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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 2003 Soundtrack

NBA Live 2003 Soundtrack: Get Live

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 NBA Live 2003 soundtrack.

Music is an integral part of video games, no matter the genre. It creates atmosphere, pumps you up to play, and forges a connection with gamers. As such, it’s no surprise that a game’s soundtrack becomes a significant part of our nostalgia, leading us to seek out tracks on YouTube or Spotify, or contributing to the rush we feel when we fire up an old favourite once again. Many games have brought us original scores that have subsequently become iconic, but the inclusion of licensed songs has led to a lot of debates about the best soundtracks in video games.

That debate has naturally produced a variety of answers when it comes to basketball games, but there’s one playlist in particular that a lot of gamers mention: the NBA Live 2003 soundtrack. Many of its tracks have come to be associated with the game, and the album release was certified platinum, a first for a video game score. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Brown Shirt & Grey Sweatpants

Brown Shirt & Grey Sweatpants (NBA 2K14 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 perennial default outfit for all of our MyPLAYERs: a brown shirt and grey sweatpants.

Am I really supposed to talk about basketball video games in the wake of the Game of Thrones finale? Well, that is what we’re all about here at the NLSC, so yes; I’ll keep my focus on the virtual hardwood! After the heaviness of that finale however, I feel like tackling a lighter subject to tip things off this week. I’m usually not one to talk about fashion – these are not Barbie dress-up games, as we’ve been reliably informed – but I am going to talk about clothes this week. More specifically, I’m talking about the outfit that our MyPLAYER wears at the beginning of every MyCAREER game.

The brown shirt and grey sweatpants that we continue to sport at the beginning of our journey on the Road to 99 has become a staple of the MyCAREER experience. As a default outfit, it’s visually unremarkable, yet still full of meaning as far as the whole experience is concerned. Interestingly, it’s a look that more than a handful of gamers are actively choosing for themselves, at a point where a majority of MyCAREER and Playground devotees are opting for more outlandish outfits. Humble attire as it may be, those brown shirts and grey sweatpants are something of a running gag, a clever gimmick, and a deceptive tactic all rolled into one.

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The Friday Five: 5 Toxic Behaviours of Online Basketball Gamers

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 discusses five toxic behaviours that are all too frequently encountered in online basketball gaming.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of fun playing NBA Live or NBA 2K online this year. I have taken part in some very enjoyable games, and that’s kept me from giving up on the online modes altogether, but it’s felt like the experience has taken another step backwards. The lack of deep matchmaking and proper balance, gatekeeping measures such as requiring five users per side in Pro-Am, and increased focus on meta-gaming, have made online play a lot less fun in NBA 2K. Meanwhile, input lag and other gameplay issues have afflicted NBA Live’s online experience.

It’s not just issues with modes and mechanics, however. We gamers also bear much of the responsibility here, as there is a lot of toxicity among those who like to play NBA 2K and NBA Live online. I’ve discussed toxic behaviour in the community before, and since writing that Monday Tip-Off article, the situation hasn’t improved. Various aspects of the games do cultivate a toxic atmosphere and attitudes, as evident by other online gaming communities that are friendlier or more sporting, but ultimately we’re responsible for our own actions. To that end, curbing these five toxic behaviours will require a combination of changes to the games, and improvements in our attitudes.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Original NBA Jam

NBA Jam Arcade Title Screen

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 original NBA Jam with an overdue retrospective.

It occurred to me that although I’ve been running these Wayback Wednesday features since 2015, I’ve yet to cover the original NBA Jam, released by Midway in 1993. I’ve talked a lot about its sequel, NBA Jam Tournament Edition, and even covered its spiritual predecessor, Arch Rivals, but I haven’t profiled the famous game that tipped off an iconic series (and indeed, an entire subgenre of basketball gaming). That’s partly because NBA Jam TE is one of my all-time favourite games, but it’s about time that I fill in the gaps and talk about the original.

As an undisputed classic, it’s difficult to say anything about NBA Jam that someone else hasn’t already said. However, it’s too fun, too amazing, and simply too important in the history of basketball gaming for me not to discuss it in a Wayback Wednesday feature. It brought us Fire, shattered backboards, and the legendary commentary of Tim Kitzrow…it’s NBA Jam! Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Unexpected on the Virtual Hardwood

Kawhi Leonard dunks in 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 how it’s difficult to implement the realism of unexpected moments in basketball games, without them coming across as contrived.

It’s been quite an eventful twenty-four hours. With its final episode airing next week, Game of Thrones fans (of which I’m one) have experienced a major development that isn’t entirely unexpected, but unquestionably impactful (to say nothing of divisive). At the same time, two Game 7s concluded the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets in a close contest, while the series between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers was even more dramatic, ending on Kawhi Leonard’s incredible gamewinning shot.

While I’d normally advocate for letting the dust settle before we proclaim anyone or anything to be among the greatest ever, Leonard’s jumper that seemingly touched every part of the rim before dropping in has to be considered an instant classic. No matter what happens with the Raptors this year, that amazing shot that had everyone holding their breath has secured its place among the great gamewinning buckets in NBA Playoffs history. It’s the kind of excitement that we want to see in the real NBA and on the virtual hardwood alike, but it’s difficult to achieve the latter in a way that feels satisfactory. In video games, the reality of the unexpected often feels unrealistic.

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The Friday Five: 5 Improvements for LIVE Run & LIVE Events

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 improvements that I’d like to see made to LIVE Run and LIVE Events in NBA Live 20 and beyond.

As EA Play 2019 and another preview season loom, we await detailed information on NBA Live 20. We know that the game is coming out and that unfortunately for PC users it will be console-only, but at this early stage, there are still many other things that we are waiting and hoping to hear. While we’ve already submitted our Wishlist and development is well underway, it’s definitely still worth discussing the features and changes that we’d like to see. Not only does it reiterate what we’ve outlined in our Wishlists, you never know what can be pencilled in for post-release updates.

When I discussed ways to improve the online experience in NBA 2K20, I noted that I have become more interested in online modes in recent games, after years of being an offline gamer. I still believe in the importance of robust offline modes, which is why I compiled a list of ways to improve NBA Live’s Franchise mode back in March. The One and its connected experiences have received the most focus in recent years, and I have had some fun with them, jumping on for a game of LIVE Run or taking part in some of the LIVE Events. However, they haven’t felt quite as enjoyable or rewarding as the online modes in NBA 2K. Here are five improvements that could change that.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live Picture Editor

No Portrait Available Texture (NBA Live Picture Editor)

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 NBA Live Picture Editor, a tool for modding portraits in NBA Live 95, 96, and 97.

For a veteran modder, there’s something really fun and satisfying in breaking out the tools to edit an old game. The nostalgia in doing so is comparable to dusting off an old favourite to play it, as memories of all those hours tinkering come flooding back. I indulged in that nostalgia a month ago when I revamped a couple of my mods for one of my all-time favourite basketball games, NBA Live 96. Although I was satisfied to finally complete some unfinished business, particularly with the Complete Update for the 2001 season, I didn’t have time to do any work on the portraits.

Editing portraits in NBA Live 95, NBA Live 96, and NBA Live 97 is done using a tool called the NBA Live Picture Editor. Co-developed by two of our founders, Tim and Brien, it’s a nifty tool that wasn’t put to use all that often for public releases. As such, it’s somewhat overlooked in the history of our modding community. It’s worth remembering though, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Masking the Inner Workings of Gameplay

Clipping issues create canned moments that require better masking (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 a challenge that basketball titles are still facing: masking the inner workings of certain gameplay mechanics.

Game development isn’t easy. It’s something that is all too easy to forget when we’re grumbling and making snide remarks about a game we’re unhappy with. That’s not to say that we cannot and should not be critical, and then channel that into constructive feedback. After all, that’s how we can take an active role in the development of the games that we play. However, we do need to keep in mind that creating a realistic and enjoyable basketball game isn’t as simple as typing plain English into a file, and then saving it as a program. Unfortunately, coding just doesn’t work that way.

Indeed, there is a certain amount of trickery when it comes to designing video games. Like a magic act, various techniques are used to create illusions and cover up how it’s done. Of course, a magic trick is ruined if you spot wires, gimmicks, or the moves that make it happen. Similarly, the special effects in older movies can be very distracting, whether it’s the strings holding up puppets, or primitive CGI. The analogy here is that sometimes when we’re playing a basketball game such as NBA Live or NBA 2K, we can spot the strings, see through the sleight of hand, or notice the shortcomings in the special effects. Masking those tricks is an important challenge in future games.

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The Friday Five: 5 Gimmicky Features That Turned Out Great

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 gimmicky features that turned out to be great additions to basketball video games.

If you’ve been playing basketball video games for some time and experienced more than a couple of preview seasons, it’s tough not to get cynical. Chances are you’ve bought into the hype and been disappointed at least once over the years, and have likely learned to take previews with a grain of salt. Many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to features that sound gimmicky, particularly if they’re given a name that makes for a good blurb on the back of the box, but doesn’t sound like it will address our concerns regarding the experience on the virtual hardwood.

Of course, names can be deceiving. Some of the best features don’t have fancy names, while other times it’s the features with gimmicky labels that have a positive impact. A feature needs a marketable name if it’s going to be a selling point, and as long as it’s something that enhances the game, it’s all for the best. Thankfully, there have been several such features throughout the years, some being very pleasant surprises after a gimmicky name initially led us to be dismissive of them. Most of us will undoubtedly remain somewhat sceptical whenever we encounter fancy names during the preview season, but here are five features that turned out great despite sounding gimmicky.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Little Things That I Miss

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 some of the little things in old basketball games that I miss.

In 2019, we have an interesting relationship with nostalgia. It’s popular to indulge in it, but in recent years, there’s also been a significant backlash against reminiscing about the past and holding it in high esteem. The argument is often distilled into “old heads that can’t get over their nostalgia filter” vs “clueless kids who don’t understand the concept of recency bias“. The conversation is further muddied when it comes to video games, because advances in technology have undeniably led to improvements over the years. Of course, there have also been undesirable changes and missteps.

These Wayback Wednesday features are obviously about celebrating nostalgia, but I also feel it’s important to appraise how well games and their mechanics hold up, as well as make comparisons to other titles from the same era. I have a lot of fun doing that, and it’s always interesting to revisit old favourites. It’s given me an appreciation of ideas that were ahead of their time, and how far basketball video games have come. There are things that are best left in the past, but I’ve also encountered a lot of little things that I miss, and that’s what I’m discussing today. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: What NBA 2K Can Learn From Mortal Kombat 11

Start-Up Frames Explanation in Mortal Kombat 11

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 how NBA 2K could stand to take a few cues from Mortal Kombat 11.

The fact that I’ve been running a site dedicated to basketball gaming for eighteen years may lead you to believe that hoops games are all that I play, but in fact, I do enjoy quite a few other genres. As a gamer growing up in the 90s, there weren’t many games as cool (or should I say, kool) as Mortal Kombat. The MK series has obviously been very popular and successful through the years, and like many other gamers, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Mortal Kombat 11 last week. My copy arrived, I finished story mode in a single sitting, and am now looking forward to new kontent.

Fighting games and basketball games don’t have a whole lot in common – the cameos by Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam aside – but as I was going through all of the advanced tutorials in MK11, I was struck by their depth compared to NBA 2K’s 2KU. In addition to explaining the basic controls, Mortal Kombat 11’s tutorials provide a deep dive into the game’s mechanics, teaching gamers the fundamentals for playing competitively online and offline. With NBA 2K leaning so heavily on meta-gaming and mastering the minutia of its mechanics, there’s much that it could – and should – take from NetherRealm Studios’ latest release.

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The Friday Five: 5 Things That Ruin Presentation

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 things that ruin the presentation in basketball games.

Over the past decade or so, presentation in basketball games has gone from strength to strength. EA Sports’ licensing agreement with ESPN has brought in-depth recreations of the network’s NBA broadcasts to NBA Live, from the commentary team to all of the wipes and overlays. Although NBA 2K currently uses “NBA on 2K” branding, its presentation closely mimics that of the NBA on TNT. In the NBA’s Greatest mode in NBA 2K12, 2K achieved historically accurate presentation for each era represented in the challenges, via some very impressive audio and visual effects.

Unfortunately, for all of the great things that basketball games have done with their presentation, there are still a few nagging issues that can detract from the experience. These include annoying visual elements, distracting inaccuracies, moments that break the immersion, oversights, and persistent design flaws. It may sound melodramatic to say that these things completely ruin the presentation as they don’t render the games totally unenjoyable, but considering that some of them should be easy to address, they are nevertheless prominent annoyances. Call some of them nitpicks if you like, but I do believe that avoiding these pitfalls would improve the presentation in Live and 2K.

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Wayback Wednesday: The PDA in NBA Live’s Dynasty Mode

PDA in NBA Live 2005's Dynasty Mode

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 PDA feature in NBA Live’s old Dynasty modes.

I’m keen to see NBA Live flesh out its franchise mode experience again. Not only is it a necessity as far as delivering a well-rounded game, but I’ve spent many, many fond hours with Franchise and Dynasty modes in older NBA Live titles. NBA Live was the first basketball game with an in-depth multi-season mode, and it continued to expand through its revamp into Dynasty. NBA 2K has obviously taken the experience much further with Association, MyLEAGUE, and MyGM, but during NBA Live’s strong run back in the mid 2000s, many of us were really enjoying Dynasty’s advancements.

Of course, not every new idea was a good one. The revamp into Dynasty mode took away the ability to control more than one team, and some of the staff development mechanics over the years have felt more video game than sim. However, perhaps the most problematic and annoying feature was the PDA, which made its debut in NBA Live 2005’s Dynasty mode. As with most other concepts that didn’t pan out, it did have some merit, but the drawbacks outnumbered or outweighed the benefits. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Are Basketball Gamers Still Sim?

NBA 2K has been drifting from the sim style

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 basketball gamers are still in favour of sim gameplay and game modes.

For many years, we basketball gamers would talk about how we wanted to see the five-on-five games become more realistic. As technology improved, we saw a steady and pleasing increase in the level of simulation basketball, with NBA 2K in particular achieving some fantastic results in developing sim gameplay. Sim gameplay is what we always emphasised in our Wishlists, and the cause was likewise championed by Da_Czar, the President of Sim Nation who now puts his knowledge and enthusiasm for realistic virtual basketball to use as a developer on the NBA 2K team.

However, despite the influence of Da_Czar, as well as other sim-oriented developers such as Scott O’Gallagher and Gameplay Director Mike Wang, NBA 2K has been drifting towards a more casual style. The change is definitely not due to a lack of knowledge, dedication, talent, or resources, as we’ve seen what NBA 2K is capable of in terms of being an outstanding basketball sim. NBA Live, despite having its roots in a sim style, has also been focusing more on the streetball side of things in The One. These changes in style are obviously being done to appease the core demographic. As such, it’s not just about whether or not the games are sim, but if we gamers are, too.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve Online Modes in NBA 2K20

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 ways to improve online modes in NBA 2K20.

For many years, there wasn’t much that I could personally say about online play. I was mostly an offline basketball gamer, and while I was only too eager to pass along any feedback on behalf of online gamers, it wasn’t an experience that I took a whole lot of interest in. That changed in NBA 2K16, when Arcane and I were encouraged to join Kenny, The X, and Valor for some 2K Pro-Am games. I had enjoyed playing a few games of Online Team Play in NBA Live 08 as it was new and interesting, and Pro-Am proved to be an enjoyable spin on the concept.

As much as I value the single player experiences in modern basketball games, there’s no denying the importance of online modes. Visual Concepts clearly has a lot invested in the online experience, not only through providing a variety of ways to play online in NBA 2K, but also through their partnership with the NBA for the NBA 2K League. Despite that focus, and the general popularity of online play in NBA 2K, there are some major drawbacks and troubling legacy issues that need to be addressed in future games. I’m hoping that NBA 2K20 does see some key improvements in the game’s online modes, and this is how I believe that can be achieved.

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