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.
I’m counting down another Top 5 for NBA 2K17 this week, as I’m taking a look at what I feel are the five best features in 2K Pro-Am in this year’s game. Aside from MyCAREER, 2K Pro-Am has been my mode of choice so far. I’ve enjoyed getting online with the guys to play a few games each week, and although we’ve had some tough sessions, we’ve also enjoyed some very satisfying wins as well. To that end, you can expect us to continue sharing stories of what’s going on with the NLSC squad over the next several months, both in the Forum and on the Podcast.
I will say that I’m not a fan of some of the changes that have been made to 2K Pro-Am this year. In particular, forcing teams to level up before they can make significant branding changes and import custom logos feels like a big mistake. Information on how the different tiers work is also difficult to come by, and 2K themselves have not been particularly forthcoming with those details. All the same, I am enjoying my time with 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K17 – for the most part – and these five features in particular are going a long way in enhancing the experience.
5. The Team Arena
When you wanted to meet up for some 2K Pro-Am games in NBA 2K16, you needed to assemble on the team owner’s MyCOURT. This wasn’t a particularly difficult process of course, but it required the team owner to be online, and in most cases, send an invitation to give you access. In NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am, you can immediately travel to the Team Arena from your own MyCOURT, where you can meet up with the rest of your squad for a game. The team owner doesn’t even need to be involved, since it’s now possible to play without them if they’re unavailable.
Shooting around in the Team Arena is much the same as shooting around before 2K Pro-Am games in MyCOURT last year, though there are a few key differences. This year, it feels more like a team warming up, since you’re on your home court and wearing your squad’s uniforms, rather than the gear your MyPLAYER is currently sporting. More importantly, you can keep shooting around during the matchmaking process, rather than having to stop playing and stare at a “Finding Opponent” screen until one is found. Overall, the Team Arena has streamlined the process of setting up a game, and made waiting for one far more enjoyable.
4. Ready/Not Ready Function
Speaking of streamlining the process of starting a game in 2K Pro-Am, the Ready/Not Ready function may seem like a minor feature, but it’s actually a significant improvement. In NBA 2K16, the team owner had to manually begin the matchmaking process once everyone had assembled on their MyCOURT. In NBA 2K17, once everyone is in the Team Arena, they simply need to hit the Pass button to indicate they’re ready (as well as cancel their “Ready” status if need be). As soon as everyone on the court is ready to play, matchmaking will begin.
Simply put, it’s a much better process. Since there’s no need to back out into a menu, the team owner doesn’t need to interrupt their shootaround. Additionally, there’s no chance of accidentally selecting the wrong option and ending up in MyPARK, as we did a couple of times in NBA 2K16. It’s also a quick indicator of everyone’s status, so there’s little chance of beginning a game when someone isn’t ready to play. As a result, there are fewer delays getting into a game, and everyone tends to be on the same page, making for a smoother transition from the shootaround to a game.
3. Roster Management
Although the team branding and record keeping obviously did facilitate the formation of organised squads in NBA 2K16’s 2K Pro-Am, the process was still somewhat informal. You could play for multiple teams, and there were no formal team rosters. This year, team owners can recruit free agents (generally beginning with friends they intend to squad up with), assembling a roster of up to ten players. While this change was probably made with eSports in mind, I believe it’s a good move for more casual 2K Pro-Am gamers as well. It means more consistency with the lineup, and thus a stronger sense of team.
This approach to roster management also makes it easier to play games whenever you like. Because everyone on the roster is recognised as being a part of the team and can enter the Team Arena at any time, the team owner doesn’t actually need to be involved to get a game started. As such, while the team owner retains control over the squad and branding – and it would arguably be rude to play too many games without them – playing 2K Pro-Am games is no longer dependant on their availability. This also means there’s no need to create multiple teams in order to get some games in if most of the squad is available, but the team owner isn’t.
2. Stats Tracking
Another benefit of NBA 2K17’s approach to team management in 2K Pro-Am is the expanded stat tracking. While 2K Pro-Am did keep track of team and player stats in NBA 2K16, they were only shown during matchmaking screens, and only a few categories were represented. This year, detailed team and player stats can be found on the Team Roster screen. Unfortunately there are no totals, but field goal, three-point, and free throw percentages are listed, along with per game averages for points, rebounds (offensive and total), assists, blocks, steals, turnovers, and fouls. Games played, double-doubles, and triple-doubles are also tracked.
It is kind of a shame that totals aren’t displayed, and it’s also impossible to sort by statistical categories, but it’s still an improvement on last year. It’s definitely fun to be able to track your stats, and handy to check your win-loss record between games. It fleshes out 2K Pro-Am nicely, making the experience feel deeper and more meaningful, with statistical and record tracking that you’d expect to see in MyCAREER, MyLEAGUE and MyGM (albeit not to the same extent). Incidentally, my goal is to average a double-double this year, and with 8.7 ppg and 8.4 apg, I’m not too far away. Of course, per 36 minutes, I’m already there.
1. Ability to Upgrade/Modify Players within 2K Pro-Am
As I’ve outlined above, moving 2K Pro-Am away from being hosted in MyCOURT has allowed the mode to expand, and become more user-friendly. However, perhaps the most convenient change that has been implemented in NBA 2K17’s version of the mode is the ability to upgrade and modify your MyPLAYER without exiting back to your own MyCOURT. In NBA 2K16, the host could make changes to their player while other gamers were shooting around on their court, but guests would have to back out, make their desired changes, and then re-join everyone else on the host court. As mentioned above, that usually required an invitation.
Once again, it’s not a difficult process, but it’s certainly not particularly convenient. It means additional time spent in loading screens as you go back and forth, not to mention waiting for invitations to be sent and accepted. In NBA 2K17, as long as you haven’t set your status as “Ready” and matchmaking hasn’t begun, you can access the MyPLAYER Store and Inventory to buy upgrades, gear, and animations, and then assign them without ever leaving 2K Pro-Am. Whether you’re upgrading attributes, outfitting your player with new accessories, or assigning new animations, it’s now a much quicker and less arduous task to do so in the middle of a 2K Pro-Am session.
While issues with the fairness of the Virtual Currency rewards, the approach to customisation, and the rather nasty timeout bug are unfortunate problems with 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K17, these five features have definitely impressed me, and made the mode a lot better. What’s your take on 2K Pro-Am this year? 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.