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.
We care a great deal about our basketball games in this community, and likewise have high expectations for our basketball gaming experiences. If the controls feel off, or the animations are funky, we notice. It bothers us when the wrong players are scoring most of the points, or when superstars aren’t playing like superstars. If the simulated stats aren’t true to life, it detracts from our enjoyment. In a nutshell, if the gameplay doesn’t feel right, and an acceptable level of realism isn’t present, we’re going to grumble.
However, as with video games of any genre, what really impedes our enjoyment of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball titles is the presence of bugs. Now, some bugs are small, while other bugs render games almost completely unplayable. For the purposes of this list, I’m focusing on smaller bugs that can be worked around, or only occasionally occur, but are nevertheless annoying. There’s nothing completely gamebreaking here, but still plenty of irritation to be found. With that said, here are five of the most annoying basketball video game bugs that I have experienced.
1. Games Played Despite DNP-CDs (NBA Live 2002)
Let’s start out with a small one, but one that’s nevertheless irritating for a Dynasty/Franchise Mode geek like myself. As I like to mess around with my lineup and experiment with my rotation when I’m playing through a season, some players inevitably fall victim to a “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision”, just as in real life. It adds that extra touch of realism when you can look at your team’s stats at the end of the season, and see that not everyone played in all 82 games.
Normally, that little bit of realism would happen organically, but not in NBA Live 2002…well, unless you’re simulating. This will no doubt seem like a minor issue to a lot of people – and all in fairness it is, compared to some of the others on this list – but players who tally zero minutes during gameplay in Franchise Mode will still register a game played. In other words, if you play all 82 games, and your 12th man never gets into the game, he’ll still have a total of 82 games played. Now, this can be avoided by placing players on the Injured Reserve, and again, minor detail, but geek that I am about these things, it’s something that really bugged me back in the day.
2. Free Agents Don’t Sign Anywhere (NBA Live 2004)
NBA Live 2004 revamped Franchise Mode into Dynasty Mode, and with the rename came some welcome new features. To date, it’s the only NBA Live game to feature Dynasty Cutscenes, which have since become a popular Wishlist item. We could trade Draft picks for the first time in the series, there was a news ticker, teams indicated their level of interest in players on the Trade screen…all in all, it was a significant step forward. Unfortunately, it also included one of the more frustrating bugs the mode would ever have: big name free agents often wouldn’t sign anywhere during the offseason.
Thankfully, there was an easy enough fix. You see, after advancing to the next season, those high-rated free agents would be available to sign for the minimum. Otherwise, they’d usually remain in the Free Agent Pool, which wasn’t realistic. However, because they were available for the minimum, it was possible to sign and then trade them back to their previous team (or a new one) for a low rated player…or build a super team by keeping them yourself, of course. A bug that you could viably work around, or exploit to your advantage, but it was still an annoyance that detracted from the realism that Dynasty Mode was striving for.
3. Players Decline During Training Camp (NBA Live 2004)
While we’re on the subject of Dynasty Mode in NBA Live 2004, there was another irritating bug that you could feasibly work around, but it was still disappointing to encounter. Another new feature introduced in Dynasty Mode that year was Training Camp, which gave users the ability to assign training time in four categories – Shooting, Offense, Defense, and Conditioning – to further develop players in those areas of the game. In theory, this allowed players to gain a few more ratings points in addition to the usual improvement that took place during the offseason, or perhaps make up for any decline as they aged.
In practice, it didn’t work out so well. Not only was the increase very minimal unless you maxed out training time in a specific area, but setting the training time to anything less than 25% for any category generally resulted in a few of your players declining in that area. It usually wasn’t worth the risk of seeing your players decline for an outside chance at a one point boost to a couple of ratings (at most), so you’d either set the training time for each area to 25%, or just use the “Skip Training Camp” option. A viable solution, but it was still frustrating that a brand new feature – one that added depth and should’ve been more useful – wasn’t functioning properly.
4. CPU Scores Twice (NBA Live 15)
Say what you will about NBA Live 15, but in my view, it’s a more than playable basketball game. There’s still a lot of room for improvement (and it’s sounding like NBA Live 16 will be a big jump forward), but I’ve been enjoying my time with NBA Live 15 since it came out. However, beyond some of the quirks in player movement and other elements of the game that you need to adjust to, there are some annoying bugs that rear their head from time to time. One such issue is the CPU’s ability to score twice; or, to put it another way, score again after a made basket, if a player happens to catch the ball after it goes through the net. Here’s an example:
Fortunately, it’s only happened to me a couple of times, and it’s yet to cost me a game. It actually reminds me of a story that I read years and years ago, probably in first grade. A girl joins in her friend’s basketball game, and after noticing that they are well behind, proceeds to catch the ball after she makes a basket and keep shooting. The referee takes out her rule book, but oddly enough, can’t find a rule against it and thus allows it, leading to the girl’s team winning the game. So, yeah, I’m guessing whoever wrote that story didn’t know much about basketball. I hadn’t thought about that story in over twenty years, but when that bug occurred, it suddenly came to mind. It’s strange what we sometimes recall.
5. Fatigue Bug (NBA Live 07 & NBA Live 08, PC)
It’s been quite some time since PC basketball gamers have had much satisfaction from the NBA Live series. Not only has it been eight years since the last PC release for NBA Live, but the last couple of Lives to come out on the platform were plagued by a variety of issues. One of the biggest issues present in both NBA Live 07 and NBA Live 08 was the lack of proper player fatigue. Out of the box, NBA Live 07 doesn’t have any fatigue, and although the official patch would add an option for it, its effects are still a bit buggy. Without a fatigue slider (as in NBA Live 2004-06), or any further official updates, that was the best we were going to get.
NBA Live 08 retained the fatigue setting option that was added in the official patch for NBA Live 07, but once again, even with the option toggled on, players didn’t fatigue properly. Ultimately, we came up with the solution of globally adjusting everyone’s fatigue ratings, with some degree of success. It wasn’t a perfect solution though, and it made converting the rosters for NBA Live 2005 and NBA Live 06 a bit more of a chore. Thankfully, it’s no longer an issue in the more recent releases, so if we could get a PC port of NBA Live in the near future…well, I think everyone knows where I stand on that. And if not, I’ll sum it up in two words: yes, please.
No game is perfect, and there have been a lot of bugs over the years; as such, it’s tough to narrow them down to a list of just five. Those are five that came to mind for me, but there are obviously plenty more to discuss, which is where you all come in. What are some of the most annoying bugs that you’ve encountered in basketball video games? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in this week, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.