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 I’ve already mentioned, we’re looking to finalise our Wishlist for NBA Live 16 as soon as possible, in order to submit it to the development team at EA Tiburon along with the community’s Top 15-20 suggestions for the game. If you haven’t added your feedback yet, by all means do so whenever you have a free moment. Once again, the developers are keeping tabs on the Forum, and we do have a direct line of communication to them, so our feedback isn’t just disappearing into the proverbial void.
I’ve already posted my contributions to the Wishlist, but for this week’s Friday Five, I thought I’d outline my hopes for NBA Live 16. With NBA Live 15 making some noteworthy improvements over NBA Live 14, it’s my hope that a healthy amount of my wishes will come to pass in this year’s game. Those wishes include…
1. Continued Improvement to Animations & Responsiveness
NBA Live 15 added a lot of new animations – especially in the paint – and generally speaking, it was a huge upgrade on NBA Live 14 in that department. It also feels a little smoother than its predecessor, so there was definitely some welcome progress there too. However, there is still a lot of room for further improvement. It’s essential that NBA Live continues to phase out animations that look awkward and unrealistic, while replacing them with more lifelike (and visually appealing) ones. Some of the awkwardness in the visuals also comes from the transition between animations, so that’s something else that still needs to be smoothed over somewhat.
It’s also important that the game feels good on top of looking good. In fact, I for one can overlook some odd or lacklustre animations here and there, if the general gameplay experience is pleasing. Responsive controls and enjoyable gameplay can make up for aesthetic shortcomings, but the best graphics in the industry will never cover up fatal flaws once a controller is in your hands. As I said, NBA Live 15 was a step up over NBA Live 14, but there’s still some stiffness and clunkiness to the controls, moments where the game doesn’t feel as responsive as it should. Continued improvement in the areas of animation quality (and quantity), as well as control responsiveness, is a must.
2. Gameplay Sliders & Roster Customisation
Being able to customise our experience with sports games is absolutely vital. Most of us want a realistic experience from our basketball video games, but some gamers would prefer a few liberties to be taken with that approach. Gamers also vary in skill and understanding of the sport’s finer points, so it’s important to have the ability to tweak the game for differing levels of realism, or to adjust the difficulty of specific aspects of the game. There are quite a few times playing NBA Live 15 that I’ve thought “Man, if only we had sliders. A couple of tweaks to this and that, and they wouldn’t be an issue!”
It’s also time that roster customisation features returned. It was disappointing, but understandable, that they were missing in NBA Live 14. Other aspects of the game needed to take priority, and that was still the case with NBA Live 15, too. However, we really need them back in the game, even if they aren’t quite as deep as we’d like. When we can create our own custom rosters, it tides us over in between official updates, allows us to correct any mistakes that may have slipped through in the official updates, and lets us set up some fun new experiences. Happily, sliders and roster customisation are on the roadmap for NBA Live 16, as per our interview with Sean O’Brien last year, so I definitely hope that nothing has changed that.
3. Deeper Dynasty Mode
While it still left something to be desired, Dynasty Mode has been fairly solid in NBA Live 14 and NBA Live 15. A few good features from the old days are in there, a couple of welcome new features have been added, and while it doesn’t exactly compare to MyGM or MyLEAGUE, it’s not as bare bones as it might appear at first glance. Having said that, however, it’s also still missing some basic functionality – a few stats screens, transaction listings, and the ability to edit player numbers, to name a few – and there’s still much that can be done with it.
Ultimately, I’d like Dynasty Mode to adopt some of the sandbox elements that MyLEAGUE introduced in NBA 2K15. Like gameplay and rosters, game modes should be customisable, in order to maximise their replay value. One step at a time of course, but getting some of those basic functions and information screens back into Dynasty Mode has to be a part of that first step. Referring back to our chat with Sean O’Brien once again, improvements to the game modes are in the cards for NBA Live 16, so I remain optimistic. I would also like to see additions and improvements made to Rising Star, but as I’ve said before, I am partial to Dynasty, so that’s the mode I’m most keen to see receive a boost.
4. Little Changes & Additions, While Keeping What Works
While significant improvements and additions to the core elements of gameplay and game modes are required for NBA Live to keep taking positive steps forward, sometimes it’s the smaller details that really make the experience. The game could really benefit from additions such as a shot release meter (in addition to the existing post-shot feedback), as well as manual control over bank shots and floaters (possible in NBA Live 14, but not in NBA Live 15), along with manual put-back dunks (similar to Freestyle Air, rather than being contextual). I’d also like to see pack prices come down a bit in Ultimate Team, and better starting packs. As much as I liked it in NBA Live 14, Ultimate Team in NBA Live 15 has felt like too much of a grind.
I’m also hoping that the development team doesn’t change what is working, or remove any useful functions and good concepts. While NBA Live’s gameplay hasn’t always delivered the results I want from a sim-oriented basketball game, I’ve been a big fan of the series’ approach to controls since the adoption of right stick dribbling in NBA Live 2003, so I wouldn’t like to see any major changes there. I don’t expect we’ll see the end of BIG Moments or LIVE Season, but I definitely hope the practice gym and shootaround options are still there in NBA Live 16 and beyond. And – because you knew I had to mention it – the rotation menu we currently have in Dynasty Mode is exactly what I’ve wanted since NBA Live 07. Let’s please not lose that!
5. PC Release
Yes, I know that it’s highly, highly unlikely, but I’m going to mention it anyway, knowing that in all likelihood, it’ll be another case of “not this year, maybe in the future”. Still, it’s worth talking about a PC version, as I believe it’s important to demonstrate our interest in and enthusiasm for one. PC basketball gamers are a niche demographic within a niche demographic, so if we don’t actively show support for the platform, it doesn’t exactly send developers the message that it’s worth the time, effort, and money to create PC ports. Incidentally, that’s also one of the reasons that we have a strict “no piracy talk” rule here at the NLSC.
If we do get a full port of NBA Live on the PC this year or sometime down the road, I also naturally hope that it will be moddable and as patcher-friendly as the last few PC releases of Live. While it isn’t something that EA Sports can openly support and promote, it can certainly benefit the game. While we’re enjoying all the cool things that our modding community can come up with, EA can also reap some extra sales in the lead up to the next game. One only has to take a look at what happened with NBA 2K12 when the Ultimate Base Roster came out. Quite a few long-time console gamers ended up double-dipping with the PC version, just to check out UBR. No doubt we could do the same for a new NBA Live game on PC.
For a more detailed look at my expectations and desired improvements for NBA Live 16, check out my post here in our Wishlist thread. Don’t forget to get your own wishes in ASAP, and as always, feel free to discuss this week’s topic in the comments section below, as well as in the NLSC Forum. That’s all for now though, so thanks for checking in, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.