Monday Tip-Off: Is the Future of Modding In-Game?

Team Designs, an example of in-game modding 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.

TGsoGood offered up an interesting question in the Forum a couple of weeks ago, concerning the current state of modding. He noted that while modding has always had its ups and downs, the hobby is not quite what it used to be, at least for the most recent releases. While modders have been a little more active so far this year, and the tools and resources at their disposal are the best they’ve been since the PC started receiving the same version of NBA 2K as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as TGsoGood alluded to, we’re not finding ourselves in a new golden era of modding.

With that being said, there are plenty of users who are customising NBA 2K17. As TGsoGood also pointed out, gamers are making great use of the team rebranding and roster customisation options to create a variety of modifications that are distributed through the in-game sharing facilities. Therefore, the question before us is this: is the future of modding in-game? Since Arcane and Kenny aren’t involved with the modding scene, I decided that I’d tackle the issue in this week’s Monday Tip-Off, rather than on the NLSC Podcast.

As it stands, there are still certain mods that require external manipulation of the game files, so the “traditional” form of modding certainly hasn’t gone away completely. However, the in-game customisation features are as deep and diverse as they’ve ever been. From team rebranding packages to custom rosters, there’s a bevy of user-made content to download for NBA 2K17. There are even NCAA mods for the PlayStation 4 version of the game, complete with accurate jerseys. What was once really only feasible on PC can now be accomplished in the console versions, thanks to the inbuilt customisation functions.

Kentucky Wildcats Branding in NBA 2K17, by DustinLyu

I would suggest that that’s a very welcome move. While it’s unfortunate that externally modifying the files – rosters in particular – is not as easy as it used to be for the previous generation of NBA 2K games, or during the golden age of NBA Live modding for that matter, the current suite of in-game tools is a promising development. I have a feeling that those features are going to be a big part of the future of modding, and to that end, I hope that they are expanded upon so that we can fully embrace them as a vital part of a modder’s toolkit.

In theory, in-game modding should be much more convenient and user-friendly. There’s no need to wait for compatible tools to be developed, and then learn how to use them. In-game customisation tools would already be available out of the box, and most likely far more accessible to novices. As they would be specifically designed to add new content to the game, there’d be less chance of causing an error and corrupting files. While technical issues may arise, they are more likely to be corrected with patches. As it stands, official patches are currently more likely to make modding certain files more difficult, and in some cases, impossible.

Once again, for the in-game tools to really take the place of modding – or perhaps more accurately, unofficial modding tools – they need to become more comprehensive. We would need to have access to the team rebranding and league customisation options outside of MyLEAGUE and MyGM. Roster customisation would need to give us full access to every facet of player data, whether we’re creating new players, or editing existing ones. The Create-a-Player limit would also need to be increased from 150, and sharing facilities expanded to distribute complete mod packs.

Of course, even if those changes were to be made, there are some drawbacks to this approach. Visual Concepts could step in to remove content and ban accounts, if there are concerns about copyright infringement and potential lawsuits. If there is a rating or reporting system in place, releases could be erroneously or maliciously flagged. When a game’s servers eventually get shut down, or when they undergo maintenance or experience downtime, mods would be temporarily (and eventually, permanently) inaccessible. It’s also questionable as to how much customisation the NBA would be comfortable with allowing. It’s their license, so they ultimately call the shots.

Flint Tropics Branding in NBA 2K17, by TrendKILLv01

Still, that’s no reason to dismiss the idea of improved and expanded in-game modding tools. The more content that we can edit within the game, the more efficiently we can create and distribute comprehensive mods. At the same time, it would be handy if we could share custom content outside of the in-game facilities, and there’ll probably always be some need for external file manipulation. Ideally, I’d like to see the in-game customisation features enhanced, and the PC version’s files become a little more user-friendly. That way, we can do incredible things with the functions the game provides, and go above and beyond with some advanced modding of the files directly.

I have my doubts that the files will change, as it may just not be feasible, or worth the hassle, for a niche contingent of the userbase. Still, simply having deeper in-game customisation tools would be great for the modding community, facilitating more and more fantastic mods for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Even if the future of modding involves greater use of in-game customisation and less external editing, I believe that the modders in our community would find a way to survive, thrive, and make the most out of the tools at their disposal. In the meantime, we can only do our best with what we’ve got…and frankly, that still means some exceptional releases.

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