NBA 2K12 Impressions: Online Association

Posted October 7th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

2K Sports has touted the addition of a compelling online component to Association mode in NBA 2K12 – making it easily the most anticipated new feature this year. Similar in nature to NCAA Football’s Online Dynasty mode, Online Association was designed to present all of the very same features found offline taking it beyond the concept of simple online leagues. While it still holds a great deal of potential a few design decisions have hampered the experience significantly and server issues thus far have rendered head-to-head games inoperable.

Online Association is going to hold the most appeal for those who won’t take things very seriously and/or don’t mind games simmed. Otherwise due to a lack of options and total confusion over progression it is certain to lead many to simply give up and quit. 

Despite 2K’s claims there are a distinct lack of options within Online Association for commissioners – but that’ll be touched upon later. When setting them up the key things are mostly there. It’s important to get them right because they are not changeable after that point. Notably absent from Online Association is the ability to set the game style or adjust sliders – the lack of those things may be enough to turn some off from the mode right there.

There are three options to choose from for advancement periods: Slow (24 hours) – Normal (16 hours) – Fast (6 hours). Keep those numbers in mind because 2K12 doesn’t even explain what slow, normal, and fast mean when setting up an Online Association.

No one has a clear picture of how progression through the season will actually take place. The latest best interpretation of what this all amounts to is that the countdown clock runs for one “day” of the association. Slow would mean each day in the association goes essentially in “real-time” while the others speed through faster – the quickest then running through four days of the season each 24 hours. If the “game” for each “day” isn’t played then it is automatically simmed.

I guess that’s the case anyway. 2K has done a terrible job of communicating how advancement periods work. Really they haven’t explained it at all and left people to try and determine that on the fly. If I can’t figure it out most out there aren’t going to have any clue of what is going on. That is about as bad as things could be for a new feature as curiosity will lead to frustration and ultimately lack of participation. If 2K comes back with a report that no one used Online Association it’ll be obvious why that was the case and they’ll only have themselves to blame.

The other big flaw in forcing certain pacing is that there is no option for the commish to either delay, or speed through, the pre-set advancement periods. It can be understood why the current set up could have been thought beneficial for public leagues where a commish might disappear for who knows how long – but in private leagues there should be a level of control that sadly is absent here.

Once inside the Online Association all those initial settings are locked down. The commissioner basically has the power only to grant admin status or boot someone else. There is no way to reset the results of a game or sim to a certain result. That is devastating considering the state of 2K’s online performance.

It all starts up with just the commish and 29 CPU controlled teams. Users can come in and take over teams – however the commish can not actually invite people. Users will have to manually join by knowing the league name/ID and password. There can be any mix of CPU/User controlled teams. As soon as the Association is created a timer begins counting down to the start of the season. That is a wait that can’t be skipped either – and it seems designed to allow for others to join in and settle their teams before the season begins.

Despite all the confusion over how the Association advances one smart move was to allow a block of games to be played at any given time. In a lengthy season it would be difficult to expect a number of head-to-head games to be completed in order so this gives an opportunity to fit them in within a period of time. When it comes to H2H games there is even a nice feature to attempt and schedule a game in though I don’t understand why its possible to do so for months ahead. Common sense would have been adding the ability to see what users were online or offline but that isn’t the case which will make it more difficult to get in head-to-head games along the way.

This leads me to another confusing aspect of advancement – how does anyone know where they are at or what the stakes are at any given moment? There is no indication of what exactly is coming down to the wire, be it games on the schedule or a trade deadline. It’s no wonder that people are looking at a schedule with several games listed as open and thinking the countdown clock represents that all of them will be simmed when it strikes zero.

At this point though none of it really matters. Head-to-head games do not even connect leaving only the games against CPU teams playable. The mode is completely broken as long as H2H doesn’t work so certainly a fix should be expected soon – in fact it’s possible by the time you’re reading this that it will have been addressed. Even when games begin to run there are going to be the same lag and disconnect issues plaguing basic online play however. There have also been difficulties when setting up Associations or trying to log in with “can’t connect to server” messages the culprit. That has been more intermittent as of late though rather than something happening often.

The menus are somewhat difficult to get a grasp on – with the main Online Association central upon logging in and then the right stick bringing up all the basic Association features or home. It’s just not a user-friendly way of navigating through everything. One cool element of the Online Association home is the display of the in-progress game scores.

There are no team scrimmages which is a disappointment and there is no ability to bring in different roster sets or the historic teams. There is also no way to set head-to-head games to be played offline. Injuries are reflected based on length of season and seem to work properly. In an 82 game season a 4 game injury would keep someone out for that length of time. In a 14 game season though a 4 game injury would not keep that player out a single game.

Trades can be offered to the CPU but there will be a period of time for them to “consider” it. It is unknown when, or if, trades will go through as I have yet to see any come to fruition. Free agents can also be offered contracts but again there is an unstated period of time before they make a decision. There also have been no CPU-CPU trades, and considering how many take place in offline Association due to poor trade logic, that may be a sign that it either hasn’t been implemented in Online Association or it just hasn’t been come upon yet.

The website ( which is supposed to house many features as an extension to Online Association inexplicably has yet to launch. That may be a proper representation of the state that Online Association is in right now. The mode has a great deal of promise but it’s simply not ready. An admirable effort in that the idea was to take the full offline Association online but poor planning has done it in. More images related to Online Association can be found here.

Even if head-to-head games start working properly it seems unlikely that Online Association will prove worth the time and effort given the lack of commish options and frustrating unexplained nature of how progression through the schedule works. That’s a shame because bringing in the social element of participating with other users really drives a new level of interest that can’t be matched otherwise.