Patching & Modding: Tips for Getting Started

JaoSming's NBA Street 2K12: Night Edition

One of the first things that most people discover when they join our community here at the NLSC, or indeed what brings them here in the first place, is our collection of downloads for NBA Live and NBA 2K. Usually after trying out a few updates and marvelling at the skill and creativity of the talented individuals in the community, a lot of people ask the question: How can I do this myself?

We have a collection of tutorials that teach you the specifics of making different kinds of updates for NBA Live and NBA 2K, but I thought it might be helpful to compile some general tips on how to start making your own patches and mods. It’s always nice to see new people trying their hand at making updates for their fellow gamers, so I hope this article will prove to be useful for those of you looking to join the ranks of patchers in our community.

So, without further ado…

You will need to be reasonably computer literate

Creating patches, whether they are roster updates, missing faces, enhanced courts or new jerseys, is certainly not rocket science and cannot be compared to coding the games in the first place. However, it does require a certain amount of computer literacy. If doing anything more than basic word processing, surfing the web and sending emails is beyond you (and you even find that a little tricky), then to be blunt patching is not for you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on your computer skills and give it a go later on. However, even the simplest updates and most straightforward tutorials assume a certain level of competency with computers, so learn the basics first. You don’t need to be an expert, but instructions that involve locating files or folders and using commands such as “Save As” shouldn’t cause you any confusion. If they do, there are a few things you need to learn before you start patching.

Learn from tutorials, don’t just follow them

In addition to basic computer skills, you’ll also need to be adept at following instructions. The tutorials are there to explain the process of creating different modifications for the games, so long as you follow them carefully.

An effective tutorial outlines the process step by step, but it’s important that you also get an understanding of what it is that you’re doing. Read (or watch) tutorials carefully and take note of what’s happening every step of the way. If a certain step isn’t working or is confusing to you in some way, that’s the time to ask the community for help.

All too often, new patchers will run into a snag and immediately request a new tutorial, or a video tutorial, when the existing resource is comprehensive and easy to follow. That’s not to say resources cannot be improved upon and video tutorials can certainly be very helpful, but sometimes all it takes is a quick question to clear up any confusion and help you understand the methods. Tutorials can’t make instant experts out of everyone, so by all means ask questions when you are stuck.

Experiment!

A big part of learning how to patch is to try things for yourself. As long as you have a backup handy, you’re free to give anything a try and the worst that can happen is a weird result, no result or a crash to the desktop, at which point you can just start fresh from the backup. By experimenting, whether you’re changing ratings to see the in-game effects, modifying a certain texture or hex editing a file, you can get a better idea of where everything is located and what effects certain changes will have on the game, desirable or otherwise.

It’s a great way of learning about the game’s files and mastering the basics of importing, exporting and modifying. The actual result isn’t as important as getting a result in the first place and discovering how it’s done. Say you are trying to create custom lighting effects. After fooling around with the file, your changes might make players look too shiny, too washed out, or too dark. It’s not the result you were aiming for, but you’ve learned how to make changes to the lighting file and what effects certain changes will have. More importantly, you also know what not to do!

Get the basics down before worrying about quality

In that same vein, I can’t stress enough how important it is to master the basics before worrying about the quality or looking to create intricate patches. As I said before, tutorials can’t make instant experts out of everyone and while some people do have the skill to immediately produce outstanding patches, such as experience in graphic design, others will need to practice and refine their technique. That’s where asking questions and constructive feedback from the community can really help.

For example, if you know how to export a texture, modify it, re-import it and then get it to show up in the game – whether that texture is a court detail, jersey or face – then you’re already most of the way there. It’s just a matter of perfecting that second step, refining your technique when modifying the texture so that you get the results you want. To throw a basketball analogy out there, you need to know how to find teammates with a basic pass before you get fancy and start emulating Magic Johnson.

A final note

I realise it sounds cliché, but the old adage of “practice makes perfect” applies to patching as it does most anything in life. Once again, don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re stuck, but do read all instructions carefully and by all means use intuition and experiment.

When you do reach the point of releasing your work to the community, consider creating updates that are needed but haven’t been made yet; a selection of face updates for several different players is far better than twenty high quality face updates for one player. Finally, remember to always ask permission before using someone else’s work and to give appropriate credit where it’s due, as it’s common courtesy between patchers in our community.

Good luck!

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