Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
As you may have seen from my bulletin a couple of days ago, I’ve been without power most of this week, thanks to the storms that recently hit the southeast coast of Australia. Fortunately, I’m a lot better off than some other folks in my area: I finally got power on yesterday, though I’m still waiting for the landline phone and broadband to get reconnected. I can get my PC online by tethering my smartphone however, so I’ve been able to catch up on everything, and bring you a new Friday Five.
So, what have I decided to talk about this week? Well, since I covered my five hopes for NBA Live 16 a couple of weeks ago, why not discuss my five hopes for NBA 2K16? NBA 2K being where it’s at right now, I don’t have too much to say about gameplay, or modes like MyLEAGUE and MyGM. It’s mostly tweaks, adjustments, AI fixes, and minor additions, as I believe the product is already very solid in those areas. Having said that, there’s still a handful of noteworthy changes and additions that I’m hoping to see in this year’s offering from Visual Concepts.
1. More Story Branching and Personality Options in MyCAREER
I’ve mentioned my issues with the storyline-driven approach to MyCAREER several times before, but as I’ve also said, it’s something that I’ve warmed up to. However, one of the biggest issues I still have with the concept is the lack of personality and dialogue options for your MyPLAYER. This is definitely a problem in NBA 2K15, as I don’t care at all for the personality they went with. When he’s not whining, he’s shamelessly boasting, or otherwise being a tremendous jerk. That’s not the personality I want for my MyPLAYER, and it causes a disconnect in what should otherwise be an immersive gaming experience.
In addition to being able to select more dialogue options and essentially role play in MyCAREER with the personality of my choosing, I’d also like the story to branch and differ according to my choices. I don’t want to see the same cutscenes and experience the same path as everyone else for the first few months of my career. I don’t want to have the same pre-determined moments on every playthrough. I want MyCAREER to offer me an experience that’s at least slightly different from everyone else’s, according to the way I carry myself off the court, and the way I play on it. By all means keep the storyline-driven approach, as the production values are impressive, but make it more varied, and less linear.
2. Fairer Prices & Better Starting Packs in MyTEAM
As with NBA Live’s Ultimate Team, MyTEAM is a mode that I’ve become interested in these past couple of years. I don’t find it as deep or immersive as modes like Dynasty, MyCAREER, MyLEAGUE, or MyGM, but I do see a lot of value in it. It’s fun to pick up and play when you want a break from those other modes, and it brings back fond memories of collecting basketball cards as a kid. Of course, it also brings back some unpleasant memories of collecting basketball cards as a kid: namely, wanting to get your hands on the good cards, and getting nothing but a role player or benchwarmer that you’ve already got doubles of, many times over.
I was pleased to see that the prices of packs came down a little in NBA 2K15’s MyTEAM, but the value isn’t much better, nor are the starting packs. NBA Live 15 actually went the other way as the values of packs definitely isn’t as good as Ultimate Team in NBA Live 14, though still better than NBA 2K15’s packs. For MyTEAM in NBA 2K16, I’d like to see each pack come down a little further in price, contain at least two or three players, and have better odds are getting quality players and superstars. I also believe the starting pack should offer up one superstar (perhaps even giving you a choice, or one from your designated favourite team), since those early games with a lousy roster aren’t a lot of fun to play. Sure, you can always buy a lot of VC, but I prefer to keep my microtransactions using real currency to a minimum.
3. Less Cumbersome Roster Editing
What I’d really like is a convenient means of editing the rosters externally (more on that later), but we still need robust roster editing functionality within the game, especially for the console versions. Thankfully, the ability to create players and customise rosters did make its return in NBA 2K15 – it’s still lacking in NBA Live 15, for those who are unaware – and the facilities are certainly functional. It’s far better to have them at your disposal and have a few gripes about them, as opposed to not having them at all.
That said, I feel like the roster editing functions were a bit cumbersome in NBA 2K15, and that’s something that actually goes back to the previous generation. I prefer having dedicated Trade, Sign/Release, and Edit Player menus, as opposed to clicking on individual players and bringing up a list of functions. The depth of the roster customisation options is quite pleasing of course – the inability to modify some hidden attributes aside – but I’m just not a huge fan of the interface…which actually leads into my next hope for NBA 2K16.
4. Better User Interface
Credit has to be given where it’s due. The menus in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of NBA 2K14 were very clunky, and as it turned out, were related to a couple of problems with saved games. The menus in the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions of NBA 2K15, on the other hand, are a huge improvement, and quite visually appealing. However, I still feel that they leave something to be desired.
There’s still a little too much back and forth for my liking, and menus that you can’t just back out of; instead, you need to scroll across to the Exit option to go back a screen. Having to load up NBA Today and press back to access exhibition play, practice mode, and so on, feels like one step too many. NBA 2K15’s menus definitely are an improvement, and they’re far from terrible, but navigation and functionality could be better. The PC version also had some issues with keyboard input not working properly, so I’m hoping those get fixed. And speaking of the PC version…
5. Modder-Friendly & Well-Optimised PC Version
I’m going to be optimistic, and suggest that we’re going to continue to get a PC release of NBA 2K, and that it will be a port of the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version. And as long as we’re getting that, the PC basketball community will receive a quality product. That said, I’m hoping that some of the technical issues that plagued the PC version of NBA 2K15 can be ironed out this year, as even users with powerful rigs built for gaming ran into problems with micro-stuttering and so forth. Granted, it’s easy for me to sit here and say it when I’m not the one that has to ensure a game runs fine on several different models and combinations of hardware, but hopefully there can be some improvement in that area.
The other area where I’d like to see the PC version become more accessible to our community is modding. It’s a tough aspect to cater for, since NBA games are licensed products (thus the league has final say over everything), and the fact that the PC version is now linked to a digital distribution platform (Steam) to facilitate microtransactions means that profile-specific and encrypted files are now a factor. However, it would be great if we could get a custom art system, and roster files that are easier to edit externally. Vl@d has done some great work over the years, Greg is doing some great stuff for NBA 2K15, and modders like TBM are helping to push things along. But a more modder-friendly release – similar to the last few NBA Live titles on PC – would allow us to do some amazing stuff with NBA 2K16.
So, that’s an outline of five hopes that I have for NBA 2K16. What are you hoping to see in NBA 2K16? What are your most desired improvements? Let me know in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in this week, please join me again next Friday for another Five.