The Sports Desk – NBA 2K18's VC Problem, Racing Lines & Realism
We're currently spoilt for choice, with many of the year's titles out, so this week I have a grab bag of random thoughts around a variety of games and topics.
The NBA 2K18 VC situation is a mess in multiple ways, with some of those people who've lost their MyCareer player and VC still not compensated. One reader, Tony, described his experience, which sadly was the same as many others: He purchased a pre-order copy of the game as well as VC. He started the game, spent the VC and upgraded his player, the game crashed, and when he went back his player and VC were gone. 2K sent out a hot patch to address the problem, but the situation has brought angst over the VC currency as a larger issue.
Too much money is being made with microtransactions for them to go away (at 2K or anywhere else), but even excusing 2K18's VC-wiping situation as an unintended bug, the pervasiveness of VC is exhausting. The sheer grind of MyCareer – particularly since you start out as a 60-rated player – is no fun, and being tempted to spend money on VC to alleviate the situation smells like a honey-smothered trap. Like many of you, the thought of going up against higher-rated players online just to grab some VC immediately strikes me as an unappealing waste of time.
In my opinion, I'd think you'd want to make the beginning of the grind the more-appealing part of the process, therefore enticing gamers to continue to invest their time and energy in their players instead of turning them off from the start. I understand that there's always some kind of grind with modes like this, but you can't ignore good pacing and breadcrumbs. This is also true since content can always be added to keep everyone from slow-leveling players to hardcore grinders interested.
Speaking of wasting time, the centralization purpose of The Neighborhood is understandable, but running around the streets (with no map!) is more tedious than attractive in a mode already saddled with cutscenes you can't skip and long load times. A good, efficient U.I./menu system with top-notch presentation could give you all the presentation sparkle of The Neighborhood without the labor. The idea of an open world is always attractive, but that's for open-world games...
I've been playing a lot of Forza 7 for review lately, and I suggest you to do something next time you get behind the wheel in any racing title: turn off the racing line. I haven't played with it on all the time in a few years (switching to braking only), but now I'm going the next step and turning it off completely. I'm not doing this because I think I'm an awesome driver, but because it's hurting more than it's helping. The racing line makes me a slave to a certain actions, subtly forcing me to make steering, brake, and throttle adjustments on a micro level to stay with the line. This messes with my ability to react appropriately to the corner as it's happening because I'm more pre-occupied with following what the line is telling me what to do than simply racing my car.
Yes, a racing line is about optimization and consistency on every corner during all situations, but let's be honest – there are plenty of times when that's all thrown out the window and I'm reacting in the moment. Besides, the real-time racing lines in most games are too conservative, and I find that coasting when I'm supposed to be braking or braking late is the better way to go. Also, you don't need the racing line since there's nothing better than simply knowing the track in the first place through practice laps.
Realism is a term lots of people use in relation to sports games, including myself. But what do we really mean? I ask this because there's the realism that relates to immutable concepts like physics and the laws of nature, and there's the realism of our perceptions in terms of what we expect to happen. It's impossible for us as gamers to accurately calculate mathematically whether a game cheated when our onscreen player misses a shot. Not only are there too many factors involved, but I think we all know that no game gets 100 percent of everything right in real-time 100 percent of the time.
But that doesn't stop us from having an expectation of what we think should happen in any given circumstance. When we see our player onscreen miss a catch while wide-open, not hit an uncontested jumper with impeccable shot timing, or miss an open net, it's natural to wonder if the game is "realistic."
Madden 18 introduced different game styles to cater to those who want their skills to matter more than player ratings – something that's related to this topic – but the wider issues are whether we can expect any current control system to be adequate to convey degrees of realism, and how much realism we want in any given game or mode. Certainly there is a spectrum of gameplay ranging from arcade to simulation, but when it comes to sports games we control in real-time (as opposed to sheer number-crunching sims), I think there's always going to be a murky area between what should realistically happen, what we can control with our hands, and what we expect to happen.
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Developer Sports Interactive have released a teaser video gliding over a few of the new features for Football Manager 2018, including better scouting, a new graphics engine, "dynamics," and much more. We should know more about all this stuff through the month leading up to the game's release on November 10.
Forza Motorsport 7 (above)(Xbox One, PC) - October 3
Franchise Hockey Manager 4 (PC, Mac) - October 6
GT Sport (PS4) - October 17
Football Manager 2018 (PC) - November 10
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week
Sociable Soccer Coming to Steam Early Access on October 12
The arcade title features real players, teams, and national teams, as well as single-player campaign and various multiplayer modes. Other consoles are also in the works – including cross-platform play – later down the road. Click on the link for a quick look at the title's gameplay.