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Monday Tip-Off: Making Peace with Simulated Games

Options for Simulated Games in MyLEAGUE (NBA 2K19)

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 making peace with the prospect of simulated games in franchise modes.

While there have been changes in my life since I started running the NLSC as a 17 year old back in 2001, I can still make ample time to play video games, basketball or otherwise. I don’t have a family, so in that regard, I do have fewer responsibilities than other members of our community. However, like anyone with a day job and a social life, I do have to ration my time accordingly. Video games are something that I have to fit in between being a sole trader, exercising, catching up with friends, and of course, my responsibilities both running and creating content for the NLSC.

To that end, as I look to make a return to franchise gaming this year, I must get used to the idea of simulating games. Should I back off a little on my intention to take a break from career modes, I’ll have to further ration my time, and that means a decent portion of games – possibly in both modes – will need to be simulated. On the surface, it may seem odd that this is something I need to get accustomed to. The simulation function has been available in season modes for over two decades, so it’s hardly a concept that I’m unfamiliar with. However, it is an approach that would mark a change in the way that I play basketball video games.

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The Friday Five: Top 5 Positives and Negatives in NBA 2K19

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 another double countdown, this time featuring the Top 5 Positives and Top 5 Negatives in NBA 2K19.

My full reviews for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 will be out shortly, but before then, I wanted to offer up some more of my initial impressions of this year’s games. This time I’m talking about the latest offering from Visual Concepts, NBA 2K19. After really enjoying NBA 2K17, I was quite disappointed with NBA 2K18. It wasn’t just the unapologetically greedy approach to microtransactions and the brutal grind, either. I just didn’t enjoy the gameplay experience, and thus shelved NBA 2K18 much earlier than previous games, firing it up only to get screenshots for articles.

In a nutshell, I felt that NBA 2K18 was a surprising regression for the NBA 2K series, uncharacteristically stumbling off course. Is NBA 2K19 heading back in the right direction? In some respects, yes, but there are some key areas of concern, and design choices that I’m disappointed in. The team at Visual Concepts clearly did learn a few lessons from last year’s game however, and took gamer feedback to heart. With that in mind, NBA 2K19 is – as quite a few people have put it – the game that we should’ve received last year. At the same time, it’s not entirely the game that I was hoping for this year. Let’s take a look at the Top 5 Positives and Negatives, at least as I see them.

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Wayback Wednesday: Slow Motion Dunks in NBA Live

Slow Motion Dunks Option in NBA Live 95

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the slow motion dunks in older versions of NBA Live.

It’s interesting to look back at the features and mechanics that were featured in old basketball video games. There’s a reason that many of them ended up being dropped over the years – especially as the sim titles aimed to be more and more realistic – but there’s still a lot of nostalgia in them. When I think back to games like NBA Live 95 and NBA Live 96, one of my fondest memories is of throwing down big dunks and having my player point at his opponent, or pumping his arm in triumph, as he runs back on defense.

In fact, I’d say that a lot of older basketball gamers remember that aspect of dunking in the early NBA Live games. A feature that made those dunks even more exciting – much as they could be with the animations of the time – was the option for slow motion dunks. It’s an outdated concept now, particularly in the era of online play, but in its day it was pretty cool. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The MyCAREER Cinematic Universe

Marcus Young in The Prelude (NBA 2K19 MyCAREER)

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 look at the plots and characters that keep appearing in MyCAREER stories.

Writing about Jackson Ellis for Wayback Wednesday got me thinking about recurring characters and call backs in MyCAREER stories. While I’d like to see MyCAREER move away from the story-driven approach, or at least evolve into a fresher, more dynamic experience, I do find that I can still have fun with the concept. Whether it’s suggesting new scenarios or coming up with a handful of off-the-wall theories and alternative interpretations, the subject doesn’t have to be something I only grumble about over and over again.

Some of the MyCAREER stories have definitely turned out better than others, both in terms of their narrative and the way in which they affected the gameplay experience. From a gameplay perspective, each story is self-contained. Nothing that we do with our individual MyPLAYERs will carry over to the next game, at which point league history – all stats, awards, and championships – reverts back to reality. However, there are references to previous stories, recurring characters, and even a few subplots with NPCs. Just for fun, let’s try to piece together some kind of canon for MyCAREER’s stories. We’ll call it the MyCAREER Cinematic Universe.

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The Friday Five: Top 5 Positives and Negatives in NBA Live 19

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 double countdown, featuring the Top 5 Positives and Top 5 Negatives in NBA Live 19.

I will be producing a written review of NBA Live 19 in addition to discussing the game in the Forum and on the NLSC Podcast, but right now, I’m still collecting my thoughts and evaluating the game as the initial content updates and bug fixes come through. That full review will be coming soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to post some initial impressions of this year’s release from EA Sports, spotlighting five of my most positive observations so far, as well as five things that stand out as some of the more prominent negatives.

Basically, if you’re looking for a quick overview of my take on NBA Live 19 so far, this is it. In my opinion, the game has taken some further steps forward this year, and while there is still room for improvement in many key areas, a solid foundation has been established. In ranking the positives and negatives that I have observed so far, I’m basing them on my preferences and expectations of the game, so their importance (or indeed, whether or not they count as a positive or negative) may differ for you. With that being said, let’s get on with a 2-for-1 edition of the Friday Five, and take a look at what’s good and what’s not so good in NBA Live 19!

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Wayback Wednesday: The Legend of Jackson Ellis

Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K19

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the virtual career of Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K, and the legend that it has spawned over six games.

Minor spoiler alert: in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER mode, Jackson Ellis makes a return to the virtual hardwood. One of the most memorable characters in basketball video games, this year he enjoyed his most prominent role since NBA 2K14, when he was introduced as the rival of your MyPLAYER. Not only has Ellis resonated with NBA 2K gamers, he’s clearly a favourite of the development team as well. Even though he’s only stepped onto the court in a couple of titles, he’s appeared or been referenced in every MyCAREER mode on the current generation.

So what’s the story behind the infamously brash and outspoken Jackson Ellis? Well, the exact story differs for each of us, but in broad strokes, Visual Concepts has been weaving a subplot with Ellis over the past six years. To appreciate the Legend of Jackson Ellis, we need to return to where it all began in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version of NBA 2K14. To that end, let’s go back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Are Some Basketball Games Too Old To Mod?

1996 Mod for NBA Live 2004: Michael Jordan

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 whether or not some basketball video games are too old to mod.

As our regular File Additions bulletins no doubt indicate, we mod basketball games both new and old in our community. I’ve discussed the appeal of modding older games in a previous article, likening it to the pastime of retro gaming itself. It’s fun to dust off an old favourite, not only to enjoy its familiar modes and gameplay, but also to tinker with it. There’s a lot of creative satisfaction in breathing new life into old games, and a certain novelty in seeing current NBA players in a title from many years ago. I would never discourage retro modding, much as I would never discourage retro gaming.

At the same time, modding older titles can present certain challenges and drawbacks. As a basketball game gets older, it can become more difficult to mod, both in terms of performing the required actions and justifying the time spent doing so. Hardware and software moves on, and so do basketball gamers themselves. Even though it’s still fun to tinker and do some cool things with your favourites, it may feel like less and less of a worthwhile exercise as the years go by. I’m currently working on some updates for old games, but there are obviously limits as to what I’d be willing to sink time into. At some point, we do have to ask ourselves: are some basketball games simply too old to mod?

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The Friday Five: 5 Reasons to Keep Saved Game Files

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 five reasons why it’s a good idea to keep your saved game files for basketball video games.

Another preview season is over, which means that NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 are upon us! If you’re picking up this year’s games, be sure to share your impressions with the rest of the community in the Forum, and stay tuned for the original content that we’ll be producing for them. Hopefully this year’s releases will meet most of your expectations (if not all of them), and it won’t be long before you’re starting new games and getting stuck into your favourite modes. Once that happens, you might be tempted to delete your saved game files from last year, as well as saves from other older titles.

Not so fast! While you may be about to move on to a new basketball video game, you shouldn’t be too hasty to delete your old saved game files. We’re well beyond the days of 8 megabyte memory cards and other storage devices with very limited capacity, so it shouldn’t be an issue to hang onto your saves. You should have the room to keep files for several games in your collection, not just last year’s release. It’s a good idea to do just that, as losing your old saves is something that you can easily come to regret. To that end, here are five reasons to consider keeping your saved game files, even as you move on to the latest releases from EA Sports and Visual Concepts.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 99 & NBA Live 09 Trivia

Pau Gasol in NBA Live 09

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at some NBA Live 99 and NBA Live 09 trivia, ahead of the release of NBA Live 19.

We’re just a couple of days away from the launch of NBA Live 19. It’s shaping up to be a good year for NBA Live, as the series continues its comeback after many years of rebuilding. Hopefully NBA Live will continue to go from strength to strength from here on out, as it did during its glory years of the mid 90s to around 2005. Back then, EA Sports were doing some very innovative things with the series, and it felt like every year brought something new to the table. As I said in my retrospective, that was certainly the case with NBA Live 99.

NBA Live 09 was also a good bounce back year for the series, and remains one of its best releases during the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation. With the series having been around for over two decades, it’s interesting to look back at the game that came out ten years before the current one, and the one that was released ten years before that. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some NBA Live 99 and NBA Live 09 trivia, similar to what I did last year with NBA Live 98 and NBA Live 08. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Picking a Franchise Mode Team for 2019

Joel Embiid dunks the basketball in NBA Live 19

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 picking a team to use in franchise modes for the 2019 season.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” That’s how I’m feeling about career modes, which as I noted last week, I’m somewhat burned out on. Nevertheless, those of us who have been playing as the official NLSC Pro-Am squad these last few years have been talking about giving it another run in NBA 2K19, just to see if it’s something that we can enjoy in addition to our solo gaming. Alternatively, we might shake things up and see if we can get a game of MyLEAGUE Online going, perhaps even making a story topic out of it since activity is picking up on that board.

Whatever happens in that regard, I’m keen to return to my roots as a franchise gamer, and set career modes as a lower priority in my basketball gaming activities this year. It’s been too long since I allowed myself to get caught up in the fun and excitement of running a team, playing the role of head coach, general manager, and indeed, every player on the squad. In MyLEAGUE, we’ve never had a deeper franchise mode to sink our teeth into. Even if NBA Live 19’s Franchise mode isn’t everything that I’d like it to be, it’s still something I’ll check out. There’s an important question facing me however, no matter which franchise mode I play: which team should I choose?

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Wayback Wednesday: The Isometric Camera Angle in NBA Live

Isometric Camera Angle in NBA Live 95 (Rockets vs Magic)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the iconic isometric camera angle in NBA Live.

Camera angles have a significant impact on the quality of the gameplay experience across a wide variety of genres. As many titles in the early days of 3D would end up demonstrating, poorly designed camera angles and movement resulted in artificial difficulty, either by obscuring the player’s view at inopportune moments, or simply by not providing a suitable view of the action at any time. In sports video games, a bad camera angle made it a lot easier to step out of bounds, and it was harder to determine where players were in relation to each other and the field of play.

Most early basketball video games used a similar sideline camera angle, which was fine for the time, but did have a few drawbacks. EA Sports would change things up with the release of NBA Live 95, when they switched to an isometric camera angle. Not only does it remain a distinctive look that gamers found appealing, it also made the gameplay experience far more enjoyable. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Burned Out on Career Modes

Career Modes are focusing more on characters and stories (NBA 2K18 MyCAREER Trailer)

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 I’ve become burned out on career modes in basketball video games.

As I’ve mentioned on the NLSC Podcast and in a few previous articles, I’m feeling a strong desire to return to my roots as a franchise gamer. Years ago, I spent most of my time with NBA Live playing Dynasty mode, documenting my experiences in the Stories section of our Forum. Despite the strength of Association mode in NBA 2K, when I finally started to warm up to Visual Concepts’ series, MyCAREER turned out to be the mode I got hooked on. I also found myself enjoying the connected modes, primarily 2K Pro-Am. My gaming habits had certainly changed.

However, I now find myself looking to make another change, and return to the kind of experience that I played almost exclusively for so many years. That’s partly due to the fact that with MyLEAGUE and MyGM, franchise modes have never been better or deeper. They’re very appealing in their own right, but I’m also encouraged to return to them because the single player career experience has worn thin for me. While both NBA Live and NBA 2K are looking to do some tremendous things with their career modes this year, it’s coming at a bad time for me. After several years of playing them – particularly MyCAREER – I’m feeling quite burned out.

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The Friday Five: 5 Toughest Trophies & Achievements

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 lists five trophies (or depending on the platform, achievements) that rank among the toughest in basketball games.

Trophies and achievements are an aspect of modern gaming that tends to divide most gamers into a couple of broad categories: those who take pride in collecting as many of them as possible, and those who are mostly indifferent to them. Some gamers may view trophies and achievements with some degree of scorn, but I’ve always found them to be a fun idea. They’re a clear goal for completionists to aim for, and in many cases suggest interesting challenges, perhaps even hinting at modes and features we wouldn’t normally think of trying out.

Of course, some trophies and achievements are attained very easily, simply by playing through a game’s story or campaign. Such is the case with several basketball games, where progressing through the career mode or completing tutorials is enough to earn several of them. There are some that are far more difficult to attain though, and that’s what we’re looking at today. Since any trophies and achievements for online features eventually become impossible to attain when the servers are shut down, I’m excluding them from this list unless they were also notably difficult to get at the time; otherwise, they’d all make the list by default. Without any further ado, let’s tip off the list!

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Wayback Wednesday: Playing With The Developers in NBA Live

Unlockable Developers in NBA Live 98

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the times we were able to unlock the developers and their hidden teams in NBA Live.

These days, there is a lot more awareness of who the people behind our favourite basketball video games are. Many of them are visible and active on Twitter, which affords us an opportunity to ask them questions and provide feedback for future releases. That level of interaction wasn’t possible in the early days of basketball gaming, but we did have some awareness of the developers behind the games we were playing. Not only were their names prominently displayed on the credits screens, but in some cases, we could actually play with them.

It’s something of an antiquated feature these days, with more focus on bonus content such as historical squads and the like. All things considered, that has been the right direction for basketball video games to take, but there is a certain charm in those old cheat codes that allowed us to play with a game’s developers. It was a feature in more than one NBA Live title, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: NBA Content in NBA Live 19

Joel Embiid in NBA Live 19

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 what has to happen with the NBA content in NBA Live 19, from gameplay to game modes.

The NBA Live 19 demo will be out later this week, and I for one am excited. While NBA Live 18 took many steps in the right direction, there was still a certain amount of roughness and room for improvement. From everything we’ve seen and heard so far, it seems that NBA Live 19 has made another pleasing leap forward. While I do expect that there will still be ways in which the game can get even better in the future, it’s shaping up to be a good year for NBA Live as it continues to make its way back to being a viable alternative for sim basketball gamers.

To that end, however, there is an area that is of some concern: the NBA content. So far, the previews have mostly focused on The One, with a particular emphasis on The Streets World Tour. While this is a tremendous hook for NBA Live 19 and has clearly led to some positive buzz, many of us are a little concerned about the NBA side of the game. Although NBA Live does need to have its own appeal and approach, there are certain aspects where it needs to go head to head with NBA 2K, namely in terms of being a realistic and enjoyable NBA sim. From modes to gameplay, a lot of us are hoping that NBA Live 19 is as good on the NBA hardwood as it is in The Streets.

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