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.
As we look ahead to NBA 2K17 – the only basketball game that will be hitting consoles and PC in Fall 2016 – our Wishlist discussions are in full swing. While franchise modes have traditionally been my bag, and I’ve taken a greater interest in the card collecting modes in recent years, I would like to get more involved in MyCAREER again. I had a lot of fun playing MyCAREER in NBA 2K13, so much so that I ended up maintaining a story thread about it. As I’ve discussed in previous articles and on the NLSC Podcast, however, I’ve lost interest in the mode following the new approach that was adopted in NBA 2K14.
While many of us have taken smirking shots at the story-driven approach of MyCAREER, snark does become overdone, tired, and useless after a while. I believe in the philosophy of fans, not fanboys; critics, not haters. As such, at a certain point we need to drop the snark, identify problems, and put together useful, constructive feedback. To that end, here are five suggestions for MyCAREER in NBA 2K17.
1. Decide on a Concept
I’ve previously described MyCAREER as a mode that doesn’t seem to really know what it wants to be. On one hand, it has obvious RPG elements: we can put ourselves in the game – even scanning in our real faces – and live the life of an NBA player, guiding our avatars through a virtual career. However, there are also elements to MyCAREER that are counterintuitive to those concepts: a linear plot, a character and backstory that might not fit very well with our avatars, and an inability to truly tell our own story.
While there’s another solution that I’ll discuss a little later on, my first suggestion would be to decide once and for all what MyCAREER is supposed to be. Are its RPG elements in the style of Fallout, with a customisable character and different paths, or more like Deus Ex, with a pre-defined character that can level up and gain enhancements as they progress through the story? Or, to borrow the comparison Arcane has suggested on the Podcast, should it be more like Grand Theft Auto V, or Grand Theft Auto Online? Either way, right now it’s an awkward hybrid of concepts, with conflicting ideas. That needs to be sorted out before anything else.
2. Add Story Branching & Meaningful Choices
While I’ll certainly give Visual Concepts credit for the production values of MyCAREER in NBA 2K16, it still suffers from the same issues that afflicted the mode in NBA 2K14 and NBA 2K15. As noted above, we can’t really role play very much with our character, as he’s pre-defined (though, at least he’s not a jerk this time around). The story is linear, and in NBA 2K16, it’s really, really cutscene heavy, with stretches where there’s more cutscenes than gameplay. You can change up a few things such as your high school, college, and the type of player you are, but for the most part, everyone experiences the same basic story.
If MyCAREER is going to continue to have a narrative, then it should be able to branch off in different directions. Depending on whether you choose to be selfless or selfish, there should be different twists in the story, different events along the way, and ultimately, different endings. Any choices that we make should have an impact on the story, not just aesthetic differences such as the jersey we’re wearing. Let us get invested in the story, and add some replay value with multiple paths and endings. If there’s going to be a story in MyCAREER, it needs to be something that most of us want to play, not something that we have to endure just to get to the good stuff.
3. Allow for Different Career Paths
Of course, the story that’s told in cutscenes probably isn’t going to be nearly as interesting as the one that’s told on the virtual hardwood. You can have all the twists and turns you want in the off-court narrative, but if the general story is the same for everyone out on the floor, the mode remains somewhat limited. As it stands, the basic premise of MyCAREER is that you’re a highly touted prospect, with the ultimate goal of becoming a Hall of Fame player. It’s a logical and straightforward approach, but it only deals with one NBA player archetype: the (eventual) superstar.
I know that there are gamers who would prefer to be a role player, or perhaps a second round pick/undrafted player who has to really work hard to make the league and find success. I’d be in favour of being able to select a path at the beginning of MyCAREER, which in turn determines your starting rating. Failing that, perhaps the early stages of MyCAREER could determine your starting rating, and the beginning of your NBA journey. If you play well enough to establish yourself as a top prospect, you’ll get a ratings boost and have a prominent role earlier on. Play poorly, or more like a solid utility player, and that’s how you’ll begin your career instead.
4. Separate MyCAREER into Two Modes
This may sound like overkill, but I think it could really benefit the MyCAREER experience. I’ll refer to the great decision that was made with MyGM and MyLEAGUE here. MyGM is a great concept, with RPG elements that sculpt the experience for franchise mode gamers, and provide clear goals. However, it’s not for everyone, especially with the implementation of Virtual Currency. MyLEAGUE satisfies the desire to have a deep, sandbox experience that’s more along the lines of a traditional franchise mode, albeit well beyond anything that was offered by its predecessors.
The same idea could be applied to MyCAREER. If there are two modes – let’s say, MyCAREER, and MySTORY – then NBA 2K17 could cater to gamers who prefer the original approach, as well as those who enjoy the new cutscene-heavy, story-driven style. MyCAREER gamers would be able to jump straight into an RPG-style experience, without having to slog through a story they may not like. MySTORY gamers wouldn’t have to worry about their MyPLAYER looking out of place or miscast in the story that’s being told, which can be very distracting. With this option, we truly could “Be the Story” in NBA 2K17; our own tale, or one written for us.
5. Let Gamers Have More Influence
One of the challenges of MyCAREER is that you’re only in control of your player out on the court. You don’t make all the decisions; you can be pulled from the game in the middle of trying to pad your stats, your team may make a move or lineup change that you don’t like, and you don’t get to choose where you want to start your NBA career. This is all part of simulating the experience of being an NBA player from debut to retirement, and I believe that it should be a part of MyCAREER. However, as we all know, star players do gain major influence on their teams. Furthermore, NBA 2K is a video game, so we should at least have the option to take some liberties if desired.
An option I’d like to see MyCAREER borrow from NBA Live’s Rising Star is the ability to choose a preferred team to start your career with, in case you don’t want to just accept your fate in the Draft. As you develop into a star player or trusted veteran, you should also be able to meet with the coach and GM, and make a wide array of suggestions that influence player movement and other decisions. Of course, if you haven’t built up the right kind of reputation or an appropriate level of trust and respect, it won’t go well for you. Basically, I’d like to have some override options on a meta level, as well as the ability to be more assertive in the role playing aspect.
While NBA 2K17 will have other modes to keep me occupied, I really would like to have another memorable MyCAREER experience, as I did in NBA 2K13. With my recent interest in 2K Pro-Am, I’d also like to spend some more time with it in order to level up my MyPLAYER. The suggestions that I’ve outlined here would definitely make the mode more appealing for me. What improvements are you hoping to see in MyCAREER? Sound off in the comments below, and 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.