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 story ideas for MyCAREER.
The story-driven approach to MyCAREER appears to be here to stay. Fortunately, as of NBA 2K17, it’s not quite as intrusive as it once was. In the absence of an option to skip the story altogether, keeping the narrative to the background is definitely for the best. It would also be preferable if the gameplay experience drives the story, rather than the other way around. In any event, there are some basketball gamers who do enjoy the story aspect of MyCAREER, and as such, I expect it’s something that Visual Concepts will double down on in future NBA 2K titles.
With that in mind, what kind of stories should MyCAREER try to tell? We’ve seen a rivalry with Jackson Ellis, an undrafted player battling for a place in the league, a Spike Lee joint, and the tale of a dynamic duo. I believe that the next step would be to introduce more than one story, preferably with branching plot points and impactful decisions that underscore the RPG aspect of MyCAREER. To that end, I have five ideas for stories that would provide gamers with a varied career mode experience, and more replay value than what is currently offered.
1. Star Prospect
Let’s begin with what has become the default approach to MyCAREER: the story of the highly touted prospect, and future star. It’s the most straightforward story, and it’s also tailored to building a player suitable for MyPARK and 2K Pro-Am. As such, if there are going to be multiple starting points for MyCAREER, I would suggest that this needs to remain one of them. However, if the story is that you’re a top prospect and potential lottery pick, your starting ratings need to be a lot higher than they have been in recent games. A potential trade-off here could be that it takes a little more effort to increase your ratings from that higher starting point.
As for the story itself, I envision something not completely unlike what we’ve seen so far. I would, however, suggest making the MyPLAYER’s back story less defined, or perhaps offer a few different choices, to reinforce the RPG aspect of the mode. It should avoid pigeonholing the MyPLAYER character, and be as “one size fits all” as possible; in fact, that goes for all these stories. Aside from that, it would be a new take on a familiar tale: a highly touted prospect vies to improve their Draft stock, and aims to be the Next Big Thing in the NBA. There’d also be room to end up a role player, and user decisions, along with performance, would shape the character along the way.
2. Summer League Success Story
One of the problems with the aforementioned approach is that you often end up replacing a real NBA rookie who was taken at the same spot in the Draft. Failing that, both of you will be on the team, and share the same Draft information. It may be a minor nitpick to some, but it does look a little silly. The obvious solution is to feature the story of an undrafted player, who makes their way to the NBA by other means. NBA 2K15 tried this approach, but unfortunately the story was marred by an unlikeable character, and an abbreviated rookie campaign. That doesn’t mean the idea is completely without merit, though.
Rather than beginning your career in January as you try to earn a ten day contract, the story would begin with the Summer League, with the goal of being signed (or at least earning a training camp invitation). Completely blow both chances, and you’ll need to start over, as in NBA 2K15. Since you wouldn’t be a “can’t miss” prospect, your starting ratings would be lower at the start of this career path, but in return, you’d be able to upgrade them quicker. The story would be about the trials and tribulations of taking a tougher road to the NBA, but you’d still be in the driver’s seat. Hall of Famer, All-Star, role player…that would be up to you, once you get your big break.
3. D-League Call-Up
There’s admittedly some overlap with the Summer League Success Story concept here, but the experience would be a little different. As the name implies, this story would see you begin your MyCAREER in the D-League, after going undrafted in June. Once again, the theme of the story would be the longer journey to making it in the NBA, but I also see this story functioning as the more difficult version of the Summer League path. After all, making it through the early stage of that story would earn you a spot on an NBA roster come opening night. Starting in the D-League, you won’t be getting there until after the NBA season is underway.
Furthermore, your starting ratings would be a little lower, with only a very minor adjustment to the price of upgrades. Getting a quick call-up wouldn’t be easy either, as it would rely on a team needing a player with your skill set, in addition to putting up big numbers. Since competition in the D-League wouldn’t be at the same level as the NBA, you’d really need to distinguish yourself to earn a call-up. Another key difference with this story is that you’d be able to get big minutes earlier while playing in the D-League, but then go through the process of earning them once you arrive in the NBA. To that end, it would certainly have the potential to be very challenging.
4. Veteran Rookie
All of the MyCAREER stories thus far have focused on younger, generally one-and-done players, eliminating the scenario where we’re an older rookie. Originally, I had the idea that perhaps you could choose to start a MyCAREER game as a slightly older player – say, twenty-one like Tim Duncan, or even twenty-four like Taj Gibson – but then I thought of players like Arvydas Sabonis. Drafted back in the 80s (twice in fact, due to a technicality), Sabonis didn’t make his way to NBA until the 1996 season, when he was thirty-one. Although age and injuries had taken their toll, he was still effective for the Portland Trail Blazers, and had a decent NBA career.
Similarly, you’ve got someone like Marc Gasol, who entered the NBA at twenty-four, but played professionally in Europe for several years before that. I think it would be fun to play as an older rookie in MyCAREER; someone who’s spent a few years playing overseas – maybe with a couple of D-League and Summer League stints – and finally has a real shot at the NBA. You’d start out by entertaining offers from a few interested teams, accept the one that appeals to you the most, and carve out an NBA career from there. Of course, as an older, more experienced player, your starting ratings would be considerably higher, but your ceiling would also be lower.
5. Comeback King
So, this one might sound a little crazy, but what if you weren’t actually a rookie in MyCAREER? What if you were a player that had already made the NBA, but suffered an injury that placed your career in jeopardy? Alternatively, you could still technically be a rookie, but as you were preparing to make your debut a year or two ago, you suffered a major injury that threatened to put an end to your career before it even got started. Either way, the story would revolve around your attempts to overcome that setback, finally make your NBA return or debut, and fulfil your potential at last.
Choosing this path would allow you to begin MyCAREER with decent ratings and fairly priced upgrades, in turn allowing you to develop at a reasonable pace. There would be a catch, however; your player’s athletic and durability ratings would be capped a little lower, to reflect the injury you’ve suffered. You’d also have to deal with restrictions on minutes, and choices that would impact both the story and gameplay, such as rushing back too quickly or pushing too hard, and risking re-injury. Such a career path could potentially be very challenging, but also one of the most rewarding options for MyCAREER, with a satisfying feel-good story along the way.
While I’m sure the ability to skip the story altogether would be welcomed by many gamers, it’s probably not going to be an option. As such, it’s important that the MyCAREER story is well done, and as unintrusive as possible. Multiple story options might just help with that, and add a little more replay value. Would any of these stories appeal to you? If not, what kind of tale would you prefer MyCAREER to tell? 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.