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. This week’s Five discusses five times that gamers themselves ruined basketball video games.
This week’s topic may seem unfair, even absurd. After all, we don’t create basketball video games; we just play them. If there’s a problem with a game, then that’s on the developers, not us as consumers, right? Well, for the most part, yes. We’re not the ones implementing microtransactions, grindy mechanics, or other undesirable ideas. We do arguably support them by continuing to buy the games and pumping money into recurrent revenue systems, but boycotts, as Jim Sterling has pointed out, aren’t all that effective. Ultimately, we’re not making design choices, or programming code.
However, we are making suggestions, and the loudest voices aren’t always expressing the best ideas. Tribalism these days goes as deep as which mode you play, as well as a preference for online or offline gaming. Not all feedback has been to the benefit of NBA Live or NBA 2K. The way we choose to play the game and use the features and functions at our disposal has also had a negative effect. Whether it’s through elitism and snobbery, or childishness and trolling, we’ve found more than a couple of ways to spoil the fun. I’m not saying that developers haven’t messed up, but these are five examples of how we as gamers and consumers have ruined games for ourselves.
1. T-Shirt Creator in NBA 2K18’s MyCAREER
As I’m sure you can tell from my Wayback Wednesday article reflecting on the legacy of NBA 2K18, it isn’t one of my favourite basketball games. It had a lot of problems and some bad ideas – or at least, potentially good ideas implemented badly – but a few nifty features as well. The T-Shirt Creator kiosk in The Neighborhood was one such idea, providing an opportunity to design custom t-shirts for our MyPLAYERs to wear. If the designs received enough votes from the community, they’d be available for all gamers to obtain from the kiosk. Arcane was able to get an NLSC shirt on there, so for a while our squad rocked them whenever we went to The Playground.
There were usually some cool designs in there, as well as some amusing shirts created as a joke. Unfortunately, many gamers saw an opportunity to use the t-shirt kiosk as a platform for poor and misguided attempts at “humour”. 2K’s filters generally weeded out gross or risqué images from being uploaded, but that didn’t stop childishly edgy shirts from being added. These included creepy “tributes” to former NBA 2KTV host Rachel DeMita, inflammatory political shirts, and other nonsense that I’m sure 2K wasn’t too happy about seeing in their game. The kiosk was gone come NBA 2K19, meaning a fun idea was ruined by gamers with a painfully lousy sense of humour.
2. 2K Pro-Am Customisation in NBA 2K16
While we’re on that subject, the same thing had already happened to 2K Pro-Am team customisation in NBA 2K17. In NBA 2K16, anyone creating a Pro-Am team could immediately use the image upload facilities to add custom branding. This was a great idea that allowed your squad to immediately stand out, and was preferable to NBA Live 16’s LIVE Pro-Am, which didn’t feature any team branding options. A lot of the squads we faced used the customisation options to create some cool or funny branding that was at least halfway creative and clever. Of course, there were others who, as with the t-shirt kiosk, preferred to be boorish and edgy with their custom images.
Once again, there were courts that became creepy shrines to Rachel. At least one team plastered the photo of a girl (presumably one the team owner fancied from school) all over the court, and was seemingly named after her as well. Naturally, there were the usual attempts at edgy humour, sneaking bigotry and whatnot past the censor, and everything else that later ruined the t-shirt kiosk. The result was that the customisation options in NBA 2K17 were locked behind the ranking system, with image uploading requiring a rank of Gold. It’s possible the change was part of NBA 2K’s shift towards appealing to elitists and gatekeepers, but I’d suggest the childish antics didn’t help.
3. Jumpshots in NBA Live 19
NBA Live is still trying to find its footing after struggling for two generations, so it’s great to see that there are enthusiastic gamers who want it to succeed. That dedicated fanbase has been taking advantage of the developers checking in on the official NBA Live subreddit to collect feedback, but with some of the changes and overall direction of the game, I’m concerned that the wrong voices are being listened to. I applaud the NBA Live developers for doing their best to improve the game based on feedback, but focusing too heavily on suggestions from one group leads to more problems. This is particularly evident when it comes to balancing online and offline gameplay.
Indeed, that’s what happened with adjustments to jumpshots in NBA Live 19. The impact of the defense, particularly the ability to take away Green and high percentage releases when closing in, was done to appease the complaints of online gamers. Fair enough, but it didn’t take into account the CPU’s ability to rotate and stick to players on defense. After the last couple of patches, I find NBA Live 19 to be unplayable in the offline modes, because jumpshots are no longer viable. Achieving a good balance that works online and offline is easier said than done, but it doesn’t help when one side is neglected. Those suggestions for online unfortunately ruined offline play.
4. Hackers on PC
There’s a reason we don’t allow discussion of hacks for online play in the Forum, and are wary of allowing posts about hacking MyCAREER in general. Whatever you do in an offline game, well, that’s your choice. If you want to bypass the limits of the build system so you can wreak havoc on the NBA, that’s fine. If your argument is that the grind is lengthy and unenjoyable year after year, I’d be inclined to agree. It’s a different story when you’re jumping online to play against other people who haven’t hacked their way to a superhuman player. When it’s you and the CPU, you can make your own rules. In the online arena, it’s reasonable to expect everyone to play fair.
You may not believe it, but I know for a fact that 2K has tried to implement a variety of anti-cheating measures on PC. They have been effective at times, as people have reported being banned for using Cheat Engine. It’s fair to say that those measures are far from foolproof however, as you can still find plenty of videos on YouTube featuring ten foot players with twenty foot wingspans, dribbling like guards and proving to be unstoppable due to their maxed out ratings and complete range of Hall of Fame Badges. Those videos may be funny to watch, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that competitive online play on PC has been largely ruined by the hackers.
5. NBA 2K’s Ruined Online Scene in General
When I’ve discussed the state of online play in NBA 2K and the need to implement proper matchmaking, I’ve noted that 2K themselves share some of the responsibility for cultivating a toxic atmosphere. The way that the online scene is designed invites snobbery, elitism, and gatekeeping, and doesn’t do enough to discourage griefers and poor sportsmanship. However, we gamers must take responsibility for our actions as well, and the way a lot of people approach the online modes has ruined the scene. Unwillingness to play with less experienced (or less ridiculously dressed) players, the tendency to avoid tough competition, and selfish play, has all ruined the experience.
Elitist attitudes have led to team Pro-Am abolishing the option of playing with a minimum of three users, which was incredibly handy and didn’t stand in the way of many of us having some very enjoyable sessions. I don’t know if it was a community suggestion that effected the change or if the attitude is preventing the option’s return, but it’s certainly defending the lack of matchmaking, and thus empowering 2K reps to offer ridiculous responses to criticism. Beyond flaws in the modes and any gameplay issues though, it’s the behaviour of online gamers that have ruined the whole scene for me. Glancing at comments posted elsewhere, I know I’m not alone in saying that.
Can you think of any other times that gamer feedback or behaviour ended up leaving a game or feature in a ruined state? Let me know 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.