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OS Roundtable: What's the One Thing You Want From Next-Gen Sports Games?

Operation Sports

OS Roundtable: What's the One Thing You Want From Next-Gen Sports Games?

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.

MLB The Show 19

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.


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  1. Kevin is on point, AI really needs to move ahead. The other thing Id want to see is Full customization. If I want to start my NFL league in 1979 with 28 teams and 3 divisions I should be able to. 
    I just want the Teams to go back and play all the sports games around 2004 to 2007 and just see the depth those games had.   I still play Madden, NCAA, NASCAR, NHL 2004 - 2006.   They had a lot to do and was really fun to play for hours.    Today's games is all about UT which we all know is the reason we are in this current mess.
    *A finished product out the box.
    *No changing of core elements of game play, the game you purchased, via patches to suit the whims are card players who think they aren't hitting enough home runs or scoring enough goals. I've come to fear all patches, something I did not last gen.
    * Full customization. Wanna put the Brewers back in the American League? You should be able to do that. Wanna ditch the 8-div NFL setup and go back to six, same, etc etc.
    I’m with Jeff Botkin.
    I would love more realism across the board. Not to say AI and gameplay aren’t important. But I love it when a sports game feels “alive.”
    Assuming the next gen systems will have a lot more capabilities, I’d like to see the deep modes be capable of supporting more than one team or user.
    FIFA career mode
    PES Master League
    WWE Road to WrestleMania
    UFC Career mode
    Nascar career mode.....
    Modes like these I’d love to see become capable of supporting all teams or support all user control. It would a world of fun if you’re like me and enjoy experiencing 100% of everything about your league or season mode. 2K and The Show have come closest so far.
    for better AI, a better implementation of  VIP could be used.   I don't think developers focus on user tendencies enough when programming the CPU AI.    everyone has tendencies, so it would be great to force users to adjust on the fly both offensively and defensively.
    when I think of computer AI I always point to chess games.    On the higher levels of sports games, programmers could program the AI to be just as difficult.  
    we won't get true realism  until user tendencies become the main focus for AI reaction and behavior.   
    I know this won't happen, but my wish would be for a renewed focus on the offline gamer.
    I predate Atari, so I have been gaming for a long time. And 99% of that has been just me and the CPU....and that is how I like it. An escape from the real world and an escape from people. LOL. In fact I am still on the last gen (xbox 360) as the increased focus on the online components just left me with minimal desire to upgrade.
    I doubt this happens, but I would like to see the focus be put back on making a sports simulation, instead on these gimic fantasy modes, like  My Team, and the dress up Barbie mode of NBA2k My Player.Neither NBA2k or Madden put much effort or focus on making a simulation sports game, and even MLBTS has dropped the ball that I quit buying it and just play OOTP for my baseball fix. I would do the same with basketball if there was a good text sim for basketball like OOTP is for baseball. I can take or leave football, as this yr was the 1st Madden I had bought in yrs, because its been lousy for yrs, but decided to try it again this yr, and while I enjoyed it for a while, Franchise still sucks, and since thats the only mode I play in any sports game, Madden got old real fast.
    I am enjoying NBA2k20, but its the same issues yr after yr, and Im tired of the legacy issues. There is no logical reason the game still has the same issues yr after yr, that go unfixed, in a game they adverstise as a NBA simulation. I thought 1 of 2 things would happen when this NBA2k league started. I felt it would improve the gameplay for us true diehard basketball fans, or the online portion would cause the devs to not put much effort of focus on the offline side of the game, and sadly the later has happened.
    I dont blame the devs s much for this lack of focus and lack of effort on the offline side of the game, the blame goes on the Execs. in the company. Its probably likely that the devs get bonuses based on the gimic fantasy modes online, thru the micro transactions, but Im sure guys like DaCzar and OG would like to see a return to making a NBA simulation, and fixing the legacy issues, that have been there for many yrs now. Some of the issues, probably have had more birthdays than some of these kids playing the game have, lol. 
    1 thing I do know, is there wont be no day 1 buy for me again, until these sports games, start putting more effort into making a simulation of the sport they portray.  I quite buying Madden several yrs ago, until this yr, which I now regret. I quite buying MLBTS 2 yrs ago, I think it was, and I have always bought NBA2k since the very 1st one came out, but until I see the legacy issues fixed, I wont buy another NBA2k on day 1 again. I wouldnt have bought it this yr, but there was so much player movement this past offseason, and the improvements they said they made, I decided to go ahead and get it.  But with new consoles coming out next yr, I aint wasting all that money on a console, just to find out that the same issues the game has had for yrs, is still there. Thats just too much money for me, to spend now that my income is limited, and I just dont have extra money to waste. 
    Chances are, the offline Franchise modes, arent going to get any better on the new consoles, because the issue isnt with the lack of power in the console, its the lack of effort by the game makers. So unless they figure out a way, to make extra money thru micro transaction in the offline Franchise modes, there will continue to be a lack of effort put in to fix and improve the offline Franchise modes in these games.
    The biggest thing is EA Sports needs to really step their game up. I play MLB The Show, NBA2k, Madden, and NHL but the latter two games are so far behind... it's embarrassing. Their games just don't play anything like they should for this era. They are basically arcade games.
    Maybe the bigger problem is monopolies on markets. There should be two options for each major sport, not one. When there's only one option, the game developers realize that putting money into improving the game isn't necessary. I get why they do this, it's just good business. Making the game better doesn't actually sell more copies unless they have some competition.
    Depth and meaning for franchise modes. Going back recently and playing NCAA Football 14 and College Hoops 2K8 the one thing that really hit me was just how important the games felt all because of the "off the field" things in the games. Knowing that a certain game was being attended by recruits I was going after and needed to impress, especially as it was rivalry game on top of wanting to stay in contention.
    Knowing that each game played, each player signed helped to build my coaches résumé to possibly help me land a bigger position at a larger school/team.
    Today's franchise mode games lack any importance, they feel like play now games.
    For me personally, Madden could easily solve this by stealing the NCAA coaching carousel and adding to it by creating positional coaches that you can start as. Be a running backs coach, can only control the running backs etc. Try to build your coach and move up the coaching ranks to become a HC eventually. Have your reputation and strengths as a coach actually be a factor in signing and retaining players.
    Unlicensed sports games. No one wants to admit how much these licenses are detrimental cause they only want to see how it's a positive. I feel like having to pay the leagues player associations stadium owners and all their partners is getting in the way of making a experience that is true to the sport its trying to simulate. 
    I really think Matthew hit it on the head, and can't say it better than him.  I sadly feel that I've been passed by as a sports gamer.  I am not a youngster, and OG that plays the games for the game itself. but it is not longer about the just the game.
    I'm with everyone saying improved AI as number 1. I also am big on more customization, I want to be able to create leagues with anywhere from 4-40+ teams. I like the setup of Fantasy Football Leagues and would love to be able to have the option to draft a new team every year or even setup how many keepers you could have. I think Big Ant studios does a great job in AO Tennis and Cricket 19, you can create/share all kinds of players, teams, tournaments and leagues. We need to get this type of customization in American games also.
    Tj hit the nail on the head... Unlicensed games with the training wheels taken off. The NFL wants to make the league more family or when we all know that drugs, parties and frivolous spending are what made the NFL special. Hard hits and grit are all but removed from the game due to execs feeling that families really give a damn about the leagues image.

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