Once the centerpiece of nearly every sports game, the franchise mode no longer stands alone as a destination mode. In modern games, franchise must compete with online versus, single-player modes, historical recreations like the Jordan Challenge, Ultimate Team, and other spin-offs for both followers and development resources.
Taking franchise mode online so players could share the league experience was the last major innovation seen in the genre, but since then the creativity being brought to these modes has slowed as developers focus on more lucrative initiatives littered with microtransactions. Some chalk this up to players no longer being interested in franchise mode, but Visual Concepts senior producer Erick Boenisch and producer Dave Zdyrko aren't buying that. With NBA 2K15, they hope to give the longstanding mode a jolt of new energy with several ambitious undertakings meant to deliver a deeper experience for both sim fans and those who slog through the 82-game NBA seasons.
To kick off the new generation of consoles, Visual Concepts introduced a new take on its classic Association mode, dubbed MyGM, that brought more role-playing elements to the game like conversations with coaches, owners, and players. The foundation was alluring, but not everything worked – the mode was extremely unfriendly to sim fans who preferred to tackle management duties like drafting, free agency, and trades rather than play every game. This year Visual Concepts believes it's striking a better balance between the two approaches. Here are the big changes coming to MyGM for the new-gen versions of NBA 2K15.
- Last year the conversations with players were very binary – you either offered a positive or negative response, and there was no follow-up to your positioning. This year the players will see if you put your money where your mouth is. If you promise more minutes to a player and he doesn't get them, he will remember your lie, his morale will worsen, and he may start adversely affecting team chemistry.
- Trust matters with the media as well. If you feed the press too many cookie-cutter answers and fail to provide any meaningful insight, they may stop trusting you and ask more pointed questions that could put you in compromising positions with the fans.
- Owners had static needs or wants during a season last year. This time around their expectations may change on the fly based on the performance of the team. An owner may originally assess the team and decide to rebuild, but his position will change if the team is performing better than anticipated. If the team is in the hunt for the playoffs, he may even stop worrying about profit and allow you to spend more to bring home the championship.
- The MyGM experience extends to 80 years in NBA 2K15, which means new owners may come in once a current owner walks away. You may first hear rumblings of a team being for sale in the social media hub. If your organization changes hands, the new owner may have a completely different attitude than your previous boss. Perhaps you'll get lucky and start working for a big spender for whom money is no object.
- Visual Concepts is distancing itself from its controversial approach to injecting VC into the MyGM experience last year. In NBA 2K15 the VC is nearly stripped out of the mode in favor of a leveling system where you accrue XP for every action you take. You can still buy persuasive pitches, extra training camps, or the team you work for with VC, but these are optional and you can get these perks via the normal upgrade path as well.
- The XP system awards you points for everything from making a successful trade and scouting to winning a game by either simming or playing. Each time you go up a rank, you can select a perk not unlike last year's offerings. Examples include improving your scouting accuracy by 10 percent or adding a persuasive pitch to your arsenal for conversations with rival GMs or players testing free agency.
- The game caps at level 999 so you have some wiggle room on the upgrades you select.
- In response to last year's backlash regarding basic functions being hidden behind the upgrade system, Visual Concepts has surfaced the vital skills that form the backbone of the GM experience. Every GM has full control of trades, free agency, player rotations, coach firings, etc. right from the start.
- Strategy-minded players who prefer a hands-off approach should check out SimCast. This new system allows you to manage rotations, strategies, sliders, and points of emphasis before hitting the start button on a sim. Once the sim begins, you can jump into the action at any time or pause to change up your strategies if need be. This is a great alternative for users who just want to sim to critical moments like the last two minutes of a closely contested game.
- MyGM still uses auto-saves, but Boenisch says they tweaked the logic to make it more intelligent about choosing a time to save.
- A new Coach Gameplan hub replaces Total Sim Control, creating one location where a user can make all his or her decisions about the team's strategy. From this menu, you can tweak rotations, points of emphasis, coach sliders, and even set custom strategies for each team you will face. This can be vital for managing workloads; if you have a cast of older stars, perhaps you want to play them less against bottom dwelling teams like the Timberwolves and Bucks.
- A new pro scouting system analyzes how your team stacks up against your next opponent. Feedback includes areas of weakness you can exploit in the rival team, an analysis of their biggest threats, the team stats, and suggested points of emphasis.
Read on for information on prospect scouting, player progression, and changes to the offseason.
- Scouting is being completely revamped to inject more noise into the experience. Not unlike the situation real GMs face, you will be inundated with mock drafts from media like DraftExpress and Yahoo's Marc Spears, big boards, social media rumors, scouting reports, and other factors while trying to make a pick to improve your team.
- Visual Concepts plans to surface several storylines throughout the year based on research it did on the last 20-30 draft classes. The various types of players you could encounter include flash-in-the-pan players who may be at their full potential already on draft day, late bloomers who rise up the draft board at the last minute, players with serious injury concerns that you may not know about unless you him in for a visit. It could end up working out like it did for the Celtics with Jared Sullinger, or you could have a Greg Oden on your hands.
- For NBA 2K15 Visual Concepts built an engine to simulate an entire college season, giving you the ability to look at the stats of all draft candidates. This opens up interesting scenarios for players like the small college star who averaged a lot of points per game – albeit against inferior competition. Will his skills translate to the Association?
- All this information sounds overwhelming, but Visual Concepts says if you do your research and scout appropriately, you can find the answers you need to make an informed decision.
- NBA 2K15 adds the draft combine to the mix this year, where you may find out that a school is playing fast and loose with the height and weights they list in their game programs.
- The prospect classes have increased to 150 players per year.
- During the draft you have full access everything you have during the regular season, including scouting reports, the big board, mock drafts, and the player's college stats.
- Some of the CPU controlled teams' intentions may be relayed via social media. If you read that a rival team brought in one of your targets for a last-minute interview, perhaps you should trade in front of them if you really covet the prospect.
- Visual Concepts has done a significant amount of work on player progression this year. Before, all you could do was train them in the offseason. This year that progression is split between the offseason workouts and in-season training.
- Player peaks are much more randomized than they were before, and can be affected by how you handle a player. If you overwork a prospect he may not grow to his potential. If you pay for a good trainer, he or she will tell you that you need to tone it down before you reach this critical juncture, but less experienced trainers aren't as quick to give feedback. Playing a guy too many minutes or not giving him enough rest can also hamper progression.
- Players have different characteristics that also affect how they respond to training. If your point guard doesn't have the work ethic badge, for example, he may complain about being worked too hard, whereas the same level of training may be perfectly acceptable to another player. Some react better to being coddled, where others respond to the drill sergeant approach in conversations. Being a good GM requires you to read these situations correctly.
- The new Injuries 2.0 system being introduced in NBA 2K15 drastically changes how users will approach injuries. Last year the game gave each player one durability rating; this year players have 16 different body parts with unique durability ratings.
- Career-ending injuries aren't common, but possible. In one example Boenisch gave, a player who tore his ACL when he was 23 and re-injured the same knee at 31 called it quits.
- When checking out a player card, the new injury tab shows the body parts with a quick color reference guide so you can see how worn down a player's body is with a quick glance. If you see a player with two knees in the red, you know he's not going to respond well to playing heavy minutes.
- To manage players' bodies, you can tweak your practice regimen to have vulnerable players train at a lower intensity or sign them up for physical therapy. Sending a player to rehab means they will be less likely to re-injure themselves right away.
- Visual Concepts says the CPU-controlled teams in NBA 2K15 have improved logic this year when managing their roster balance. Teams should better recognize that they don't need to spend on another point guard if their team already has a viable starter and will know to use their resources elsewhere.
- Boenisch says he would like to work sign-and-trade deals into the game eventually, but they want the full experience to be more robust before tackling granular issues like that.
NBA 2K15 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC on October 7. The features discussed here are only coming to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.