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 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.
Normally, this is the type of article that I would write after the most recent release has been out a little longer, but with NBA Live 16 selling a disappointing amount of copies, and NBA Live 17 really having to move the needle and make an impact, I figured I’d start early on some constructive feedback. While I do feel that NBA Live 16 is an improvement over NBA Live 15 and has some good elements and concepts, there is much that needs to be done with NBA Live 17, especially in terms of making it a deep and fully featured NBA sim.
Now, this is all stuff that I’ll be discussing in further detail in future editions of The Friday Five, as well as other articles and of course, the NLSC Podcast. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive Wishlist article, covering every point in-depth, and listing absolutely every improvement that needs to be made in NBA Live 17. Rather, it’s meant to highlight some of the key improvements and additions that I believe need to be made next year. With that said, let’s take a look at the five things that in my opinion, NBA Live 17 absolutely has to do.
1. Improve Gameplay Mechanics and Animations
Quite often, I’ll see people suggesting that EA should scrap everything and start over with NBA Live…when they’re not saying EA should give up altogether, of course. I don’t want to see the latter happen, as I’d like to have at least two NBA games on the market. As for the former, I’m not a fan of that idea either, as that’s what’s set them back in the first place. The basic mechanics of NBA Live are fairly sound: player movement is more fluid in NBA Live 16, and with the exception of blocks and rebounds, the controls are more responsive than they’ve been in years. Teams run plays, even when you’re player locked in Rising Star; a definite improvement there. Playcalling works, the dribbling game is good, but more polish is needed.
That starts with the animations. There are some good ones in NBA Live 16, and when something looks good, it looks very good. On the other hand, the ones that look bad look very bad, and the old and outdated animations must be phased out. This is especially apparent in the paint game, which needs to be deeper on both sides of the ball, and look a lot better. We also need to see more collisions, and with them, the chance of injuries. As I said, the dribbling controls are solid, but we need deeper controls on offense and defense. Cuts and jukes, more ways of contesting shots, manual control over bounce passes, floaters, and bank shots…all that stuff is important, and that’s just scratching the surface. I believe the foundation is solid enough, so the game really needs to start building on what they’ve got.
2. Implement Roster Editing
We really wanted this for NBA Live 16, and we didn’t get it. It’s absolutely vital that we get roster editing in NBA Live 17. It’s nice to get the official roster updates every week, but if there’s a wrong jersey number, or a player gets traded or cut in the meantime, we need the ability to make those changes ourselves. Historically, a lot of basketball gamers have had fun creating likenesses of themselves and their friends, and playing with fantasy rosters. A lot of detail went into being able to customise a single player for Rising Star and LIVE Pro-Am in NBA Live 16, which is nice, and we did get gameplay sliders, which also must remain. However, that’s only part of what we need as far as customisation tools are concerned.
While I’d like to see a full compliment of team and player editing tools in NBA Live 17, I have a feeling we’ll have to wait on a couple of features. Custom teams are something we’ve wanted to see back in the game since NBA Live 2001, so to say that their return is overdue is a massive understatement. However, creating and editing players should be the higher priority, so custom teams can wait, if need be. It’s more important that we can create a bunch of custom players, and edit the existing ones. That means changing jersey numbers, editing ratings and tendencies, and making transactions. Ideally, we should also be able to save those rosters locally, and then share them with other users.
3. Flesh out at least one depth mode…preferably Dynasty
Don’t get me wrong. Gameplay is paramount, and it should be at the top of the list. That’s why it’s the first thing that I discussed. However, there needs to be a reason to keep playing, something that gives meaning to the games. Ultimate Team can be fun, I find it to be a nice change of pace from franchise play, and there are improvements that can and should be made to LUT. Having said that, I think most fans ultimately want to play with something that resembles the real NBA rosters, at least until they start wheeling and dealing, and progressing through seasons. To that end, NBA Live 17 needs to flesh out the depth modes like Dynasty and Rising Star.
I’ll admit that I’m partial to Dynasty, so that’s the mode that I would recommend focusing upon. It’s the longest tenured mode, and it’s the place where you can really have a “sandbox” experience, playing season after season. I do think that some additions need to be made to Rising Star as well, as single player career modes are extremely popular. However, I believe that Rising Star can be improved bit by bit, with a few more basic features, and a couple of bells and whistles. Dynasty needs to be a lot deeper, a lot more immersive. NBA Live 17 needs to bring back some of the missing features, and start adding new and exciting stuff – as NBA 2K has done with MyLEAGUE and MyGM – to make Dynasty engaging and addicting again.
4. Add some more basic functionality and features
So there’s a lot of stuff I’d like to see added to Dynasty Mode, and believe me, I’m compiling a list. As it stands though, some significant improvements could be made simply by bringing back features that have somehow fallen by the wayside since the series’ return with NBA Live 14. Features like transactions listings, year-by-year records, and the ability to edit jersey numbers after signing or trading for new players. In-depth stats screens, rumour mills, training mini-games, scrimmages…we’ve seen it before, and we need to see more than just those features, but bringing them back would be an excellent start.
I’ve already mentioned adding deeper controls, but it bears mentioning again. The same goes for in-game injuries, which force us to make adjustments, and are essential for Dynasty Mode. The ability to control multiple teams in Dynasty Mode, and play a standalone Playoffs, are also important options. I’ll also make mention of the ability to make substitutions and adjust strategy between quarters (I miss being able to go to the pause/team management screen at quarter time and halftime), bring up the Player of the Game at the post-game screen, and view quarter-by-quarter stats. These may sound like small details, but they’re useful staples that have somehow missed the cut in recent years. If they’re brought back, they’ll do their part in enhancing usability, and the overall experience.
5. Find a hook
Bottom line, NBA Live 17 needs to be a deep, fully featured, and customisable game. It needs to have substance, not gimmicks. At the same time, it also needs to offer something unique, something beyond the standard franchise mode, career mode, and other features that we expect of a basketball game. LIVE Pro-Am was obviously intended to be that hook in NBA Live 16, and honestly, it wasn’t a bad idea. It’s a good concept, it’s a fun mode to play, and it even appeals to someone like me, who traditionally isn’t an online gamer. I also think it’s something to be retained and expanded upon, but NBA Live 17 needs something else, preferably NBA oriented.
The suggestion that immediately springs to my mind is a fully fledged, standalone All-Star Weekend mode, that’s also integrated into Dynasty and Rising Star. All-Star Weekend was immensely popular and well-received when it debuted in NBA Live 2005, and to this day, I don’t think any other game has replicated the dunk contest quite as well. FIBA teams and greater use of NBA Legends are another possibility, though it’d be tough to top what NBA 2K has done with its historical content. And finally, because you knew I had to put it out there: a highly moddable PC version, released digitally through Origin if need be. I know, I know, that one’s appealing to a niche demographic of a niche demographic. But it’s a niche demographic that’s extremely loyal, given the opportunity.
Is this a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be done in NBA Live 17? Certainly not; there’s plenty more to say on the subject, and again, I’m compiling detailed feedback that I’ll be sending along to the development team. As I said at the beginning of this week’s Five, this is just meant to be a broad overview of the areas that I believe must receive focus, if NBA Live 17 is to move the needle. It’s time to strap on the rocket pack, and make some leaps and bounds forward.
In any case, that’ll do it for this week. As always, feel free to share your thoughts on this week’s topic in the comments section below, as well as take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.