Monday, January 31, 2022

5 Ways To Fix NBA 2K22's MyNBA Mode


I've been playing NBA 2K for years now, my first being 2K6 on the original Xbox. At the time, I thought it was a revelation compared to NBA Live. The movement, the shooting, the presentation, everything felt better and more realistic. 

Flashforward to the present, and I think it's true that most people view NBA 2K as a stagnant franchise. It has no competition in the industry, and its yearly releases are glorified roster updates with a few boondoggles taped on here an there to encourage folks to spend money on microtransactions. 

That said, at its core, the 2K series still deliverers a good basketball experience. This is primarily true of its singleplayer modes, like MyNBA, or what is usually called "Franchise Mode" in most sports games. MyNBA is pretty much the only mode I play in 2K. I like it because you have complete control of the experience--you get to pick your team, hire your coaching staff, manage minutes, determine how to train your players, scout new prospects, draft and develop them, and so on. 

MyNBA's basic formula is solid and addicting, and I often pour hundreds of hours into the mode every year. It's because of this experience that I've noticed a few areas where MyNBA could easily improved, and I thought I'd list some of them here. 

1. Have Better Auto-Generated Rookies 

This one has been a gripe of mine for years. With each passing console generation I expect 2K to develop better randomization tools with respect to the auto-generated rookies created in MyNBA mode. This is important, as if you play the mode enough you eventually reach the 2030s and 2040s, and by then you're mostly playing with these generated players. And yet, despite that being the case--and despite playing for decades being one of the appeals of MyNBA mode--2K has made few improvements to whatever process they use to generate rookies. 

This is especially true when it comes to visuals. It's 2022 and auto-generated rookies still rarely look like real people, with some veering into Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion territory in terms of how horrific they look. I'm not sure why this is the case--there was a time around 2015 or so when rookies started to look better, but they've since regressed. Right now in the league I'm playing, there are at least ten or so players who look more like fish than they do like humans. 

Given that there are indie games out now that use procedurally generated AI faces and content, I see no reason why NBA 2K, a AAA game developed by one of the biggest companies in the industry, should be so deficient on this front. Fixing this would go a long way to improving the longevity of MyNBA as a mode, and I think it would be an easy fix if they devoted any amount of time and effort to it. 

2. Address The Laggy User Interface

For some reason, the next generation versions of NBA 2K21 and 2K22 on PS5 run very badly when navigating the calendar and menus in MyNBA mode. Trying to simulate matches often causes the game to freeze or get stuck, something which never occurred in the last-gen games when I played them on PC. 

I'm not exactly sure why 2K22's calendar is so glitchy--it's essentially a 2D image that shouldn't really stress the PS5's hardware, and yet whenever you try to move through it it feels like you're slogging through quicksand. I am one hundred percent sure that this is due to poor optimization, likely because the 2K development team has been tasked by executives with pumping out content for the online modes in order to encourage more microtransactions. If so, then that's a shame, because this is a potentially easy fix that would make MyNBA far more playable. As it stands, it's difficult to simulate through entire seasons because of how choppy and laggy the experience becomes. 

3. Remove The Bugs

Of all the games I play, NBA 2K has got to be the worst in terms of all the bugs that get carried over from one iteration to the next. Every year I see the same problems, and they never seem to be fixed. One that is especially annoying has to do with re-signing your rookies once their original contract is up. No matter what you do, you can't extend their contracts during the season or off-season. 

And, when you try to re-sign them during free agency, there's a bug that causes the contract to automatically adjust to a one year qualifying offer. Every time I have a rookie I want to re-sign, I have to go through the same song and dance of signing them to the bugged qualifying offer and editing their contract directly via the player-editing interface. 

There are many, many bugs like that in 2K, and I have no idea why they are allowed to continue existing year after year. Another one that popped up in the PS5/Xbox Series versions of 2K is the odd lag spike you experience after the jump ball at the start of games. No matter what, the game turns into a slideshow for a few moments before skyrocketing back to 60 frames per second. Again, something like that it down to poor optimization. Another bug I'd encounter occurs when entering a game via SimCast; sometimes this will cause the camera to bug out and present you with a nauseating angle that you'll have to manually fix. 

Update 2/5/2022: Recently I encountered a game-breaking bug that occurs during free agency. It happens when you try to sign players when you're technically over the cap, but in reality have room due to cap-holds. Basically, if you sign a player the game thinks you don't have cap space even if you do, causing some sort of positive feedback loop that perpetually crashes the game. I have found no solution thus far. Unfortunately it looks like this bug broke my MyNBA save. 

4. Remove The Tedium 

There are a few quality-of-life features that are curiously absent from 2K even after years of associated features being in the game. Want to edit the amount of money you're offering a coach? Get ready to wait 10 minutes as you hold your left stick in one direction and wait for the slider to increase or decrease at a snail's pace. Want to set your team's practice schedule? You'll have to do that on a day-by-day basis on the calendar; there's no way to set weekly or monthly templates. 

The "next-gen" versions of 2K have also made the menu system feel more ham-fisted than usual. Now when you navigate through them, it doesn't remember the last thing you were looking at, so you have to press "B" or "O" and then navigate back to what you were seeing. This makes looking up players on another team's roster or going through the menu system in any way incredibly tedious. In prior entries if you looked up a team, clicked on a player, and pressed "B" you'd be taken back the screen showing that team's players, now it reverts you back to a default screen and you have to use the triggers or d-pad to get back to where you were. If that sounds tiring, well, it is. 

And this one isn't likely to change based on how fond 2K is of monetization, but please let us skip the halftime shows and pregame advertisements with a press of a button. There is no reason why we should be forced to sit through having to watch thirty seconds of guys wearing Gatorade shirts trampoline dunk. 

(Bonus one for this section: please find a way to remove the "return to main menu for update" image that blocks outs the lower quarter of the screen; there has to be a less-intrusive way to do this). 

5. Prioritize MyNBA During Development

For almost a decade now 2K has shifted its priority from the singleplayer experience to the multiplayer one (though those of the latter would likely tell you that this hasn't led to improved quality there either). I don't think they'll ever stray from that course so long as people keep buying their virtual currency, but I do think it would behoove them to devote significant development time to the singleplayer experience, which has largely remained stagnant since NBA 2K11. 

As this article has demonstrated, the 2K development team could do a lot of good just by addressing some very basic things. Improving the procedural AI generation for auto-generated rookies, removing lag/optimizing the code, fixing the broken and tedious aspects of the game, and quashing basic bugs would go a long way to improving the MyNBA experience. 

Because NBA 2K has no competition, MyNBA remains the best franchise mode in a 3D basketball simulation. And yet, it has the potential to grow into something far better if they put some effort into doing that. 

Will the 2K development team do anything to improve MyNBA mode? Not likely, given their focus on MyCareer mode. The day I see some of the longstanding bugs fixed is the day I'll believe that they are seriously trying to improve the MyNBA experience that so much of us have enjoyed over the past decade or more. 

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to Lifehack.org and the Davis Humanities Institute.