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How To Revolutionize Sports Games

Posted November 5, 2013 by Bunneh3000 in Editorials
No Look Lebron

I love pro basketball. Ever since the days of Lakers vs. Celtics, Double Dribble, and TV Sports Basketball, I’ve had a blast with digital hoops and the trash talk involved with playing them with friends. I remember the days when the only commentary these games would have was when you hit a three pointer! Nowadays, hearing someone play a game of NBA 2K sounds almost identical to an actual broadcast.

Despite the nostalgia I hold for playing NBA games throughout the years, there is no escaping that sports video games in general have hit that roadblock of mediocrity that has plagued the Madden series for years. There’s a need to revive the genre and I am here to pose a few ideas to at least spark the discussion.

On the eve of the next gen, I pose a question to you all. What feature or mode would truly revolutionize sports gaming?

FreeStyle Street Basketball is a Korean made MMO RPG… but is it fun?

  1. Make sports games an MMO.

Now calm down. I know a lot of you out there will be quick to dismiss this idea, but listen for a spell. We get a new sports game EVERY year for EVERY sport and EVERY time people complain about how little of an improvement the game is from the previous year. Now that we are at the dawn of a new console gaming generation, an MMO could be a great idea for sports games.

Think about this, people. Madden Online or NBA 2K Online could each be built on the existing engine that they have and sold at a low price (if not for free). Then, you could do two things.

First, you could sell either classic teams as DLC or you could sell whole season rosters as DLC. That way, you could always have the same fan base and quickly get the next season roster out. With the game already installed as an MMO, the next revision of the game could be updated with a patch rather than dumping a whole new game on the masses.

Secondly, making the game an MMO just might make the whole online sports gaming experience a bit better. If the game is structured around playing online, there could be improved focus on making online seasons, tournaments, and leagues a bit more streamlined and easier to get into.

They could reinvent the way these seasons and leagues work. One reason many people have a hard time with these leagues is that it is sometimes difficult to get enough players to regularly play at the same time or a regular schedule. Instead, develop a system to allocates how many times each player has to face the others and allow them to play those encounters offline a minimum number of times. The difficulty of each game will be based on the saved personality (or player driven AI) of each player. If you have a tendency to take a lot of 3 pointers or keep your superstar in the entire game, the AI will do the same.  I think games like NBA 2K have systems that analyze how you play and can develop AI to act in similar ways. (There’s your revolution)

Imagine this Raptor team with Chris Bosh!

  1. All Time Teams and Classic Teams should be available

There is nothing worse than getting a new game and not being able to play as your favorite superstar from the present AND the past. I understand that Player Unions must approve of the use of certain or all retired players but honestly, that is the BIGGEST appeal of playing digital sports.

Having classic MJ and one or more of his championship Bulls teams face off against Lebron and the Heat is a huge draw for any basketball fan. Imagine playing the 85 Chicago Bears against one of the Troy Aikman/Irving/E. Smith days Dallas Cowboys or Manning’s Broncos from this year in Madden?

While this is typically a standard offering nowadays, it wasn’t always. But, let’s take things a bit further. Why must we stick with just the ‘classic’ good teams? Why can’t we get ALL of the teams from the best to the worst of EACH YEAR?! Sometimes the bad teams had one or two great superstars that were just unfortunate enough to be on really bad teams that year. Release the hounds! Recreate the all the rosters from ALL of the years past. Give players an official option to download these teams for use. You could make them team downloads or even whole seasons.

How about we take it even a step further? What about taking each sports team and regularly updating the ‘All-Time roster’? For example an All-Time team for the Toronto Raptors would have Damon Stoudamire, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Tracey Mcgrady, Morris Peterson, Antonio Davis, Dell Curry, and more! Let’s try the Seattle Supersonics/OKC Thunder! They would have Kevin Durant, James Harden, Gary Payton, Rashard Lewis, Shawn Kemp, Vin Baker, Detlef Schrempf, and more!

Imagine every year, updating that greatest of list WITHOUT having to create them yourself or to download one from someone and regularly have the game freeze up. Just sayin!

  1. LOOT!!!

Here me out! I know that every game isn’t made better with loot or RPG elements but lets consider this one. For a time, Madden used a pretty successful model where collectable in-game cards would provide temporary in game boosts to stats, plays, or whatever. Though it made the game experience a bit more arcade, I think it allowed some lesser skilled players to level the playing field a little bit. You could have not only shoes (as NBA 2K allows for different offline modes), but you could use jerseys, headbands, arm sleeves, compression shorts, arena upgrades, and more that could affect team and/or opponent performance.

If that idea isn’t your cup of tea, listen to this. Some sports games are using the whole virtual currency model where everything you do on or offline earns you credits based on your performance, right? How about either doing away with the currency and adding temporary items that can be equipped temporarily on individual players that improve performance?

  1. The Coach Effect

Nowadays, coaches are pointless sideline fodder that only affect what playbook each team has. Some games (mostly coaching sims) would take things a step further and assign grades to coaches that would affect the AI’s ability to make trades, draft players, and so forth.

What if that whole dynamic changed and coaches and their style of play affected (to a small degree) the player ratings as well as player mood? That way the personality and coaching style of a player can positively or negatively affect players simply based upon compatibility. Throw in their assistant coaches that can affect how effective drills are and you have a great new dynamic to the game that players can take into account. This of course is more of a feature in modes where you’re creating a team or player.

This NBA 2k Life social media game was pointless…

  1. Coaching Sim Mobile apps

Instead of playing stripped down versions of sports games on your mobile device, how about they turn the mobile games into a cross platform device. Imagine taking your Madden offline season with you on your phone and playing the game as a coaching simulation? Choose the plays and simulate the action. You can even manage the team trades and transactions and such only do it all on the mobile version of the game (and make it free with game purchase).

A great example of how to pull this off was an old online trading card game called Ballersunited.

Brilliant right? Sound off sports fans. Do any of these ideas sound revolutionary enough for you?

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. It would be great if you subscribed to our RSS feed or signed up for email updates to get more goodness. There’s lots more where this came from!

About the Author


A gamer since the days of Texas Instruments PCs with cartidges, I embody the 'casual' gamer moniker. RPGs, turn based strategy, hack n slashers, NBA sims, shooters, Space flight combat sims, and mech combat sims are my forte. If you need a Battlefield commander, I'm your Cylon... I mean... um... man.

  • Jim

    I’d personally like to see an additional emotional element to sports games with AI that can remember rivalries and grudges and have that some how effect gameplay. Say it’s madden and the Packers are going up against Vikings, I’d like to some how see the intensity amped up. The crowd getting really into it. Maybe the Vikings start trailing behind and you see them taking more and more cheap shots (a brutal late hit on Aaron Rodgers, a violent face mask) with little animations of players arguing in between plays to really get the vibe that this is an important game. Or if it’s baseball and Albert Pujols hits two home runs of a starting pitcher in the next at bat they throw at Pujol’s head. Maybe a brawl breaks out or maybe later in the season when those teams face off again that starter gets hit by a pitch as retaliation. I want sports seasons and created player career modes to have lands marks that feel like land marks. I wasn’t to see my player get drafted. I want the playoffs and championships to feel like something more than a regular season game (not just through AI and animation but through announcing as well). If I start getting close to the all time homerun record or all time rushing record in a game then there had better be some serious pomp and circumstance so I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. That’s what I want from next gen sports games.

    • Bunneh3000

      You know, Jim, I agree with you. The ’emotion’ factor in-game doesn’t seem to be there. Player and team rivalries are a HUGE factor and it seems as if video games have yet to tap into that aspect of pro sports. The old Lakers vs. Celtics (new and old) were epic. Bulls vs. Knicks were slugfests. I’ve yet to see a game somehow integrate the ’emotion’ attribute in a way that affects a player’s game play. That would be awesome…

      As for the landmark deal, I wonder. Just stronger AI or intensity or something would be good enough if not better ‘crowd response’ and such. Rumble my screen and blur the edges when the crowd goes crazy or something.

      Great suggestions! Thanks Jim

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