Monday Tip-Off

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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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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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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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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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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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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