How To Revolutionize Sports Games
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?
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)
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!
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?
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.
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?