Features

Wayback Wednesday: ESPN Integration in NBA Live 07

ESPN Menu in NBA Live 07

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 ESPN Integration in NBA Live 07.

If I’m being completely honest, then I’ll have to admit that for a variety of reasons, I’m not the biggest fan of ESPN’s coverage of the NBA these days. They are obviously one of the league’s biggest partners though, and through ABC, their presenters have the call for the NBA Finals. Their branding is instantly recognisable to basketball fans, and it makes sense that EA Sports would also want to partner with them to bring authentic television presentation to NBA Live. It’s a relationship that began over a decade ago, with the implementation of ESPN Integration in NBA Live 07.

Although ESPN branding is now very prominent in NBA Live, it was a few games before it truly took over. It was a gradual transition in some respects, but as the original fifteen year agreement between the companies demonstrated, they were both in it for the long haul. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Games SHOULD Borrow Ideas

NBA Live 16: Basketball

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 issue of NBA Live and NBA 2K borrowing ideas from one another.

Fact: NBA Live has borrowed ideas from NBA 2K. Fact: NBA 2K has borrowed ideas from NBA Live. A lot of basketball gamers may be inclined to sneer and suggest that it isn’t the case, but there are numerous examples in both games that prove it to be true. Right stick dribbling controls, face scanning, temporary player cards in the team building modes…a lot of features and concepts have been adopted by one game after first appearing in another. There may be differences in the way the ideas are implemented, with each game putting their own spin on them, but the basic concept is similar to the original feature.

You might suggest that NBA Live and NBA 2K need to have something unique about the experiences they offer, or take different approaches to certain common features. That’s a fair comment, and something that I generally agree with. However, both games ultimately have the same goal: to realistically portray the sport of basketball, specifically the style we see in the NBA, and provide gamers with experiences that accurately replicate aspects of the league in detail. With a common goal and audience, it only makes sense that there’s some overlap in what both games are doing. To that end, basketball video games absolutely should borrow ideas from one another.

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The Sunday Substitute: First Impressions of NBA Playgrounds

The week is in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, which means it’s time for the Sunday Substitute! It’s the article where I get some valuable minutes while the star is resting on the bench. I might not have the time to do this every week, but I like to think I’m still making a contribution to the team. It’s been a long time on the pine for me, but today I felt like I had to share my first impressions of NBA Playgrounds.

After mistakenly releasing a beta early, NBA Playgrounds was officially released on the 9th. If you have listened to the last few NLSC Podcasts, you would know that Andrew and I were keeping close tabs on the game, as it was looking to be the spiritual successor of games like NBA Jam and NBA Street. Fast forward to now and I have played the game for several hours. I have completed all circuits, and have leveled up Bill Laimbeer, Luis Scola and Thon Maker to the Gold level. But the question remains: with all this play I have logged, what do I actually think of the game?

I must state now that I haven’t experienced the online mode in NBA Playgrounds, so my impressions are based purely on the offline content. I’m doing this initially since online experiences have tended to skew my perceptions of other video games. I don’t want to potentially give NBA Playgrounds a bad rap because of some cheese a brat online may have exploited constantly. Ultimately, the game itself is the most important thing…at least for my initial impressions. With that out of the way, let me discuss what I have liked and haven’t liked about the game so far.

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The Friday Five: 5 Misguided Things Basketball Gamers Say

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 five misguided statements that we basketball gamers are prone to making.

It’s a rare fanbase indeed that isn’t outspoken in some regard, and basketball gamers are no exception. That certainly isn’t a bad thing, of course. Whether it’s positive or negative, constructive or snarky, there’s satisfaction and catharsis in expressing yourself and sharing experiences with your fellow basketball gamers. With open lines of communication to the people creating the games, we also have an opportunity to influence their development for the better. Bottom line, a passionate and enthusiastic fanbase is always going to have something to talk about, and an assortment of strong opinions.

As a community, we have a lot of insight into basketball games, and some great ideas about the experiences that we’d like to get out of them. However, that doesn’t mean that our opinions are above the influence of bias, cynicism, or occasionally even selfishness. Logic and reason gives way to passion and emotion, and we make declarations that are definitely wide of the mark. Whether we’re criticising a game, defending a game, advocating a particular gaming style, or making sweeping declarations about the hobby, we basketball gamers are prone to making some misguided statements from time to time. Statements such as…

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Wayback Wednesday: The Mysterious 2K Insider

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 the infamous 2K Insider.

When I discussed some of the most memorable characters in basketball video games, it was pointed out to me that I’d forgotten about one of the most noteworthy individuals to appear in the NBA 2K series: the 2K Insider. A mysterious person behind the scenes and in the community, the 2K Insider – known only as “Sy” – was responsible for maintaining the rosters for NBA 2K. Within the games themselves, their avatar appeared as an advisor and mentor, providing basketball insights and offering up words of encouragement, as well as critique.

The 2K Insider hasn’t been a part of the more recent NBA 2K games, as he no longer fits the tone of MyCAREER. 2K has also taken the approach of recognising all the developers, ensuring that we know who is responsible for different aspects of the games, and opening up the channels of communication for constructive feedback. The Insider was a notable figure that led to a fair amount of speculation though, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Are Two Sim NBA Video Games Enough?

Damian Lillard in NBA Live 16, a game in one of the oldest NBA video games

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 number of NBA video games that are available to us.

Something that’s come up on a few times on the NLSC Podcast when we’ve been reminiscing about the old days of basketball gaming is the dwindling number of NBA video games. Although no other series has enjoyed the same longevity as NBA Live or NBA 2K, several other developers have released NBA licensed sim games over the years. Some series ran for two or three years, some skipped a year, and others didn’t get off the ground after the first game. In any case, while EA Sports and Visual Concepts remained the biggest names in the genre, some years have seen the release of several sim-oriented titles, along with the occasional arcade title here and there.

These days, NBA Live and NBA 2K stand as the only two five-on-five, sim-oriented NBA video games that are still being developed, and only 2K has an unbroken streak of annual releases over the past decade. With 2K’s dominance of the marketplace, Live’s struggles, and the lack of any other developers throwing their hat into the ring, basketball gamers are left with little choice. Saber Interactive are joining the picture with the promising NBA Playgrounds, but that’s an arcade-oriented game. As far as the sim experience is concerned, it’s fair to wonder, are two sim NBA video games enough?

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The Friday Five: 5 Best 2K Pro-Am Team Names

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 some of the best names I’ve come across while playing 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K17.

I’ll be honest with you, fellow basketball gamers. A couple of things made me grumble today, and I was all ready to scathingly vent about them in this week’s Friday Five, since I didn’t already have a column prepared. However, I decided that I didn’t want to do that. It’s not because I’m afraid to share my opinions, or reluctant to stand by them. No, I simply decided that I’d grumbled enough over matters that are very trivial compared to other things that are going on in the world right now, and felt it would be better to write something more positive. Venting can be cathartic and I like covering more serious topics, but there’s a time and place for lighter discussion, too.

So, I read through my list of topic ideas, and came across one that I’d previously done a little preparation for: the five best 2K Pro-Am team names that I’ve encountered in NBA 2K17. As you may know, the official NLSC squad’s name is THRILLHO, which is a reference to a classic episode of The Simpsons. We’ve often wondered if our opponents get a kick out of seeing the name, especially given some of the dornas Arcane has created for our arena. There have definitely been a couple of team names that made us chuckle; some are quite creative, some are witty references, and a few have found a way around the profanity filter. However, these five are my favourites.

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Wayback Wednesday: My NBA 2K13 MyCAREER

Finals MVP in NBA 2K13's MyCAREER

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 my memorable MyCAREER game in NBA 2K13.

I’ve been playing basketball video games for more than two decades now. There are two main reasons that I remain a fan of the genre: I’m passionate about the sport, and I’ve had so many fun experiences with both sim and arcade basketball games over the years. I’ve previously compiled a list of some of my favourite experiences, one of them being my MyCAREER game in NBA 2K13 PC, in which I played for the Denver Nuggets. An enjoyably successful rookie season with some interesting twists and turns set the bar high for future games, and indeed, it hasn’t been until this past year with NBA 2K17 that I’ve had a similarly great experience with MyCAREER.

It was the first time that I played MyCAREER almost exclusively, so NBA 2K13 stands as the game that really got me hooked on the mode, while developing a genuine interest in the single player career experience. Join me as I take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Should NBA Live 18 Be More Traditional?

Derrick Rose on the New York Knicks in NBA Live 16

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 best direction for NBA Live 18.

EA Sports has their work cut out for them when it comes to NBA Live 18. The series hasn’t been the dominant brand in sim-oriented basketball games for more than a decade now, with cancellations and subpar releases combining to erode the trust of the fanbase. At the same time, it’s also shown potential and promise, and judging by some of the whispers from gamers who have been involved in recent playtesting sessions, there’s cause for optimism. NBA Live 18 obviously has a lot to prove, and as I’ve said many times before, it needs to be a well-rounded product. Improved gameplay is paramount, but deeper modes and roster customisation are also vital.

I think most of us agree on that, and we all have our own specific suggestions as to what we’d like to see out of future NBA Live releases. My first seven Friday Five articles of 2017 were dedicated to discussing ideas for this year’s game and beyond, and it’s been a recurring topic in the Forum and on the NLSC Podcast. For EA Sports to make a dent in Visual Concepts’ share of the market, their next game needs to be a quality release with an appealing hook, such as an All-Star Weekend mode. However, their overall approach and direction is also important, and that’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately.

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The Friday Five: 5 Preferable Pre-Order Bonuses

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 pre-order bonuses that I believe would be preferable to offer gamers every year.

Yes, I know. The whole concept of pre-ordering is one of the biggest problems with video games these days, right up there with always online connectivity, and the need for day one patches. Ideally, we’d all band together and refuse to pre-order, in an effort to curb the practice. However, that’s not going to happen. Developers obviously want to move their product, which means providing gamers with an incentive to put their money down as soon as possible. That incentive comes in the form of a variety of pre-order bonuses, which in theory reward gamers for having faith in a title.

In practice, pre-order bonuses can be a little underwhelming. If you’re not into “ultimate collector’s editions”, the physical extras such as hats and posters aren’t going to offer much incentive, but even if we just focus on the in-game items, certain pre-order bonuses can leave something to be desired. The “Early Tip-Off Weekend” bonus for pre-ordering the last couple of NBA 2K games is a great idea that should be retained, but there are a few other things that both Visual Concepts and EA Sports could be doing to reward loyal customers who pre-order. In some cases, that simply involves a slightly different approach to what they’re already doing.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Referee in NBA Live 2000

Referee at Tip-Off 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, I’m taking a look back at the addition of a referee in NBA Live 2000.

On this day in 1988, the NBA decided to add a third referee to officiating crews, a change that went into effect the following season. Referees are often unpopular figures in any sport, and the NBA has seen its fair share of officiating controversies over the years. Whether it’s some of Joey Crawford’s antics, free throw discrepancies, or other bewildering calls, I’m sure we can all name an incident involving a referee that makes our blood boil. The officiating in basketball video games tends to be more consistent – that’s how it’s programmed, after all – but until NBA Live 2000, EA’s games lacked an actual referee on the sidelines.

It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal now, as we obviously expect to see more than one referee on the sidelines of contemporary basketball video games. At the time however, it was a significant addition to the presentation in NBA Live. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Some More Thoughts on Constructive Feedback

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 more thoughts on how we can give better feedback as a gaming community.

If you haven’t yet checked out the interview that our friends over at Operation Sports conducted with the NBA 2K team, I highly recommend giving it a look. I obviously got a kick out of seeing JaoSming and Leftos taking part, and hearing the NLSC receive some flattering mentions, but those were far from the only parts that I enjoyed. All the guys participating in the interview provided an interesting insight into how they came to join the team at 2K, what it’s like to work in the industry, and how their perception of video game development changed from when they were members of the community. It’s a four part series, and you can begin with Part 1 here.

The interview also discusses the importance of community feedback, noting that even when the developers aren’t replying to comments, they are reading them. There were some good tips on how to get noticed, whether you’re seeking employment at Visual Concepts, or simply want to provide the developers with feedback for official patches and future games. Some of their comments got me thinking once again about the way we give feedback – not only to 2K, but also EA – and how we can do a better job in that regard. Personally, it’s also made me reflect a little on the way that I’ve critiqued the game and offered up feedback in recent years.

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The Friday Five: 5 NBA 2K Features I Want To See Return

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 features that I’d like to see return in future NBA 2K games.

While many of us do have our gripes with recent NBA 2K games, for the most part the series has been very solid for a long time now. Unlike NBA Live, it hasn’t been set back by frequent changes in direction. Instead, it’s continued to build upon its established foundation, and the quality of the experience has been fairly consistent as a result. The depth of the modes and the assortment of features and options have gone a long way in making NBA 2K successful. From robust single player experiences to different modes for online play, to roster editing and customisation, there’s a lot for basketball gamers to sink their teeth into.

Unfortunately, some features have fallen by the wayside over the years. There are various reasons for their absence in recent titles, from technical issues to design choices. Thankfully, we have seen some really great features make their way back into the game, such as the “Start Today” option in MyLEAGUE and MyGM. However, there are still some other features from past NBA 2K titles that would make a deep and well-rounded product even better, if they were to return. These are the five features that spring immediately to mind for me.

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Wayback Wednesday: The ’91 Warriors & ’02 Kings in NBA 2K12

The '91 Warriors vs. the '02 Kings in NBA 2K12

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 the 1991 Golden State Warriors and 2002 Sacramento Kings in NBA 2K12.

As I discussed in a previous Wayback Wednesday retrospective, the success of the Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11 and the looming lockout in 2011 gave Visual Concepts plenty of incentive to expand upon the historical content in the game. The result of course was NBA’s Greatest, which cut down on the specifics of the challenges (just win the games), but provided us with a larger roster of historical teams and NBA Legends. Deciding to take things one step further, 2K also provided basketball gamers with a couple of other historical teams to play with: the 1991 Golden State Warriors, and the 2002 Sacramento Kings.

Given the popularity and reputation of those two teams, the announcement of their inclusion was greeted with enthusiasm. However, their presence in the game wasn’t without controversy. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Great NBA 2K Camera Angle Debate

2K Camera Angle in NBA 2K17's 2K Pro-Am

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 opinions on the camera angle settings in NBA 2K.

If you’re a long-time basketball gamer, you’ll probably remember a time when changing the camera angle simply wasn’t an option. Whether it was a broadcast-style sideline view, an isometric angle, or a perspective from behind the player you were controlling, most games didn’t give you a lot of choice when it came to the camera. In the mid 90s, however, a choice of camera angles and various zoom options began to make their way into basketball games. In recent times, there’s been a focus on authentically replicating the broadcast angles for all 30 NBA teams.

This wider variety of camera angles has sparked some passionate debates over the years, specifically over which is the best camera angle to use. In NBA 2K, the discussion has pretty much boiled down to the broadcast camera – either the authentic angles, or ones inspired by them – and the 2K camera and its variants. Basketball gamers certainly seem to have some strong opinions about which camera is the best, or for that matter, which is the “correct” setting to use. As I’m a passionate basketball gamer myself, I obviously have a few thoughts on the subject.

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