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.
So, we now know that the next NBA Live game – presumably titled NBA Live 18 – will be released later this year, and is intended to be a fully-featured title. While there is understandably some disappointment and scepticism within the NBA Live community at the moment, there is also an opportunity for the development team to go all out in enhancing game modes, and adding features such as roster customisation. As I’ve outlined in recent editions of The Friday Five, those are some very important and overdue improvements that are vital to NBA Live getting to where it needs to be.
I’ve already covered Dynasty and LIVE Pro-Am, but there’s much work to be done with Rising Star as well. Career modes are extremely popular these days, therefore it’s crucial that Rising Star is brought up to speed, and given the depth that will make it a more engaging and enjoyable experience. From the action on the court to the features that make a career mode more immersive, there are a couple of key enhancements that Rising Star should receive in forthcoming NBA Live titles. This week, I’m discussing five of them.
1. Allow Creation of Multiple Rising Star Players & Add Deeper Customisation
Ideally, we should be able to create more than one Rising Star player in NBA Live, with unique names and appearances. Of course, MyCAREER has the same limitation of having to use one name and face, due to the way that 2K accounts work. However, we can create more than one player in NBA 2K, with differing heights and weights, positions, and Archetypes. This adds some replay value, allowing gamers to experience MyCAREER, 2K Pro-Am, and MyPARK with different types of players. It’d be great to be able to do the same in Rising Star (and of course, LIVE Pro-Am), even if we were stuck using the same name and face for all our players.
When it comes to creating players, we need some more customisation options as well. For users who are unable or unwilling to scan in their own faces, there needs to be more options for sculpting or selecting facial features, from morphing tools to preset shapes and eye colour. The ability to select hair colour independently of style is also a must. While NBA Live 16 featured a lot of hairstyles, and new ones were added in an update, the inability to change hair colour really restricted the choices. Personalisation is an important part of the career mode experience, so it’s vital that users aren’t stuck with players that look too generic, or can’t be made to look like themselves.
2. Refine Player-Locked Gameplay & Teammate AI
It’s stating the obvious, but the gameplay experience in NBA Live and NBA 2K varies greatly between the modes in which you control all five players, and the career modes in which you’re locked to a single player. In Rising Star and MyCAREER, your AI-controlled teammates need to carry more of the load, and be reliable at both ends of the court. Their skill and competence should obviously depend on their attributes, but since the user can’t switch control to them, they need to be able to hold their own. The user shouldn’t have to do everything, or try to be everywhere on the court, in order for the team to be successful.
At the same time, it should be very difficult for the user to try and do everything, as well as perform well beyond their abilities or the scope of their playing style. As it stands, it’s too easy to get as many touches as you like, or run the point as a big man. With teammate and playcalling AI still needing some work in Rising Star, you kind of have to do that, but it shouldn’t be the case. Also, as much as I criticise certain aspects of MyCAREER’s grading logic, it’s an area where Rising Star absolutely needs to improve as well. General improvements to NBA Live’s gameplay will benefit Rising Star, but some additional work needs to be put into to the player-locked experience.
3. Borrow Some Concepts from MyCAREER (But Don’t Just Copy It)
While Rising Star has been a solid foundation for a career mode over the past few NBA Live games, it’s been a little light on features, and presentation that makes it “pop”. I’m not suggesting NBA Live directly copy MyCAREER’s story-driven approach – more on that later – but there are certain elements that Rising Star could borrow. Interviews, news and social media, and other world-building features that emphasise the concept of life as an NBA player, could all enhance the experience. However, I would suggest that these aspects be optional, or at the very least, as non-intrusive as possible, for gamers who would prefer a more straightforward experience.
A couple of features that I do think Rising Star should borrow from MyCAREER are training drills, and a private court on which to shoot around. I know that not everyone is a fan of the training sessions in MyCAREER, but I like the fact that they bring some additional gameplay that influences player development, and they can also be useful for practicing certain in-game scenarios. Rising Star needn’t use a private practice court as a hub as MyCAREER does with MyCOURT, but an option to go and shoot around with your player in between games would be nice. These features could be used to earn some extra Skill Points, in order to level up your player a bit quicker.
4. Add More Statistics & League History Screens
I’m repeating this suggestion from my Dynasty article, but I do believe it’s important to have those extra statistics and league history menus in Rising Star as well. What I said in that article certainly applies here, too. The NBA has a rich history spanning seventy years, with remarkable records and memorable milestones. It would really add to the atmosphere of both Dynasty and Rising Star if those stats, records, retired jersey numbers, and other information were present. Not only would representing the league’s history add more depth, it would also give gamers something to aspire to: re-writing the record book.
In some ways, this may be an even more appealing notion in Rising Star than in Dynasty Mode. After all, if you set a new single game or season record, or collect shelves of trophies, it’ll add to the sense of accomplishment and fun to see your name next to those of the all-time greats. Beyond the records, we’re stat-obsessed when it comes to basketball analysis these days. Advanced metrics, Per 36 averages, Rookie Watch, and other such screens would be most welcome, along with detailed player cards displaying season and career highs. Whether it’s keeping up with the rest of the league, tracking our performance, or making history, we need those stats screens.
5. Feature a Gameplay-Driven Story
What’s this? I’m actually advocating for a career mode to have a story? Well, yes…one that we write ourselves, through gameplay and role-playing options. As I mentioned in this week’s Monday Tip-Off, what frustrates me about the story-driven approach to MyCAREER is that the story affects the gameplay, whereas I feel it should be the other way around. We shouldn’t sustain an injury at random, or a set point in the season. We shouldn’t all experience the same basic plot, with the same twists and beats. The story should be told on the virtual hardwood, with any cutscenes and role-playing scenarios being triggered by our actions and choices.
For example, if you sustain an injury during gameplay, by all means follow it up with a cutscene that ends with you choosing whether or not to play through it, and dealing with the consequences of that decision. If you demand a trade, play selfishly, act arrogantly in interviews, or your play noticeably changes for better or worse, that’s when a story could be told in between games. I do think we need the ability to skip the bells and whistles if we desire, but those details have come to be expected in career modes, so Rising Star does need to have some form of narrative and world-building content. However, I’d prefer to write my own tale, direct my own movie.
As usual, it’s difficult to compress several Wishlist items into five points, but those are some key changes and improvements that I believe would enhance Rising Star, beginning with the next NBA Live release. What are your suggestions for 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.