My Point Guard can’t stop taking reckless threes instead of hitting the open man on the fast break. My small forward and power forward aren’t speaking to each other, or if they do, they’re not doing so without a couple muttered expletives puncturing each sentence.. And my center just demanded to be traded, which is fine by me, if I could find someone to take his overpaid behind off my hands, since he got his new contract, his stats dropped by half, and his effort dropped by more than that.
In short, I’m in GM Hell, which weirdly enough, is GM Heaven when it comes to simulation games. Wolverine Studios are back with their latest iteration of their Draft Day Sports Pro Basketball Series, Draft Day Sports Pro Basketball 2017, and they’ve added a ton of features to what was already the best basketball sim out there.
New this year are historical replay leagues, where you can start in any year going back to 1976, and then expand the league naturally as the years go by. Ever wondered what it was like to coach a young Magic Johnson in his prime? (Here’s a hint: it could be a double-edged sword:Paul Westhead coached a rookie Magic Johnson, and wanted the young rookie to walk the ball up and do little more then feed an aging Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the post. Magic Johnson demanded to be traded after one season, basically telling Lakers owners Jerry Buss “The Coach goes or I go”. The coach went.). How about signing that big guy out of LSU with the weird first name, something.. oh yeah.. Shaquile O’Neal.. or how about that brash kid out of North Carolina, Michael Jordan? or those historical what ifs? What if Greg Oden’s knees and feet weren’t made out of play doh and silly putty? Or Len Bias..you know what? Thirty years later is still too soon.
But the core of every game is the game simulation, and Draft Day Sports core is solid. Gameplay feels natural, and focused on its core specialties, that of being a coach and general manager. These days, being a coach is not just X’s and O’s on a white board, and saying during a timeout “You know, it’d be a really great thing if we could get the ball into our guy into the post”. Players have goals in mind, and they may not always harmonize with the team’s goals. Playing the game, I got the feeling I was managing personalities, not just a series of numbers. I knew my starting point guard was fearless in driving the ball into the lane, and would gladly volunteer to take the key shot with time winding down, but I had to take care of his minutes, because all that running into the lane and bouncing off much larger, thicker bodies would leave him sore and broken very quickly. My small forward was nitroglycerin. He had great ability but low consistency and high greed. Basically, he was the essence of JR Smith, distilled and perfected. One game he could go 11 of 13 for 35 points, the next 2 of 12 for 6 points, and if I didn’t treat him like a superstar, he’d pout and whine the whole time.
That’s the core of Draft Day Sports. You’re not only trying to make sense of a roster’s SKILL SET, you’re also trying to blend a team’s mental attributes too. You need a clear leader, true, but you know that line about how a team has one true alpha dog, and if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes? That highly prized 2nd banana may decide that he wants to be some other team’s one true cherished player and leave you with a gaping hole in your rotation… after wrecking relationships in your current team on his way out.
The game isn’t just dealing with highly paid talented players however, there’s also dealing with FUTURE highly paid players, and that shines through in the scouting and drafting process. Again, you’re not likely to find a hidden superstar in the middle of the first round, but if you can plug a useful skill set in now that might turn into a pretty good player down the road, then you’ve done your job. Part of that job is making the wager that another team is on a downward slide and trading them players that you think will hasten their slide, while coincidentally picking up their picks (most recently done in the real world by the Boston Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets).
The game’s GUI is pretty good, functional and providing information that is useful and timely, I like the rotoworldiosh ticker on the side of the screen giving brief updates on players around the league. One bit of hidden info that GM’s might find interesting is the Player Impact Estimate (PIE) in the lower right corner of the main team screen. It let’s you know what players are having an outsized effect on your team on the floor. It can be very useful early warningthat a player may be helping himself to a heaping slice of salary, but a meager slice of your PIE. So, when it comes time to think about renewing someone’s contract, it’s a good thing to look at and say “Hmm.. this might be money spent better elsewhere”.
If I had to quibble, the game’s sounds really could use a reset, the game’s ambient crowd noise, squeaks of sneakers on the floor and PA noise is.. tolerable for short amount of time, but there’s no way to turn it off in the middle of a game (you can only do it from the league main screen, and you have to do it separately for each league). But these are small potato quibbles and easily fixed. There are also graphic packs out there to correct team names and the like (it is not an officially licensed product, but if you can deal with having to coach the Golden State Spartans instead of the Warriors, you don’t even need to go to that effort).
I said it before, and I said it again, if you ever looked at the GM or coach’s role in building a championship contender, and compared it to a conductor’s role in building a masterpiece from a finely tuned orchestra, Wolverine Studios make can’t miss products.Draft Day Sports Pro Basketball 2017 is another can’t miss product, and took the game that was the best simulation of the sport of basketball and made it even better. Now, it’s time for me to try to ascend back into GM Heaven.. anyone want an overpriced, lazy center?
DRAFT DAY SPORTS PRO BASKETBALL 2017 – Wolverine Studios (www.wolverinestudios.com)
An8BitMind Rates it: 91/100 (A must have in every sports sim fan’s library)
+ Historical Play makes 40 years of NBA history come alive.
+ Robust game sim engine is easy to get into, hard to master and provides a living challenge, making it hard to overpower
+ Flexibility in setup options allows a new universe each time
/ Sound Could really use an overhaul,
(ethics note: An8BitMind was provided with a review copy of this game)
David "SirFozzie" Yellope is the operator of the "An 8 bit mind in an 8 Gigabyte World". (an8bitmind.com) While not QUITE yet at the stage of waving his cane and telling the kids to "get off his lawn", he does admit he owns three canes.