As a long time basketball sim guy, let me start off by saying I’ve been dominating on the sticks since days of South Beach Shaq gracing the cover on 2K6. Over this span of time, 2K has cemented its standing as THE premiere sports experience for well over a decade.That being said, we’re a month and a half into the latest iteration of what once was such a highly regarded and well loved gaming franchise and I find myself sitting at an impasse. Part of me recognizes the lack of competition within the genre of competitive basketball. If we’re not playing this, then NBA Live is all that’s left to fulfill my gaming needs? Fuck. That. No disrespect to EA or those who really enjoy that game, but to me it is the epitome of good intentions combined with poor execution as the game’s limited features and questionable, clunky game physics leave a lot to be desired:
The other part of me deep down asks a question I’ve long known existed, but chose to ignore: Why? Why does such a dedicated fanbase put reasonable expectations on a game only to repeatedly be handed back a lukewarm response from the developers at launch? When was the last time that it actually felt like we’ve received a nearly finished, polished product? Why does it feel like DLC and in-game purchases are quickly becoming a ‘must’ instead of a maybe? When you take a step back from these reoccurring frustrations and look at the value you’ve received in terms of a product, hopefully most would agree that NBA 2K18 is by far one of the worst installments in the franchise.
We don’t have time to get into to all of the missteps that exist in this year’s game, there’s just too many unfortunately, but I’ll get into the things that have stood out to me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined a game being able to fuck up.
Here’s the top 3:
1) Pay to play Tactics: Pay to Play is an epidemic that’s creating a lot of tension between gamers and the companies behind these increasingly profitable projects, and 2K has had no reservations in displaying just how far they’re willing to push their consumers to spend. 2K has been using VC as a monetary vehicle for the past couple of years now, but it initially wasn’t looked at as a must have in modes like myCareer and myTeam. Players that wanted to get a quick boost to their character could do so with the purchase of in game currency, but those who favored grinding weren’t heavily affected by this feature’s existence. As the game has gotten more and more popular with younger demographics, we’ve rapidly experienced a not so subtle influence, which in turn has negatively impacted the game in a variety of ways. Thinks like tattoos, clothes and even haircuts used to cost little to nothing at all in previous games, but in 2K18 any and every opportunity to exploit VC has been accounted for. A simple trip to the barber at launch would’ve cost as much as a full career game’s worth of VC, and it wasn’t until massive community uproar that 2K finally sought to make these in-game purchases more affordable. This coupled with 2K18’s ridiculously low achievable progress per game makes grinding a character to 85 overall (pretty much the baseline for competitive play) an insanely arduous task requiring hundreds of hours of commitment. 2K is doing us a disservice, leaving gamers with less of a choice between either grinding for hours on end or reluctantly having to spend $50 extra dollars just to start your player off at their most basic level.
2) Game Development: For the past couple of years, 2K’s effort to make a finished product for launch has without a question been lacking, as issues this year with bug response and community management have been a two fold fuck up from the get go. It’s ok that a game needs to be patched here and there, but 2K’s made themselves notorious for solving one problem and creating possibly three others with the release of each “fix”. This year is no different, as bugs like not being able to wear accessories in ProAm, players being unable to join the same lobbies/squads consistently, LOSING VC and/or badge progress, and even mass character deletions without warning all took long periods of time for development to get to the bottom of.
3) Consistency: Sliders feel as if they’ve been changed every fucking day as if Mike Wang is trying to make sure you’re never too comfortable. The most frustrating part about it is that it’s often unreported and unconfirmed leaving the community to either guess or hound community managers on Twitter for reasons why things just don’t feel right. Go on r/NBA2k and I can tell you for a fact one of the most common daily submissions is “who’s got a good shot since patch X” with tons of the blind leading the incredibly frustrating this year for many gamers and even prominent youtube personalities voicing there concerns about just how inconsistent the gameplay is on a day to day basis.
For better or worse, we’re stuck with this game and we have to hope that all concerns will continue to be addressed in the short term, however, I for one am tired of looking at the game I’m playing currently and saying amongst friends “I really hope they fix this shit for next year”. With the announcement of the NBA’s partnership with 2K’s entry into eSports competitive gaming, the community felt that this was finally going to be the year where 2K pulled out all the stops for a solid release. Yet here we are, another year in the books and we’re baffled at what a mess this game has been in the opening months. As a community, I hope we are learning from this experience and will finally challenge 2K to change in the only ways that actually reaches their attention: Money and feedback. Stop preordering the game, stop buying into the teasers and the leaks and the glossy bullshit prior to the release and most importantly, stop buying bundles of VC. If 2K is milking us off of very little effort, then we’re not doing enough to force them to actually create a good experience.