Friday, May 6, 2016

Playoff Observations #2

Since I rapped with you guys last Charlotte, Houston, the Clippers, Indiana, Boston and Dallas are gone and Stephen Curry has sat multiple games with an injury. One of the coolest things recently has been watching the actual games and compare it to NBA 2K's stellar gameplay, to see the aspects that are being displayed well as well as the stuff that needs work.

In the second round we've been reminded how deep the Warriors are, how other guys are offsetting the continued struggles of Toronto's two stars, Cleveland's momentum and how thankful I am 2K referees would never let Dion Waters elbow anyone while inbounding the ball *chuckle*. Here are some of the other things I noticed.....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

User Bonuses: Bad or Good?

Humor me for a second, OK? Imagine you're playing a simulation game of hoops in NBA 2K. You're controlling whoever your favorite team is and having a close game against a really good opponent (who's using the Spurs) It's a back and forth affair and as the fourth quarter comes to a close you're down one.

You run a down-screen for your best shooter who's being covered by Kawhi Leonard, it gives him a little separation and you take a step and set your feet. Your opponent scrambles to get Kawhi back into the play, he challenges the shot, you let it fly and then......................


Ask yourself: Did either you or your opponent do anything to deserve an extra boost? Each of you is trying to be successful. Shouldn't success or failure now depend on choices like: which shooter you picked, how effective the challenge was, who's defending, how difficult the shot was and other factors? It's a valid question....right?

One of the things i've always liked about 2K was the math they decided to apply to our hoops experience. It was obvious the first time I played 2K11, The devs had made the decision to emulate real FG percentages. Being close to the basket and taking nothing but "good" shots was no longer going to give you a FG percentage in the 70s and 80s. If anything forcing shots and spamming the painted area was going to riddle you with contested shot animations that were super low percentage. No really, an uncontested 15 footer was a safer bet. Trust me on this, I found out the hard way.

The math that 2K applied to the game went further when I noticed some of the benefits that badges gave us. Skills like DIMER actually resulted in the guys you were passing to shooting a higher percentage. Deadeye meant a shooter hit a higher percentage of contested shots, It was really good stuff. Later on when people complained about shots going down at a rate that was too-high and I remember seeing devs mention how using right stick challenges would affect shots even more....

Fast forward to 2K16 where I saw exactly what they meant...and so did you. Now? Its rare that you see a shot go down that is user-contested while AI contests go down at a much higher rate. I can truthfully say that i'm downright shocked when I or my opponent gets a contested perimeter "make". Think about it: you contest shots because it virtually GUARANTEES a miss. Ask yourself: when your shooter gets closed out, how often does the shot go down? Its even to the point where the success rate of layups and interior shots is affected by contesting them. And blocks? Don't even get me started on blocks...their success rate (combined with the lack of foul calls) borders on the absurd. At that point I had to pose a question to myself: Are user bonuses necessary? And more pointedly: Are they counterproductive to the simulation experience? OS poster E The Rhymer chimed in that "If user input bonus is strong enough to supersede ratings and tendencies it is a bad thing." And you know what? I agree with him.

Ponder it for a second. I realize most sports gamers have a perspective that is poisoned by Electronic Arts and their hand-holding, God-awful participation trophy "reward the user for pressing buttons" we-want-everyone-to-have-fun foolishness. But *laughs hysterically* try to erase that crap from your mind for just a second. Should a player i'm controlling get a higher percentage for doing something because, well....I initiated it? It's a slippery slope, trust me. If so, why exactly do we rate players? Is it really necessary that we're going to reward users know....playing? Do we really want a game where elite shooters miss shots and MJ can't finish because i'm good AND get user bonuses when controlling Kurt Rambis? Should a player have a higher rate of success because of me? I don't know.......there's really no right or wrong answer, but I'm of the opinion that user bonuses are unnecessary.

What prompted the question, was honestly Madden 16. The ability to "play the receiver" dramatically affected the game. Skilled (and unskilled actually) users could dislodge the ball at a very high rate from receivers that weren't considered elite. The Calvin Johnson's, Gronk's, Dez Bryant's and Fitzgerald's of the world weren't grossly affected, but most players were. I wondered if it was ok. Should I be able to have a bad corner over-perform just because i'm clicking on him and pressing X? When I saw how closing out affected shooters in 2K I was faced with the same question.

Isn't the real asset the fact that the player actions, gameplans and strategies are ones that WE DECIDE? That we ultimately have control over everything? That the players respond to OUR INPUT and OUR COMMANDS? Why would we need a user bonus? Shouldn't the success rate remain unchanged? I'd argue that the real benefit of a James Harden we control would be that you can decide to actually challenge a shot instead of doing him know...THIS and ummm...THAT.

 User bonuses were a good idea in theory but failed the real-world test. They reward guys that sit in zones but then spam the block button to contest everything. The worst part? Zones mean they get great defense in the passing lanes in addition to the good perimeter D that contests give. The worst part? While real-world zones give up offensive rebounds, 2K zones still do not. We're conditioned to like sexy terms like 'user-control" and "rewards on-ball D" because they sound positively sim-tastic. In reality, all they do is end up hurting gameplay. Here's a clip of my opponent contesting late and how user-contests rewards guys with misses.

The REAL user bonus is the fact that WE decide if Westbrook dishes this off, throws the lob or goes straight at Dirk. Don't cheat the game or give anyone rewards they haven't earned by turning on auto-aim all of a sudden. (I dig FPS games, sue me) no one wants to see players perform actions outside their skillset just because we're at the controls. Give us the same result the player would see normally, because ultimately WE DECIDE if Steph Curry should take the charge, go for the strip, or the monster block when he sees Andrew Wiggins charging down the lane. And since we're big boys and girls--we can live with the results.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Playoff Hoops Observations...

I love playoff basketball, partly because it's basketball at the highest level. There aren't any Tomato Can matchups (well...maybe the Mavs/OKC) and the argument can be made that all the teams are atleast "solid". One of the coolest things is to watch the game and compare it to NBA 2K's stellar gameplay, to see the aspects that are being displayed well as well as the stuff that needs work.

It was lovely to see some teams compete in close matchups (Detroit) while others (Dallas, Hornets, Portland) basically laid down or are decimated by injuries (Memphis). The most impressive individual showing to me was the masterpiece Paul George had on the road in Toronto. He simultaneously shut-down Derozan while killing him offensively, putting to rest any questions about his returning to form. Here are some of the other things I noticed.....

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NBA 2K16: Smoothing out the Rough Edges


After months of being a 2K Hermit i've had the opportunity to really delve into the great aspects of NBA 2K16 and the ones that need improving. Most of you guys know i'm a Sixer fan, and for the first time I can truthfully say 2K has nailed the talent gap between teams. Despite my having played this game for over 10 years, you can't imagine how difficult it is to get a win with Philly--and shouldn't it be? Make no mistake it's not just that other teams make more shots...there's actually depth to it: The Sixers lack shot makers, have a smaller threshold for turnovers, foul too much (and at the worst times lol), have bad defensive rotations, bad defenders and don't get calls. I'd probably like to see more bad passes in gameplay but trust me, 2K officially nailed the 'bad team' thing.

And THE GAMEPLAY in NBA 2K16 is stellar as always, trust. As are features like Play Now Online, Practice Plays, Home Court Advantage, Roster Updates, and the Pick and Roll, but there are still aspects that need tuning. I was fortunate enough to play over 100 online games (winning 40) and as nothing exposes game balance like the player vs player experience, I feel qualified to speak on the parts of NBA 2K that are well balanced and the ones that need some work. I'm sure 2K devs are deep into development for the next version of the game, so I compiled a list of ten things they need to focus on.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ten Necessary things to add in Madden 17

 Madden 16 has some strong points but it also has some gaping gameplay holes that need to be addressed. In addition to resolving the speed issue which made rookies DOMINANT who hadn't played a NFL down the fastest players in the game, it had old features that need to reappear in addition to some new ones that need to make their debut. Here are the ten NECESSARY things we need to see in Madden 17.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

 10 Ways to Improve NBA 2K16

I can’t talk about improving 2K16 without first acknowledging how much of a masterpiece this game is. While the gameplay is A+ as usual, it’s always the things we didn’t anticipate that 2K flat-out nails, right? From pick and roll depth, drawing fouls on pump fakes, to their representation of home court advantage, upgraded visuals, TV personalities and even the wonderful camera angles they use during timeouts, 2K sets the standard for sports games. It’s not even close. In one of my first games a long rebound went out of bounds and when no player jumped over the front row into the stands after it? I was actually surprised. It’s to the point where you wonder what great detail, gameplay and authenticity 2K could bring to other sports. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Madden: Any Given Sunday

 One of the ways Madden misrepresents the NFL the worst is with the talent disparity with which it displays teams. A popular adage says a team can lose 'any given sunday'. In reality the talent difference between most teams in the NFL is small. Those slight advantages in talent are easily countered by execution, coaching, taking advantage of mismatches and TURNOVERS. In Madden, the top 3-4 rated teams have nothing to fear from the other teams in the league because of the way the game interprets ratings and allows elite teams to be too good.