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The Friday Five: 5 Reasons to Love Generated Rookies

The Friday Five: 5 Reasons to Love Generated Rookies

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five reasons to love generated rookies in franchise and career modes.

When multi-season franchise modes were introduced, the annual Draft was naturally an aspect of the league that needed to be replicated. Since college players couldn’t be licensed, the solution was to have generated rookies; fictional Draftees that the game would automatically create using randomised names and appearances (or in a few NBA Lives, pre-made faces). It was a good solution, but from the very beginning, we sought to replace generated rookies with real prospects. We found ways of doing so through modding, and eventually NBA 2K introduced in-game Draft Class editing.

The ability to edit Draft Classes was an important and most welcome addition to the array of customisation options in NBA 2K. To that end, it should absolutely remain a staple of NBA 2K’s in-game roster editing tools. However, there’s something special about generated rookies. In my opinion, they can be just as fun, and sometimes even more fun, than injecting real future Draftees into your game. Judging by some of the responses I’ve had on Twitter when discussing Terry Hanson, I’m not alone there! If you’re wondering what’s so special about generated rookies, and why anyone might prefer them to real prospects, here are five reasons to love those fictional players.

1. They’re Convenient, And (Usually) Error-Free

Generated Rookies in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER

To state the obvious, with generated rookies, the game is doing all the work for you. There’s no need to manually and meticulously craft sixty Draftees. While that can be a fun task and a key to enjoying future seasons in your franchise, allowing the game to generate rookies is undoubtedly quicker and more convenient. There’s value in being able to start your game sooner, as it’s possible to lose interest if you spend too much time making preparations and setting everything up. With generated rookies, you can be playing your first game within minutes. Of course, this is also true if you download a Draft Class with real prospects, as someone else has saved you the time and effort.

However, as with any other mod or custom roster, this is where quality and attention to detail becomes an issue. There’s a reason that gamers make posts asking about the best custom Draft Classes with real prospects; simply put, they’re not all made equal. There may be errors in bio data, or inaccurate ratings. On PC, some will have proper faces, whereas others are just utilising the in-game face creation tools. There may be technical issues, or if you’re new to the modding scene, you may struggle to install the custom files. A generated rookie class avoids flaws in player creation and mistakes in external modding, allowing for consistency and reducing the risk of any crashes.

2. Hilarious Names

Dustin Hoffman in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER

If you compare generated rookies in games such as NBA Live 2000 to ones in titles from the past ten years or so, one of the biggest improvements you’ll notice is in how names are chosen. In the early days, first names and surnames were paired up quite randomly. This led to players being called John Mutombo, Hakeem Richards, and Sergei O’Brien. Such names aren’t impossible of course, but may be unlikely given other aspects of a generated player’s background. There was also a tendency to use names that weren’t in vogue, such as Ignatius in NBA Live 06. Improvements to the bank of names and pairing logic have reduced the number of oddly-named rookies.

While that is for the best, there was a certain charm to those mismatched monikers. They certainly stood out, as do any names that resemble real players or celebrities. I’ve had a Jesse Kay in my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, as well as a Brendan Haywood that appeared to take the place of the real player by that name. In a couple of old NBA Live games, the bank of names made it possible to get rookies with the names Tupac Shakur and Bill Cosby. I have to believe that there’s code that makes these pairings more likely. I suspect the same is true of the Dick King in Year 4 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER. There’s a lot of room for jokes and shout outs with generated names!

3. Uniquely Generated Appearances

Sergei Kursov in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER

It’s not just wacky and coincidental names (or not so coincidental, as the case may be) that make generated rookies stand out. They’ve also benefitted from some very unique appearances over the years, particularly in older games where there seemed to be less restrictions on the randomising of Create-a-Player elements. It led to more instances of players with crazy hair colours, retro hairstyles and facial hair, and some generally funny combinations. Even though generated appearances tend to be less wacky now, there’s still a chance a rookie will end up looking like a real player’s doppelganger. As I’ve noted, Terry Hanson looks like someone’s bad attempt at creating LeBron James.

Speaking of which, because MyCAREER doesn’t support custom Draft Classes, there are a number of fictional players in the league now that I’m in my fourth season in NBA 2K14. This has made me aware of another quirky occurrence with generated rookies: their tattoos. Many of the fictional players in my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER game have ink of some kind, randomly selected from the tattoos that are available for MyPLAYERs. Those include NBA team logos, which some generated rookies end up sporting. Amusingly, the Celtics’ Sergei Kursov has a Clippers tattoo on his right arm, which just looks awkward. It would seem even generated rookies have tattoo regrets!

4. They Never Feel Out Of Place

Generated Rookies Never Look Out of Place (Allen Wall, NBA 2K14 MyCAREER)

I’ll admit that this comes down to personal preference as far as breaks from reality, but a huge advantage that generated rookies have over real Draft Classes is that they can never end up in the “wrong” place. How can they; there’s no real life comparison to make! That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with using a real Draft Class, and having the prospects end up on a different team than their real life counterparts. Again, it comes down to personal preference, and both are viable approaches to the fantasy aspect of franchise play. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy franchise modes. As long as you enjoy the approach you choose, that’s what’s important.

My personal preference – usually – has been to start with real rosters, and then let them evolve into an alternate reality. For me, fantasy drafts and real rookies going to different teams is changing too much, too soon. I enjoy reading stories about other gamers’ franchises that change things up that way, but I find it to be too distracting in my own gaming. Because generated rookies enter the game as fictional entities right out of the gate, they can never feel out of place. It’s difficult to say why one break from reality feels right and another doesn’t, but that’s just how differing tastes work. The “blank slate” nature of generated rookies is also appealing, which brings me to…

5. Generated Rookies Become Virtual Hardwood Legends

Terry Hanson vs LeBron James in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER

Real players can absolutely become Virtual Hardwood Legends for all of us. They’re the role players and benchwarmers that are unusually effective and even dominant in video games. They’re the unlikely heroes that win games for us, though admittedly that does mimic reality. Generated rookies take things to another level, however. As I said, they’re a blank slate when they enter our games. We can give them back stories and characters. They can develop into superstars that we loving playing with, or in some cases, against. Without a real world comparison, there’s no frustration that a generated rookie is performing better or worse than you know they should be.

Their amazing performances can become some of our favourite basketball gaming memories. I’ve seen several posts from franchise gamers over the years, reminiscing about their most memorable generated rookies: “He was like Tim Duncan mixed with Dirk Nowitzki”, or perhaps “He was 7’3″, grabbed every rebound, and no one could stop him inside”. Even though combinations of names tend to get recycled, there’s still a certain amount of uniqueness to the generated rookies that we encounter during our franchise and career mode games. The best of them become our Virtual Hardwood Legends, and they’re all part of the larger narrative that’s woven by those modes.

What’s your stance on generated rookies? Do you prefer them to real Draft Classes, or are you put off by fictional content? Do you mix up your approach? Let me know in the comments, 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.

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