The Friday Five: 5 Least Favourite Basketball Games to Mod

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of the games that have been my least favourite to mod over the years.

Since I reflected on my favourite games to mod last week, it only makes sense that I now take a look back at some of the hoops titles that are among my least favourite to tinker with. As I mentioned in last week’s feature, some games are relatively easy to mod, while others are very cumbersome to work with. Even when you know what you’re doing and have mastered the techniques, the general difficulty or lack of flexibility with the files often makes modding more of a chore. Also, just as your favourite games are more fun to mod, the games that you don’t enjoy as much can be very unappealing to create content for.

With that being said, although these games are not among my absolute favourites to mod, I can’t say that I’ve never had any fun modding them. When it comes to a few of these games, I did spend quite a lot of time working on updates for them, and even returned to create new mods for them years later. It’s not that I absolutely hated every moment of modding them; if that were the case, I simply would’ve stopped sooner than I did. It’s just that of all the games I’ve messed around with over the years, they’re not among my favourites. Without any further ado, here are my five least favourite basketball games to mod, in chronological order.

1. NBA Live 95

Anfernee Hardaway in NBA Live 95

This is basically a reversal of the situation with NBA Live 08 PC. While that game is one of my least favourite games in the NBA Live series to play, it was generally enjoyable to mod. Conversely, NBA Live 95 PC is one of my all-time favourite games, but not so much from a modding perspective. That basically comes down to how difficult it is, which I’ve previously discussed in Wayback Wednesday. Tim, Lutz, and Brien did their best with their editors and made NBA Live 95 modding feasible, but they were still figuring things out back then. As such, renaming players in NBA Live 95 required careful changing of the game’s existing text strings.

It was therefore very easy to mess something up, which meant starting all over again. The saved roster file tended to cause problems, but changing lineups through the editors could also mess up statistics in Season mode. Compared to other games, modding NBA Live 95 was a lengthier and more tedious process. There was naturally a certain degree of satisfaction in learning how it all worked and being able to create a working roster mod, but if you weren’t in the mood for a challenge, it could be very frustrating. Fortunately, the guys managed to develop new techniques the following year, and modding NBA Live became much easier from there on out.

2. NBA Live 97

Scottie Pippen in NBA Live 97

Even though I rate NBA Live 96 higher as a personal favourite, I really do like NBA Live 97. It’s the most advanced of the pre-3Dfx titles, and it added some new features that made in-game and external customisation a lot easier. There are roster saves, which were handy for loading and sharing multiple custom rosters. There’s a big free agent pool, and fifteen man rosters. Thanks to not one but two Windows-based editors, modifying the rosters was as easy as it had been in NBA Live 96. It was now even possible to edit career statistics. That probably all sounds great in terms of modding – and it was – so you’re probably wondering why it’s on this list.

The issue here is that the NBA Live 97 CD-ROM contains both Windows and MS-DOS versions of the game. From a gaming standpoint, this was great, as it could potentially alleviate compatibility issues. In terms of modding, it could be a problem. While the roster saves themselves were compatible with either version of the game, all original player data was still stored in the executable file, and naturally there were different executables for each version of NBA Live 97. Fortunately, Tim developed a tool that allowed data to be easily transferred between the two. You had to remember to create two versions of a roster mod though, and that could be a bit of a hassle.

3. NBA Live 2001

A hyped Kevin Garnett in NBA Live 2001

As I outlined in my retrospective of NBA Live 2001, it wasn’t a bad game, but it was one of the first noteworthy missteps for a series that had been consistently improving year after year. The community’s mods had always been a way to enhance NBA Live by adding new and missing content, as well as editing the existing data. However, NBA Live 2001 arguably marked the first time we really went all out in trying to fix the game, particularly issues such as the ratio of offensive to defensive rebounds. This led to the creation of tweaked roster updates, which became standard practice for anyone who sought to update the game’s rosters for the 2001 season and beyond.

It’s debatable as to how effective tweaked rosters were. Any positive effects certainly came with negative side effects, especially in Franchise mode. They could sometimes cause confusion, and added extra steps to the process of creating rosters, so I didn’t particularly like making them. Gamers wanted them though, so I obliged as long as I was updating NBA Live 2001. Weights for created players were also determined by the body morphing options, which was kind of innovative, but also inconvenient. I remember having to fix a lot of weights with the Toolkit as a result. Although I made a lot of roster updates for NBA Live 2001, it wasn’t as fun as it was with other games.

4. NBA Live 2003

Michael Jordan palms the basketball in NBA Live 2003

Although NBA Live 2003 introduced the CustomArt concept, greatly enhancing what could be done with art modding, I was strictly a roster maker at that time. That meant I was once again trying to correct gameplay issues through tweaked rosters, and in NBA Live 2003, that meant finding a way to tone down Freestyle Control moves, reduce the overall pace and shooting percentages, and cut down on the super blocks that sent the ball flying to the opposite baseline. As with NBA Live 2001, the results were mixed, there were plenty of side effects in terms of oddly rated players and unbalanced rookies in Franchise mode, and I disliked making the tweaked rosters.

I still took pride in the rosters though, and despite the tweaked version making the process a little longer, I can’t say that I never enjoyed creating the updates. However, I did really sour on NBA Live 2003 as the year wore on. From the very start it wasn’t quite the experience that I wanted, but I tried to make the most of it. I do have a certain appreciation for NBA Live 2003 these days, but by the time NBA Live 2004 was on the horizon, I was fed up with it. It’s hard to mod a game that you don’t feel particularly enthusiastic about, especially when modding it has some quirks of its own. I was quite glad to hand the updates over to someone else when 2004 came out.

5. NBA Live 07

Tracy McGrady in NBA Live 07

By the time NBA Live 07 came out, the focus had shifted to the Xbox 360 and away from the PlayStation 2, from which the PC version was ported. That version of the game was unquestionably an afterthought, and for many of us, a disappointment. The community modded it with as much enthusiasm as possible, myself included, but it was tough. Adjusting ratings to account for the Fatigue bug brought back memories of the tweaked rosters for NBA Live 2001 and NBA Live 2003. It was easy enough to mod and I found some familiar satisfaction in crafting the roster updates, but without much passion for the game itself, it was sometimes hard to get motivated.

Now, you could say the same about NBA Live 08 PC, which I listed as one of my favourite games to mod. The main difference is that NBA Live 08 opened up some new opportunities with the FIBA teams, and of course, the leftover data from the historical squads. I’d also grown used to the idea of tweaking the Fatigue ratings by then, and probably resigned myself to the fact that I was going to mod the game more than I’d play it. Fortunately, most of NBA Live 08’s art files are compatible with NBA Live 07, and the roster files are easy to convert, so when I was maintaining updates for NBA Live 2005 through 08, I didn’t have to spend much time with it.

Once again, despite my gripes, I did find enjoyment creating mods for these games; just not as much as some other titles, particularly the five that I mentioned last week. As I said, in this instance, “least favourite” doesn’t necessarily indicate outright dislike. Fellow modders, what have been your least favourite games to mod over the years? Sound off in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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