Monday Tip-Off

Monday Tip-Off: Metacritic Scores & Basketball Games

Giannis Antetolounmpo dunks 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 Metacritic scores, and how they relate to basketball games.

We’re less than three weeks away from the release of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18. It won’t be long before publications are getting their hands on the finished games, and vying to be the first to post their reviews. The most glowing reviews will be shared by the games’ official social media accounts, while we basketball gamers discuss the merits of each reviewer’s critique. At the end of the day, however, their approval or disapproval of each game will contribute to their respective Metacritic scores. Like all developers, both EA Sports and Visual Concepts will be hoping for the best result possible, as Metacritic scores are the yardstick for successful releases.

Generally speaking, that’s an understandable approach. While there can certainly be a disconnect between the opinions of professional reviewers and the general public, along with sales, Metacritic scores are a reasonable barometer for a game’s success. At the same time, when it comes to basketball games, and sports games in general for that matter, I’d argue that they’re not always accurate or fair. I’m not a huge fan of awarding numerical scores to games of any genre, and as far as basketball games are concerned, the extent to which the importance of Metacritic scores can be overblown is comparable to the overemphasis on overall ratings in the games themselves.

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Monday Tip-Off: PC Basketball Gamer? Get a Gamepad!

NBA Playgrounds PC Gamepad Configuration

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 advice to PC basketball gamers, regarding the necessity of a dual analog gamepad.

With last week’s gameplay blog, we’ve learned that there will be a few tweaks to the controls in NBA 2K18. Beyond those changes however, the general approach will remain the same. The game will still feature the Pro Stick, which is used to perform both dribbling moves and specific types of shot attempts on cue. Dual analog controls aren’t an issue on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, which have made use of controllers with two sticks for a few generations now. The approach can cause problems for PC users however, especially if they prefer to use the keyboard to play games.

It’s admittedly less of an issue than it used to be. Both NBA Live and NBA 2K have featured dual analog controls for over a decade now, so a majority of gamers have made the adjustment and picked up a gamepad for their PC. There are a few holdouts, though. Every so often, someone will ask for help using the keyboard with a PC version of NBA 2K or NBA Live, or complain that the keyboard controls are lacking. This is fair enough, as everyone has their own preference, and the keyboard is a viable option for many other games. However, if you’re a PC basketball gamer who wants to have complete control, there’s really only one solution: get a gamepad.

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Monday Tip-Off: How My Basketball Gaming Habits Changed

Ben Gordon in NBA Live 06

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 my basketball gaming habits have changed over the years.

I’ve been playing basketball games for quite a while now. It’s an interest that began as I was entering my teenage years, intensified in my mid-to-late teens when I created the NBA Live Domain and then subsequently took over running the NLSC, and has since continued into adulthood. Now that I’m in my early thirties, I’m finding that I’m approaching the hobby differently. I’m still passionate about it, but with different priorities and responsibilities, I’ve had to ration my time and make a few adjustments to the way that I play. Of course, there have been gradual changes to my habits ever since the very beginning of my interest in basketball gaming.

The evolution of basketball gaming, as well as my own changing tastes, have both played a role here. Picking up two annual releases rather than just the one is a major factor as well. With NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 coming out next month, I’ll once again be faced with the prospect of dividing my time between two current games. Just how much I enjoy those games will also depend on my expectations and tolerance for legacy issues, which have been shaped by all my years of basketball gaming. As I prepare for the next batch of previews, and the new games themselves, I thought that I’d reflect on how my habits have changed over time.

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Monday Tip-Off: Gameplay vs. Game Modes

MyCAREER in NBA 2K17 with the Denver Nuggets

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 look at the debate regarding the importance of gameplay vs. the importance of game modes, in basketball video games.

For the most part, we basketball gamers can generally agree that we want to see the games that we play get better and better with each release. Of course, we’re not always on the same page as far as the specific improvements are concerned. At the very least, we may prioritise them quite differently. We need to realise that these differing points of view are equally valid; it’s perfectly fine to like different aspects of the games, and as such, have a keener interest in seeing them improve compared to others. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to see your fellow basketball gamers talking about something that doesn’t interest you, and not feel that they’re missing the point.

Perhaps the best example of this is the whole gameplay vs. game modes debate. It’s fair to say that most basketball gamers would agree that both gameplay and game modes are the most important aspects of any given release, but disagree on the importance of those aspects in relation to one another. I’ve recently seen a few comments that have derided the importance of game modes, and over the years, there have been more than a couple of remarks that have downplayed the necessity of getting the gameplay experience right. To that end, I thought that I’d offer up my thoughts on the debate regarding gameplay vs. game modes.

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Monday Tip-Off: Double Overtime THRILLHO

NLSC THRILLHO Pre-Game 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 a video feature, specifically a recap and highlight reel from one of NLSC THRILLHO’s recent games in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am.

As Arcane and I discussed in Episode #215 of the NLSC Podcast, we recently had a very enjoyable session of 2K Pro-Am that included an exciting double overtime victory. Despite a few mistakes here and there, Arcane, zzcoolj21 and I were able to eke out the win for NLSC THRILLHO, producing some highlight plays along the way. I naturally made sure to capture the footage, beginning with zz’s three-pointer that sent the game into overtime, and have put together a video recap/highlight reel of what turned out to be a very enjoyable and rewarding game. Watch it below, or catch it here on the NLSC YouTube channel if you’re unable to see the embedded video.

I hope you enjoyed it; it’s certainly fun for me to watch again! I’d like to get back to creating some more video content, and have a couple of ideas for a weekly video feature that I’m hoping to launch soon. I also hope to shake things up with a few more videos here and there for Monday Tip-Off, Wayback Wednesday, and perhaps even The Friday Five. In the meantime, I’ve been uploading clips from the NLSC Podcast to our YouTube channel, spotlighting some major discussions. Stay tuned for more articles, videos, and other original content, and be sure to check out this previous feature for some of NLSC THRILLHO’s more frustrating moments in 2K Pro-Am.

Monday Tip-Off: What Happened To The Preview Season?

The NBA Live 18 Preview Season is Underway

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 another underwhelming start to the preview season.

In recent episodes of the NLSC Podcast, as well as bulletins covering tidbits about NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18, I’ve talked about this year’s preview season being a little slow to get underway. It’s frustrating, as I found myself discussing the same issue around this time last year. I had hoped that with the return of NBA Live, we might also see a return to the days where there was a constant stream of preview media and information about the upcoming games. Instead, it’s been the same trickle of info, and relative radio silence from both EA Sports and Visual Concepts.

We obviously know that NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 are coming out, and we’ve seen glimpses and heard a detail or two here and there, but that’s it. We know what NBA 2K18’s pre-order bonuses are, but we haven’t heard anything about new features or improvements. We do know a little more about NBA Live 18 coming out of EA Play, but the hype train stopped rolling shortly afterwards. With the way info is held back until it’s almost too late, it’s difficult not to ask the question: what happened to the preview season?

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Monday Tip-Off: It’s Time to Retire “Cartoonish”

LeBron James 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 discussion of my least favourite buzzword, “cartoonish”.

Fellow basketball gamers, we’ve got to talk. I know that I’ve gone on about this before, in previous articles and on the NLSC Podcast. It’s admittedly hard to broach this subject without sounding like a broken record, a fanboy stamping my feet, or a tyrant aggressively attacking freedom of speech. Hear me out though, because our credibility as a gaming community is at stake here. Alright, that might be a bit of a melodramatic exaggeration, but it is one of our worst habits, and we let ourselves down whenever we fall victim to it.

It’s been run into the ground more than jokes about blowing 3-1 leads, or the Crying Jordan image macro. It’s not making us look smart and knowledgeable about our hobby, even though we absolutely are. It’s tired, lazy, and uninspired. And so, it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to expand our vocabulary. It’s time to learn how to properly critique, instead of relying on snark and overused buzzwords. Quite frankly, it’s time to grow up. It’s time that we retire the word “cartoonish” to describe textures, animations, and other aspects of basketball video games that we don’t like.

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Monday Tip-Off: Ideas for 2K Pro-Am Customisation in NBA 2K18

Court Customisation 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 a few ideas for customising 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K18.

Following a few frustrating sessions of 2K Pro-Am as of late, NLSC THRILLHO enjoyed a good run last Friday night. Arcane, Valor, and I were able to go 4-1, finishing up the evening with a payback victory over the lone team that defeated us. We also each had some good individual games, padding our stats here and there. It was refreshing to have a session where everything was clicking for us as a team, and we didn’t feel robbed by the way the games played out, at least for the most part. A slow start last year and some rough weeks have left us with a losing record overall though, as we’ve stuck with our original squad in order to keep our custom branding.

Of course, even though our record isn’t impressive, we’d like to think that our branding is among the best that we’ve come across. Arcane designed our uniforms and court, as well as our sideline banners with all their Milhouse and Thrillhouse references. Unfortunately, it took us quite a while to get to the point of being able to customise all of our branding, due to the changes that Visual Concepts made with the new rank system in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am. Even though the approach does have merit, there are some changes I’d like to see made to the way that customisation is handled in 2K Pro-Am this year in NBA 2K18.

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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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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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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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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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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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Monday Tip-Off: A Suggestion for Modding, Moving Forward

Enhancements to in-game creation tools would help with modding.

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 suggestion for our approach to modding, as look ahead to future releases.

Recently, I’ve written a couple of articles that have taken a look at how modding has changed, and some of the biggest developments that have helped the modding community to grow and thrive. Aside from reflecting on the past and talking about noteworthy milestones, both articles have also had an eye towards the future of modding. In that regard, I believe there is inspiration to be found, as well as a few important lessons that can be learned, when it comes to the history of our modding community. A little perspective and reflection can help us as we look to move forward.

There’s no guarantee that future NBA 2K games will be as moddable as releases on the previous generation, or that NBA Live will return to the PC platform. Even if either of those scenarios is actually feasible, there’s a strong likelihood that it won’t happen with this year’s releases. With that in mind, I think it’s important that we prepare ourselves for the possibility that we’ll be facing the same challenges and limitations that have presented themselves in the past couple of years, and be ready to work around them as best as possible. In particular, there’s one suggestion that I believe we should keep in mind.

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Monday Tip-Off: Green Releases in NBA 2K

Green Releases 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 green releases in NBA 2K.

A few weeks back, NBA 2K Gameplay Director Mike Wang made a candid statement about the future of green releases. Beluba’s goal is to wean basketball gamers off the concept of green releases being guaranteed baskets, in order to strive for more realism and competitive balance. We’ve seen NBA 2K17 take a few steps in that direction, with several tuning updates focused on shooting mechanics being pushed through since the game’s release. Generally speaking, those updates have sought to reduce the number of green releases by making them more difficult to achieve, tweak the percentages of near-perfect releases, or re-balance the shooting in some other way.

Results have been mixed, and a lot of gamers have expressed frustration with the constant changes to shooting in NBA 2K17. On top of some tweaks seemingly being either too effective or largely ineffective, there’s been a concern that changes that are made in order to enhance the online experience are negatively affecting single player gameplay. Beyond that, opinion is divided as to whether green releases should be guaranteed baskets – assuming the attempts aren’t blocked, of course – or whether they should simply have the best odds of being made, according to a player’s ratings and attributes. I have to admit, at times I’m a little torn myself.

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