What’s the number one thing you want from next-gen sports games?
Joel Smith: Stability. As we witnessed this fall with NBA 2K20 and FIFA 20, you can be several years into an engine for a game but still have various issues upon and after the release of your game. Whether it be server issues, graphical issues or gameplay issues, it’s fair to say we should still expect games to work out of the box. Patches on day one should not be the norm. We just want to play, plain and simple. Stability is easily the number one thing I want out of next-gen sports games. We’ve got a much better idea of what the technology will bring, and I have to believe the developers are working away right now so that we get premium products come holiday season 2020. Let’s just hope that in doing that, the games work and don’t start trending on social media for the wrong reason.
Kevin Groves: Easy, better CPU AI for on and off the court/field/pitch. Graphically, I think we’re at the point of stagnation where any improvements are marginal with the exception of crowd detail. Where things fall apart for me is 2-3 years down the line in a career mode and I see CPU rosters that make no sense. You could argue that poor logic applies in real life to teams like the Bengals or my Skins, but the basics of filling out a roster should be a given at this point. On the field, the AI needs to adapt organically to your inputs. Adjustments are made, for better or worse, all the time in real sports. “A tale of two halves” is an annoying cliche, but like most cliches, it’s rooted in some truth and it’s a testament to how real life coaches don’t follow their initial game plans if things don’t go according to plan. New features and better graphics are cool for the marketing team, but give me substance over style every single time.
Matthew Ederer: It sounds sarcastic to say this, but I would like for game companies to start trying again. This gen has been plagued by unfinished, buggy games ranging from disappointing to literally false advertising. NBA 2K20 wants to be a new social media industry more than it does a video game. The NHL series has released what feels like an identical copy of itself since NHL 12. Standards have visibly and clearly fallen, and it is a thing that I believe every sports gamer feels to some degree. It seems that far more work is done on how to get people to talk about the game, rather than the game itself. I would like for games to be released as completed, tested products with modes that function the way they are intended…Also, sweet graphics.
Jeff Botkin: What I want to see from next-gen sports titles is next-level realism. Although sports titles in the current generation are done well, there is a missing piece of realism. I want to see how closely developers can re-create what people watch on TV for each game. From broadcast overlays and introductions, to crowd realism and graphics, and then any external forces that impact play — noise, weather, etc. This has to be combined with improved AI. I want to see AI that has the ability to make real adjustments in-game to what the user is doing. If the user has run the same play 60 percent of the game, I want the AI to adjust immediately. But, I want them to be able to audible when the user audibles. The re-creation of the in-game chess matches would add next-level realism to sports titles.
Michael Larson: I really only play NHL, but AI improvements are holding that game back more than any missing skating mechanic, shooting mechanic or visual overlay. I’m not asking for miracles when it comes to AI improvements, as I don’t think we’re close to to seeing truly reactive, aware, and responsive AI opponents in sports games. However, I would at least like to see NHL update its programmed plays/reads as what they have now is largely unchanged from NHL 08-09 when playing on offline game. CPU opponents still breakout the same way they did back then. They still struggle with offensive players criss-crossing on rushes (and I’m talking like full-blown stop in their tracks because they literally get so messed up by a simple cross and drop play), and they still move the puck in the same artificial, terribly unbelievable way in the offensive zone.
CPU AI players don’t suffer from fatigue, have crazy acceleration and actually react to loose pucks unlike the human AI teammates. It’s easy to see that the HUT community complaining about “skill-zoning” has turned the human AI teammates into literal pylons as I’m sure that those AI modifications impact all human teammates regardless of online/offline. I just want an offline experience that seems fair and challenging.
The other big-ticket desire: customization. I want custom tournaments, leagues, an even better create-a-team suite than what we have in NHL 20 (which is one of the best in sports gaming I should add). I want online games with custom sliders so that my friends and I can play competitively without using the awful online tuners. Let me play the game the way I want to play.
Josh Houtz: It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and played a sports game and felt like the AI was going to outplay me. For example, how many times have you played Madden and thought you were out coached, or lost a game because of a something you as the user did? More times than not, the game seems as though it’s nearly impossible to defeat or things will happen that make you question why you even bothered. Thankfully, that’s why we have sliders. Nevertheless, with the future of sports gaming I’d like to see the AI adapt more to my tendencies. I’d like to see developers put in the time to make facing off against the Baltimore Ravens feel like I’m taking on Lamar Jackson and that high-octane offense. This can be copy and pasted for every sports game on the market. The AI needs to be fixed.
Aside from AI, I’d like to see better presentation and graphics. Clearly, this is not the reason most of us play video games, but it would be nice to see games pushed to their graphical limitations. Lastly, better gameplay. Madden is the only major NFL option on the market, but it’s severely lacking. Please improve DB/WR interactions, and even more importantly, trench play. way too often an offensive lineman misses a block by just standing still instead of blocking a defender standing right in front of him. No game will ever be perfect or without flaws, but there’s no harm in trying.