Jumped into The Rec the other day...

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Jumped into The Rec the other day...

Postby Andrew on Wed Nov 06, 2019 1:36 pm

Out of habit and in order to compare it to last year's experience, I've played a bit of MyCAREER while waiting for the season to begin (now that it is, I'm ready to start a MyLEAGUE). I've levelled up a player to around 83 Overall with a few Badges that suit my style of play, so I thought I'd check out The Rec and The Playground. Played one Playground game and it was actually alright; despite the moaning of one guy on the open mic about how we were overmatched, we put up a decent fight against more seasoned Playground gamers who'd be grinding hard to level up their players. I also gave The Rec a try.

Now, I had some enjoyable moments in The Rec (then the Jordan Rec Center) in NBA 2K19, mostly when I could jump on with a couple of the guys from the NLSC squad, but there were also a few decent games when I went in there solo with randoms. However, there is a lot of toxicity in there: people who will freeze you out from the beginning or after a single mistake (while they continue to play poorly), ball hogs forcing up heavily contested shots instead of moving it around and finding the open man, lackadaisical defense or numerous defensive errors, non-playmaking builds who want to be playmakers, chasing stats to the point where it jeopardises the game and lets leads slip, and of course, being a jerk on the open mic. All that on top of various issues with the gameplay itself, to say nothing of the complete lack of matchmaking, has made online a far less fun and far more unpleasant experience than it used to be.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed. Here are a couple of examples, the first clip being the very first play in the very first Rec game I played in NBA 2K20.

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The second clip spotlights another example of toxic behaviour: calling timeout when a teammate is about to score, especially on a fast break. Between friends it's probably a decent rib to pull once or twice, but it's also a very childish way to troll each other in The Rec. It's what happens when anyone can call timeout at any time, along with someone wasting timeouts in general. Obviously everyone needs to be able to call timeout for strategic purposes, but sadly not everyone can be trusted to use timeouts properly. And so, they're used to troll, which means they're not there if you need them late in the game.

I've mentioned it in articles and on the NLSC Podcast, but I really enjoy getting assists. In online games, I'm quite comfortable being the guy who only takes a few shots when they open up, as long as I'm helping to keep the ball moving and racking up assists as I get people the ball where they need it to score. I find a lot of satisfaction in being a facilitator, though scoring is definitely fun too. In one of my Rec games, I had 22 points and 0 assists, which is very unlike my usual style of play. To my teammates' credit, they were hitting me when I was open, but I also failed to tally a single dime because a) the centre was nearing a triple-double and was passing up open shots to try and get his final two assists, which almost cost us the game, and b) my passes were being wasted by teammates messing around. Here are a few examples of that.

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With that being said, the games did have their moments. I compiled a few of my highlights, and it was at least nice to be able to score in lieu of getting assists. I've played games where I've been completely frozen out, not getting the ball when I'm open or being able to help bring it up/keep it moving/set people up, meaning my teammates are intentionally playing 4 on 5 on offense. Anyway, some clips of moments that did feel good.

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These past couple of years, The Rec and team Pro-Am have been a mess, and it comes down to a lack of matchmaking. It's something I talked about in Monday Tip-Off last week.

It used to be that walk-on/the Jordan Rec Center/The Rec was for gamers who didn't have a squad, and just wanted to jump on for some Pro-Am games with randoms. 2K Pro-Am, or team Pro-Am, was more organised with detailed stats and record keeping, squads with customisable branding, and a rudimentary ranking system. Both modes required a minimum of three users per side before a game got going, with AI players filling in as needed if there were less than five users per side. If anyone fouled out, quit, or got disconnected, the AI would take over their player as well. The on-court experience wasn't always great, but it worked and could be a lot of fun.

In NBA 2K19 however, the requirements were changed so that team Pro-Am (and the Jordan Rec Center) required five users per side to start a game. This was less of an issue in The Rec - aside from people quitting out because they didn't like the look of their prospective teammates, which meant longer waiting times - but it meant that team Pro-Am was much harder to play. The NLSC squad had a lot of fun games in NBA 2K17 playing with just three people, mostly because a lot of the other squads on the Australasian server also only had 3 or 4 users a lot of the time.

The change was obviously made to make 2K Pro-Am more like the home version of the NBA 2K League, and to appeal to the online snobs who sneer "Go play MyCAREER if you want to play against bots!". This is of course making the incorrect assumption that people want to play with or against AI players online, or see it as the ideal, which isn't the case. It was just handy for getting a game when your whole squad wasn't available, without having to go to walk-on/The Rec and deal with the toxicity there. Unfortunately, with this change to team Pro-Am, Rec became the only way to get games last year. At least we could head to The Rec as a squad and if there were three or four of us, we avoided some of the toxicity and could play like a team.

Of course, the ability for squads to go to the Rec - including full five user squads - has resulted in another problem. Organised squads will head there to beat up on randoms, because there's no real matchmaking. In their defense, it's probably also because they can't get enough games through team Pro-Am. On top of that, matchmaking in team Pro-Am has also taken a step backwards and is nowhere near as deep as it needs to be, but at least it's there, kind of. Neither the casual nor competitive scene is anywhere near as good as it should be right now. Gamers themselves bear some responsibility here because playing selfishly and being toxic is a choice, but the approach to both modes does cultivate a toxic atmosphere, and is unwelcoming to new and intermediate gamers alike. Simply put, the online scene stinks. It's shockingly bad.

There are similar problems with Playground, with people hopping off Got Next if they don't like the look of their teammates. It's created a Catch-22 situation where only the elite are welcome to play, but you need to be able to play in order to get to that level, or increase your MyREP. Snobs say "get good", but the only way you do that is by being able to play and hone your skills. The best way of doing that is by facing opponents at your skill level, and then facing tougher opponents as your skills improve, you string together wins, and you level up your ranking and rep. Even if you want to argue that facing elite players forces you to learn quickly, it's a moot point if you can't even get a game because elite players refuse to play with you, or freeze you out when they do. Again, it's a Catch-22.

So it goes with the online scene. I'm glad I have interest in other modes, because there's very little incentive to play online in the modes that I used to enjoy at least dabbling with. The NLSC squad played over 500 games of Pro-Am in NBA 2K17. That number has declined every year since, even if we count walk-on/Rec games. The lack of matchmaking, and cultivation of toxic, elitist attitudes, has rendered modes that are a lot of fun on paper instead very unappealing. It's a shame nothing has changed after last year, and sadly, I think it's only going to get worse.

It's truly astonishing that, given the example set by games like Rocket League and the fact 2K now has its own eSports league in the form of the NBA 2K League, both the casual and competitive scene for the userbase - the people actually playing and paying for the game - is as bad as it is. Perhaps the worst part about it is that a lot of gamers buy into the elitist snobbery, defending all of this and dismissing valid complaints, criticism, and constructive suggestions as "whining". As much as anything else, that's why I don't think anything will change. A lot of basketball gamers are so uncaring, so wrapped up in the notion of "not my problem, therefore not a real problem" or "it works for me, so everyone else is just a whiny crybaby", that they'll justify anything and happily throw their fellow gamers under the bus. We should be on the same page, but we're not even in the same book a lot of the time.

And that's what happened when I jumped into The Rec the other day. I was only dabbling this year anyway, but if I wasn't already looking to go with MyLEAGUE and single player MyTEAM, I'd definitely be sold after this.
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Re: Jumped into The Rec the other day...

Postby Dee4Three on Wed Nov 06, 2019 2:02 pm

Have to love the first shot that went up in your first game, a 40 foot three right after the tip (clanked), followed by another three that bricked on the same possession. I think these kids have been watching the current NBA and learning from it, ha.

I can only imagine what the kids on the mic sound like, I've heard that it's pretty bad, an entire thread on Operation Sports exists just to talk about the things these kids say.

Great individual highlights from you, though. And about assists, kind of hard to get them if you dont get the ball to begin with!
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Re: Jumped into The Rec the other day...

Postby Andrew on Wed Nov 06, 2019 2:30 pm

Exactly. And when you do get the ball, it's hard to get an assist when people are passing out of open shots, or overdribbling, or racing back out to the three-point line to take a contested turnaround fadeaway that clanks off the rim. Also, MyCAREER and its connected modes can be very finicky about what counts as an assist. Sometimes you can pass to someone in the backcourt and they'll run the length of the floor and score and you'll get the assist. Other times a teammate will take a stepback after receiving your pass, and somehow the resulting basket won't count as an assist. Go figure.

Team Pro-Am is the better experience in theory, but as I said, gatekeeping has made that less feasible now. It's unfortunate (but not surprising) that said gatekeeping has its defenders in the community, especially when there are viable solutions that would cater to everyone. I guess then people wouldn't be able to thump their chests and call themselves elite, though? Then again, if you're an elite player, wouldn't you want to face other elite players instead of just beating up on newbies and other players not at your level? You'd think so, but it seems not.

It's definitely low-quality banter on the mic. It's not even a case of being easily offended or overly sensitive. I'm not offended by it, I just don't care to hear people pouting because they don't get the ball every time they call for it (which is constantly, every possession), or screaming profanely because someone made a mistake when they've been making dozens of them, or bratty edgelords throwing out slurs. I'm there to unwind with some virtual basketball, not indulge that kind of childish nonsense. That's the scene though, so I'd rather leave it. I'd like it to be better and I think 2K could be doing things to make it better and reduce the amount of toxicity, but in the interim, fortunately there are other modes to play.
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