About a year ago, I wrote about why I don’t play Be a Player modes. A year later, I still feel the same way.
Arguably the greatest weakness of the mode lies on the field, where to this day it still feels like you’re playing the same game but with the player lock on. The technology is just nowhere near the point where you can truly play a team game with a bunch of AI players, since there’s no effective way of communicating with them in real time.
But the mode’s off-the-field offerings can stand to use some much needed improvements, too.
The biggest problem, by and large, is that everything is too linear. There’s just no surprise anywhere, which is directly opposite of what you can say about most professional’s careers. It’s a shame, considering this mode is supposed to be all about your player, yet it doesn’t give you a lot of chances to write your own unique story. Unless creating a player with a green Mohawk, aqua aviators and a blond soul patch is your idea of unique.
Essentially, there's no variation in the mode's narrative.
Think about franchise mode — one that most of us dedicated sports gamers spend the chunk of our playing time on. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, franchise mode comes with many inherent narratives, depending on the team you choose. “A struggling team building for the future,” “an aging dynasty trying for a last hoorah,” “a team mired in mediocrity goes all in.” Depending on the situation that you find yourself in, the rationale for your decision making changes.
Franchise modes have inifinite narratives to draw from. Be a Player modes have...one?
The bottom line is that there are plenty of directions you can go in franchise mode. However, in Be a Player modes, every game is essentially the same. You start out as a lowly rookie, work your way through games, and in the end — if you’re patient enough to play it all the way to the end — your player becomes a superstar. Wash, rinse and repeat.
One of the more frequent complaints about the mode is its repetition. Compare it again to franchise mode. You, the GM, have to plan for the franchise’s future with salary and draft management. If you're a contender, you go and add veterans; sit in the basement and you will want to blow it all up and get young. In franchise modes, things are constantly evolving, and so are you. You can be on top of the world one year, and then get mired in mediocrity for the next seven because you didn't plan ahead. No matter how hard you try, there's still the potential of failure.
Not so much in Be a Player modes. It’s the every road leads to Rome syndrome: You know one day you’re going to be an 80 plus player scoring a boatload of goals or winning consecutive Cy Youngs; it’s just how long it takes you to get there. What fun is that?
If you aren't guaranteed superstardom, would that take away or add to Be A Player modes?
Suggestion: Give every player a different potential ceiling.
Potential is not a hard and fast thing, and even if you do possess it, you may never fully reach it depending on what happens as your career progresses. Controversial? Maybe a little, as perhaps not everybody likes their virtual pro to be a role player. But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?
Not every player is created equal and has the same ceiling. Sometimes you’re just not as good as everyone else. Or perhaps you were supposed to be — at least by the team that drafted you No. 1 overall — and you end up never rising above the role of being a bench guy. What variable potential does is shake things up, as you won’t have a full picture of how your player is going to turn out until a few seasons in.
This, in turn, forces players to be judicious when choosing which attributes to improve upon. Instead of slowly and steadily building your dream player, one attribute at a time, maybe you won't have that luxury and instead have to boost attributes that you may not fancy, but no other player on your team has -- giving you a shot in the big leagues.
And your player's potential can change throughout too, depending on the circumstances. For example, injuries to various body parts may limit your max ability in certain areas — like a chronically wonky hamstring may affect speed — and force your guy to transform his style mid-career.
Basically, this all contributes to help alleviate the long term staleness of the game. No longer will you be guaranteed that your player will turn into a superstar. Maybe your player just isn’t that good. And as we all know, there’s no shortage of great stories for role players, either.
Be A Player modes could use something, anything to keep the monotony away.
Instead of trying to win every award available, your player is just trying to survive, and do everything he can to get a contract next year and stay in the league. It becomes a story about a professional fighting for his life, which, in many ways, can be a lot more compelling. Do you play every game in a low-key, but consistent manner? Or do you do more than your coaches are asking of you and risk spectacular failure?
Of course, this requires a few more ideas to be implemented first. Games will need a whole new slew of mental attributes — representing “heart,” basically — to be added into the system. After all, you can’t really be a character or a clutch player when there are no traits like determination or pressure. Second, it will also need some sort of communication module between your player and his coaches/teammates/the media — something the mode sorely needs. A large part of being a true team player is the ability to support your teammates when the going is tough and say the right things to the press, even though the temptation to put your foot in your mouth can sometimes be almost irresistible.
(Speaking of coaches, please, for the love of God, get rid of the silly idea where once you reach a certain reputation that you can alter your team’s strategy. Any ounce of reality is immediately lost when somehow you, the player, can change things willy-nilly as if the coach was merely a puppet (And no, soccer fans, John Terry doesn’t count … yet).
As much as the thought of your player never making it as a superstar runs counter to how we’re trained to play sports video games — to be the very best — bear with me on this one. Not only will the idea of having different player potential make the mode much more realistic, but it will also provide a greater amount of variation in storylines, which makes the Be A Player modes that much more interesting to play with.
What do you all think? What can be done to Be A Player modes to spice them up?