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.
In recent episodes of the NLSC Podcast, Arcane and I have been discussing the future of NBA Live, particularly how it’s a case of “now or never” when it comes to certain features and improvements. Likewise, back in October of last year, I engaged in a little early Wishlist talk in The Friday Five, with a piece titled 5 Things NBA Live 17 Absolutely Has To Do. Suffice to say, we have some strong feelings about what we feel the series has to achieve with this year’s iteration, as do other members of the basketball gaming community.
Since it is just about time to start creating our official Wishlist threads, I thought I’d use this week’s Five to revisit the topic of what needs to be done with NBA Live. There’s obviously going to be some overlap with the previous discussions, as I haven’t changed my mind about what I believe are the most important areas that Live needs to improve in. That said, on this occasion, I’m focusing on five features that I’d like to see return, and prioritising them in the form of a Top 5 countdown. Without any further ado, let’s tip things off with number five.
5. Standalone Playoffs Mode
While there’s a certain satisfaction in playing through an entire season, reaching the Playoffs, and then gunning for the NBA championship, there are times when we want to experience the postseason right away. A standalone Playoffs mode had been a part of the series since NBA Live 95, until it went missing for a couple of years, and then finally made a triumphant return in NBA Live 10. After the series itself went on hiatus and finally returned with NBA Live 14, we’ve yet to see Playoffs mode back in the game. It’s about time that we see it again.
In my opinion, Playoffs mode doesn’t need to be particularly deep. As long as you have all the statistics screens and the ability to customise the brackets, there’s not much else that you really need. It’s not like Dynasty or Rising Star, which have several more aspects of the NBA season to replicate. There are no transactions in the Playoffs, and for an exhibition postseason, you obviously aren’t going to be worrying about a whole lot of team management tasks, beyond lineups and strategy. Simply put, a standalone Playoffs mode is kind of a staple of basketball video games, and should be available in NBA Live 17 and beyond.
4. All-Star Weekend
Needless to say, implementing the All-Star Weekend is a little more complex than a standalone Playoffs mode, but it’s something that I’d like to see return at some point. It would be great if it could make a comeback in NBA Live 17, but if the other modes are receiving some attention this year, then it’s feasibly something that can wait until the year after. Alternatively, perhaps it could be released as free downloadable content after the game comes out, kind of like Online Team Play in NBA Live 08. There’s only so much that can be done within one production cycle, after all.
The All-Star Weekend is almost always one of the highlights of the long NBA regular season, steeped in tradition and generally good for at least a few spectacular moments. As Arcane and I discussed in Episode #141 of the NLSC Podcast, it was very exciting when NBA Live 2005 finally delivered us the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shootout, Rookie Challenge, and All-Star Game, available as both an exhibition mode and implemented in Dynasty as well. I still don’t think any game has done the Dunk Contest quite as well as NBA Live did from 2005 through 09, and bringing all that stuff back would give the game a tremendous hook moving forward.
3. Deeper Controls
I’m planning on writing another Five that focuses on gameplay elements, but I also feel that this qualifies as a feature, so I’m mentioning it here as well. NBA Live’s controls remain intuitive and functional, and the one-to-one control in NBA Live 16 felt like a big improvement over the previous two releases. However, the game’s controls aren’t quite as deep as I’d like them to be, and believe that they need to be. I’d like to see some of the deeper control options that we’ve had in past games brought back.
That includes the ability to manually attempt a tip-in, putback dunk, or simply try to grab the rebound; right now, tips-ins and putback dunks happen randomly when pressing the shoot button. I’d like to be able to switch and control a player off the ball at times – outside of Rising Star, I mean – which we used to be able to do with the right stick button. We need to have manual control over bank shots and floaters, as we did in NBA Live 14. If there’s one thing that NBA Live has done consistently well over the years, it’s been its controls…NBA Elite 11 aside. To that end, what we have right now is functional and all, but we just need a bit more control over the action.
2. Roster Editing
It’s difficult not to place this at number one, as this has been a sorely missed feature in NBA Live 14-16. However, I’ve given the top spot to a very important feature in its own right, so perhaps consider this to be 1b. In any event, the ability to edit players and team rosters is one of the most important features that I want to see return, and it really, really has to happen in NBA Live 17. It’s a vital part of any sports video game, and we need to have it back.
While we can make do without certain roster editing features straight away, such as custom teams, it’s important that NBA Live 17 includes all the basics. That means the ability to edit player ratings, bio data, and attributes, create players, trade, sign, and release players, re-order team lineups, and change the default rotations. The coaching options that are currently in the game should also be retained. Whether we disagree with ratings in the official rosters, want to make transactions while waiting for the next official roster, or just want to completely customise the league, we need that functionality, as well as the ability to share our creations with other users.
1. Deeper Dynasty Mode
So Dynasty Mode has been in NBA Live 14, 15, and 16, but at this point, it desperately needs some attention. While I’d like to see the mode have the depth and customisation of NBA 2K16’s MyLEAGUE, once again, it’s only feasible to do so much in just one year. However, the main issue with Dynasty Mode right now is that it doesn’t have the same depth it had a generation ago, or even two generations ago. Compare Dynasty Mode in NBA Live 16 and NBA Live 06 on PC: Live 16 has a couple of nice features that Live 06 doesn’t, but across the board, Live 06 actually offers the deeper and more robust franchise mode experience.
In addition to retaining the current rotation menu and sim intervention, Dynasty Mode needs to bring back basic functionality from years gone by. That includes transaction listings, the ability to edit players (specifically their positions and jersey numbers, since adjusting ratings would be cheating), training drills, and scouting throughout the season. I’d like to be able to scrimmage with my team at any time, not just once a month (as in NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10). Dynasty cutscenes would only add to the presentation values. Adjusted stats for shorter quarter lengths, sliders and settings to customise the experience…one step at a time, but a few of those steps definitely need to be taken in NBA Live 17.
As I said, I’ll have more articles discussing much needed improvements and additions to NBA Live, and the official Wishlist threads for both Live and NBA 2K will be posted very soon. In the meantime, which features do you believe need to return in NBA Live? Have your say in the comments 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.