Welcome everyone to another Friday here at the NLSC and another edition of The Friday Five! If this is your first time checking out The Friday Five and you’re wondering what it’s all about, this is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
The announcement of Rising Star mode in NBA Live 14 came as very welcome news as single player career modes have become extremely popular in sports games, to the point where they’re basically a must for any title. Given how much I’ve enjoyed MyCAREER in NBA 2K13, I’ll certainly be giving it a look. However, I’m still very much a Dynasty Mode fan, so I’m hoping that it has also received adequate attention as NBA Live looks to make a strong comeback. As such, this week I’m taking a look at the five things that I believe Dynasty Mode needs to do or have to provide a deep and enjoyable experience in NBA Live 14.
1. The Reorder Rosters Screen
It sounds like such a small thing, yet for those of us who like to tinker with our roster, it is absolutely essential. It’s been missing from Dynasty Mode in the last few NBA Live games and was sorely missed as a result. Instead, we’ve had to make do with the Rotation screen, which is clumsy, contrived and doesn’t allow us to perform simple tasks such as set the bench order so that our desired sixth man is first on the list of bench players on the substitution screen. Even adjusting the starting five is more of a hassle than it needs to be.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for the Rotation screen, so I’m certainly not advocating its complete removal. I’d like to see NBA Live take the same approach as NBA 2K here, with the starting lineup, bench order and inactive roster being adjusted through the traditional Reorder Rosters screen. The lineup that’s been set subsequently appears on the Rotation screen, where the user can take things one step further by assigning everyone’s minutes, preferably by using the actual number of minutes and not a percentage of the available playing time in 5% increments. It’s far less convoluted and as a result, much easier to get the results that we want. It may be a small thing, but it’s still very important and its return is overdue.
2. Accurate simulated stats
Now, this is something that’s certainly easier said than done, especially as a Dynasty game develops into its own alternate reality with players moving around and new lineups taking shape. Just as in real life, a player’s numbers are going to change if they suddenly find themselves in a situation where they’ll have to share the ball more or their role/playing time changes significantly.
However, when the rosters are still mostly the same as in real life, players should be putting up the kind of stats you’d expect their real life counterparts to be producing. That means the right players scoring the most points for their respective teams, realistic upper limits for the league’s statistical leaders and certainly none of the anomalies that we saw with the simulated stats in NBA Live 08 PC. I’d also like to see prominent bench players have their roles accurately reflected in simulation, so that we don’t consistently see a Sixth Man of the Year who averaged 8 points in 20 minutes per game. If the aforementioned rotations are implemented properly, hopefully that won’t be an issue.
3. Better development and practice facilities
With the inclusion of the Academy, NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10 took a step in the right direction as far as player development is concerned. Allowing for minor improvement through the course of the season through training drills is the right approach, but there is definitely still room for improvement. For example, NBA Live 10 didn’t have any drills that affected a player’s shooting ratings; needless to say, we should be able to develop all of a player’s ratings through the training sessions. Those sessions are also too few and far between at one per month. One per week would be more realistic, without making it too easy to turn a scrub into a star. I’d still want to see good balance there.
Even if player development drills are only going to take place once a month, something that we should be able to do at any time is partake in a five-on-five scrimmage with our roster. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to do that as often as we’d like, as limiting scrimmages to a monthly training session is needlessly restrictive in a mode where it would greatly help to get a feel for new players after we make changes to the roster. If there’s any way we can get free throw shooting practice into the game as well, that’d also be a definite plus.
4. Good AI/logic when it comes to awards and roster management
This is something that both NBA Live and NBA 2K have had their issues with over the years. Like simulated stats, it must be noted that achieving anything close to perfection is a tall order, but I’d like to see as much fine tuning as possible when it comes to the selection of All-Stars and the annual award winners. Granted, we do see some questionable selections in real life too, but in video games the no-brainers seem to get snubbed a bit too often. To that end, better selection logic definitely would not go astray.
The way that CPU controlled teams manage their rosters is a concern here as well. Star players and in particular bona fide franchise players should not be traded all that often. Trades in general shouldn’t be too numerous, nor without any rhyme or reason…for the most part. The occasional odd deal admittedly isn’t unrealistic and the same goes for free agent signings. In general, player movement should be logical and have some context, with genuinely surprising moves being kept to a minimum. The bug that sees too many big names pass up all offers and get stuck in the free agent pool, an issue that has popped up every now and again over the years, should also naturally be avoided.
Finally, CPU controlled teams have sometimes faltered in the handling of their lineups in previous games. In NBA Live 10 for example, it wasn’t uncommon to see the Cleveland Cavaliers starting Zydrunas Ilgauskas alongside Shaquille O’Neal, rather than relegating him to the bench. At other times, key role players and even stars have been benched in favour of players who should be backing them up instead. Hopefully, NBA Live 14 will see some tweaks and fine tuning in this area as well.
5. The deepest Dynasty experience possible
I’m going to cheat here a bit by listing a bunch of stuff, but it all comes under the banner of having as much depth and detail in Dynasty Mode as possible. Do we want to be able to hire and fire head coaches along with other staff? Do we want to be able to select multiple teams to control, or at least have the option to switch teams between seasons? How about restricted free agency, ten day contracts and contract extensions? News and rumours? Mock Drafts? Notifications that players are mulling retirement? Multi-team trades and tradeable Draft picks? Custom Draft Classes? All-Star voting? Different simulation options and sim intervention? Advanced stats? Contract negotiations?
The answer, of course, is yes. We absolutely want that level of depth. We get incredibly geeky about this stuff and that’s the fun of the mode. I like to play as many games in a Dynasty as possible and to that end the gameplay certainly needs to deliver, but it’s all those extra bells and whistles that really make Dynasty Mode an enjoyable and addicting experience. That’s the kind of stuff it needs to bring to the table to compete with NBA 2K’s Association Mode, a mode that hasn’t received a whole lot of attention in recent years but is still very deep and definitely ahead of where Dynasty Mode was in NBA Live 10. Adding these details and options will go a long way in bringing Dynasty up to speed.
Gameplay is paramount, of course, and it’s great to see a mode like Rising Star come along, but I’m really hoping that Dynasty Mode delivers in NBA Live 14. For so long it was the flagship mode of the series and one that I’ve enjoyed greatly over the years. For NBA Live 14 to be a well-rounded game, it needs to have a good, deep Dynasty Mode. Also, if a decent amount of its features can be brought to the online arena in the form of an EA Sports Basketball Association? Icing on the cake.
That’ll do it for this week. What are the things that you feel NBA Live 14 needs to do or have as far as Dynasty Mode is concerned? Let me know in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for joining me this week, please stop by again next Friday for another Five.