Features

The Friday Five: 5 Retro Basketball Gaming Ideas

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 retro basketball gaming ideas that you might want to try out.

The preview season for NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 isn’t quite in full swing yet, and although the 2017 NBA offseason is underway, a lot of the big names are already off the board. There are Summer League games to catch of course, but I expect that right now, a lot of basketball gamers are choosing to hit the virtual hardwood. Whether it’s LIVE or 2K Pro-Am, MyTEAM, MyCAREER, or perhaps a new MyLEAGUE or MyGM game with updated rosters, we’re finding ways to get our basketball fix while we wait for news on the upcoming video games, and the start of a brand new season.

Of course, you may be looking for a change of pace, especially if you’re feeling a tad nostalgic, or a little bit burned out on the most recent games. To that end, you may want to dust off an old favourite, perhaps picking up where you left off in an old saved game, or possibly engaging in a little Achievement/Trophy hunting. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something new to do with a classic game, there’s a lot of fun to be had if you get a little creative, and enjoy “What If?” scenarios. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, I have five retro basketball gaming ideas to suggest.

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Wayback Wednesday: A Look Back at DSTATS in NBA Live

Shaquille O'Neal dunks 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 DSTATS in old NBA Live games.

For an enthusiastic franchise mode gamer, detail is paramount. On top of having a quality gameplay experience throughout the schedule, our enjoyment of a franchise mode is driven by the depth of the features, as well as the accuracy and realism of trades, free agency, and player performance. Simulated player stats that are wildly inaccurate can really detract from the franchise experience, especially during the first couple of seasons which are usually expected to somewhat resemble reality. The sim engine is an area where basketball games have greatly improved over the years, but in earlier NBA Live titles, realistic stats were achieved through the use of DSTATS.

DSTATS data provided the development team and modders alike with greater control over simulated player stats, but the approach also had a few noteworthy drawbacks. It’s an outmoded concept, but one that’s interesting to revisit, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Future of Historical Teams in NBA 2K

Michael Jordan dribbles the basketball in NBA 2K17

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 future of historical teams in NBA 2K.

Beginning with the content added for the Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11, Visual Concepts’ roster of historical teams in NBA 2K has delivered an experience that we once never thought possible. While the game hasn’t featured a dedicated mode for historical teams since NBA’s Greatest in NBA 2K12, many retro squads are still available as of NBA 2K17. It’s clear that there’s a demand for them, as new teams and players have been added over the years. Community projects such as the Ultimate Base Roster, U R Basketball, and the Ultimate Classic Teams Roster, further demonstrate how we like to use basketball video games to look back on the past.

Looking ahead to future NBA 2K games, however, I have to wonder what’s in store for historical teams. A few prominent players have been removed since NBA 2K11, and others weren’t included in the first place when their teams were added. Some teams have been cut in their entirety, either due to redundancy, or a lack of real players as licensing deals have expired. It’s been a couple of years since any new historical teams were added – the pre-order bonus Dream Team in NBA 2K17 not withstanding – and even longer since they’ve been utilised in a dedicated mode. I have to wonder, what does the future look like for historical teams in NBA 2K?

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The Friday Five: 5 Cheesiest Moves in Basketball Games

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 cheesiest moves that you’ll encounter in basketball video games.

We all want to see basketball games continue to get better, and eliminate cheesy moves and tactics as much as possible. Well, most of us do, at any rate. Judging by some of the 2K Pro-Am games that I’ve played in NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17, a few gamers probably wouldn’t be happy if a few of the exploits and loopholes were taken care of! Nevertheless, I feel confident in saying it’s what a majority of basketball gamers want to see, and that it ultimately remains a goal of the development teams at both EA Sports and Visual Concepts. If you look back at basketball video games through the years, you can see improvement in that regard.

No game is going to be perfect though, and completely eliminating cheese is easier said than done. Gamers are always going to seek out the most effective tactics, and while these days that usually does mean playing smart basketball, there are still exploits to be found here and there. Throughout all the generations of basketball video games, there have been unstoppable moves and cheap tactics that gamers have discovered and exploited for easier wins. For this week’s Friday Five, I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are five of the most infamous gameplay exploits; indeed, the cheesiest moves you’ll come across in basketball video games.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 95 in NBA Live 06

NBA Live 95 in NBA Live 06 PS2

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 presence of NBA Live 95 in the PlayStation 2 version of NBA Live 06.

Generally speaking, sim-oriented sports titles aren’t what most people think of, or indeed reach for, when it comes to retro gaming. They don’t always age well, mostly because they appeal to a demographic that wants to see more and more realism, as well as play with current season rosters. As such, they’re not as popular among retro gamers, to play or collect. That being said, there is a contingent of basketball gamers who do enjoy playing and modding older titles, so it’s certainly not unheard of. Finding a way to keep playing old favourites, or at least fire them up every once in a while, is something that people in our community do have an interest in.

When it came to the PlayStation 2 version of NBA Live 06, EA Sports made that a little easier by including an emulated version of NBA Live 95. It was a rather unusual example of bonus content, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The NLSC’s Biggest Move, One Year Later

NLSC 20th Anniversary Logo

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 reflections on the NLSC’s big move last year, which was one of the most significant in the history of our site.

Around this time last year, I was in the process of moving the NLSC from our old host to our current home. It wasn’t the first time that we’d had to move to a new host, but it was definitely the most stressful move we’d undertaken. On top of the usual downtime and teething problems, there was also an air of uncertainty. For the first time since I took over the NLSC, we’d be footing the bill for our hosting costs, rather than getting free hosting in exchange for advertising space. We also had a deadline, as our old host was discontinuing their services as of July 7th 2016, which meant if we hadn’t moved or at least backed up everything by then, everything would be lost.

Fortunately, it all turned out for the best. We found a new home, nothing was lost, and in terms of covering our expenses, we’re confident that we’ll be around for a while yet. Needless to say though, until everything was transferred and running smoothly, and the financial side of things had been sorted out, I was under a lot of stress. There were a few moments where it looked very bleak, and I found myself trying to prepare for the worst and figure out how to announce the unfortunate news. With our future now looking much brighter, I thought that I’d reflect a little on that time, and offer a little more of the back story.

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The Friday Five: 5 Basketball Games I Wish I Owned

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 basketball games that I wish I owned.

Over the years, I’ve built up a fairly big collection of basketball games. Some I’ve purchased new upon their release and I still have my original copies, some I’ve traded in and picked up again second-hand years later, and some I’ve added to my collection many years after they first came out. I like having full series wherever possible, and it’s been fun to check out basketball games that I never got around to playing when they were new. It’s also helped in creating content for the NLSC, particularly the Wayback Wednesday features, so I’ve enjoyed adding to my collection in recent years whenever I’ve been able to find a bargain on eBay.

My collection of basketball games isn’t complete, of course. Some titles are difficult to track down or cost more than I’m currently willing and able to spend, while others are only available on platforms that I don’t own, or were never released in the PAL region. As such, there are a handful of basketball games that I don’t currently own and very likely never will, but for one reason or another, wish that I did. The basketball games that I’m talking about today are, in no particular order, the top five titles that I’d love to add to my collection, if it were at all feasible.

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Wayback Wednesday: Generated Rookie Names in NBA Live

Generated Rookie 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 generated rookie names in NBA Live.

Now that the 2017 NBA Finals are in the books, everyone’s attention has turned to free agency and this year’s Draft. In a couple of days we’ll find out where all the top prospects will end up, but with custom Draft Classes, basketball gamers have already been creating their own scenarios in NBA 2K17. Of course, without a custom Draft Class in place, the new rookie crop will be completely fictional, with generated names, ratings, and attributes. In the early days of franchise modes, fictional rookies with generated names were the only option, barring any editing of the DBF files for NBA Live on PC.

As a result, there were some very weird and wonderful results with the randomly generated rookie names in NBA Live, as well as a few Easter Eggs here and there. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Missing Former Modes & Features

Roster Editing is greatly missed in NBA Live

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 modes and features that are missing in recent games, and as such, tend to be sorely missed.

With their annual releases, sports video games are often criticised for being little more than a patch, roster update, or expansion pack sold at retail price. While it’s an understandable criticism, and those of us who buy the games every year certainly do want to get value for money, it is selling developers like EA Sports and Visual Concepts short. A lot of time and energy goes into the development of the games, and while the results aren’t always want we want, we generally see some pleasing improvements, and new content beyond updated rosters for the new season. Of course, it’s always frustrating when it seems like one step forward, two steps back.

As much as we hate to see new games make missteps in terms of the gameplay experience, it’s arguably even more frustrating when modes and other features that we really enjoyed in previous games are cut from future releases. Even though there may be perfectly valid reasons for their removal – technical or otherwise – it generally doesn’t lessen the sting of losing the experiences and functionality they provided. As I look ahead to NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18, and think about the news I’d like to hear in the upcoming preview season, I can’t help but reflect on some of the modes and features that I miss in both games.

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The Friday Five: 5 Mods I’d Like To Make This Year

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 mods that I’d like to make before 2017 is through.

Although I don’t get involved with the modding scene as much as I used to, I still like to whip something up and release new mods whenever I can. I really enjoyed going back and updating my 1996 season mod for NBA Live 2004, and with some of the great court and jersey mods that Murat has been working on, I’m looking forward to releasing another new version in the not too distant future. These days I’m primarily focusing on content such as articles, videos, and the NLSC Podcast, but I do have a list of ideas for mods that I’d like to make, and there are some in particular that I’d really like to find time for, some of which I’ve discussed in two previous columns.

Please note that this is not intended to be an announcement, a To Do list, or anything like that. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to make these mods this year, or ever for that matter. However, at least one has already seen a couple of beta/demo releases, and others are ideas that probably wouldn’t take too long to create, in between the other content that I’m working on (as well as other site updates, and of course, my day job and personal life). However, when the itch to get back into some modding starts to flare up, these are the mods that I’d be most interested in creating in the near future…time permitting, of course.

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Wayback Wednesday: Freestyle Challenge in NBA Live

Freestyle Challenge Menu in NBA Live 2005

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 Freestyle Challenge in NBA Live.

EA Play 2017 introduced us to The One, the new single player career mode that is set to debut in NBA Live 18. The depth of game modes has been a problem for the NBA Live series since its reboot in 2013, but as I’ve discussed in various 20th Anniversary of NBA Live retrospectives and Wayback Wednesday articles, there was a time when EA were consistently doing some very innovative things with their basketball games. I’ve already talked about the much-missed All-Star Weekend mode that was introduced in NBA Live 2005, but the addition of the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout also led to the inclusion of another mode: Freestyle Challenge.

A spinoff of the All-Star Weekend, Freestyle Challenge provided basketball gamers with something else to play in between the deeper game modes. It’s a mode that doesn’t get mentioned very often, but it was definitely an interesting concept, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: You Can Constructively Criticise NBA Playgrounds

Tip-Off in NBA Playgrounds

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 how we can, and absolutely should, constructively criticise NBA Playgrounds.

It’s been around a month since NBA Playgrounds was released for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Saber Interactive’s first attempt at an arcade basketball game has been reasonably well-received, even if it’s not quite on par with its legendary predecessors, NBA Jam and NBA Street. Saber has been very diligent in listening to feedback, resulting in some much-needed changes being implemented via the game’s early patches. New players have also been added to the game, additional tournaments are planned, and Switch users will receive a free copy of the new Shaq Fu game for their patience regarding the delay in launching the online features.

Saber’s interaction with the fanbase and their gestures of goodwill are extremely admirable, and refreshing. They’ve created an official Facebook group for NBA Playgrounds gamers to offer feedback, share their experiences, and basically keep the lines of communication open, which is awesome. Unfortunately, some of the discourse in the group is, to be blunt, very toxic. I’ve seen some perfectly reasonable suggestions shouted down, and people with valid criticisms told to zip their lips by their fellow gamers. As such, I feel that something needs to be made very clear here: we can and should constructively criticise NBA Playgrounds.

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The Friday Five: 5 Failed Ideas Newer Basketball Games Salvaged

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 ideas that were busts in older basketball video games, but have since been implemented more effectively.

Sometimes, disappointing basketball video games still bring surprisingly good ideas to the table. Likewise, even the best basketball video games can have features that seem kind of weak compared to the rest of the product. And of course, ideas that were good in theory can be executed poorly, regardless of the game’s overall quality. In the best case scenario, great ideas that didn’t pan out the first time around or were overshadowed by their game’s shortcomings can be dusted off, polished up, and put to use in much better releases. If an idea has merit, it’s worth revisiting.

While it may be harsh to call some of the ideas I’m discussing here “failures”, their first incarnation was at the very least problematic, and their basic concepts ended up being shelved for at least a few years. Upon making their way back into more recent basketball video games, they’ve benefitted from advancements in technology and fine-tuning of the original concept, ultimately working out a lot better as a result. Some credit therefore has to be given to those original ideas, which obviously weren’t all bad. Not every one of these ideas is universally liked by basketball gamers, but at the very least, they’ve been salvaged and done better since their debut.

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Wayback Wednesday: Shaquille O’Neal in NBA Live 2002

Shaquille O'Neal dunks the basketball in NBA Live 2002

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 dominance of Shaquille O’Neal in NBA Live 2002.

If you grew up watching him play or you’re at least familiar with your NBA history, you’ll know that Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most dominant players in league history. Although he was a force to be reckoned with for over a decade, the most dominant stretch of his career came between 2000 and 2002, when he led the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight championships. Putting up huge numbers in the NBA Finals became a trend for Shaq, beginning on this day in 2000 when he scored 43 points in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers, after scoring 46 points, 37 points, and 41 points in the opening games of the first three rounds.

As you might expect, Shaq was generally also a beast in NBA video games. He was particularly unstoppable in NBA Live 2002, especially in the hands of the unforgiving AI on higher difficulty levels. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Importance of Consistent Controls

NBA Live 16's Practice Gym

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 importance of consistent controls in NBA Live and NBA 2K.

The preview seasons for NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 are tantalisingly close…presumably. We should get another glimpse at NBA Live 18 this weekend at EA Play, and with Live scheduled to come out this year, hopefully 2K won’t drag their feet putting out information, especially since they’re once again pushing early pre-orders. In any event, it hopefully shouldn’t be too long before we start hearing about improvements and changes to gameplay mechanics, AI, modes, and all other aspects of the games. Controls will be a key point of interest, specifically whether or not there have been any major changes or enhancements.

When it comes to the responsiveness and fluidity of the controls, as well as their depth and influence over the action, it’s probably safe to say that most of us still want to see some further improvement. It’s vital that we have control over advanced moves, don’t get stuck in animations or experience too many canned moments, and not suffer stiffness or a lack of responsiveness on the sticks. Beyond those mechanics however, there’s an important design concept that EA and 2K both need to keep in mind: the controls should be relatively consistent from year to year.

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