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 you may know from previous articles and the NLSC Podcast, I’ve become a big fan of 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17. I was originally sceptical of 2K’s approach, and after playing LIVE Pro-Am at an NBA Live 16 community event, I figured that its quicker games would be more fun. However, I’ve come to like the 2K Pro-Am concept a lot more, and find myself wishing that LIVE Pro-Am could find a way to cater to those tastes as well. There are definitely aspects of 2K Pro-Am that NBA Live could stand to borrow, while implementing them in its own style.
Of course, I don’t want to see LIVE Pro-Am simply become a clone of 2K Pro-Am. While I think there are features it should look to borrow, it has its own concepts that are worth building upon. It has the potential to cater to fans of the 2K Pro-Am approach, while also offering a different experience with its own appeal. In fact, by combining a few concepts that we’ve seen in both games so far, NBA Live could potentially end up with the deeper and more varied Pro-Am mode. Here are five suggestions that I believe would help achieve that.
1. Add Squad Options (With Customisation)
You can informally squad up in NBA Live 16’s LIVE Pro-Am, in that there’s a “Play with Friends” option. In theory, you can arrange to get online with friends at regular times, create a lobby, and then start playing some games. However, there’s not much to identify you as a squad. You can’t set a team name, or create any uniforms or branding. Since there are no permanent user teams, there’s still somewhat of a feeling of it being a squad that’s randomly thrown together, even if you’re running with the same group of friends all the time.
The ability to create squads should make setting up games and matchmaking a lot easier. If there’s an option to enter a lobby (or team arena/locker room) with your squad, there’s no need to send out invitations, and you can jump straight into a game once enough players are present. Customisation is a really fun part of 2K Pro-Am, though as I’ve said before, I dislike the new restrictions on customisation until reaching the Pro and Elite tiers in NBA 2K17. If LIVE Pro-Am could feature squads with customisable branding right away, it would be an effective response to the direction Visual Concepts has taken.
2. Feature Both NBA-Based and Street-Oriented Modes
While I thought I’d prefer LIVE Pro-Am’s streetball approach after having a lot of fun with it at the NBA Live 16 community event I attended, I’ve come to prefer 2K Pro-Am’s approach of real NBA rules and five minute quarters. That’s not to say I dislike the current style of LIVE Pro-Am, or believe that it has no place in the game. I do think that NBA 2K has given basketball gamers the best of both worlds by providing 2K Pro-Am and MyPARK, though. Whether you prefer organised basketball or pickup basketball, your MyPLAYER can be taken into either setting. I think it would be great if we could do the same with our Rising Star players in NBA Live.
Since LIVE Pro-Am already encompasses a couple of modes – Summer Circuit and LIVE Run – I’d suggest expanding it to include a mode with regular NBA rules. Said mode could also share some concepts with Summer Circuit, specifically multiplayer games against CPU teams featuring real NBA players, in addition to games against other users. If the aforementioned squad options and customisation are also present, then so much the better. There’s also an opportunity here to revive the NBA Street brand within the streetball-oriented mode, perhaps featuring cameos by Stretch and other Street Legends as members of some of the squads.
3. Add Position/Player-Specific Challenges
The Summer Circuit provides LIVE Pro-Am gamers with an opportunity to unlock additional gear by completing certain challenges in addition to winning all the games at each location. It’s a fine incentive that adds some replay value, but unfortunately, the challenges are pre-determined for each game, and don’t vary according to player or position. As such, even if you’re a playmaking point guard, some games will challenge you to box out a certain number of opponents, or grab a set number of rebounds. It’s something you have to go out of your way to do, since you usually won’t be in the paint competing for boards.
With the “first to 21” win condition, there’s not a lot of time and a small margin for error when attempting to complete all the challenges. By going out of your way to box out the requisite number of players, get an assist on a three-pointer, and so on, you can also end up costing your team the win, in which case the completed challenges don’t count anyway. By all means have challenges that vary by game and location, but they should also change according to your player’s position and play style. It would make more sense, and be far more organic, to have challenges that test a player’s strengths and ability to fulfil their role, rather than generic ones for all players.
4. Add “Win By Two” Condition in Street Games
I know that some people are fans of this rule being absent in LIVE Pro-Am, but personally, I’d prefer it if that win condition was reflected in the game. The idea of being up 20-18 and then losing on a three-pointer just doesn’t sit well with me. Sure, you can argue that it’s up to the team with the lead to close out the game with good defense and one more bucket, but it leaves the door open for the team that’s trailing to steal a victory through a lucky break (or an unlucky one, depending on how you look at it). If the score gets to 21-20 or 20 all, then I think the “win by two” condition should be invoked.
It’s a condition that’d probably work a little better if twos and threes counted for one and two points respectively – in fact, that’s a change I wouldn’t be against, either – but it could still work as-is. If the game is tied at 20, or a team has a 21-20 edge, both teams still have a chance to win the game with the next basket. Extended games could lead to some epic showdowns with teams matching each other basket for basket, not to mention more chances to complete the aforementioned challenges. Alternatively, “win by two” could be in effect for some games in the Summer Circuit and not others; “house rules” in other words, just to change things up every now and again.
5. Include Stat Tracking
Without squads, this might be difficult to implement, and it’s probably more suited to a mode featuring NBA rules. However, should squads and an NBA-oriented mode be added to LIVE Pro-Am, then stat tracking is definitely a must. Leaderboards, win-loss records, player totals and averages…tracking those figures and ranking teams adds further depth to the experience. It would bring the concept of a tournament or campaign mode to LIVE Pro-Am, which in turn would make the games feel much less like a string of loosely connected exhibitions.
Even though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for NLSC THRILLHO in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am, the squad and stat tracking have definitely given us incentive to keep playing. We’ve challenged ourselves to reach certain statistical marks, and had fun with a bit of stat padding, even when the games haven’t gone our way otherwise. Keeping a record of stats and achievements allows us to look back on what we’ve done, and if EA Sports does ever want to get into eSports with LIVE Pro-Am, then leaderboards and stat tracking will be necessary. Of course, it would still be fun to have them for more casual LIVE Pro-Am gamers, too.
So, those are five suggestions that I have for LIVE Pro-Am. What do you think would enhance the mode? 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.