate Team this year.
Compare this with MyTEAM, which offers several modes including Domination, in which we need to beat all of the NBA teams (and then historical and special teams). There are the Weekly, Moments, and Schedule Challenges, which regularly provide fresh content that isn’t anywhere near as repetitive as LUT’s Fantasy Challenges. NBA 2K19 brought us Triple Threat – a 3v3 mode – and its online equivalent, fleshing out the multiplayer options for the mode. All in all, there’s a good variety of sub-modes to play, and that’s something Ultimate Team lacks. NBA Live 18’s LUT challenges were better than NBA Live 19, but NBA 2K19’s MyTEAM is far superior to both.
3. Offer a Variety of Specialty Packs
To be blunt, the packs in NBA Live 19 are a disappointment. It’s great that their odds are now displayed, and you generally get decent value as far as pulling at least one serviceable to good player, but there isn’t much variety on offer. MyTEAM provides a good variety of packs that include limited edition and special cards, with new packs being offered on a regular basis. True, it’s an approach that facilitates spending real money on the mode, but Ultimate Team is already set up for microtransactions, only with less appealing options. The themed packs from NBA Live 18 are gone, which is a shame as they were actually worth spending money on, especially Legends packs.
Bringing back that approach from NBA Live 18 would be a good start, but this is another area where MyTEAM is doing a great job with its content, and Ultimate Team would be better off taking some cues from it. In addition to having both a cheap and premium version of the base packs, there should be regular and limited edition themed packs with Legends, All-Stars, Players of the Week, and so on. There should also be special edition cards when players have big performances (as well as historical versions of that theme). Some of that content is already in LUT, but it could stand to be better, and more attainable through store bought packs and weekly challenges.
4. Provide More LIVE Content
EA Sports have been doing an admirable job of pushing through new content for The One, and it makes sense as it’s been the focus these past couple of years. LIVE Events are a good hook for NBA Live, and I’ve certainly had some fun with them. However, they could be doing the same thing for Ultimate Team, pushing through a variety of new challenges, daily goals, and content that’s only available for a limited time. The LIVE Events are an effective way of getting gamers to fire up NBA Live on a regular basis so that they can earn content, but not everyone is interested in clothing, or The One. It’s a concept that can and should be adapted for use in Ultimate Team as well.
Rewarding gamers for completing daily objectives, or a challenge that’s only available for a limited time, will encourage gamers to spend more time with LUT and enjoy the experience. A combination of the limited time challenges we saw in NBA Live 18 and the types of challenges offered up in LIVE Events would be an ideal way of keeping Ultimate Team fresh, dynamic, and engaging. I’d also suggest implementing a similar feature to NBA 2K’s Locker Codes: something LUT gamers can follow along with on social media, and punch into the game for a chance at a random reward. A couple of freebies will hook gamers and encourage them to invest in packs; a win-win scenario.
5. Add Overdue Functionality
Not unlike Franchise mode, Ultimate Team has received a few welcome additions since it was first implemented, but some basic staples are still missing. Let’s begin with lineup management. Presently, you can only set one lineup in Ultimate Team, and swap cards in and out as you need them. That works well enough, especially if you just want to run with all your best players (which is now easier with the removal of contracts), but it would also be very handy to set a few different lineups that you can toggle between. You may want to have a current lineup, a retro lineup, a mix of the two; the list goes on. It’s something MyTEAM has had for years, and LUT needs.
Speaking of roster management, being able to set the rotation and minutes for your players – as you can in Franchise mode – is also a necessity. A Play with Friends option for head-to-head games is a must, as it shouldn’t come down to a coordinated effort to play friends with the random matchmaking system. An expanded suite of team customisation options, the ability to unlock your One Player for use in LUT, a better way of viewing your collection, and enhanced search functionality in the Auction House, are all additions that would make LUT deeper and more appealing. Not unlike Franchise mode, it’s been a case of “next year” for too many years now.
What else needs to be done to enhance Ultimate Team in NBA Live 20? 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.