Monday Tip-Off

Monday Tip-Off: How Ratings Got Better in NBA Live 16

NBA Live 16: Stephen Curry

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

The official roster updates for NBA Live 16 haven’t exactly received universal acclaim so far. In addition to a couple of players still lacking proper faces, there have been lingering issues with missing players, incorrect jersey numbers, and other anomalies with player bio data, though subsequent updates have included several fixes on all those fronts. I do suspect that there may still be some issues with the update system that’s in place, and the lack of in-game roster editing functionality is sorely missed as a result. However, except for a couple of weeks over the holiday break, the weekly updates have been coming through consistently, and on time.

Each week, the official NBA Live website spotlights the biggest movers and shakers in the latest roster update, and there have been some significant ratings changes since NBA Live 16’s launch. Generally speaking, I feel that some really good work has been done with the ratings in the NBA Live 16 roster updates, as the season has progressed. Having made unofficial roster updates for NBA Live for many years, I appreciate the constant balancing act of not getting too carried away boosting and decreasing ratings, and the pain of getting overall ratings to look “correct”, without skewering the individual ratings to make it happen.

So, what stands out to me the most when it comes to the improved ratings in NBA Live 16?

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Monday Tip-Off: Playing Old Basketball Video Games

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

Based on past polls, mod releases, and general discussion, a majority of basketball gamers move on to the latest game in the series they play, usually within a couple of months of its release, if not immediately. While retro gaming is a popular hobby, sports games generally aren’t an ideal genre for it. After all, most fans prefer to play with the latest rosters, and take advantage of the improvements and additions that are made year-to-year. As a result, sports games don’t move well in the second hand market, with lower trade-in prices owing to the annual releases, and less interest in playing them once they’re outdated.

Of course, sometimes we do go back and play older basketball games. I’m sure we all have some old favourites that we can dust off and nostalgically enjoy despite their age, and certain titles do become classics. Arcade-oriented basketball games such as NBA Jam and NBA Street also tend to age a little better, since they’re adopting a more casual and less realistic approach to the sport in the first place. However, some of the best sim-oriented titles in the past decade or so also hold up respectably well. As such, if you have a new roster patch or an old season save game, an older title might still hold a lot of appeal.

But then you’ve got basketball gamers who aren’t going back to older games; they haven’t stopped playing them in the first place. Whether it’s because they’re unable to upgrade, or don’t wish to upgrade, they shun the latest releases in favour of an older game. So, for this week’s Monday Tip-Off, I wanted to take a look at some of the reasons why we play old basketball video games.

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Monday Tip-Off: A Look at Basketball Video Game Story Threads

Ben Gordon dunks in NBA Live 06's Dynasty Mode

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

If you’ve browsed the NLSC Forum, chances are you’ve noticed our Basketball Video Game Stories section. It’s a place where you can entertain your fellow basketball gamers with ongoing coverage of your exploits in NBA Live and NBA 2K, whether you’re playing through the franchise or single player career modes. Over the years, we’ve had some very creative and popular story threads, many of which are now enshrined in our two Story Hall of Fame subsections, so that we can easily go back and enjoy them all over again.

However, story threads have somewhat fallen out of fashion. While we still have gamers posting in the Basketball Video Game Stories section – and we certainly encourage everyone to make use of it, if they feel so inclined – it sadly seems that we’re past the heyday of the story thread. There are a few reasons for this, which I thought I’d explore in today’s Monday Tip-Off, in addition to shining a spotlight on the section and the practice of maintaining story threads in general.

So, what are story threads all about, what was so enthralling about them, and why are they kind of becoming a thing of the past?

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Monday Tip-Off: Why Modders Stop Modding

Ultimate Jordan Beta for NBA Live 08 Screenshot

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

In my first Friday Five of 2016, I mentioned that one of the things I wanted to do this year was get back into modding (or patching, to use the term that was originally popular in our community). While I’ve shifted towards creating other types of content in recent years, the lure of modding as a creative outlet can be relatively strong at times. As I said in the Five, I don’t think I’ll ever be as prolific as I once was, or sometimes wish that I could be, but I’d like to try and get a little more involved with modding once again.

Of course, there are several reasons that I’ve stepped away from modding in recent years. They’re the same reasons that most modders come and go as the years pass in our community, though since I’m running the NLSC and have found other content that I enjoy producing, I’m obviously still around. With my intention of getting back into modding every now and again, I wanted to talk a little about some of those reasons why modders stop modding. Aside from answering a few questions about why I’m not making roster updates anymore, I’m hoping that it can facilitate a little more understanding in the community, and make the modding scene a friendlier place.

So…why do modders call it quits?

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Monday Tip-Off: My Ultimate NBA Video Game

Anthony Davis dunks in NBA 2K16

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

‘Tis the season to make Wishlists…both in the sense that development is well under way for both NBA Live 17 and NBA 2K17, and the fact that for those who celebrate it, Christmas is almost upon us. For some of you, one or both of this year’s games might be in your stocking, but at this point, you probably know what to expect when you get a hold of them. The visions of the NBA video games that dance in our heads – not unlike the sugar-plums that Clement Clarke Moore wrote about – likely won’t be coming to fruition just yet.

In interviews with us and other websites, NBA Live Executive Producer Sean O’Brien has talked about wishing he could take the game he sees in his mind, and immediately give it to us. At the same time, I have to imagine that for Leftos and the rest of the guys at Visual Concepts, the gears in their heads are always turning, as they think of ways to make NBA 2K even bigger and better. And of course, we basketball gamers can come up with some creative ideas as well.

To that end, for this week’s Monday Tip-Off, I wanted to talk about my vision of the ultimate NBA video game. I want to keep things as practical as possible, but for the sake of fantasy and what-ifs, I’m also going to assume that the available technology can handle all of the concepts competently, and that licensing, likeness rights and so on would not be an issue. With that said, what would my ultimate NBA video game be like?

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Monday Tip-Off: Cheating in Basketball Games

Tim Duncan vs. Zach Randolph in NBA 2K16

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

“If you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.” It may sound like a trite and corny saying these days, but it still holds merit. There are times when it’s fun to use cheat codes or hack a game, and a lot of old school games all but require hint books and walkthroughs, but playing “legit” tends to be the more rewarding experience. Still, if you really want to cheat or cut corners in a single player experience, and you’re having fun doing so, so be it. Even if you do find that it gets boring after a while, you’ve only spoiled your own experience. No harm done, and you can just start all over again.

Of course, it’s a different story once you bring a second player into the mix. The connected experience is a big part of basketball games these days, and something that a lot of gamers really enjoy. However, more and more often, I’m seeing complaints from basketball gamers whose experience has been affected by people cheating online, generally through the use of hacked players in MyPARK. In turn, gamers with hacked players have defended the practice, and dismissed the complaints as petty whining. It’s a controversial practice and a divisive subject, so I thought it was definitely worth taking a look at.

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Monday Tip-Off: My Ultimate Fantasy Team for NBA Live & NBA 2K

90s Lineup in NBA Live 15 Ultimate Team

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

As I’ve mentioned in previous editions of The Friday Five and on the NLSC Podcast, I’ve become a fan of Ultimate Team since it finally made its debut in the NBA Live series in NBA Live 14. With Dynasty Mode and Rising Star still needing to be fleshed out into deeper experiences, Ultimate Team has pretty much been my mode of choice in NBA Live these past few years. I’ve also taken an interest in MyTEAM in NBA 2K, but I do prefer EA’s approach to the concept, and 2K has a lot more to offer in its other modes. Of course, MyTEAM does have one distinct advantage over Ultimate Team, for me at least: Michael Jordan.

Needless to say, when I drew a Michael Jordan card in NBA 2K14’s MyTEAM, I was pretty happy. With my nostalgia for the players of the 1990s – the era I grew up watching – I also had a lot of fun putting together a 90s squad for my Ultimate Team in NBA Live 15. However, I’ve yet to construct my ultimate fantasy team in either game, though it would currently only be feasible in NBA 2K. I thought I’d tip things off this week by sharing that lineup with you all.

Before we get going…just in case it isn’t clear, this isn’t a squad of the players that I believe to be the greatest of all-time (though there certainly is some overlap with that list). This is simply a fantasy lineup that I’d love to be able to put together to play with in Ultimate Team or MyTEAM, assuming that every player was available in both games. Having said that, let’s begin with my starting five…

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Monday Tip-Off: My Greatest Basketball Gaming Weakness

2015 NBA Finals Prediction: Warriors in 5

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

“You run a basketball video game website. You must be pretty good at them!” I’ve heard that once or twice over the years, usually when people have invited me to play online. Uh, yeah, sure…I’m, like, the best at them. All those years playing basketball games, watching basketball, playing in the local league as a teenager…yeah, I’m amazing, definitely the best. Absolutely, no question at all…

Just in case my intended tone has been lost in writing…no, of course I don’t actually believe that. I do love basketball, and I’d like to think that I have a fairly good knowledge of the sport. I believe I have at least a basic understanding of all the ins and outs, and in turn, that makes me a little more than competent when it comes to playing basketball video games. I’m a lot better when it comes to playing against the CPU, as that’s mostly what I do. I’ve had some record-breaking seasons playing on harder difficulty levels, but when it comes to playing online, I’m probably just a little better than OK. As I’ve said many times before, online is not my mode of choice, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Still, I’ve won online games before, and I’ve definitely won a lot of games offline. I am, at the very least, competent, capable, and have knowledge of what I’m doing on the virtual hardwood. However, there’s one area in particular where I’ve often struggled in basketball video games. One weakness, one Achilles Heel, one aspect of the game where I’ve never really excelled…

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Monday Tip-Off: Moderation in Moderating

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

August 26th marked my fourteenth year running the NLSC; you may have seen my post celebrating the occasion in the Forum, or on our social media pages. I’d like to think that I’ve done a good job over the years – I’ve certainly tried my best – and improved in the role along the way. Creating content for the NLSC can be time consuming and at times arduous, but it’s something I do enjoy. I also enjoy taking part in the Forum, but that also involves a task that can be even tougher: moderating.

That is to stay, it’s the approach and philosophy of moderating that can be tough. Performing the actual functions of moderating is certainly straightforward enough. However, there’s a delicate balance to maintain, when the aim is to foster a welcoming and friendly community that is as drama-free as possible, while also allowing everyone to speak freely and not feel bullied by the moderators. So, to tip things off this week, I wanted to give everyone a bit of an insight into how we try to maintain that balance.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Gaming Rotation

Michael Jordan Menu in NBA 2K16

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

As a gamer, I tend to stick with the genres and video game series that I’m interested in, and familiar with. I don’t buy a lot of brand new releases every year, so my gaming rotation is usually comprised of the latest version of NBA Live and NBA 2K, the latest WWE game, a favourite that may be at least a few years old, and the occasional big release if it’s one that I’m interested in (such as Grand Theft Auto V, a couple of years back). If I happen to pick up something cheap in a Steam/Green Man Gaming/GOG sale, it’ll probably work its way into the rotation at some point, too.

To that end, 2015 has actually been a bigger year than normal for me, in terms of gaming purchases. In addition to NBA Live 16, NBA 2K16, and WWE 2K16 – the series I pick up annually – there’s also been Mortal Kombat X and Fallout 4. On top of that, I picked up the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V, to give me something else to play on my new gaming rig. While MK X came out earlier this year, everything else was released (or in the case of GTA V PC, picked up) around the same time. The result is a handful of AAA games that you can potentially spend a lot of time with, all vying for time in my gaming rotation.

First world problems, right? I’m not complaining about it though, just stating a fact: I’m spoiled for choice at the moment. I’m obviously going to be spending time with the basketball games, given that I’m running a website dedicated to basketball gaming and am passionate about them, but beyond that, how do I fit everything in alongside producing content for the NLSC, working a day job, and socialising? Well, I do have a system…sort of…

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Monday Tip-Off: Ego & The Modding Community

MJ and Pip in the He's on Fire 2K14 mod for NBA 2K14 PC

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

As you’re no doubt aware from our regular file additions bulletins, we have a very talented and enthusiastic modding community here at the NLSC. We’ve been able to do some great things throughout the years, not only keeping games up to date, but creating new experiences, and even fixing some annoying problems. We can be proud of what we’ve accomplished in our community in terms of modding, and I’m sure we can look forward to many more fantastic releases in the future.

However, while I’ll gladly sing the praises of our community, and I truly believe that we have a good thing going here, there is a darker, more unpleasant side to modding culture. There’s a lot of talent and creativity in our community, which is great, but unfortunately where there’s talent and creativity, there’s often ego. While there’s nothing wrong with having a healthy ego, there are some people who take it too far. That’s when it becomes a problem, and people become difficult to deal with.

Sometimes, the problem simply lies with the individual. Some people are arrogant, rude, and difficult. There’s not a whole lot that you can do about that. However, there are also ingrained aspects of the modding culture we’ve cultivated which contribute to the problem. Difficult individuals are unlikely to change their ways, but as a community, we can work together to develop new attitudes and fresh approaches that benefit the modding community. That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

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Monday Tip-Off: My Basketball Video Game Collection

Derrick Rose dribbling in NBA Live 16

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

So, for the first few weeks of Monday Tip-Off, I’ve been posting my opinions on a variety of subjects. There’ll be plenty more opinion pieces coming your way in the Mondays ahead, but for this week, I wanted to do something a little different. This week, I wanted to talk a little about my basketball video game collection.

When it comes to the hobby of game collecting, I can’t imagine a lot of people are stocking up on basketball titles; after all, basketball gaming is a niche demographic to begin with. Also, as I understand it, when it comes to sports games, a lot of people trade in the previous season’s release when they pick up the current title. For the most part, however, I’ve kept my older basketball games – at least on one platform, when I’ve double-dipped – and more recently, I’ve been expanding my collection with a few bargains on eBay.

As I’ve mentioned a few times on the NLSC Podcast, I’m intending to put them to use for features here on the NLSC in the coming weeks and months. Obviously, we’ve tipped off our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content – incidentally, more of that stuff is on the way – but there have been quite a few basketball games over the years, good, bad, and just plain interesting. I’m looking forward to talking about them a little more, revealing a few old gems, as well as some not-so-fantastic releases you may have forgotten about.

For now, though, I wanted to give you all a current catalogue of my collection. I’ve been meaning to take a photo with all the boxes, discs, and cartridges, but for the moment, a simple list will have to suffice.

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Monday Tip-Off: Limited Locker Codes & Time Zones, An Odd Combination

Getting MyPLAYER Dunk Package via Locker Codes in NBA 2K15

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

The 2016 NBA season tips off in just a couple of days, so I’m expecting to see the official social media accounts for NBA 2K start dropping some goodies in the form of Locker Codes for NBA 2K16 very soon. While the random rewards aren’t always particularly generous, they do provide a good opportunity to stock up on Virtual Currency or MyTEAM points, snag a great MyTEAM card, or unlock an animation for your MyPLAYER. If you’ve got the game fired up when Locker Codes drop, it’s well worth punching them in.

However, there’s the rub: it’s very easy to miss out on redeeming a code, especially if you’re on the other side of the world. And even if you are in the same time zone as Visual Concepts, you have to be fast – sometimes, ridiculously so – in getting into the game, and punching in the codes. Otherwise, you’re not getting any freebies.

On one hand, this is fair enough. There’s only so much stuff that 2K can freely hand out, when grinding and microtransactions are both part of the game. However, with the size of the NBA 2K user base, and its distribution throughout the world, I do feel that 2K could stand to be a little more generous with the Locker Codes; both in giving gamers world-wide a chance to redeem them, and in the rewards that they yield.

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Monday Tip-Off: How MyCAREER Could Truly Let Us Be The Story

Vic in NBA 2K16 MyCAREER

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

If you’ve tuned in to Episode #130 of the NLSC Podcast, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of the story in this year’s MyCAREER. If you’ve been listening to the NLSC Podcast for a while now, you’ll know that that’s been a recurring complaint of mine since MyCAREER adopted the story-driven approach beginning with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version of NBA 2K14. Reading some of the posts that have been made about MyCAREER since the release of NBA 2K16, it seems I’m not alone in my criticism.

Specific criticisms of the writing aside, my discontent with MyCAREER can be summed up as such: a story that’s too linear without branching options, choices that are largely cosmetic and inconsequential, and in NBA 2K16 in particular, a protagonist that’s intended to have very specific characteristics, which conflict with the RPG elements and “put yourself in the game” aspect of the mode. To that end, the tagline of “Be The Story” becomes a little ironic.

However, since I’m often advocating for constructive criticism – fans not fanboys, critics not haters, and all that – it seems only appropriate that I put my money where my mouth is, and offer up some suggestions as to how the mode could be improved. The story-driven approach to MyCAREER probably isn’t going anywhere, so how do I think Visual Concepts can best put it to use? Well, let’s take a look at how I feel that we can better “Be The Story” in NBA 2K17 and beyond.

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Monday Tip-Off: Head in the Cloud – Basketball Video Games & Always-On

Gaming in NBA 2K14's MyCAREER

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

Always-on remains a controversial issue in video gaming, right up there with downloadable content, microtransactions, and third party developers producing platform exclusives. So strong is the backlash against it, Microsoft even had to change its approach with the Xbox One, and is arguably still feeling the effects of its initial stance as the console continues to be out-sold by the PlayStation 4. The message is clear: gamers do not like always-on.

As the online component of basketball video games has become a bigger part of the experience, our community has started to feel the sting of always-on and cloud saves. Key game modes require a constant connection to the Internet, and while a couple of them can also be played offline, issues can arise when there are temporary connection or server issues. But what happens when the server is shut down for good?

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