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#1 Edited by laxbro19 (406 posts) -

Hey, Duders. With the announcement that the new F1 game for 2016 will have a revamped career mode that spans 10 seasons I've been thinking about what it really means to have a good career mode. I guess, for me, as someone who plays a lot of sports in his life, I want a career mode that puts that puts me in the thick of it. When I play sports games it's because I want to have a fractional experience of what it could be like to win a world cup, or come from behind to win the world series. But one thing that developers seem to miss is that being this pro athlete is more than just the act of doing your job. When I and anyone else thinks back on what made great sporting moments great, it's the situations and the times that the events occurred in.

There are a few examples that I can give that summarize what I mean. Micheal Jordan winning the NBA title with the Chicago Bulls in 1996 wouldn't have been the same if we didn't have the background noise of him not being fit, and the personnal tragedy of his father dying. Would you get the sense of enormity of the 1980 US hockey team beating the USSR if you didn't fully understand the internal strife of the American people, the team, and the geo-political ramifications of the two teams playing each other in that era? Would any of these moments matter if you didn't know the personal strife and adversity that these athletes face when they compete? I feel that a truly great career mode in a game needs to depict more than just the on field action.

I think there is something to be said for having more parameters for performance than just winning and losing when it comes to career modes in sports games. I think it would really nice for a game address moments as they arise. Like what if I was an aging veteran and this is my last shot to win the Super Bowl and I have things like my legacy and the respect of my family and friends riding on this game? If that situation comes up I would want the game to acknowledge that, like having broadcasters bring it up, or having my player perform differently than he or she normally would based on factors off the field and in his or her life. It's little moments like this that would keep me coming back to the game more often.

I would want to do things like answer questions at press conferences, managing my image, dealing with fans, trying to keep up with my family even though being a public figure and training takes up that time. I get that that stuff doesn't sound fun, it isn't supposed to be. But it makes the experience all the more richer, and puts you into the shoes, so to speak, of that person. Am I off base with this stuff? I get that having permutations like this is costly and that when games try to do things like this it can fall short. The last NBA 2K game fell flat on it's face but not for lack of concept so much as lack of execution and many glaring directing issues and performances that Alex Navarro and others covered extensively on the Giant Beastcast. So what's you're take? Is there a way to improve the way that sports games handle career modes?

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#2 Posted by billmcneal (1255 posts) -

I would really prefer a franchise mode and season mode remain separate. Almost always I just want to play one season with one team and then stop. Also in a season mode I would really just prefer to play the games and not do every detail like setting what price hot dogs should be at the ballpark or which players to scout. The little details are good for a franchise mode but not for a season mode. It is an old game but I really liked MVP Baseball 2005 which had all three levels of minor league baseball as well as your major league team and you could promote or demote players depending on their ability and performance.

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#3 Edited by HolyHackZack (139 posts) -

Fight Night Champion is my personal benchmark for a sports career mode. Instead of training the same mini games repeatedly I was brawling prison skinheads barehanded. It was dumb as all hell and shouldn't be hard to top but so far that's proved easier said than done. Having a narrative and changing game variables (random injuries, conflict, etc) do wonders on my attachment to a game

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#4 Edited by audioBusting (2558 posts) -

Yeah, there needs to be a better narrative component to sports games. Maybe it needs something more akin to Crusader Kings II than Spike Lee's Livin' Da Dream.

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#5 Posted by HolyHackZack (139 posts) -

This years Forza had a pretty neat showcase mode focusing on historic moments. I walked in knowing nothing and left having learned all about rivalries between Ford and Ferrari, Niki Lauda and James Hunt, etc. If all sports took time to teach me the history I'd be more invested.

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#6 Edited by ArtisanBreads (9107 posts) -

I think dynamic types of storytelling would go a long way.

I am someone who plays tons of NBA 2K and a far amount of the career there. The biggest issue for me is just with the AI. Playing with AI team mates (and being more at the mercy of them depending on your position) and sometimes the coaching decision as well.

I agree when you say I see what 2K might have been thinking this last year but the whole thing needs to be dynamic. No easy task, but that's the future of any possible storytelling with that kind of thing.

In the end 2K is such a simulation that story takes a back seat. In a lot of ways I view the game as a tactical action RPG with most of what is going on, but story hasn't had a place. It would be cool to see that. I think that type of storytelling would really have to embrace the simulation nature. Maybe be really based around team mates and rivalries against opponents. Something that can build over the time you play the game. 2K's career had a really bad attempt at this before but it would be cool if it was against real NBA players.

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#7 Posted by Shindig (4944 posts) -

Story in career modes can't really be forced. Its something that should happen within the mind of the player. Like how I played a mammoth Championship Manager save and my Southampton side were constantly at odds with Glenn Hoddle's Leeds. A win over them felt massive, justified and way too important. AI's definitely key to that. One thing I miss from the Liverpool Studios' F1 games is how they actively went to try and give the drivers a personality. Some being more aggressive and, in the case of Juan Pablo Montoya, he would actually look like he was being wound up. I remember spectating a race where Alonso was just holding him at bay for 10 laps. Montoya snaps, makes a mistake and ruins his race. That's the kind of stuff that feels organic and believable.

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#8 Posted by Wlleiotl (310 posts) -

I couldn't disagree more with the OP, because sports really are about winning and losing, not the circus around it. I still remember scoring an own goal to kill off my chances of promotion on ISSPro2 on the PS1 and being gutted. My captain just retired on FIFA and he scored a penalty in the final game of the season which I was made up about. A friend and I still joke about a Stoke right back that we used to terrorize whenever we played them in a joint career mode. Story really doesn't need to be artificially created, as long as its fun to improve your team, grow your team, and pit them against other teams.

I feel too often design choices are made because of 'realism', which are usually poorly implemented and do not add to the enjoyment of the game. I would rather finish 8th on Legendary on a FIFA Career Mode than win it on an easier setting, but because the board expectations are ramped up so excessively, I'm guaranteed to be sacked within a couple of seasons. So let me just manage a team with no fail state. Yes it's unrealistic but its more fun. If I get relegated then let me decide whether I want to end the game.

I hate team talks and press conferences in Football Manager, because they're so limited yet there is a feeling that I'm losing out on my teams potential by ignoring them, because they hide all of the impact anyway. Did the developers ever stop to think does this add to anyone's experience doing this? Or are they supposed to be annoying and tedious because that is how real life managers perceive them?

Also another reason why career modes are being neglected: Ultimate Team.

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#9 Posted by Damodar (2180 posts) -

Yeah, I agree with Shindig. To be really effective, that stuff has to be organic. The examples of big sporting moments having the impact that they did because of the context surrounding them, rather than have games building career modes around creating moments like that, it's much more interesting if the games enable those stories to develop naturally. Nothing scripted, just narratives that build by how things actually play out in the game.

Like that NBA 2k15 Spike Lee stuff sounded like it was going to try and facilitate a career with more personal stakes and create moments beyond just winning or losing the game, but it didn't really pan out at all. Alex talked about how he played badly in his pre-draft game and it didn't affect the story at all etc.

I'm thinking about all the crazy stories that people tell with games like Dwarf Fortress and things like that. All the crazy variables in the game rubbed together in such a way to spit out a really interesting series of events that is basically unique to that person. If a sports game could do a similar thing and have all sorts of happenings and highs and lows, some fun stories could come out of it, and they'd be more meaningful moments than if the game tried to actually engineer big moments and create storylines. Having organic rivalries or even things like injuries be serious and unpredictable etc. It could create a lot of investment without going down that road of simulating aspects of the athletes life around/outside the sport.

I suppose another angle is that it doesn't have to be a huge moment for whatever sport, like some of the examples in the original post, it just has to be a big moment for you. Taking the F1 example, perhaps you could have a multi-season career where you start out in some mid-tier feeder team or let's even say the perennial back-of-the-grid team with financial troubles and you work your way up from there. Maybe you start out just trying to beat your team mate, eventually you might get a points finish, then maybe after two seasons, you get brought into a front running team, start getting regular points finishes, eventually you get a few podiums or something. The point being that it would take you a long time to eventually win a race etc and would be more meaningful because of it. It might take you six seasons of developing the car and so on to finally clinch the championship and it would feel like you'd been through a lot to get to that acme. But I have zero idea how many people want to actually play sports games that way, versus the number that want to be able to win every single race or ever game or whatever etc. Although lots of people already play sports games like that. I've done that with older F1 games before, where I start my career at a team like Marussia, make the simulation as realistic as possible, turn the AI difficulty up a bit, and then work really have to get something like a 17th place, tried to get recruited by better teams etc. Playing like that and not reloading saves if things go bad can be a really great way to elevate the impact of everything that happens!

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#10 Posted by OurSin_360 (6177 posts) -

2k does it the best but they never go hard on what makes it good and often emphasis what's terrible (like the story stuff). They almost had it this year with the college and high school games and feeling like your working your way up to the NBA, BUT they ruined it with a forced story where you are "freq" and not your created player. Instead of fleshing out the feel of working your way into the nba, they cut your first season short to play out the ham fisted story. After your first season though the game actually opens up into one of the best career modes they've done in years, but if you hate the story you probably won't even get to it as you think it's just a lame story mode. They need to focus more on building your character BEFORE the nba as i've always had a disconect with starting out as a total scrub and then working my way to being the GOAT, like you should work 90% of your kinks out in college and start the league at least in the mid 70's (and not with buying VC which is another terrible thing they emphasis now). Bring back summer leagues and free-agency and add a strategy better interface for making career decisions(like they did with franchise mode back in the day)

Fight night champions story mode was separate from the career mode, it was great but again the actual career mode suffered because they put the focus on that mode instead.

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#11 Posted by mems1224 (2507 posts) -

The biggest issue for me is just with the AI. Playing with AI team mates (and being more at the mercy of them depending on your position) and sometimes the coaching decision as well.

Alot of that has to do with them not letting you customize your career settings how you want because its tied to their bullshit microtransaction garbage. Hell, I still don't think you can even change your sock length. If I could customize sliders for MyCareer like I can for MyGM that would solve most of the issues with that mode. Also, how about actually following the rotations the CPU sets? I should be playing 35 minutes a game but I end up playing like 45 and thats not really fun every game.

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#12 Posted by ArtisanBreads (9107 posts) -

@mems1224 said:
@artisanbreads said:

The biggest issue for me is just with the AI. Playing with AI team mates (and being more at the mercy of them depending on your position) and sometimes the coaching decision as well.

Alot of that has to do with them not letting you customize your career settings how you want because its tied to their bullshit microtransaction garbage. Hell, I still don't think you can even change your sock length. If I could customize sliders for MyCareer like I can for MyGM that would solve most of the issues with that mode. Also, how about actually following the rotations the CPU sets? I should be playing 35 minutes a game but I end up playing like 45 and thats not really fun every game.

You're right on here. It's annoying how that mode fights the sim aspects of the game. Being able to approve trades, draft picks, or free agents in that mode would be welcome stuff. Plus so tired of the way they handle player upgrades in those groupings vs letting you just upgrade the specific stats you want.

It's another example of the game fighting being the pure sim it should be.

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#13 Posted by Asmo917 (831 posts) -

I think MLB The Show this year does the best with career mode - it's easy to get into games and play a lot, you're not bogged down with things that don't impact you, and the "narrative" is up to you to craft. How you spec your player is up to you, and your ability to demand a trade or sign with other teams is present, but not guaranteed and limited by the transnational rules of baseball.

I kind of fell off from the NHL series after their pretty bad debut on this generation, but they attempted to put a little more personality into career mode with "interviews" where you answered questions via multiple choice that influenced how you were though of by your teammates, the front office, and fans. I think it also influenced endorsement opportunities. I'd like to see something like that in The Show - be able to give your player a bit more personality and let that impact your offseason movement and earning potential, but keep most of the focus on the field.

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#14 Posted by Shindig (4944 posts) -

@wlleiotl said:

I hate team talks and press conferences in Football Manager, because they're so limited yet there is a feeling that I'm losing out on my teams potential by ignoring them, because they hide all of the impact anyway. Did the developers ever stop to think does this add to anyone's experience doing this? Or are they supposed to be annoying and tedious because that is how real life managers perceive them?

Also another reason why career modes are being neglected: Ultimate Team.

"I get on really well with <blank>. He's one of the nicest guys in football."

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#15 Posted by csl316 (14968 posts) -

The Spike Lee story thing. But not nonsense.

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#16 Edited by Asurastrike (2306 posts) -

Let NetherRealm make it. I'm serious.

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#17 Edited by Deadlydog (213 posts) -

I'm all for a narrative in sports game but the NBA 2k stuff is trash and I need to be able to skip or preferably turn all of that shit off when I just want to level up my character and play. I think honestly adding more RPG elements would make it cooler but I am also a huge rpg fan so you know... These don't apply just to career mode but I think all sports games NEED in depth tutorials and training systems. In a perfect world sports games like madden, NHL, etc could teach you how to understand plays and what to be doing and when. Actually understanding the strategy of these sports and what the fuck is going on. (If any of you all know any great guides/books to the deeper strategy of Hockey or Football I would love if you tell me. I want to learn it but I just can't find a great in road to understanding it's strategies.) Also add college and developmental leagues.

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#18 Posted by laxbro19 (406 posts) -

@deadlydog: FYI, some Madden games back in the day let you import characters from the NCAA games to the Madden games. I think the last itme I did that was for Madden 10 and NCAA 10. but if I remember, Madden's character creator suite is BS and doesn't translate your college character over very well, and if I recall, it was Rory McIlroy PGA Tour levels of limited in terms of actually making your character. But if you can get past that, it was a cool concept. I think the NCAA games also had your senior year of high school that you could play in as well to get scholarship offers.

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#19 Edited by Shindig (4944 posts) -

Actually, PES 2015's Be a Pro equivalent was pretty good at stacking the deck in your favour. Screw the idea of a struggle, have 15 goals at Burnley and a big money move every six months. And a World Cup. Don't like how your fella looks? Change it all at any time. You get real good at heading if you add another foot to your height.

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#20 Posted by PistolPackinPoet (307 posts) -

i love MLB the Show's career mode but you feel so out of touch with the rest of the league. It needs a similar social media news board like the NBA 2k series. I remember pitching my ass off in the minor leagues, and thinking that I would get called up but then all of the sudden I get traded and promoted. Career mode needs a little more charm and interaction like real life to make it feel fleshed out.

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#21 Edited by ll_Exile_ll (3016 posts) -

@deadlydog said:

I'm all for a narrative in sports game but the NBA 2k stuff is trash and I need to be able to skip or preferably turn all of that shit off when I just want to level up my character and play. I think honestly adding more RPG elements would make it cooler but I am also a huge rpg fan so you know... These don't apply just to career mode but I think all sports games NEED in depth tutorials and training systems. In a perfect world sports games like madden, NHL, etc could teach you how to understand plays and what to be doing and when. Actually understanding the strategy of these sports and what the fuck is going on. (If any of you all know any great guides/books to the deeper strategy of Hockey or Football I would love if you tell me. I want to learn it but I just can't find a great in road to understanding it's strategies.) Also add college and developmental leagues.

Yeah, I've been a huge fan of the conceptual idea of what 2K has been trying to do with the story stuff, but the execution not so much. I also agree that more RPG elements would be great for sports career modes. Give me frequent dialogue choices and I'd be much more engaged with the story and more attached to my player.