There’s a big NBA 2K20 MyTeam tournament happening on January 25. There have been four qualifiers leading up to this tournament, and now the single-elimination event will be held to crown one winner from PS4 and one from Xbox One. From there, those two players will go to NBA All-Star Weekend to compete for a chance at $250K. It’s a massive reward for the one person lucky enough to win it all.
It’s also a tournament that will now be dealing with even more controversy.
Buried (see: not listed) within the NBA 2K20 patch released this week was a “fix” for the behind-the-back cheese that almost everyone was doing at the competitive level. The move was overpowered because it was easy to do and gave you an unrealistic speed burst coming out of it. When tied together with a Range Extender badge, it was the easiest way to get space in a pick and roll situation before greening up a shot.
Here’s an example of it courtesy of YouTube content creator OnlyCombos:
This move was being spammed at the casual and competitive level, so it’s not like you needed some special “stick skills” to be good at it. At its worst, ball handlers would do the move over and over until a defender rammed into the big man setting the pick. It made games boring. It made games feel repetitive. In short, the move sucked and needed to be patched.
If you're complaining about the behind the back dribble move being nerfed in #NBA2K20 you're not being part of the solution, friend.
— Operation Sports (@OperationSports) January 22, 2020
I tweeted out the above after the change was discovered (because, again, the change was not listed in the patch notes). I’m clear in my disdain for the move. However, I also understand why some people would be upset because the change was not in the patch notes.
But 2K has been mega sloppy all year with their patch notes, so this is nothing new.
— Operation Sports (@OperationSports) January 22, 2020
While keeping up with the feedback across the 2K community these past couple days, it’s been interesting to see the split emerge in some places. I’ve seen some people like Agent 00, a content creator involved in the MyPark scene, essentially lament it in some respects because the move was fun and NBA 2K20 isn’t about being simulation in his eyes. The game is more fun to him when the game trends more towards being arcade-like.
Alternatively, here in our community, most people are happy with the change because they do want a more simulation-style game.
But the video I enjoyed watching most comes from YouTube MyTeam content creator DBG.
He also calls the behind-the-back move “fun” and, again, I wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment. Nevertheless, he also says the move is not something that should have originally been in the game. He does hedge and stop short of saying it should have been taken out because he thinks there’s still plenty of other cheese that’s in the game and has been in the game for years. He cites things like 5-out blow-bys and slowly walking people into picks as other things people do a lot.
(Quick lesson: Slowly walking people into picks is the more boring version of the behind-the-back cheese, and a lot of people do it as a “counter” to people using a lot of off-ball defense.)
On top of some of the items DBG lists, I could mention MyTeam things like stamina not being impactful enough, HOF Clamps leading to tons of people just off-balling all game, etc.
The list is long here, and I agree with DBG that this game is not a simulation right now. Changing this one behind-the-back move won’t fix the game, or make people play “realistic” or whatever. Instead, they’ll just be looking for the next exploit. I have a lot more to say about that mindset in a future esports article, but let me move on to something else DBG said that I think is important.
He mentions the timing of this patch and how it’s going to seriously impact the MyTeam $250K Tournament. It’s a fair point. It will probably cost more than one person their chance at $250K. I agree with him that it’s not fair to those competitors. However, I also think it’s unfair to have a stupid, overpowered move in the game that’s been overpowered for far too long.
Still, the point is as these companies push into the esports scene, there’s a discussion and decision that will need to be made at some point in terms of how to approach patching the game.
A Game With Many Masters Will End Up Serving No One
Games like Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch and so on deal with meta-changing patches and gameplay from time to time. However, those developers are also careful about the timing of the patch releases. With something like Overwatch, the developers are sometimes criticized for being too conservative and slow with patch fixes. They probably drag their feet at times to avoid altering the meta while an important part of a professional Overwatch season is happening.
Another important part to consider with these other games I mentioned is that they are only serving a singular online audience. Their professional players are a subset of that community, but everyone who owns the game is playing in the same basic environment day to day. This is obviously not the case in NBA 2K where there is MyTeam, MyPark, Pro-Am, offline/online MyLeague and so on.
The NBA 2K developers are serving many masters, and so when they make these changes the ripples are felt throughout multiple parts of the community. On top of that, a lot of these communities are looking for different things from the game.
So the question is, do those audiences each deserve their own input when it comes to patch changes? Should 2K be grabbing data from each of these modes and making gameplay tweaks based on the data from each mode? Would there have been a patch for the the behind-the-back move at an earlier date if the developers were not as worried about angering the more competitive players?
I don’t have those answers, but something needs to change.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The 2K League has its own rules and restrictions on player ratings, so should that same concept apply to things like the MyTeam tournaments? It’s certainly an option, but that move would also cause people to pour less money into MyTeam, which means it’s less likely to occur.
We have also seen other official sports game tournaments use an “older” version of the game if a new patch comes out right around the time of a tournament or event. It’s a way of keeping things fair, and it means players don’t need to re-learn the game before a high-stress event. However, it does not seem like 2K will be going that route either with the MyTeam $250K Tournament.
By the way, this also brings up a whole other slew of questions. Was 2K freaked out about people watching a tournament where every team was doing the same move over and over? Maybe. Was the timing of this change purely coincidental? Maybe. In either case, the 2K team made this choice at a very odd time.
And, look, to those saying things like “I’m happy these players will now be exposed for only having one move,” I get it. Watching NBA 2K at the competitive level can be painful at times as players just repeat the same couple moves and strategies over and over. We’ve seen it before in the 2K League, and we were probably going to see it in this MyTeam tournament, too.
But whose fault is that? To me, it seems like a developer issue more than a user issue. Gamers who are competing will always coalesce around what’s working. After all, money is on the line so you will do whatever gives you the best chance to win. This is why many other competitive games go through meta changes every couple months. It’s also why new versions of those game don’t come out every single year.
Sports games are a unique yearly beast that are now trying to be a part of the esports scene. But there’s going to come a time where these companies have to realize they’re going to need to split these games and cater to different audiences. Does this mean there’s a game called “NBA 2K Compete” released at some point that is its own separate game? A game that is not re-released every year, but rather changed and altered every couple months based solely on what’s happening in the multiplayer modes? Who knows.
What I know for sure is something needs to happen. These games cannot survive in this ecosystem forever, and at some point one of these big companies is going to have to step up and come up with a real solution for these problems.
You’re never going to find balance while trying to serve hundreds of different audiences, especially when you have to start that process all over again when you release a new game in 12 months. It’s untenable and it’s unfair to the brands, the developers, and most importantly, the consumers who are playing these games every single season.