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Monday Tip-Off: How Online Modes Are Killing Retro Gaming

How Online Modes Are Killing Retro Gaming

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 a focus on online modes and content is killing – or at the very least, putting a serious damper on – retro gaming on the virtual hardwood.

Unless you’re talking about beloved classics, sports games – and in particular, the ones that see a new release every year – tend not to be very popular in retro gaming circles. Because they’re attempting to capture reality in both their gameplay and aesthetics, they tend to age worse than other genres. Sports gamers want the latest release, set in the most recent season. As a result, sports games don’t make second-hand retailers a lot of money, resulting in their trade-in value being very low. If you’ve ever tried to trade in your old basketball titles, you’ll know that all too well.

This phenomenon predates the more recent approach to designing basketball games, though it used to be easier to stick with an older title, or go back to one. One could have a lot of fun dusting off an old favourite, and indeed, that’s a major factor for my Wayback Wednesday features. However, the games of the current generation don’t have the same retro gaming appeal. The heavy focus on online modes and content mean that titles are far more limited than they used to be once the servers have been shut down and support has ceased. It’s not just online multiplayer that’s been cut off, but access to major parts of the single player retro gaming experience, too.

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The Friday Five: 5 Pointless Options in Basketball Games

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 options found in basketball games that are rather (or indeed, completely) pointless.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t hurt to have as many options as possible in basketball video games. When it comes to the selection of modes, we want options. When it comes to the controls, we want options. When it comes to gameplay sliders and game settings, we want options. When it comes to customising the game in any way…well, you get the idea. While it may seem intimidating to have too many options, I’d much rather that and simply ignore anything I don’t want to tinker with, rather than wish I had the ability to change something.

With that being said, there have been options and tasks in basketball video games that have felt pointless. In the best case scenario they can just be ignored, but they can still be annoying, if only because you can’t help but feel that they could (and should) be more useful. They leave you wondering why the developers bothered to have those options in the first place, or why something wasn’t done more efficiently. Others may simply be left over from previous games where they had more of a purpose, and some benefit the publishers more than gamers. Whatever the case may be, some options are quite pointless, and these are five that come to mind.

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Wayback Wednesday: Reimagining The Jordan Challenge

Reimagining The Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11

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 reimagining The Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11.

The Jordan Challenge was a significant milestone in basketball gaming. In celebrating the career of Michael Jordan, it achieved what once seemed impossible: adding actual retro teams, rather than just a collection of Legends on Decade All-Star squads. Retro teams would be established as the norm, and the mode also paved the way for NBA’s Greatest the following year in NBA 2K12. The Jordan Challenge is a mode that I’ve profiled in a Wayback Wednesday feature, as well as gone back and finished. It’s a lot of fun, and a great achievement in one of the best NBA 2K titles.

With that being said, The Jordan Challenge isn’t perfect. As I’ve previously noted, the ten challenges do lack variety. Three of them are set in the 1990 season, recycling the 1990 Chicago Bulls and taking up spots that could’ve gone to other memorable games from MJ’s career. It doesn’t ruin the mode, but looking back, the inability to license certain players did limit it somewhat. With that in mind, I’m doing something a little different for this week’s Wayback Wednesday, and reimagining The Jordan Challenge with some additional and alternative games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Always Online Means Servers, Too

MyTEAM Servers Down for Maintenance (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 the perpetual problems with NBA 2K’s servers.

There’s an Australian idiom that goes “mad as a cut snake“. It can either mean very angry, or crazy and eccentric; in other words, playing off the two main definitions of “mad”. On this occasion, when I talk about being mad as a cut snake, I’m using it in the “angry” context and in reference to NBA 2K. Last week, I expressed my disgust on Twitter after issues with the MyTEAM servers caused me to waste a Locker Code following a disconnection. I usually prefer to keep my commentary constructive but sometimes, you just have to let off steam.

Look, I can keep things in perspective here. At the end of the day, basketball video games are just that: games. If the worst thing that happens to you in any given week is missing out on some free content in a basketball game, it’s been a pretty good week. Of course, this is a site dedicated to basketball gaming, so those are the matters that we concern ourselves with around these parts. As far as the issues that rank among the most concerning, online stability is undoubtedly up there. For all of the great things that NBA 2K has done with innovative modes and connected experiences, problems with the games’ servers continue to be a major letdown.

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The Friday Five: 5 Things I’ve Stopped Doing in MyCAREER

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 I’ve stopped doing in my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER games.

I’m at that point of the year where I’m trying to wrap up most of my business with the current games, maybe try a few other things before I’m completely bored of them, and then get ready for the preview season and this year’s releases. I’m more or less done with NBA Live 19 already; although I’m giving it another look in light of the recent patch, I just can’t get hooked on any of the modes. I enjoyed Ultimate Team last year, but NBA Live 19’s approach to the mode hasn’t been to my liking. I’m hoping it’ll be a different story with NBA Live 20.

Conversely, I’m still playing NBA 2K19 quite regularly. Despite my desire to get back to franchise gaming and a feeling of burnout when it came to career modes, I’m still going strong with MyCAREER. In fact, I actually have two careers going: one on PlayStation 4 in which I also play online, and a second one on PC. While I am still enjoying the MyCAREER experience, there are a few things that I’ve stopped doing in the mode. Most of them are admittedly extracurricular, but for several months they were nevertheless part of the MyCAREER grind. That’s in the past though, as for the most part, I’ve taken to shunning the following activities.

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Wayback Wednesday: A Long-Lost NBA Live 07 Preview

Dirk Nowitzki shoots a three-pointer in NBA Live 07

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 an NBA Live 07 preview that we had to pull due to spoilers.

The NBA Finals often brings us our first glimpse of the upcoming sim titles, though for the moment, both EA Sports and Visual Concepts are remaining tight-lipped. I’ve previously reflected on how the preview seasons seemed longer and more exciting in years gone by, and that was certainly the case in the mid 2000s. Back then, a lot of sites (including the NLSC) were on a mailing list for preview assets from EA. As the 2006 NBA Finals began, we received a press release detailing a simulation of the series in NBA Live 07, some prior gen screenshots, and new gen gameplay.

Unfortunately, we then received a directive from EA Sports that the feature and all of the media needed to be immediately pulled, as they contained something that wasn’t meant to be seen yet. As such, it would be a few weeks before we received any media that we could publish, and that 2006 Finals simulation in NBA Live 07 was lost to time. It’s something I’ve kept in my archives though, and since the Finals are upon us, it seems like a good time to bring it out of the vault. So, what was the result of the simulation, and why was the feature pulled? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Next Big Innovation in Basketball Games

Online modes have demonstrated significant innovation

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 the next big innovation in basketball games might be.

June is upon us, which means we’re drawing closer and closer to the beginning of a new preview season for NBA Live and NBA 2K. A few rumours are already starting to swirl, and it hopefully won’t be too long before we get a few teasers and tidbits to sink our teeth into. In the meantime, we’re left to speculate, and talk about what we want to see in this year’s games. I’m hoping that NBA Live 20 will prove to be a big step forward for EA Sports’ series; conversely, I expect NBA 2K20 to be another fine release, though I am hoping it won’t mark a return to NBA 2K18’s greedy approach.

A new console generation also looms, so beyond this year’s releases, I’ve begun to wonder about what the future holds for basketball games. Apart from concerns about the direction (and whether I’ve started to slip out of the core audience), I’ve also been wondering about the next step in terms of innovation. After all, we’ve already seen the games become more and more realistic, incorporate a variety of deep modes, and provide new experiences through online play. New hardware will naturally facilitate a jump in graphics and animations, but as far as features are concerned, what else can be done to innovate on the virtual hardwood?

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The Friday Five: 5 What If Scenarios in Basketball Gaming

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 gets hypothetical, as I consider five “What If” scenarios in basketball gaming.

Even though we shouldn’t tie ourselves up in knots dwelling on the past, it’s hard to resist the allure of a fascinating “What If” scenario. What if Michael Jordan didn’t retire in 1993? What if he never returned in 1995, or in 2001? What if the Boston Celtics had won the Draft lottery in 1997? What if the Oklahoma City Thunder had never traded James Harden, or remained the Seattle SuperSonics? What if LeBron James had never taken his talents to South Beach? For each of these scenarios, we can debate and speculate as to how history would differ in both outcomes and perspective.

The real NBA provides us with plenty of “What If” scenarios, as there are so many events that have the potential to be pivotal: trades, free agent signings, lottery results, injuries, clutch shots, and fateful decisions in crunch time of the biggest games. For the most part, the history of the virtual hardwood goes hand in hand with the general improvements and progression of video games as a whole, but a few big moments – as well as a few things that didn’t happen – have shaped the hobby as we know it. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the twists and turns that basketball gaming may possibly have taken, but they are five “What If” scenarios that I find interesting.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Lost Retro Teams

Bulls vs Blazers in NBA 2K11

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 retro teams that we’ve lost in NBA 2K.

It’s easy to take the retro teams in NBA 2K for granted. They’ve been a staple of the games since the introduction of The Jordan Challenge back in NBA 2K11, to the point where a lot of gamers no longer consider them bonus content; they’re something we expect to see in the games. There was a time, however, when it didn’t seem likely due to the hurdle of likeness rights. Indeed, a few years before 2K made it a reality, EA Sports made some preliminary steps towards including retro teams in NBA Live 08, ultimately scrapping the idea when they couldn’t license all of the players.

While it does seem like the concept of retro teams is here to stay – and there are plenty of ideas for new ones that could be added – not all of the previously included squads remain in NBA 2K. Over the years, a total of ten retro teams have been cut after being included in at least one game, though four of them would be replaced by a squad from around the same era. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Aiming for the Hall of Fame in MyCAREER

Hall of Fame Requirements 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 an update on my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER, and my new goal of making it to the Hall of Fame.

As the 2019 NBA Finals loom in real life, I’m already twenty games away from the 2020 Playoffs in my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER game. My enthusiasm has continued into a sophomore campaign, and with the regular season winding down, I’ve got a few milestones in my sights. Within the next few games, I’ll break Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most points, and my own record for most assists. I’ve already set a new steals record, and ensured that I’ll average a triple-double for the entire season. I’m feeling quite confident that I’ll guide the Bulls to a second straight championship.

My intention here isn’t to brag; everyone puts up awesome numbers in MyCAREER, after all. I’m just enjoying the challenge of trying to get triple-doubles, break a few records, and complete two full seasons while playing on twelve minute quarters. I do have another goal, however. I’ve been keeping an eye on the requirements for making the Hall of Fame, and it’s my intention to achieve that before I put NBA 2K19 aside. Despite spending a lot of time with MyCAREER in both NBA 2K13 and NBA 2K17, it’s something that I haven’t been able to accomplish. With all of the time that I’ve put into NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, I feel like this is the year.

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The Friday Five: 5 Times PC Gamers Missed Out in Basketball Games

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 times that PC gamers have missed out when it comes to the virtual hardwood.

Due to the popularity of the PC platform in our community, it’s all too easy to forget that it isn’t a priority for sports video game developers. Consoles account for a bulk of the annual sales, making PC sports gamers a niche within a niche. That hasn’t stopped us from having a lot of fun with the games that have come out on PC though, thanks in no small part to what our modding community has been capable of throughout the years. Furthermore, if you go back and look at the history of NBA Live on PC, there was a time when those releases could be considered the definitive version.

Unfortunately, playing on PC has sometimes led to missing out on content, or certain games altogether. From a developer’s perspective, consoles provide the convenience of standard hardware and digital platforms, as well as more security when it comes to piracy. Developing for the PC is more challenging due to differing hardware, as well as distribution methods. Even when the former hasn’t been a barrier to getting a PC release, the latter has prevented it from receiving the same level of support, including downloadable content. We’re fortunate enough to still get basketball games on PC, but here are five times that we weren’t so lucky on the platform.

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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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