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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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Wayback Wednesday: The History of Jumpshots in Video Games

Kevin Durant shoots over Nicolas Batum (NBA 2K14)

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 history of jumpshots in basketball video games.

Jumpshots are a basic staple of basketball, and one of the most common ways of scoring; especially in the modern era. With that in mind, it’s strange that they used to be one of the weaker aspects of the mechanics in basketball video games. In the early days of basketball gaming, jumpshots were nowhere near as reliable as they should have been. I even remember a strategy guide for NBA Live 96 basically advising against taking jumpshots and in particular long two-pointers, citing that they had all of the difficulty and risk of three-pointers, without the added reward of an extra point.

Thinking back on it now, that advice actually predicted the rise of analytics, as well as disdain for shooting from midrange. Of course, while opting for shots right at the rim or from beyond the arc and eschewing the midrange is all about efficiency in the modern NBA, in old school basketball video games, it was about effectiveness. Until the mechanics were properly developed, taking a jumpshot – even a wide open ten footer along the baseline – was unrealistically risky on the virtual hardwood. You can call this piece The History of Jumpshots in Video Games (Or, Why Shot Meters Are Important). Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Empty Neighborhoods of NBA 2K PC

Deserted Cages in NBA 2K PC

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 lack of online activity in NBA 2K PC, as evident by the empty Neighborhoods outside of the US servers.

Since the launch of the current console generation, I’ve been picking up NBA 2K on both PC and PlayStation 4. This has led to a balancing act that usually results in one of the platforms being largely neglected. Because I’ve played a lot of 2K Pro-Am with the rest of the NLSC squad on PS4, the copy that’s usually gone to waste for me is the PC version. This year, I’ve made a better effort to play both of my copies, and had a lot of fun doing so. I’m almost at the point where I have a second MyPLAYER on PC at 90 Overall, and I’ve built up decent MyTEAM squads on both platforms.

However, while both platforms have been viable in terms of providing an enjoyable single player experience, it’s a different matter when it comes to online play. In short, if it’s a multiplayer experience I’m after, I’m choosing the PS4 over the PC every time. The simple reason for that is with the way The Neighborhood in particular functions, I’ve found it impossible to get a game. Firing up MyCAREER and loading into The Neighborhood drops you into an eerily empty and quiet game world, with no one in sight to play with or against. It’s not quite the same on the US servers, but for those of us in other regions, NBA 2K PC is a ghost town online.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve MyCAREER 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 MyCAREER in NBA 2K20.

MyCAREER remains the most popular mode in NBA 2K, both for the ability to live the life of an NBA player, and participate in online multiplayer gaming through the connected experiences of 2K Pro-Am and The Playground. It has achieved popularity through being a deep and robust mode, and innovations such as detailed stories. While its implementation of VC has at times been controversial due to the way it encourages microtransactions, it’s contributed greatly to the recurrent revenue model despite some vocal grumbling from gamers. Overall, it’s been a huge success for NBA 2K.

Nevertheless, both the offline and online aspects of MyCAREER still have room for improvement. I’ve enjoyed the experiences they offer despite traditionally being a franchise gamer, and found myself getting drawn back into MyCAREER in NBA 2K19 despite feeling that this may be the year to take a break. Having played the mode extensively over the past few years, I have a few thoughts on how it could provide an even better experience for basketball gamers. From the handling of the story and goodwill, to game balance and better functionality, here are five ways that NBA 2K20 could make an already great mode even better.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Evolution of MyCOURT

Lodge MyCOURT in NBA 2K17

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 evolution of MyCOURT in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

When MyCOURT was first announced for NBA 2K15, it struck me as a gimmicky premise that wasn’t really worth getting excited about. In all fairness, my reaction was partly due to NBA 2K14 souring me on MyCAREER after really enjoying the mode in NBA 2K13, but even putting that aside, it sounded like a superfluous feature that was banking on 2K’s ever expanding “My” branding. As it turned out, MyCOURT has proven to be both a visually appealing hub for MyCAREER, and a means to get a hang of your player, try out custom jumpshots, and play some fun games.

Even as MyCAREER has adopted The Neighborhood as its primary game hub, our MyCOURT remains an important part of the game world. It’s also been revamped and renovated since its debut in NBA 2K15, with some cool designs and new mini-games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Repaving the Road to 99

Level Rewards on the Road to 99 (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 some ideas on how to improve the Road to 99 in future iterations of NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

The Road to 99 is a smart concept. From our point of view, it’s a good incentive to keep playing and levelling up in MyCAREER, providing both rewards and a feeling of accomplishment. Not unlike the Trophies and Achievements, we can get a high from unlocking new rewards, and seeing our Overall Rating climb higher and higher. From 2K’s perspective, it’s a brilliant way of encouraging engagement, and of course, microtransactions. After all, the quickest way to level up and get all that cool stuff is to buy VC for some quick boosts!

All cynicism over recurrent revenue mechanics aside, it is a fun concept, providing some added purpose to levelling up as high as you can. It gives the Overall Rating more meaning, and with some of the abilities that we can unlock, aptly represents the kind of influence players can have as they become stars and franchise cornerstones. Of course, while the Road to 99 is a great idea, it could be better implemented. Some milestones could be placed elsewhere on the Road to 99, while other logical rewards aren’t on offer at all. To that end, I’m taking a shot at repaving the Road to 99, with a few suggestions on how to handle the milestones and their rewards moving forward.

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