Saturday , Apr , 03 , 2010 J.N.

Weekend List Final Four: Top Ten Basketball Games #4 NBA 2K series

Why am I writing this?

Because I can. Because I can.

  

We’re on the Final Four of the greatest basketball videogames of all time. I’m pretty sure not many people care about any of this, but there might be an executive or two, or even a budding young game designer, who can look at the list I’m compiling and take a glimpse on what made a particular game great or bad according to my thoughts. They should really care about this because this is a multimillion dollar business. Money is to be made here and gamers demand satisfaction from improvements. Don’t you want the most bangs out of your buck? No I’m not talking about hookers. There are many reasons why the NBA Live series didn’t crack my top 5. The reasons directly correlate to the NBA 2K series. Let’s roll on the last four (one by one of course) detailing what them so worthy of being here.

The 2K series debuted on the Sega Dreamcast. The first game was already better than any of the Live that Electronic Arts put out from game play, graphics, and sound. Ever since 1999, EA has been the one trying to catch up with 2K.

The positives:
The polygonal models and animations are the best in the industry for any basketball game right now. The game play, at its core, is the closest to replicate an authentic basketball game experience.  There is “My Player” where your created player can enter a NBA pre-draft camp to improve in order to get his stock to rise and get drafted. The roster gets updated continuously through the season so there’s no worry about being outdated once the trade deadline passes. The usual comprehensive stat tracking is here for all you stat whores. There’s no Michael Jordan, but they made up for that as the 2K crew implemented an online system where people can examine Michael Jordan player models created from around the world for download. Grab anyone you want from Magic Johnson to Wilt the Stilt. 2K also does a fantastic job incorporating music from underground hip hop acts instead of the mainstream basura. Even though the game can needs more improvement, the 2K team does a great job balancing actual game play with general manager capabilities such as trading, scouting, contract negotiations, and training.

The negatives:
Cheesing from online battles. Even patches can’t fix the online experience that much. First impressions stay with the game until the next game is released. That’s just how it is going to be with gamers. The sliders help tweak the game more to your liking, but that also throws you off from competing online. In a weird way, we’re all somewhat playing a different game because of that. What qualifies as an acceptable shooting percentage? Speed? Layup and dunk success? Also, the series itself is not truly making great strides in innovations because it’s a yearly game like any other sports game. Do not expect mind blowing evolution each year compared to the first few games in the series. The game development cycle is only 6-8 months. Then they have to debug and play test the shit out of the game before release. There’s not much time.

The Pandora’s Box:
Since I’ve noted the development cycle, this does hurt the strides the team tries to make each year. This has gotten too demanding that they have to rely on a message board such as Operation Sports to take note of issues and improvements. Many times they find themselves not being able to implement and play test everything even though they try their hardest. What do they do to make up for this?

Patches.

Patches are good to an extent. However, I noticed that there is a disturbing growing trend on dependence for patches to fix the game. I’m pretty damn sure that there’s this mentality of “Okay guys, there’s no time to fix that. Release the patch for it later.” 2K10 received a lot of complaints about the perception of a gimped game. Some have even said that this is a scam.

How is it a scam?

Many long time players claim that 2K releases half of a game. The rest hasn’t been polished, or worse yet, broken. There are too many problems on the online front. Since half of the game needs a lot of work and addressed later on by patches, why pay the full $60? Just pay $30 and call it a day. This is a sensitive issue since this involves money. It’s give and take. Where do you draw the line? Where does it start and end? This should be figured out before the series turn into Madden.

This is not a shot at just 2K. (They still have to figure stuff out because Live is creeping back up).

They only have to worry about this whereas Electronic Arts has more detrimental problems to examine. 2K has direction. EA clearly doesn’t have that. From what I’ve been reading, they do not follow a leader. Perhaps in a game by game basis, they do have a leader. They don’t have a unified leader for 3 straight games. They get too wrapped up into politics within each other. That causes them to not focus on the common thing, which is the game itself.
Although NBA Live 10 is a huge improvement from past titles with Dynamic Season and Dynamic DNA, I don’t think they can reclaim the crown they once had if they keep switching directions each year. Stay with one person through 3 straight titles to work on stuff instead of flip flopping. Have you noticed that past NBA Live games made my list but no new one crack my top 4?

The NBA 2K series earned to be in my top 4. They have been the kings for the past decade. They genuinely listen to the community. They’re focused. They follow a certain direction as you can tell by the games.

[image courtesy of yours truly]

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