The Daily Donovan

The Official Blog of Derek Donovan

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NBA 2K14: What’s Broken and How They Can Fix It for 2K15

It’s no secret that the next-gen versions of NBA 2K14 have been somewhat of a departure from the quality we come to expect from 2K Sports. Reports of server issues, an always-online infrastructure and ludicrous micro-transactions have taken this one shining example of sports game franchises and turned it upside down.

However, the issues that keep this game from being great is not just because of the online infrastructure, in fact, there a lot of things in this game that can be greatly improved on and this is what I’ll be talking about today. With the inevitable 2K15 title coming later this year, it’s only fitting to compile a list of things that can be improved upon or added to make the game better than its predecessor.

1. MyCareer Mode

MyCareer has been one of my favorite modes in the NBA 2K games, apart from its steep learning curve and harsh grading system, the thought of creating a player, being drafted and being taken to the top is something that’s both intuitive and compelling. Which is why I was extremely impressed with the inclusion of cut-scenes. These story moments made the journey even more compelling, however, there’s still a lot that can be improved.

For one thing, the dialogue is filled to the brim with cheese, to the point where it’s hard not to laugh at moments that are meant to be taken seriously. Also, I never felt like I had as many choices in dialogue options in these cut-scenes as I did in the post-game conferences. While the conferences give me four choices in responses, the cut-scenes only give me two. Now I’m not asking for some Mass Effect in my basketball game, however, if dialogue and morality are going to play a factor in your journey, giving us more options would help create a more immersive experience.

Also, while the inclusion of cut-scenes is a nice change of pace, the inclusion of scripted events is not. Nothing pissed me off more than getting my minutes reduced because my character wasn’t skilled enough to bring his team back from an absolutely ridiculous deficit. Even if you contribute a huge amount to the team, whether it be scoring or defense, if you don’t win the game for your team, you get punished for it, that pisses me off. The game doesn’t treat me as an average player, it treats me as the messiah, expected to fix every single problem and carry my team, last time I checked, that’s not how basketball works.

Another instance was when the game would give me a dynamic goal to score x amount of points in a quarter, only to send me to the bench after playing for two minutes. That’s completely unfair and unacceptable, if you’re going to give us those kind of goals, hand them out when we have enough minutes to actually accomplish the task at hand. The currency given in the game (which I’ll touch on later) is hard enough to come by in its current state that losing an opportunity because of the choices of the A.I. is just cheap.

Apart from those instances, there were moments where I would be scrutinized for not passing a specific player the ball, even if it wasn’t the best possible scenario, baskets that should’ve been made but weren’t because the game wanted me to have a bonding moment with a player by being thrown into a ridiculously repetitive “shoot fifty free throws” minigame.

I understand that you’re trying to develop an underdog story and trying to incorporate story moments in the game, and that’s fine, but please keep this off the court. Being ripped away the opportunity of scoring valuable points for my team because you want me to practice with DeMarcus Cousins is absolute bullshit, especially since it isn’t required in the first place. Yep, that’s right, you can actually refuse to practice with the designated player, making the entire purpose of the game denying you those points insignificant.

There are so many scripted moments in this game that just ruin the experience for me that it’s hard to comprehend it. Especially when you’re forced into them rather than actually having a choice at times. I shouldn’t have to wait until a player is injured to be able to play my first NBA game, that’s not only insulting to me, but to the injured player as well because he won’t be able to contribute and help his team.

I could go on forever about these scripted events, but I’d rather that the 2K team just fix them altogether. Also, where on Earth is the customization options in the next-gen version? You’re only limited to pre-made faces and hairstyles, you still cannot change the voice of your player which can detract from the experience if it doesn’t fit the character and accessories and tattoos have to be bought using VC rather than being available at the start, which is a load of garbage. Considering that my rival in this game Jackson Ellis, already has accessories and tattoos as a rookie.

2. Virtual Currency or “VC”

You know what’s worse than having a game that essentially forces you to pulling out your wallet even though you already paid full price for the game in question? Having a triple-A franchise game force you to pull out your wallet even though you already paid full price for the game.

This is where VC comes in, this functions as the main currency throughout the game and is essential to unlocking various options and features, that’s not okay. I shouldn’t have to grind in order to unlock the ability to change my starting lineup in MyGM mode or to upgrade MyPlayer’s stats in MyCareer. 

What’s even more insulting is that an online-exclusive mode called MyTeam has two forms of currency, MyTeam points, which can be accumulated quickly by playing games and then VC which basically functions as a currency for the impatient. Why is it that an online-exclusive mode has two separate forms of currency, yet you still need to grind VC for MyCareer and MyGM? Where is MyCareer points? Or MyGM points?

What’s worse is that VC is tied to the cloud, so if the servers are down, you can’t earn or use them, and if you happen to pay money for VC and you end up losing your VC because of some bug or glitch, then good luck getting them back, because it’s almost impossible.

If you want to incorporate this kind of currency so badly, then keep it online and create an alternative currency for the offline modes such as MyGM and MyPlayer that can be accumulated fairly and quickly. That way, if the servers go down, people can still upgrade their player’s stats or unlock more features in MyGM.

3. Always-Online Infrastructure

When I originally bought this game, I thought that you’d be able to play any of the offline modes without having to worry about your saves being tied to the internet. It’s online when I actually connected to the internet that I realized that my saves were then tied to the cloud and if the servers went down, I couldn’t access my saves. This is the worst form of consumer manipulation and it needs to be addressed by 2K in someway, because it’s completely unacceptable to those who paid full price for a game that many thought would be both an online and offline experience.

Sure, you are able to play quick games, MyCareer and MyGM without being connected to the internet, but someone forgot to tell whoever was coding this game that MyCareer and MyGM progress shouldn’t be tied to the cloud if you’re running the internet in the background, guess they forgot the memo, because when the servers go down, your progress goes with it. This needs to be fixed, either in a patch or in the next iteration because I didn’t pay $60 for the basketball equivalent of SimCity.

Again, I cannot stress enough how much always-online DRM and online based infrastructures do not work, it doesn’t work in favor of the consumer and it also doesn’t work in favor of the developer, because instead of your consumers enjoying the game they bought, they are blowing up on Twitter and Facebook asking for refunds. The internet isn’t perfect, in fact, it can be quite sporadic. We shouldn’t have to rely on an untamed beast with all our information and data, we should be able to have access to our game and game progress connected or disconnected.

I thought that 2K would be smarter than this, but this is certainly a low-blow to someone who has loved this franchise since its Dreamcast days. People are still having issues with this game as of this post and it’s all because of the online infrastructure and the solution is simple, give us a choice. The internet should be like a light switch, with the ability to turn it on or off, fix this and fast 2K, or else you’ll be losing money rather than gaining it.

Despite these issues, NBA 2K14 still has the excellent gameplay that we’ve all come to love. Making it one of the best sports simulations in the industry, which is why it’s such a shame that 2K is having all these problems and making silly decisions without the consent of the consumer. I have faith that the development team can and will fix these problems in the future, but for now, we’re left with a game that wasn’t ready for launch. We can only hope that 2K15 will foul these problems out of the franchise and force them on the bench.

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