NBA 2K13 is a huge improvement over a NBA 2K12 on multiple fronts but one of its biggest and most pleasant surprises may be a new mode called MyTeam. Fans of EA’s Ultimate Team mode will be very familiar with the setup but for those that aren’t, the mode starts you out with a “starter” team and then you buy and sell players to put together the best team you can. Once you have your base team set up, you have the option to buy more players from the Market, play Exhibition Games to get a feel for your team, or jump right into the “Road To The Playoffs”. Road To The Playoffs is built on the premise of your team is at the bottom of its conference and you have to play and win games to move up through the seeds. To do this, in every game you are randomly matched up with another player online and you do battle to see who’s the best.
The incorporation of the Road To The Playoffs structure is a brilliant move because it makes players feel like they are playing for something and that all the games they play are building toward something bigger vice just playing a bunch of seemingly unconnected games. In every seed you have you to win a certain number of games to move on but you are not necessarily penalized for losing a game. You have a total of 12 games in each seed and out of those 12 games you need to win a set amount in total, so if the target number is 5 games, you could lose the first 5 and win the next 5 and still move on to the next seed. This is a nice touch, especially early on as it will keep players motivated and playing even when they lose since they understand that one, two, or even three missteps isn’t the end of the world. That’s not to say the mode is easy though.
In my experience, the matching system works really well in terms of putting players of approximately skill up against each other. A major concern I had about the mode was the fact that it was online and 2K Sports doesn’t have a great record in terms of online performance. After playing dozens of games I am happy to report that performance has been a non-issue in all the games I played, they all played surprisingly smooth, so smooth in fact that you’d be forgiven for forgetting you were actually playing online. There was the occasional lag or timeout if a player’s connection got too weak but for the most part it was excellent.
For the most part, I found the competition online to be excellent as well though I did run into a few cheaters which I’ll talk about later. The “starter” pack that you get when you start playing the game gives you very average players which means that in early games it really does come down to skill since neither side has a huge talent advantage. This again helps to keep you playing because you know that in most games you have a pretty even shot of winning. The way that 2K Sports pulled that off was that when you go shopping for players you quickly realize that you can’t afford anyone outside of the Bronze category, not unless you want to pay for virtual currency (VC) or you plan on playing a long time without buying players to save up for one guy. There is the option to buy “booster” packs which can contain players, coaches, upgrades and other goodies but so far I’ve found that even the Gold booster pack (1500VC) doesn’t really give you great ROI.
Another way that they have tried to keep things balanced is the concept of “salaries”. All Bronze players start off with no salary so unlike Madden Ultimate team for instance, you aren’t charged anything for every game you play with them and could play indefinitely with the same and never have to incur a salary cost per game. With that said, if you apply certain “signature skills” to players they normally have a per game salary associated with them. As you can imagine, once you get into the higher level talent, the players themselves come with a pretty hefty salary by themselves as well. This combination of the actual cost of the better players plus their salaries is what 2K Sports hopes will keep things pretty even.
I used the word hope because unfortunately there is nothing that you can do about players that don’t mind spending cash to purchase VC in order to purchase Superstar players like Lebron James and Dwight Howard. To 2K Sports credit though, in the dozens of games I’ve played so far, I’ve only run into 3 teams that had either Gold or Silver level stars on them. The worst offender had Chris Paul, Lebron James, and Dwight Howard (all gold level) and while I kept it competitive the combination of those guys was just too much to overcome. In another game where a guy had Lebron James on his team I was able to pull out the victory by taking advantage of his tendency to overuse Lebron and then pouring it in when Lebron was on the bench. The thing to understand about MyTeam mode is that a team full of solid players can actually beat a team with one or two superstars on it, teams win games not just great players. If you remember that, you can stay competitive in almost any game.
With that said, the mode is not with its flaws. First off, the price of some players has to be questioned, some guys are silver that just really shouldn’t be. Also, there is a HUGE gap between the cost of Bronze and Silver level players, the best Bronze players top out at 850VC but the worst Silver player at any position will cost you 10,000VC. I’m not kidding, there is that huge of a gap in cost when in some cases the gap in skill is nowhere near that big. Another issue is that when you buy players from the market, you only see a series of attributes with letter grades, you don’t actually see the players overall rating when you buy them. In fact, the only time you actually do see the player’s overall rating is one the roster screen when the game is loading or in the substitution screen.
I found that ratings can vary wildly in the same category, I’m speaking specifically of the Bronze category since that’s the only category I have players from right now. The players are ordered in some weird order when you are sorting through the market, initially I thought that the highest rated players were the players farthest to the left, meaning the players were ordered from left to right in order of rating. That’s not the case, as Mike Miller for instance is further to left than Harrison Barnes yet Harrison Barnes is rated higher than him.
My final issue with the mode is the fact that they have to put in place the ability to handle the cheaters/griefers/quitters. I’ve run into all three so far and it’s not pleasant at all. I had one guy that paused and watch a replay after nearly every play. Then there were other players who didn’t pause that much but paused on a really regular basis, not sure exactly what they were doing. It was always after I scored or went on a run, not sure if they were trying to slow my momentum or what but I’ve seen the behavior used by several players so I assume there is something to it.
I’ve also had several players quit in the 4th quarter with a few seconds to go, if they do you get the VC for playing and I assume they get the loss but you don’t get the win. In an interesting variation, a player paused and let his pause timer run out and in that situation you DO get the win and all your VC. Personally, when it comes to quitting in online play like this, I would be for the ability to quit with no negative consequences for either player before the end of the 1st quarter. The specific reason I say this is that if you run into a griefer, so far I’ve ran into a few folks who’s main play strategy is to attempt to take a charge at every possibility. It’s incredibly annoying, the ability to take a charge is meant to be used in a few specific situations, not as your core gameplay style. To folks that employ this “strategy”, learn to play it’s much more satisfying when you win. This is what a “report” option is for, nobody wants to play people like that because it ruins the experience and in lots of cases cost you a victory.
With those few issues aside though, so far I am thoroughly enjoying MyTeam mode. It provides a solid experience and could become a lot of players’ favorite mode. I do have one major concern though and that’s balance. This is the kind of mode that could quickly get out of control and lose its appeal if folks start creating super teams all over the place. Unfortunately, this is the case with a lot of game modes like this, the players that aren’t willing or unable to purchase VC often times end up finding themselves unable to compete with those that are.
To avoid this, there are a couple of ways this could be approached. One approach would be to limit the folks who are purchasing players to only play against other players that have purchased players. In light of this possibly reducing the available player pool too drastically for those that pay, I would recommend that they implement a feature that allows you to see another player’s roster before you confirm to play or allow you to quit within let’s say 2 minutes of the game starting. Without something to compensate, the “super teams” will soon rule the day which will frustrate players with normal teams and ultimately lead to them leaving the mode. I don’t care how good you are, if you have an all Bronze level team and you come against a team with 3 to 5 Gold players and the person on the other side of the sticks is anywhere near decent then you have no chance.
But that’s just me, we want to hear from you. Hit up the comments section and let us know what you think about NBA 2K13’s MyTeam mode.