The NBA 2K series has had many ups and down throughout its history as it relates to online leagues. During the era of NBA 2K9, you would say the studio was leading the industry with an extensive website where you could see rosters and live scores. They were ambitious with an Online Association that introduced multiple seasons and salaries. Once the newer generation (PS4/Xbox One) was introduced, they went backwards and seemed to focus on other game modes (Park, MyTeam, MyGM, MyLeague).
This year, online leagues wanted to get back in the spotlight by bringing over a lot of the core features of MyLeague into MyLeague Online. Did the new features live up to the hype? I interviewed some members of the most successful leagues on the three major platforms (PC, Xbox One, PS4) to find out.
- JK31: DYNE, PC
- Raven: Sim Ballers League (SBL), PS4
- Ataman: Turkish Simulation Basketball Association (TSBT), PS4
- AMEDawg: Sim City Hoops (SCH), Xbox One
- Swimfunk: Sim Sensational Basketball Association (SSBA), PS4 (editor)
Now that we are seven months into NBA 2K19, what are some of the aspects of MyLeague Online (MLO) that you enjoy?
JK31: I guess that we have a mode where we can play a private season with 30 human GMs with custom rosters and custom sliders.
Raven: I’m glad that 2K was able to make it mostly like offline MyLeague, and that the normal league stuff finally works after a few patches.
Ataman: It’s always been that we get together with the best coaches and friends to play and compete in a good NBA league environment. That’s the spirit carried on in all 2K games that have had the online league mode. It’s always good fun that you can never quite find in any other mode and it’s been like that for the last 10 years and on. And also finally it’s good to be able to trade players with the real salaries, which we’ve been waiting for since 2K15. To be able to create your own custom roster in MLO has always been good and reliable, too.
AME: MLO has come a long way since the dark days of 2K14/15 and those broken online leagues. We are almost at a point where 2K is getting close to having incorporated nearly all of the offline components of MyLeague into MyLeague Online. The feature I personally enjoy the most is the customizable feature settings for how you would like for your MLO to progress season over season. Some leagues prefer a slow burn progression system and some want a faster progression system that makes it worthwhile for team owners to take on rebuilding teams that are full of young talent that may not be able to compete with veteran-laden teams. The progression and regression system thankfully allows for that. Likewise, the customization of the salary cap and the details of how quickly it should rise all bring an added strategic element to the mode where users have to be equally adept at roster construction, GM duties and stick skills.
Swimfunk: During the season, the mode is great. I love some of the new features that 2K has provided us. It took a couple of months but the league runs smooth now. The social media tool provides the league updates on league news around the league, and games are being played with minimal issues.
MLO has changed a lot from previous versions, what is the one new feature of MLO you think is a game changer?
Jk31: For what we really need in our community, nothing that 2K introduced this year is really important. We do as much as possible outside of the game so we are not dependent on what they give us. I guess, for most people it would be the fact that you, at least in theory, can do the same actions as in the offline leagues.
Raven: Besides getting the basic features to make a league functional, which took a few years since it went to the new consoles, the biggest thing is that it has most of the features of offline MyLeague and a full offseason — which is a huge step in the right direction.
Ataman: I would say team and player salaries, and also league rule changes. But I would have liked to see myself as an admin be able to customize the league rules without needing to wait for the rule changes in the offseason. I can’t say much about what was added to the ongoing seasons except they are very badly implemented as the offseasons are not functioning as we’ve been told they would. I also like the new timer concept, but again it’s very immature in this state and not very practical.
AME: The addition of the salary elements to MLO and the discarding of the keeper system. This alone has been the biggest game changer since the introduction of the Online Association in 2K12. It took us seven years before we once again got multi-season Online Associations complete with salary cap ramifications, and an automated offseason with the rookie draft and free agency. Though server issues have glitched offseasons, the majority of the issues can be worked around and have been ironed out with server-side fixes as the year has gone on.
Swimfunk: The addition of salaries and an offseason is a game changer. However, I haven’t had much luck in getting through an offseason without it freezing. That being said, the player DNA tool has been a lifesaver as my league has had to re-create the league every offseason. With this tool, we’ve been able to continue our league right where we froze.
What is one feature of MLO that needs to improve?
JK31: The whole functionality of the mode. They can add as much as they want, but if their servers are not able to carry the load that is put on them by all the new features (especially the offseason), then the new features are not worth anything.
Raven: Servers, servers, servers and some more servers. Servers and just general MLO stability need to be priority one, two and three. Without functional servers and stability, all the progress they’ve made towards improving MLO is pointless.
Ataman: Servers above all. I mean we can list so many things within the mode, but without properly implemented servers all around the world, none of the features will mean a thing as we see it. Servers are impacting the gameplay part as well. You can see a lot of inconsistent movements on the court. So many hectic stuff happens all around from rubber-banding to ghosting to muddy movements.
AME: Dedicating more resources to the mode. This has all sorts of consequences ranging from peak server time crashes where leagues are inaccessible, to menu lags, in-game drops and disconnects, to in-game input lag, and sometimes the inability to connect with your opponents.
Swimfunk: I think it comes down to dedicated servers for MLO. The offseason is a disaster once free agency starts. I think 2K outdid themselves and provided an offseason that is very comparable to the NBA. The problem comes when you have a full league and have 30 teams bidding on free agents. Offers don’t stick and the offseason loses its appeal. I think if we can have a smoother offseason this mode would be a 10/10.
What are some of the changes you would like to see to MLO?
JK31: As we are not really using any of the team-managing functions, I would really like to see more options as a league admin. I cannot force controller settings globally that everyone has to use. I cannot change the foul limit (well I can, but the game does not recognize the change). I cannot use Real FG percentage instead of shot timing. I cannot do any roster transactions for all teams without any workarounds.
Raven: Again, servers and MLO stability need to be plan A, B and C in improving the MLO experience. But also I would like to see an “Auto-Pilot” you can put user teams on so if they aren’t around during the offseason or whatever, the CPU can sign FAs or whatever else. Contract extensions need to be able to be done in the regular season. As far as I’m aware, there is not a way to re-sign players during the regular season. Last but not certainly not least, 2K needs to bring back the online league hosting site they had back in the day around 2K8-2K12. For the people who have been playing 2K for a decade-plus or so, you know what I’m referencing. This was huge for online league immersion as you could be anywhere and look at the standings and stats for the league, it had a front page for articles, and you could upload highlights that would go directly to the website.
Ataman: For fun factor, I would definitely say All-Star Weekend (Team-Up) within the league so that we can play a sort of all-star game and have the other activities from that weekend. As TSBT, we kind of organize our own version of this, but it’s ad-hoc. As for the crucial implementation, I would like to see more commissioner control in ongoing leagues and maybe the ability to export XML into websites. And I also think the keeper concept from 2K18 can be brought back as an extra choice for Ultra Fantasy Leagues out there.
AME: For transparency, I would like for there to be a log of all edits of rosters whenever admins make changes. When 30 users are battling for online supremacy in a league, they need to be assured that admin powers are not being abused and that the playing field is even for all members. A simple audit log of any changes to settings and rosters should be sent via notification alerts to all members. We already have this for when transactions like trades are approved, so why not have it for any admin changes as well. Never underestimate the potential for abuse and cheating in leagues where the thirst to win a championship in a competitive league can drive admins into dark places. Lastly, please make sure the offseason is fixed so users do not have to plan their offseasons at ungodly hours in order to avoid peak server loads that often glitch or halt the offseason at different times. There should be a primary emphasis on the free agent day-to-day bidding and advancement. Nothing needs to be added until 2K can guarantee seamless and smooth automated offseasons that do not glitch or halt the OA in any fashion.
Swimfunk: I think going away from the timer system in the offseason could help. I think when you get a timer involved there are syncing issues. One member may be ahead or behind, which seems to screw up the league. I would also like to see some of the features (All-Star Weekend, player mentorship, Summer League) that didn’t make it in from offline be an option online. I would also like to see a better home menu that showcases the league news. Also, if they brought back a functioning website it would be amazing.
What is the current state of MLO? How confident are you in 2K in improving MLO and taking it to the next level?
JK31: The biggest problem of the MLO is the servers. Many functions of the MLO simply do not work because the servers are not able to carry the load. Some key functions are missing.
Raven: The current state of MLO to me is just okay. Since the new consoles came out, it’s been at a turtle’s pace of progress. It took until around 2K17 for leagues to actually be somewhat functional. This year was the biggest step in the right direction, but it killed all the momentum it had built up because of all the bugs and lack of server stability in MLO, and how long 2K took to fix the said bugs. It took until almost the new year for most of the bugs to be fixed. As for taking MLO to the next level, I think they are almost there as implementing the features from offline MyLeague was the biggest step towards the end goal of MLO, but they need to get the servers for MLO together first and foremost.
Ataman: The current state of MLO is like an NBA player who has A+ potential for years but can’t really lead the team as he should. Sometimes it’s lacking mentally, sometimes it’s lacking fundamentals but still shows great potential. As for the fundamentals, the servers have to function better. We’re close to 2020 and servers can’t be allowed to function this way anymore.
AME: Since the revamping of the mode in 2K16, 2K has gone from providing a stable platform to the mode while slowly migrating all of the offline MyLeague features into MLO. The latest enchilada was adding the offseason in order to accommodate multi-season online associations at the expense of stale one-and-done leagues. I have full confidence that next year they will iron out the aforementioned offseason issues while also migrating the last vestiges of the offline components, such as in-season training, the mentor system, the All-Star game festivities, and the Summer and G Leagues to MLO.
Swimfunk: I am confident 2K will address the server issues in 2K20. It’s commendable when other games are going away from online leagues, NBA 2K is raising the bar even higher. League players are some of the most dedicated fans of the series, and I’m glad 2K realizes this. I think 2K will keep with this model and hopefully fix some of the issues. MLO is so close to being a home run, it just needs to address some of the server issues that have dragged this mode down.
JK31: I am really depressed year after year how hard it sometimes gets to just continue our league. We encounter so many bugs that are just frustrating. Some are minor things, but still, if you encounter them in every iteration of NBA 2K, it gets really frustrating.
Raven: I’m glad that MLO has been getting some love over the past year from 2K, as well as other media outlets like OS, Brian Mazique and others that have shed light on the MLO community. The MLO heads just want a fully functioning, non-buggy mode that we can enjoy as an MLO community.
Ataman: I created my online league TSBT with the hopes of finding sim head, basketball fanatics like myself to play with 10 years ago, and I have been going strong ever since. And I know many others like me who are going strong each and every day with their online leagues as well. I never believed that my own league would get this big, so I’m thankful to 2K for it. It’s been a long and bumpy road, there have been so many issues for myself to workaround over the years, but it’s been worth it.
AME: The camaraderie that comes from being able to chat with your online buddies and competitors in real-time group chat platforms like Discord, WhatsApp, GroupMe etc. is what makes the community special. In between the fierce battles of 2K online league competition, we are able to banter about all things and topics under the sun. The spectator mode aspect of MLO where you are able to watch in real time creates a League Pass-type platform that no mode in the game can rival. If 2K can allow the sound to work on streams, it will take the mode to the next level and save the hardcore streamers from having to spend on expensive capture cards. This mode, when played with 30 like-minded sim heads is unrivaled and peerless in comparison to the other 2K modes. MyLeague has been around for nearly a decade, and the turnover of members is relatively low — with a long wait list — because once you discover online leagues, preferably those that are guaranteed to finish season after season, year after year, you will be in 2K heaven.
Swimfunk: In closing, I like where this mode is headed. I feel confident that the dev team is aware of some of these issues and will address them in the upcoming game. I feel NBA 2K has come too far to take a step back in terms of MLO. This year was a huge step and the devs finally came through on with their promise to us. It would be devastating to the community if they took a step back now.
Please let us know your thoughts on MyLeague Online. What do you feel 2K gets right and wrong? What is one thing you would like to see 2K implement for the mode next year? Is there anything you would like to see them remove to make the mode run better?