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What All Sports Games Could Focus on Improving in 2017

Sports Gaming

What All Sports Games Could Focus on Improving in 2017

Focus On Improving Gameplay

It seems every year sports games are so determined to impress their loyal fan bases with all sorts of new card-collecting modes or grinding missions, but when it comes time to actually play the games, it all feels a little too familiar. Many people simply compare the version they just bought last year with streams from the new one and decide whether it might be best to skip buying the game this year — if only because when they do finally buy the game the following year, it will then feel like a more significant improvement. This is why it behooves these companies to attempt to bolster the game action each year by leaps and bounds rather than the slight fine-tuning and roster updates so many fans grumble about upon release.

Now this is obviously easier said than done, but it would be so refreshing to see an annual title forego the additions of any new modes for once and instead focus on presenting a game that plays so undeniably different on the field/court/ice that there’s no way people could possibly take the year off from playing it and be content with what they bought last year. If not, it all starts to feel like we’re only being denied the full extent of what developers are capable of producing because if they actually delivered that, then what would keep us coming back next year?

Stay Plugged Into The Community

With the understanding that there are many so-called “fans” of sports games that choose to mercilessly bash the games they play without any attempt to provide anything resembling constructive criticism, there are also those who are focused on finding a way to help make the games better. It’s an important distinction because while the former may make game developers want to block out all of the negative white noise, the latter can actually provide useful feedback that can be applied to appease the haters. It’s imperative that an open dialogue exists between fans and developers if there is ever going to be any improvements in how sports games are made.

From the many intelligent minds offering helpful suggestions on this site to message boards across the internet far and wide, there’s no shortage of good ideas out there that can be employed if the right people are listening. Sometimes, it can actually be the only way developers learn that bunts are unrealistically overpowered in MLB The Show or that big men don’t protect the paint like they should in NBA 2K17, so that these things can then be rectified either in a patch or in subsequent iterations of the game. And while it’s true that this back and forth is already happening to some extent, it’s a relationship that needs to be consistently nurtured going forward if trust is to be established and cemented on both sides.

Become Players In eSports

There’s no doubt that we’ve seen the world of eSports explode over the last year or two, leading to many gamers becoming stars in their own right as they compete for money while at the same time making cash for companies invested in the booming business. The problem is that sports games still haven’t been able to find their audience within the realm of eSports. This isn’t for lack of trying either, as EA and 2K made a big push this year to try and draw interest in big-money tournaments, but have found one significant hurdle thus far they can’t seem to get over: hardly anyone is watching. With so many sports lovers out there with a seemingly insatiable appetite and plenty of sports gamers anxious to see how their skills measure up to the pros, companies need to find a way to get people into it.

Of course, this is only a nascent market at this point and there’s still time to develop an audience, but sports gaming companies are confronted with the problem of how to make better personalities out of the competitors and market them in such a way that viewers can’t miss seeing them square off against each other with a considerable amount of money on the line. Recently, Madden started taking steps in the right direction by partnering with NFL Media to have a weekly show on the NFL Network while a big NBA 2K17 tournament is scheduled to start on New Year’s Eve. If they are able to eventually make that leap, it will create an additional revenue stream that can then be used to make these sports games even better for everyone.


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  1. I'd like to see the ability to go back to any off-season and start from there. Like you can go back and re-do any drafts and completely change the league.
    agree 100% I'd argue there are games who still have not made a significant leap into next gen with gameplay innovations. FIFA is still plagued by issues found in FIFA 08 and FIFA 09
    games should focus on going back in time a bit. maybe streamlining game controls a bit.
    stripping down some of the animations...meaning giving players(users) back more control. Im specifically talking about NBA2K17. it would be nice to see the player control found in ch2k8 and the NBA series NBA2k15 or earlier.
    these games look nice-but alot of the times I feel as though its not me controlling said players in game.
    Customization, Customization, Customization!
    The future of gaming will be all about putting power in the gamer's hands via customization and edit modes.... Any company that tries to pull control away from the user will be on the wrong side of history.
    The way animations mesh with gameplay still doesn't feel next-gen to me. Just not enough animations for certain situations in some games, while some animations take away too much control in others. I also thought by now we'd have gotten rid of choppy/weird looking animations/movement, but that might have just been an unreasonable expectation...or not, I'm not sure. It's interesting because some games still aren't where they should be graphically when compared to other games within and outside the sports genre, yet gameplay has only refined despite present legacy issues and franchise/career modes across all games (except NBA 2k, though I can't stand what the career mode has become) have stagnated. Customization is also severely lacking outside of UT modes (NBA 2k again an exception, PES as well). I remember saying this at the start of this gen, and it seems like it's still true...UT is really the only mode across all games that has changed. It's probably why I've spent less time playing sports games than ever before. I'm always following them clearly lol This gen has been one of refinement, which has given us quality games across all sports, but different? I don't know. At a certain point, when do we stop settling for refinement? I doubt these consoles throw all their power towards refinement. Also, even with games that have decided to take that route (even the great MLB The Show that used to be my favorite series), I can think of PLENTY of common sense additions that must be made to the gameplay. It just seems like these studios are settling.
    One thing that all sports games still struggle with is capturing what makes individual players, teams and coaches unique.
    They've done an outstanding job with the visuals, player faces, the unique accessories... players and coaches really do look like their real-life counterparts.
    But when those digital players start playing the game, the illusion mostly goes away.
    In Madden, nearly every team plays the same way, and it seems the CPU AI runs the same dozen plays on offense, no matter what the team. The quarterbacks—probably the most important position in sports—all play a similar style and have similar abilities. I want to have to gameplan and account for guys like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota who can beat you with their legs. I want to see the gunslinger style of Phillip Rivers, the "Captain Checkdown" mentality of Alex Smith, Tom Brady's ability to read defenses and carve them up. I don't get that now. They need to add tendencies and more traits (and make the traits they do have more pronounced).
    In FIFA, there have been slight improvements but it still feels like every team plays with the same approach. I want to have to take a different approach to games between teams with two completely contrasting styles.
    In MLB The Show, there are still no player (or coach) tendencies, which is really holding back the game from taking the next step in representing the real life sport. Jon Lester never attempts a pickoff to first in real life. Currently, there is no way to represent that in the game. Salvador Perez loves to throw behind runners and try to pick them off of first and third. Again, there's no way to currently capture that. I could go on and on here.
    NBA 2K probably has the most tools for making players and teams have different strategies and approaches, but there is still work to be done. For example, there isn't enough difference between elite defenders and average (or even weak) ones.
    This is one of the biggest reasons why franchise modes aren't as fun as they could be. Playing multiple seasons where all players and teams mostly play the same way gets repetitive and boring. It would be much more fun if players and teams were unique, and as the years progress the identity of teams changes and new strategies and directives emerge.
    ^Agree. The games you mention (Madden, Fifa, MLB The Show) I tend to agree.... They are very very generic. And as such lead to boredom. I would add NHL in there as well. It's insanely generic.
    Player individuality and team individuality are sorely lacking, but for two exceptions... NBA2K captures player individuality nicely, but could probably do better with respect to team individuality. PES takes it even further, not only capturing player individuality but team individuality as well. It's brilliant.
    Individuality is an absolute key in sports games.
    If a dev team just copied the top 7 posts here and took them back to meetings room and broke them down to tangible improvements, I'd wanna buy that game and buy copies for 3 friends of mine.
    It's these kind of improvements gamers and fanboiz alike have been clamoring for.
    Nice read, Kevin. I agree that more time and energy should be spent on a games' core and not necessarily card trading and the like, but money is so tied into all of these decisions that it'd be hard to image a team grounding themselves and focusing on the fundamentals. It almost seems backwards when you say it, but that's a bigger risk today than...taking a risk.
    Customization, Customization, Customization!
    The future of gaming will be all about putting power in the gamer's hands via customization and edit modes.... Any company that tries to pull control away from the user will be on the wrong side of history.

    This is exactly the direction I want to see sports games go, esp. MLB The Show.
    And the smallest of things too, like renaming umpires and setting their tendencies the way you want them. Even things that might just be cosmetical, like personalising the team owners and general managers names. No reason why I shouldnt be able to edit service time or rename coaches and managers. Heck I should even be able to edit stat numbers and if I want my season to say 1987 instead of 2017 I'd like to be able to edit that too. Anything and everything that allows the end-user to fully immerse one's self. I'm for.
    It depends on the sport:
    Baseball: I would like to see them take it back to what mvp 2005 had to offer. I would like to see a real team creation and dynamic stadium attendance and improvements. If I am a new team that only has 5000 fans attending games, the audio and environmental visuals should reflect that. Once the play is done, I should still be able to toss the ball around and enjoy myself until I feel the need to continue play.
    Basketball: I feel that 2k17 hit the right stride as far as gameplay and such. I would like to see the my player experience expand to life outside of basketball. With the money I have earned, I should be able to buy houses and or cars that can be explored. I would like to have a more open world experience than a linear storyline. I would like to see a more robust player creation system. Not just assigning attributes but taking the workout exercises that are available and tying that into the player creation. Back when Kush games was the developer, you had a very robust player creator that allowed you to adjust, forearm, biceps, wrists, waist and all. Lets go back to that.
    Football: There have been so many things that I have been done in football games that are now being ignored by game developers. No matter how many times you invent the wheel, in order to work, it must still be round. The recipes for a a great game are there, just dive into history. You had a dynamic stadium and franchise system in the past that allowed you to actually build your own stadium how you wanted. Give us a varying animations that tie into the ratings systems in a more organic way. Make ticket and concession prices matter towards attendance and let us see the dynamic crowd change. If I can leave footprints in the snow, why doesn't my body follow suit once tackled? Why does my football still clip through objects like back walls and sideline players. Once the whistle blows, why can't I hit afterwards and risk penalty or ejection. These are things that would close the gap and add layers of fun and strategy.
    I don't really play hockey and soccer to really understand the nuances of the sport. I enjoy them as long as I turn off icing and offsides.

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