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.
As I’ve mentioned in recent episodes of the NLSC Podcast, I’ve just started Dynasty and MyLEAGUE games with the Charlotte Hornets in NBA Live 16 and NBA 2K16 respectively. I’d like to have some fun with at least one of the franchise modes while I’m waiting for the release of next season’s games, and since I haven’t been able to get my previous attempts with the Chicago Bulls off the ground, I thought I’d try again with the Hornets. With any luck, one of these new attempts will pan out.
Of course, the success of a franchise game doesn’t just come down to luck. Good fortune is a factor to some extent, but I would suggest that we create our own luck, and there are ways that we shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to franchise gaming. I figure that if I discuss some of the ways that we mess up in those modes, I might just be able to avoid a few of those pitfalls. Without any further ado, here are five mistakes that can quickly ruin franchise games in NBA Live and NBA 2K.
1. Bad Choice in Teams
I’m stating the obvious here, but the team that you choose for a franchise game is very important. Simply put, it’s vital that the team you’re controlling is appealing to you across the board. You need to like the roster, or at least, the potential it has to be re-shaped as you see fit. If you’re going to be playing a significant amount of the games, you need to like the team’s branding, because you’re going to be looking at it a lot. You’re probably also going to have to like the team in general – or at least, not hate it – if you’re going to guide its virtual counterpart to success.
When you choose a team that just isn’t “you”, you’ll find that a franchise mode loses its appeal very quickly. What makes franchise modes so fun and engaging is the ability to really get invested in them, and that’s near impossible to do when you dislike or just don’t care about the team. Some teams may sound like interesting choices on paper, but once you start playing with them, they’re clearly not for you. I suggest playing a couple of games with a team first, or at least taking a good look at their roster, branding, and any other variables that factor into their appeal, to ensure that they’re a good fit for your franchise game.
2. Constantly Starting New Franchise Games
Once you begin a franchise game, starting over again and again is an effective way of ruining the experience. That’s something I want to avoid doing, having already abandoned a couple of potential franchise games already, but it’s usually not too bad if you haven’t made any progress, or only played a couple of games. If you’re constantly quitting a franchise after twenty or more games, you might find it difficult to ever start one that you can stick with. Chances are you’ve already tried your most appealing options as far as teams are concerned, and are now feeling a little burned out on the mode.
Successfully completing season after season in a franchise mode requires commitment and perseverance. That can be challenging, especially if you’re playing a majority of the games with full length quarters. There are going to be lulls, long stretches where you just want to get to the next interesting milestone of the NBA season. Impatience sets in, and you miss the excitement and potential that comes with the start of a new franchise game. By all means, start over if you’re well and truly bored with a franchise game, or if it’s been messed up somehow. Try to make that call as early as possible, however; you don’t want too many franchises ending forty games in.
3. Ill-Advised Trades & Signings
I talked about this in last week’s Friday Five when I discussed the different types of trades that we make in franchise modes. The trades and signings that we pull the trigger on have a big impact on our enjoyment, because they change the identity of our rosters, and they don’t always work out as well as planned. This is a realistic gamble, of course. Puzzling and downright bad trades and signings do happen in real life, and teams have to wear the consequences. To that extent, it’s a part of the franchise experience, a risk and a challenge that we must embrace.
At the same time, the franchise modes in NBA Live and NBA 2K facilitate roster moves that are, to say the least, highly unlikely in real life. It’s one thing to sign or trade for a player and then realise that they’re not as good a fit as you imagined, but a flurry of ill-advised moves that leave your roster stacked and decimates the competition is often the beginning of the end. Once you’ve ruined your roster, the rest of the league, or both, it can be hard to put things right again. MyLEAGUE’s commissioner options can help here, but generally speaking, I recommend keeping backups of your save prior to any major wheeling and dealing.
4. Getting Too Silly, Or Too Serious
The reason that too many trades – or at least, too many bad trades – often ruin a franchise game, is that every blockbuster deal and free agent signing moves the experience further and further away from reality. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing of course, as fantasy is a big part of what makes franchise modes so appealing. However, when something about the way you build the roster or your players’ performance is too unrealistic, or the departure from reality is too drastic, too soon, it can bring an abrupt end to the fun. Unless it really works for you, you should be careful about how much wackiness you introduce into a franchise game.
Conversely, being too serious and finicky about realism can also get in the way of enjoying a franchise. Again, it’s up to you how you want to play the game, and you have to know what you personally want out of the franchise experience, but keep in mind there is always going to be a fantasy element involved, a deviation from reality. I generally prefer to play realistically, but I also found that aiming for triple-doubles and scoring 92 points with Ben Gordon spiced up my NBA Live 06 Dynasty, in which the Bulls had a 77-5 season. It’s about experimenting, finding the right balance of realism, and just having fun the way you want to have fun.
5. Too Much Stress from a Story Thread
Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not against story threads, as I’ve maintained a few of them myself over the years, and I can attest to them enhancing the franchise experience. However, I maintain that your enthusiasm for a franchise should compel you to maintain a story thread, and not the other way around. If you’re playing a game just so that you can keep a story thread going, chances are you’re not enjoying yourself. You should be having so much fun with a game, getting so wrapped up in the experience that you want to enhance it by sharing it with your fellow basketball gamers, not struggling to make it through a game in the name of creating content.
While we absolutely want people to share their gaming experiences with us in the Forum, if maintaining a story thread is detracting from your franchise game more than it’s enhancing it, it’s time to step back. Give the thread a break, and just focus on playing the game and enjoying it. Return to updating the thread if you like, perhaps adopting a more sustainable approach, but at the end of the day, it’s your enjoyment that’s most important. I also recommend starting a franchise first and then a story thread, or holding off on the thread until your franchise game is established. You can always bring us up to speed on those first few games of the season.
What are some of the other ways that we mess up franchise games? What’s the worst way that you’ve messed up in a franchise mode? 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.