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Sports Video Games Need to Split Into 'Competitive' and 'Consumer' Versions

NBA 2K20

Sports Video Games Need to Split Into 'Competitive' and 'Consumer' Versions

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.

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.

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.

nba-2k18

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.

NBA 2K20 MyTeam

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.

NBA 2K20 MyTeam

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.

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  1. People have been cheesing AI in games since the beginning of gaming. My best friend knew a trick in coleco baseball that made his runner disappear once he hit the ball, then appear at home for an unstoppable run. He never told me how he did it and I never played him ever again. 
    Obviously that’s an extreme example but my point is that technology isn’t to the point, and I’m not sure it will ever be to the point, where humans won’t be able to manipulate the AI.  They call it competitive gaming but everything I’ve watched  for esports  makes it seem like it’s really “who’s a better cheater” gaming. 
    Everyone in those competitive communities know the exploits. Would rules and human referees help? 
    I dunno. Whatever makes you happy I guess but it’s not for me.
    Esports for the recognition and branding. MyTeam, MUT etc. for money. Sim & franchise guys have been and, will continue to be left out in the cold. Theyll never be sperate releases.  
    Agree with the above posters. I have played 2k and live and many others since they existed. Never was I one for exploits nor was any of my friends. I do not like to play online as it's about as much fun to play a 10 year old on a video game as it is the actual sport...I'm over 40...so I stick to franchise and such modes. 
    I do see how these companies are moving away from sim it seems, if it ever really existed, because of the extra revenue involved and that makes sense...to them.
    You will always have people that play games for different reasons and usually majority wins out pretty much everytime so, I will never be in that category. 
    Evej basic changes in gameplay form something as simple as shooting can make or break a game ....dribbling included obviously. Shooting in this particular 2k is the worst it's ever been for me. I don't even play it anymore. So I play 14,on 360, and 16 and up on the Xbone....
    My pojnt being.no mater how much I or another sim head complain about anything in the game that is flawed, it will fall on deaf ears. But when people start mentioning gltiches for park and rec and OP things , u will usually see those things addressed. And rather soon I might add. It comes down to revenue. 
    So I for one won't play any new 2k anymore until shooting makes sense. As to me there are no release points above the shoulders to let me know when to release to shot. Only in 2k20 have I seen this happen. 
    Will they listen to me and fix it next year ? Doubt it. Because other people have work arounds and in my eyes it's not necessary. Just keep it the way it was....don't fix what wasn't broken.  But again, deaf ears. Unless it makes financial sense. 60$ won't hurt them. Even if 100 people like me did the same, it won't hurt them in any way.  Hate that it's come to this but I'm in the same boat with Madden. We all are. 
    Sad but true. 
    The point of the article is more or less no audience is being served correctly with this model now. You guys are on some level pretending that "the non-franchise crowd" is somehow coming out more ahead in this than you guys, but the point is the model as it's going is hurting you guys and also them. The games are too big now in a way, and so developers aren't necessarily serving any audience properly because it would be impossible to cater to everyone with this structure.
    I understand some of you guys try to turn everything into "franchise mode and sim style gets screwed, why don't they pay attention to us?" and I get it, and I mostly agree. But this is also an opportunity to point out that your gripes transcend your own issues to other portions of the fan base as well.
    CujoMatty
    People have been cheesing AI in games since the beginning of gaming. My best friend knew a trick in coleco baseball that made his runner disappear once he hit the ball, then appear at home for an unstoppable run. He never told me how he did it and I never played him ever again.*
    Obviously that’s an extreme example but my point is that technology isn’t to the point, and I’m not sure it will ever be to the point, where humans won’t be able to manipulate the AI. *They call it competitive gaming but everything I’ve watched *for esports *makes it seem like it’s really “who’s a better cheater” gaming.*
    Everyone in those competitive communities know the exploits. Would rules and human referees help?*
    I dunno. Whatever makes you happy I guess but it’s not for me.

    The issue here isn't just the AI. This specific thing was used in 5-on-5 games etc. It was a balancing issue on the level of X character being too strong in a class-based FPS or whatever.
    But yes, I agree peeps will always hunt out exploits on the whole, it's just general gamer DNA. But a lot of the time they could be much faster at tweaking and finding these exploits if they wanted to, especially because now people are actually officially playing these games in competitions that warrant balancing.
    Good article.
    I have long said that one the difficulties 2K faces now is that there are essentially 2 different audiences with somewhat opposing tastes.
    Online Players often tend towards wanting things to be exciting and fast paced,even if it means sacrificing realism.They generally don't worry as much about small details, as long as the game is easy to get into, fun to play, and the servers work, they are usually happy.
    Offline players often tend towards wanting to feel immersed in an authentic NBA experience with total control.These players WILL worry about little things like uniform colors and player appearances as well as gameplay elements that could negatively effect reproducing reasonably realistic stat lines.As long as the game looks and feels authentic, they are usually happy.
    These two styles don't mesh very well...Most online players would find only getting an occasional block or steal and shooting 40% from outside to be boring and unrewarding,even if it is realistic.On the flip side, most offline players would find players constantly doing highlight plays and teams putting up insane stats every single game due to meta elements that trump any sort of game planning to be so unrealistic as to be frustrating and unrewarding,even if the gameplay feels fun.
    This has put 2K in a position where they can either appease one audience and risk the wrath of the other one, or try to appease everyone a little, which will probably end up upsetting alot of folks on both sides of the aisle.
    It really might be time for 2K to just go full on "2K League" as an online only comp platform in a similar vein to Overwatch,League of Legends,etc.Let the single player type modes go to a different dev (or dev team) that is willing to devote itself fully to the singe player/simulation experience.
    I will freely admit it might not be the best solution; however I feel like at least people would definitively know where they stand when it comes to the product.
    They literally just need to add a “Game Style” setting, giving the options of Sim, Competitive, and Arcade. MyTeam/MyPlayer modes would be set to Competitive, and offline you could choose as you like while also being able to tweak sliders and difficulty settings separately.
    Then, they would need to make it so they can push updates and gameplay tuners specifically to one or all of these options (depending on the change being made). This way they can push game-wide fixes to all three while also pushing MyPlayer/MyTeam online tweaks just to the Competitive game style without affecting the Sim settings for offline players.
    Sim could have increased foul sensitivity so that charges, blocks, and shooting fouls are reflected realistically without the online competitive players being bogged down by realistic gameplay.
    Arcade would just be a free for all where exploits are left in and players are free to have an NBA Jam style of gameplay for quick games with friends at home or in unranked online matches.
    The amount of content, the online connectivity, the depth of the single player in most games is mind blowing to me. I still remember a time where you clicked the start button, you played a sports game with no-name teams and players and the only multiplyer option was sitting next to a friend on the same console. If you found a "glitch" that was a game wrecker it was what it was, now they patch them out when discovered.  In others, these complaints seem silly to me.
    Good article. This has been a problem for years with 2k. First off I’m glad they patched the behind the back move but why wait this long? Doing it 3 days before the tournament has to be a troll move in itself. They could have patched it weeks ago.
    Going forward, there should be a competitive setting but also modes/lobbies for that. If players just want to have fun casual let them, but for competitive gamers let there be Lobbies/Modes for them to play at.
    Also the Myteam tournament next year has to do a better job in doing the qualifiers. Never should it be about who can get the most quits to be in the top 4 or number one for that event. Tournaments suppose to show who are the best at what they do, not by boostin/cheating or who can get the most rage quits to get the most points smh.. On that note why aren’t there Play Now Online Big tournaments? Is it because 2k doesn’t benefit from it because we can’t buy cards or vc for it...
    NYCDaFuture
    Good article. This has been a problem for years with 2k. First off I’m glad they patched the behind the back move but why wait this long? Doing it 3 days before the tournament has to be a troll move in itself. They could have patched it weeks ago.
    Going forward, there should be a competitive setting but also modes/lobbies for that. If players just want to have fun casual let them, but for competitive gamers let there be Lobbies/Modes for them to play at.
    Also the Myteam tournament next year has to do a better job in doing the qualifiers. Never should it be about who can get the most quits to be in the top 4 or number one for that event. Tournaments suppose to show who are the best at what they do, not by boostin/cheating or who can get the most rage quits to get the most points smh.. On that note why aren’t there Play Now Online Big tournaments? Is it because 2k doesn’t benefit from it because we can’t buy cards or vc for it...

    Even though I am pretty much an offline/casual type of dude these days, I agree with this.If 2K wants to go forward as a serious online competitive game it needs to dedicate itself to it and work on offering much more.
    I would say that if 2K is going this route then the online guys need as you mention, legitimate ranked/unranked lobbies and a more tightly balanced meta(while also not interfering with major events) if it wants to put itself on the level of games like Overwatch.
    I don't know if that's possible when the product spreads itself as thin as it does in an effort to appeal to everyone.
    Until they have a drop in revenue in a year, publishers/executives won't deviate from what they're doing now because if would necessitate an increase in development costs. Mediocre gameplay across all modes is okay by them as long as the sales and MTX dough is rising.
    jfsolo
    Until they have a drop in revenue in a year, publishers/executives won't deviate from what they're doing now because if would necessitate an increase in development costs. Mediocre gameplay across all modes is okay by them as long as the sales and MTX dough is rising.

    Agreed, in some ways the video game industry is similar to the film industry.In both cases, while the film crew/dev crew might care about product quality,the top companies themselves don't care too much about the quality of the product as long as it makes money.
    Also in both cases (unfortunately), as long as the fandom keeps falling for the hype and spending money, not much will change.
    NYCDaFuture
    Good article. This has been a problem for years with 2k. First off I’m glad they patched the behind the back move but why wait this long? Doing it 3 days before the tournament has to be a troll move in itself. They could have patched it weeks ago.
    Going forward, there should be a competitive setting but also modes/lobbies for that. If players just want to have fun casual let them, but for competitive gamers let there be Lobbies/Modes for them to play at.
    Also the Myteam tournament next year has to do a better job in doing the qualifiers. Never should it be about who can get the most quits to be in the top 4 or number one for that event. Tournaments suppose to show who are the best at what they do, not by boostin/cheating or who can get the most rage quits to get the most points smh.. On that note why aren’t there Play Now Online Big tournaments? Is it because 2k doesn’t benefit from it because we can’t buy cards or vc for it...

    yeah 2k is straight trolling these people going into that tournament by patching the cheese around the back at the last moment. its the same thing they did right before the 2k league first started. by having that combine and making it so that their are no such options to choose pure playmakers which we all knew was a cheese build with guys able to dribble thru other peoples bodies with no fatigue loss and never losing the ball in the process.
    peopled cried and cried. and it actually exposed some of the famous youtube 2k players who eventually became 2k league players. Dimez to name one.
    they made sure to not allow anyone to choose an OP build in the combine. how are you going to do that when all year long you had people playing nba jams now all of a sudden you want a more sim experience. crazy.
    I would definitely purchase an NBA Legends or NBA Classics game.2K will never split this game. I'll put my 401k on it. I'm going to buy this series annually regardless (part of the problem ,I'm sure) but I'd much rather get my old sim basketball game back.
    Sent from my SM-G965U using Operation Sports mobile app
    ChaseB
    The point of the article is more or less no audience is being served correctly with this model now. You guys are on some level pretending that "the non-franchise crowd" is somehow coming out more ahead in this than you guys, but the point is the model as it's going is hurting you guys and also them.

    While that is true, it is plain as day that the online/MUT/etc is the priority and we all know why that's the case. The execution may not be there for either target group but it feels even worse for franchise/sim/offline guys because we can see the writing on the wall. There isn't going to be a sudden turnaround where there's an immense focus on franchise modes and CPU AI.
    I don't really know what online gamers are chasing. They seem to want a perfect game without cheese (an impossible task) or a game that's full of cheese. Within the competitive online community is there a unified direction they'd like to see in sports games? It seems like most would be happiest playing 5v5 NBA Jam. As others have said, cheesing has been around since the dawn of sports games. It's never going away because it's just a video game; the games will never be perfect and there will always be exploits.
    In a way this can be traced back to the licensing nonsense and the dwindling number of choices over the last 15 years so I do agree with the premise of the article. It'd be great to have separate games but I don't ever see one company putting out two games in the same sport. It seems like an inefficient use of resources unless they can get a good chunk of their audience to buy both games. I don't think we're that far away from seeing online-only games from the major players. It wouldn't surprise me if franchise modes were a thing of the past by 2030.

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