I appreciate Crew mode and get a kick out of My Career in the NBA 2K series, but Association mode is still the bread and butter of the experience for me. Quite honestly, were this option/concept not available in sports video games, I probably wouldn't be as hooked on them as I am.
While details on other aspects of the game come through consistently, I absorb them and discuss each topic appropriately, but the virtual general manager in me is bursting at the seams waiting on details of my favorite mode.
Recently, Matt Bertz of Game Informer had some one-on-one time with an early build of NBA 2K14. He dropped a few gems on the NBA 2K community on a variety of things about the new game. One of the areas he shed some light on was the Association mode.
Bertz wrote this about the developers' major focus with the mode in NBA 2K14:
This year's big push with the Association mode centers on re-tuning free agency. Visual Concepts reworked the player logic so they have a keener understanding of the market when deciding whether to re-up with their current franchise or test the waters in free agency. As a result, you should see many more players hitting the open market.
I like the sound of this. I noticed in previous versions that teams would make peculiar decisions in regards to retaining and chasing free agents. Tuning the free-agent logic is essential in any Association/franchise mode in sports video games.
Realistic player movement is a major part of what sets these types of modes apart from one-off gaming.
The mention of team's attempting to clear cap space to make a run at free agents was also exciting. It may be a frustrating trend in the real NBA for fans, but it is a major part of the sport so it should be reflected in the game.
Obeying the Real and Virtual Trends
We learned about Dynamic Living Rosters taking the roster update concept to the next level in NBA 2K14. If you haven't heard, you can learn about the enhancement in the video below.
Essentially, through working with STATS, Inc. NBA 2K14 will assess the performances of NBA players on a nightly basis. Changes to their in-game ratings will be made based on their streaks and tendencies accordingly.
Per Bertz, these hot and cold streaks can and will affect their playing time in the game. That's a great concept. In Association mode, you're literally writing your own history, so playing time would be determined by the play of players within your Association, not the real NBA.
Still, it is a fun and compelling way to play through an Association.
Injured Players Returning to Action
The last point Bertz references in relation to the Association mode enhancements is an injury management/presentation system. I'm a big proponent of having realistic injuries with slick, TV-style presentation for these events.
I don't like it when a player gets injured in a game and his complete diagnosis is given within five minutes. That never happens in real life. The severity of an injury in an Association or franchise mode shouldn't be known until after you've completed your game.
It is a simple matter of presentation that I'd love to see implemented. While nothing like what I just described has been revealed, Bertz did say this about the manner in which players will return from injuries in NBA 2K14:
Don't expect star players to start posting big numbers on the road to recovery after experiencing a significant injury. Players coming back from serious physical setbacks are now eased back into the lineup while they recover their stamina and durability.
This is a definite step in the right direction. It adds an element of realism that should be refreshing for sim-style gamers. Let me paint a picture for you: Imagine you're playing with the Chicago Bulls in Association mode and Derrick Rose is returning from injury late in the season. The team obviously needs him for their playoff run.
It would be easy to salivate about how awesome your Bulls will be with Rose and his 90-plus overall rating in the lineup, but because he's recovering from an injury, you'll have to try and make do with him at perhaps 70-85 percent of himself.
That is the type of gaming experience that only an Association/franchise mode can give you. I'm looking forward to it.
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