Features

Monday Tip-Off: Planning a Return to Franchise Modes

Starting a new Franchise Game (NBA 2K18)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on making a return to franchise gaming this year.

My recent Wayback Wednesday series on franchise modes in NBA Live and NBA 2K served to remind me of just how much fun I’ve had with them over the years. I’ve wanted to return to franchise gaming for a while now, and writing those articles only added to my enthusiasm. I’ve gravitated towards MyCAREER and other modes in recent years, which is funny given that in MyLEAGUE and MyGM, we now have some of the deepest franchise experiences in the history of basketball video games. There are reasons why my habits have changed, of course, but I do feel like it’s time to make a return to franchise modes.

Now that NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 have been out for over a month, receiving multiple official patches and roster updates, it’s an opportune time to dive into the franchise experience. With the 2018 season tipping off, my interest in creating a fictional reality on the virtual hardwood has also been piqued. I do still have an interest in the card collecting modes, online team play experience, and MyCAREER, so I’ll have to ration my basketball gaming time accordingly. Beyond that, however, I do have a few other matters to consider as I plan a return to the franchise experience that I enjoyed so much as a younger basketball gamer.

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The Friday Five: Ranking the MyCAREER Stories

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is another countdown, as I rank the MyCAREER stories from worst to best.

Through the course of many previous articles and episodes of the NLSC Podcast, I believe that I’ve made my stance on MyCAREER stories very clear. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with my view on the matter, while I can appreciate the effort that goes into them, I’m not a fan of the concept. To me, it’s felt more intrusive and annoying, rather than enhancing the experience. It’s obviously not going anywhere, so hopefully the approach can be improved upon in future games. To get an idea of how Visual Concepts may achieve that, it’s worth reflecting upon the approach they’ve taken to previous MyCAREER stories, and determining which has been the best.

We’ve had five MyCAREER stories in NBA 2K at this point, enough to rate and rank in a Friday Five countdown. In ranking the stories, I’m taking into account the overall quality of the narrative, the likeability of the characters (including the MyPLAYER protagonist), the impact on the gameplay experience, and how well the approach fits with the RPG elements of MyCAREER. As always, please keep in mind that this is just my take, and I certainly invite you to share your rankings in the comments section below. With that being said, let’s tip off the countdown with number five.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Association in NBA 2K

Headlines in The Association (NBA 2K14)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m concluding my retrospective on franchise modes with a look back at The Association in NBA 2K.

While NBA Live was offering multiseason management modes in the form of Franchise and Dynasty, NBA 2K was also providing basketball gamers with its own take on the franchise experience. The franchise modes in both games have had their ups and downs, but the 2K series has done a very commendable job from year to year, in many cases implementing features that have yet to be seen in EA’s game. For those of us who were mostly playing NBA Live back in the day, we looked on in envy as 2K implemented several of those much-desired features in its modes.

As of now, NBA 2K has featured the deepest and most advanced franchise modes in basketball gaming. For many years, that franchise experience went by the name of The Association, and it admirably paved the way for MyLEAGUE and MyGM in recent games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Late 90s Basketball in NBA 2K18

NBA 2K18: Michael Jordan Dunk

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a handful of screenshots from a game between the ’98 Chicago Bulls and ’97 Miami Heat in NBA 2K18.

Today, I turned 33. It’s funny to think that I’ve now been running the NLSC for around half my life! As I’ve said in previous articles, it’s hard to say just how long I’ll keep doing this, but I’m not intending on giving it up anytime soon. I still have a great deal of passion for basketball video games, as well as creating content based on them. After all, I’ve been playing basketball games and watching the NBA for a long time now. It’s a little overwhelming to think that it’s been twenty years since I was getting ready to watch the 1998 season, the last year that the Chicago Bulls were champions. Unfortunately, I don’t think that they’ll be anywhere close to that this season!

It’s important that we keep moving forward, and as I said in Episode #226 of the NLSC Podcast, it’s my intention to try to enjoy this season a little more than I have in recent years. There’s nothing wrong with reminiscing from time to time however, and thanks to the historical content in NBA 2K18, I can indulge in that nostalgia on the virtual hardwood. For this week’s Tip-Off, I’d like to share some screenshots that I took during a game of NBA 2K18 PC, using the 1998 Chicago Bulls against the 1997 Miami Heat. It was a fun game to play, and I’m looking forward to using the historical squads a little more often this year. Without further ado, here are the screenshots!

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The Friday Five: My Top 5 Unluckiest Basketball Gaming Moments

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a top five countdown of my unluckiest moments in basketball gaming.

Another Friday the 13th is upon us, which is bad news for anyone who suffers from paraskevidekatriaphobia. I’m not a particularly superstitious person myself, and no Friday the 13th has given me reason to be wary of the date. In fact, given that one of my weekly features comes out every Friday, it’s conveniently provided me with a ready-made topic that can be easily tied into our interests as a community that loves basketball and basketball gaming. I’ve previously written about some of the unluckiest moments in NBA history, unlucky moments in basketball gaming, and even my favourite players who have worn number thirteen.

For this Friday the 13th, I thought that I’d revisit that second topic with a few personal anecdotes. We’ve all had our unlucky moments on the virtual hardwood, and since we tend to get somewhat invested in the video games that we play, those moments can certainly be rage-inducing. I feel as though I don’t do enough top five countdowns for the Friday Five, so I’ve decided to rank these moments according to the amount of frustration they caused me, and how unlucky they felt. Without any further ado, these are my top five unluckiest moments in basketball gaming.

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Wayback Wednesday: Dynasty Mode in NBA Live

Select Dynasty Mode Team in NBA Live 2004

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, my retrospective on franchise modes continues with a look back at the history of Dynasty Mode in NBA Live.

Franchise Mode was one of the best additions in the NBA Live series, delivering a multiseason experience that gamers had been wanting for some time. By NBA Live 2003 however, it was unfortunately getting stale. Despite a few noteworthy new features and AI enhancements, the experience hadn’t become much deeper over the course of four years. Franchise gamers still enjoyed the mode and it remained popular, but there was also a certain amount of frustration, as we wanted to see more innovation. Fortunately, by the time NBA Live 2004 rolled around, EA Sports were ready to deliver.

The introduction of Dynasty Mode in NBA Live 2004 was part of an effort to rebrand Franchise Mode throughout all EA Sports titles, but thankfully, it turned out to be much more than a name change. It marked the introduction of a deeper mode that continued to evolve through the years, until it too fell on some rough times. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Roster Editing & NBA Live

Kyrie Irving dribbles the basketball in NBA Live 18

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on the current lack of roster editing functionality in NBA Live.

With NBA Live 18, EA Sports’ long-running basketball series has taken some pleasing steps forward. While there’s still room for improvement, it’s had the best reception of any NBA Live game on the current generation, among gamers and reviewers alike. There’s more fluidity on the sticks, the controls have been expanded, and with The One, the game has a much deeper career mode along with some solid connected experiences. NBA Live appears to be on the right track, and even cracked the top twenty downloaded games on the PlayStation Network in September.

The team at EA Tiburon has to feel pleased with the more positive reaction to NBA Live 18, not to mention motivated as they begin work on next year’s game. However, there is one feature that’s conspicuous by its absence in NBA Live 18, and that’s roster editing. We haven’t seen roster editing in the series since NBA Live 10, and gamers are understandably getting impatient to see it return. While other areas of the game have rightfully been prioritised, roster editing is a staple that must return in NBA Live 19. That’s assuming, of course, that there isn’t a way for it to be implemented in this year’s game.

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The Friday Five: 5 More MyCAREER Story Theories

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. In this week’s Five, I’m offering up some more theories and alternative interpretations for the stories in MyCAREER.

It’s time once again to indulge in a bit of creative writing and fun speculation! Last November, I wrote a Friday Five that took the stories that NBA 2K has implemented in MyCAREER, and twisted them around with some theories and interpretations that somewhat altered their tone. It’s still one of my favourite articles that I’ve written, as reimagining the MyCAREER stories in a darker or more dramatic light turned out to be a fun exercise. NBA 2K18 has provided us with another story to pick apart, and I have a few more ideas, so it seems like an opportune time for a follow-up article.

Once again, I do have to stress that I don’t actually believe these interpretations and theories, even though I do feel that a couple of them actually fit quite well. In fact, if you told me that the first theory was indeed intentional and what’s actually going on, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised. This is all meant to be in fun though, so don’t take it too seriously. With that being said, you may find that a couple of these theories make a little too much sense. At the very least, I hope it’ll be an amusing read to take you into the weekend. Let’s once again go tumbling down the rabbit hole; tinfoil hats are of course welcome, but completely optional.

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Wayback Wednesday: Franchise Mode in NBA Live 2000-2003

Franchise Mode Schedule in NBA Live 2000

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, my retrospective on franchise gaming continues with a look back at the mode that helped coin that term: the original Franchise Mode featured in NBA Live 2000 through NBA Live 2003.

With GM Mode, EA Sports had experimented with altering the traditional Season experience. The expanded Season mode in NBA Live 99, with its multiseason play and dynamic features, laid the foundation for an even deeper mode. Come NBA Live 2000, basketball gamers wouldn’t have to wait any longer for a multiseason mode that replicated even more aspects of the real NBA season, including free agency and the rookie draft. Needless to say, it isn’t as deep as its successors, but looking back, it’s still impressive to see just how much EA were able to accomplish with that first iteration of Franchise Mode.

From NBA Live 2000 through NBA Live 2003, Franchise Mode was definitely the centrepiece of NBA Live’s game modes, and the most popular. It was an extremely important development in basketball gaming, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Recreating Game Covers in NBA 2K18

NBA Live 06 Cover in NBA 2K18

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with some recreations of past video game covers in NBA 2K18.

I’d like to tip this week off with something fun. It’s not that I don’t enjoy tackling more serious topics related to basketball gaming, as last week’s feature demonstrates. After all, it’s important that we critique, and share constructive ideas about our hobby. At the same time, we should also celebrate our passion for basketball gaming, and there’s always room for some levity. Although I have my criticisms, I’ve been having fun with both NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 so far. As I mentioned in Episode #224 of the NLSC Podcast, I’ve enjoyed playing some games with the classic teams in NBA 2K18.

While I was messing around with the retro squads, an idea came to mind. The huge amount of historical content in NBA 2K18 means that the game includes many former basketball video game cover players, spanning as far back as the mid 90s. With that in mind, I thought that it might be fun to try to recreate some of those old covers, using NBA 2K18’s classic teams. The results are a little mixed as some were definitely easier to recreate than others, but hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing what I’ve managed to put together. Let’s tip things off with a classic.

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The Friday Five: 5 Least Favourite Basketball Games to Mod

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of the games that have been my least favourite to mod over the years.

Since I reflected on my favourite games to mod last week, it only makes sense that I now take a look back at some of the hoops titles that are among my least favourite to tinker with. As I mentioned in last week’s feature, some games are relatively easy to mod, while others are very cumbersome to work with. Even when you know what you’re doing and have mastered the techniques, the general difficulty or lack of flexibility with the files often makes modding more of a chore. Also, just as your favourite games are more fun to mod, the games that you don’t enjoy as much can be very unappealing to create content for.

With that being said, although these games are not among my absolute favourites to mod, I can’t say that I’ve never had any fun modding them. When it comes to a few of these games, I did spend quite a lot of time working on updates for them, and even returned to create new mods for them years later. It’s not that I absolutely hated every moment of modding them; if that were the case, I simply would’ve stopped sooner than I did. It’s just that of all the games I’ve messed around with over the years, they’re not among my favourites. Without any further ado, here are my five least favourite basketball games to mod, in chronological order.

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Wayback Wednesday: Multiseason Play in NBA Live 99

League Development in NBA Live 99

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m continuing my retrospective on franchise modes with a look back at multiseason play in NBA Live 99’s Season mode.

NBA Live 98’s GM Mode was an interesting first step in changing up the approach to Season play, but it wasn’t quite what basketball gamers had wanted. It laid the groundwork for a variety of exciting new features however, and it was clear that gamers and EA Sports alike were committed to the idea of a deeper experience. A fully-fledged multiseason mode was once again something that gamers expressed their interest in through the NLSC’s NBA Live 99 Wishlist, submitted to the NBA Live development team at EA Canada on December 10th, 1997.

It would be another year before a few of those wishes were granted, but NBA Live 99 did take the next step by implementing multiseason play in its Season mode. Lacking many of the key elements of later franchise modes, but also introducing several important features as well, it’s arguably somewhat of a forgotten milestone on the road to the deep multiseason experience that we wanted to see in basketball video games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Goodwill, Greed, and NBA 2K18

The Neighborhood in NBA 2K18

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on the current controversies surrounding NBA 2K18, and the goodwill that Visual Concepts has lost.

I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to write this column. I’ve already discussed the matter in Episode #223 of the NLSC Podcast and in the NLSC Forum, and I’d rather not sound like a broken record. Furthermore, it’s all too easy to come across like a hater, gleefully indulging in some opportunistic bashing simply because there’s a controversial issue that’s a hot topic at the moment. However, it is a big deal, and it’s something that we basketball gamers shouldn’t let slide. I am of course referring to the aggressive implementation of Virtual Currency in NBA 2K18.

By now, if you haven’t played NBA 2K18 and felt the sting of VC gouging, you’ve no doubt heard other basketball gamers expressing their outrage. Perhaps you’ve even read about 2K reaching out to a site that published a negative review, asking them to reconsider their score. These are disturbing and disheartening practices for a company that is the brand leader, with a vast majority of the market share. As a game, NBA 2K has gone from strength to strength in many aspects, stepping up to deliver great experiences on the virtual hardwood as the NBA Live series has faltered. That’s earned them the adoration of gamers, but right now, that goodwill lies in ruins.

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The Friday Five: 5 Favourite Basketball Games to Mod

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of my favourite games to mod over the years.

A combination of burnout, different priorities, and less free time has seen my modding efforts dwindle over the years. I do like to release some kind of mod every now and again when I can find the time though, because it’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing for the basketball gaming community. Although modding can be time-consuming and sometimes a chore – that is one of the reasons I became burned out on the hobby, after all – there is a lot of creative satisfaction in it. Whether it’s been the current rosters for NBA Live, dabbling in making some art updates, or finding other things to mod, it’s been great messing around with several different games.

Of course, when it comes to modding, not all games are alike. While the process may remain largely unchanged from game to game, and sometimes we’ve been fortunate enough to have a large amount of file compatibility to work with, each release has its own idiosyncrasies. Sometimes the files are easier to modify, other times there are limitations on what can be done with texture sizes or the roster databases. Just how much you enjoy modding a game can also depend on how much you like playing it in the first place. Looking back on all the games I’ve created mods for over the years, these five are the ones I’ve enjoyed tinkering with the most, in chronological order.

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Wayback Wednesday: GM Mode in NBA Live 98

Fantasy Draft Order in GM Mode

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at GM Mode in NBA Live 98.

Although I’ve gravitated towards MyCAREER and 2K Pro-Am in recent years, I’ve traditionally been a franchise gamer. For those of us who remember playing basketball games with a single season mode, the ability to play multiple seasons while managing our roster through the Draft, free agency, and salary cap-restricted trades was something that we eagerly wanted to see. As basketball gaming approached the turn of the millennium, the demand for an in-depth, multi-season mode – what we would now refer to as a franchise mode – was steadily rising. Although we’ve come to see fantastic franchise modes, it’s been a long road to get to that point.

Since I’m looking to get back into some franchise gaming this year, it seems as good a time as any to tip off a multi-part feature I’ve been wanting to do for some time: a look back at the history and evolution of franchise modes. First up is NBA Live 98’s GM Mode. While not strictly an in-depth franchise mode, it stands as one of the forerunners to the concept. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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