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.
We’re coming to the end of my series of Friday Five articles on the key improvements and additions I’d like to see in NBA Live 18 and beyond. Having covered gameplay, Dynasty, Rising Star, LIVE Pro-Am, and roster editing, it’s now time to talk about Ultimate Team. Ultimate Team has been a fairly solid mode since it was introduced to the series in NBA Live 14, and reasonably popular. There’s definitely still room for improvement though, and since the card collecting/team building modes are such a big part of sports games these days, I do have a few suggestions on how it can improve.
Before I begin, I want to give an honourable mention to pack odds. Fair odds and value are always an important issue when it comes to the team building modes, and although Ultimate Team’s packs aren’t too unfair, they could stand to be a little better. Whether it’s the packs bought from the store, or reward packs that are earned by completing a challenge, I’d like to see some guaranteed rare cards, especially when Legends are up for grabs. With that being said, here’s my list of five suggestions that I believe would enhance Ultimate Team in future NBA Live games.
1. Collector’s Shop
While it’s nice to have the Auction house in Ultimate Team, it does have its drawbacks. Since there’s no regulation, good cards often have outrageous price tags. The choice is obviously also limited to the cards that other gamers are willing to sell, reasonably priced or not. As I said, pack odds aren’t completely unfair in Ultimate Team, but the house still tends to win, so to speak. If you’re after a particular card, you basically have to hope that someone is willing to sell it at an affordable price, or you get lucky enough with the packs that you’ve bought or earned.
In that respect, there’s definitely a parallel to collecting real basketball cards, but it’s also leaving out another option: buying cards directly from a hobby shop. I’d love to see individual cards sold alongside packs in the store, in a section I’m going to call the Collector’s Shop. Cards would have fixed price tags according to their value, and be available to purchase outright using Ultimate Team coins. To ensure that the Auction house and packs aren’t rendered meaningless, stock should rotate, probably in conjunction with the featured packs. Later in the season, previously featured cards could be “back in stock”. It’d be a great way to get hold of the cards you really want.
2. Card Trading Block
Speaking of tracking down and acquiring the cards you want, a trading block and a “trade with friends” option would both be great additions to the Auction house. Much like proposing a trade in Dynasty, the trading block would allow users to put up cards they’re willing to directly trade (as opposed to auction off or sell), and then entertain offers. If you’d prefer to make a direct swap of unwanted or unneeded cards with someone you know, then the “trade with friends” function would facilitate that. Rocket League’s trading system is a good example of the latter, and I believe a similar model could work out quite well in Ultimate Team.
Much like the Collector’s Shop idea, I believe this would add another element of trading card collecting to Ultimate Team. When my cousin stayed with my family during the school holidays back in the 90s, in between playing NBA Live, NBA Jam, and basketball out in the backyard, we’d pick up packs of cards, organise our collections, and trade with one another. Swapping cards to complete a set, or simply trading a card you don’t want for one that you do, is a big part of card collecting. I’d like to see it represented in Ultimate Team, providing an alternate method of completing your collection.
3. Deeper Lineup Management
The lineup management functionality we currently have in Ultimate Team is satisfactory, but it could stand to be deeper. The first idea that comes to mind is the ability to use the rotation management functionality from Dynasty, so that we can set the minutes for the players in our active lineup. Right now, we can set our starting lineup and order the bench as we see fit, but we need to have control over the minutes as well. The absence of that functionality leads to some undesirable automatic substitutions and short rotations, which ends up wasting contracts if you don’t manually substitute a couple of your players in at some point.
Another handy feature would be the ability to save multiple lineups. As you build up your collection in Ultimate Team, you’ll probably want to try out different combinations of players. There’ll be your default lineup, which is probably your most stacked, but you might also have a secondary lineup that you like, or a lineup comprised entirely of retro players. For challenges that have certain requirements, you may have a preferred All-Silver or All-Bronze lineup. The ability to save a few preset lineups would avoid the hassle of manually swapping players in and out one by one. If there has to be a limit, a maximum of five lineup presets would probably be sufficient.
4. More Gameplay Options
Unless there’s something I’ve missed, there’s no way to access the general gameplay options in NBA Live 16’s Ultimate Team. That means you’re stuck with the chosen camera angle, coaching options, audio levels, controller configurations, and other in-game settings. In contrast, NBA 2K’s MyTEAM does give users access to those settings, which is very handy if you want to set certain defaults for the mode, or change settings to suit your purposes. We all have our own preferences, and settings that we don’t want to be locked into using.
Of course, it’s reasonable that there are some settings that we won’t be able to change, such as the difficulty level. That’s something that’s tied into the specific Ultimate Team challenges, so it makes sense that we can’t change that particular setting. The same goes for gameplay sliders, which could easily be used to cheat and make challenges much easier than they should be. Ultimate Team is intended to deliver a certain style of gameplay experience, and that’s fair enough. Beyond that, however, the usual assortment of gameplay options and settings should be available in the mode.
5. More Challenges & Sub-Modes
Collecting cards is only part of the experience in Ultimate Team. After all, unlike real basketball trading cards, the cards we collect in Ultimate Team actually have a practical use: putting together a team that we can play with in various challenges. As of NBA Live 16, there are a couple of different options here, but I’d like to see a bit more variation and depth to Ultimate Team’s challenge modes. That includes more challenges being pushed through, some sort of campaign mode similar to NBA 2K’s Domination, and perhaps even the incorporation of BIG Moments. Completing these challenges should obviously earn players some quality reward parks.
It’s absolutely vital that EA Sports continually pushes through new content for Ultimate Team. In all fairness, that’s something they have done these past few years, for the most part. However, NBA Live 16 stopped receiving new Ultimate Team content around March last year, well ahead of the end of the season. I’d like to see Ultimate Team in NBA Live 18 and beyond receive the same kind of attention that NBA Live Mobile has received, with daily content based on classic moments and current season performances. Pair that content up with quality gameplay, and Ultimate Team should be a very fun mode to spend time in.
Those are my suggestion for enhancing Ultimate Team in future NBA Live titles; what are some of yours? 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.