Early NBA 2K11 Online Issues

Posted October 7th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

NBA 2K11 is getting rave reviews for its gameplay and offline modes and deservedly so. Once I have had enough time with the game to comfortably craft my impressions that will be a big part of the discussion. However the main concern going into the release of the game was how well online play would hold up. Two days into release now it is fair to start evaluating online.

The 2K series has struggled mightily to provide a satisfactory online experience. Last year was largely considered a disaster in that department due to lag, broken leagues, and modes that never end up working as advertised.

With NBA 2K11 things seem a little bit better on the surface which is saying something considering the rise in users connecting (as sales are surely up significantly from what NBA 2K10 dealt with). Still though the online portion of the game seems to be a troubling weakness and will have to be monitored as to what adjustments are made in response.

The games I’ve played have been smooth and for the most part responsive. There have been some mentions of lag creeping in but not nearly at the rate that was being reported last year. This is something that is hard to judge right now but I should have a better idea of it by the end of the weekend. Things are encouraging at least on that front.

The bigger problem seems to be coming from the actual process of connecting to ranked games, and then the rate of users getting disconnected from them. There is widespread discussion of both issues. Finding ranked games is proving to be a difficult proposition as users wait lengthy periods of time for the matchmaking to locate an opponent. Once in games there are a lot of people getting dropped due to a “network error” and most often that is happening in the first half. Not sure if it is ranked game specific but I haven’t been disconnected out of unranked games.

Team Up and Crew modes are, no surprise, causing gamers plenty of angst. 2K has not been able to handle the modes that involve a larger number of users. If they can’t get them to work then they shouldn’t be sold as features of the game. There are some early reports of problems with the online leagues but it is too early to be able to assess those properly. Also seeing some talk about wins and losses not recording properly.

Despite the feeling of general responsiveness the shot timing online is very difficult to nail, so much so that the strategy seems to be (and I picked up on this quick) laying off the opposing players and giving them open looks. Three pointers have a startlingly low percentage of success. Even when wide open with good shooters I’d gather to say 10-15%.  The main way to score is by getting into the lane or with mid-range shots because of the timing troubles. The responsiveness just doesn’t translate to the shooting, whether using the stick or button the timing is off and very hard to adjust to.

2K couldn’t have done more to try and hide the other online options, such as setting up unranked games or getting to the lobby rooms. It literally took both Fred and myself several minutes to locate that area. It is not listed in the menus and is not put up to select from in the quick game area like ranked is. You actually have to hit the “who’s online” button to pull up the ability to make unranked game challenges and to get to the lobby rooms. I suspect most gamers will just figure they don’t exist. That is evidenced in how empty the lobby rooms are.

Also it is worth mentioning that selecting the “Pressbook” option after a completed online game locks up the Xbox 360. Not sure if the same happens on the PS3. I’m too afraid to even try any of the other post-game highlight options because of this.

I’ll be doing a full write-up of online play impressions in the coming days. Until then leave thoughts on your experiences in the comments!