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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve Ultimate Team in NBA Live 20

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 Ultimate Team in NBA Live 20.

Due to its extended hiatus, NBA Live was the last EA Sports title to implement an Ultimate Team mode. Along with Franchise and The One, its presence provides the game with the staple experiences of a franchise, career, and card collection/team building mode, and has proven to be a welcome addition. However, while Ultimate Team is a mode I’ve enjoyed since the reboot, it shares the same problem that other modes in NBA Live have suffered: it’s still too barebones. To that end, just as I have ideas on how to improve Franchise mode, I have suggestions for Ultimate Team.

After enjoying the mode so much in NBA Live 18, I felt disappointed by NBA Live 19’s Ultimate Team. Quite a few changes were made that I believe were done with the best of intentions, but the result was that an already thin mode became even thinner, despite making a couple of additions. It’s not too late to correct course however, as a lot of the building blocks are in place. LUT also made a great move in NBA Live 19 by removing contracts, something that NBA 2K’s MyTEAM should also implement. Generally speaking though, Ultimate Team should borrow ideas from MyTEAM, as well as bring back or expand upon concepts that it has featured in previous iterations.

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Wayback Wednesday: Revamped NBA Live 96 Mods

Editing the 2001 Season Roster for NBA Live 96

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 doing something a little different, and releasing revamped mods for NBA Live 96.

As I mentioned in my retrospective for NBA Live 96, the PC version is one of my all-time favourite games. It’s the version that I played the most, the first NBA Live that I owned on PC, and the game that led me to discover the NLSC, years before I came to run it. After discovering the tools that Tim, Lutz, and Brien had made, I spent quite a bit of time modding the game. It’s something I went back to for our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content, when I created the Definitive NBA Live 96 mod.

Feeling like I had a bit of unfinished business with the game, I’ve gone back and made a few updates to the Definitive NBA Live 96 mod. I’ve also gone back and finished the Complete Update mod, which updates the game as of the 2001 season. The latter is a mod that I never finished as NBA Live 2001 came out while I was still updating it, and I thought it would be fun to finish it off for a Wayback Wednesday feature. You can download the two mods at those links, but I wanted to share a few thoughts as I went back to do some modding…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Annual Return to Square One

Starting a new MyCAREER 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 look at one of the biggest problems in basketball gaming: the annual return to square one.

Being that I’m a content creator within the basketball gaming community, I have an obligation to pick up the new games every year. Of course, the whole reason that I create content for basketball games is that I have a keen interest in the genre, so even if I wasn’t running the NLSC, I’m sure that I’d be buying them every year anyway; it’s not just content creators that are getting the games on an annual basis, after all. NBA 2K in particular continues to sell an impressive number of copies year in and year out, due to loyal gamers making an annual investment in the brand.

As a community, we do this because we generally get enjoyment out of the games. We want to be able to play in the current NBA season with up to date rosters, enjoy new content in the team building and career modes, and reap all the other benefits that the annual releases have to offer. However, there are drawbacks to the games coming out annually, with one issue in particular being guaranteed. Even if we put aside the possibility of a new game being inferior to its predecessor, even if we like the latest game just as much or better than the one that came before it, there’s no getting around the fact that we lose all of our progress when we go back to square one every year.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve Franchise in NBA Live 20

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 Franchise mode in NBA Live 20.

Our Wishlists for NBA Live 20 and NBA 2K20 have been submitted, but as we await another preview season, I feel like talking about my hopes for the upcoming titles. I’m beginning with NBA Live 20, as it needs to be a big year for the long-running hoops series from EA Sports. NBA Live 18 and NBA Live 19 have been EA’s best efforts in quite some time, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. A recurring complaint that I’ve seen is that there isn’t enough focus on the NBA in NBA Live, and that’s a sentiment that I share. One way to address that is to give more attention to Franchise.

The counterargument I’ve seen to that suggestion is that Franchise is old hat for old heads, and that no one cares about it. Considering the fact that us old heads do care about it, and that younger basketball gamers have also expressed their frustration with the lack of depth to Franchise, it’s ridiculous to suggest that no one cares, and that it’s unimportant. NBA Live must provide deep, engaging experiences across the board, and with The One and its connected modes already quite robust, it’s time that a few enhancements were made to Franchise. As a long-time franchise mode enthusiast, I believe that focusing on these five key aspects will help achieve that goal.

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Wayback Wednesday: TV Sports Basketball

TV Sports Basketball Pre-Game Intro

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 Cinemaware’s TV Sports Basketball, released in 1990.

Cinemaware is a name that may ring a bell for older gamers, but is likely unfamiliar to the younger crowd. That’s because like so many other early game developers who went bankrupt by the 90s, they only exist as a brand and library of releases that has since been purchased by another company; in this case, Swedish game developer and publisher, Starbreeze. Cinemaware made some fine games in their day, and as with many other titles from the early days of video games, it’s fortunate that they’ve been preserved and made available through another company purchasing their assets.

The Cinemaware game that I grew up playing had nothing to do with basketball. It was their first game, a medieval action strategy title called Defender of the Crown. As with many of Cinemaware’s releases, it found its way onto several platforms, with the NES version being the one I own. Until I picked up the Cinemaware Anthology on Steam at Kenny’s suggestion, I had no idea that they also released a basketball game for Amiga and MS-DOS in 1990: TV Sports Basketball. I enjoy discovering these old basketball games that I missed out on at the time and checking them out to see what they had to offer, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: 2019 Free Agency According to MyCAREER

2019 Free Agency delivered Marcus Cousins to Indiana (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 the results of the 2019 free agency period, according to the predictions of my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER game.

Right now, the talk of the NBA is the rapidly approaching 2019 Playoffs (and the fact that LeBron James won’t be partaking in them), but it won’t be long before attention turns to the offseason. Glancing at RealGM’s list of players who will be unrestricted free agents come July, the 2019 free agency period has the potential to be a wild one. Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, Julius Randle, and Tobias Harris, are just some of the many significant names who will be available.

History suggests that for every big name that changes uniforms, another will stay put. In many cases, those players will make their decision contrary to all the speculation that they were definitely out the door, or a lock to re-sign. Sheepish admissions of being completely wrong aside, the speculation is still fun while it lasts. With the rise of basketball video games, it’s become quite fashionable to use their simulated results to generate predictions for the real NBA, whether it’s award winners, champions, or free agency signings. Having reached my second year in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, I’ve seen some rather interesting moves take place. Let’s take a look!

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve NBA 2K’s Retro Teams

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 that retro teams could be improved and better utilised in future NBA 2K games.

I know I’ve talked about retro teams a lot over the past few weeks in The Friday Five, but there are just so many intriguing possibilities. I’m taking a break from suggesting specific squads that I’d like to see added, and instead taking a look at how retro teams could be put to even better use in future iterations of NBA 2K. The current approach is certainly satisfactory for the most part, and in terms of providing extra content, it’s a long way ahead of what NBA Live is offering. Nevertheless, there are ways in which the retro teams could be handled better.

Obviously, there are other priorities to consider when it comes to the quality of future NBA 2K titles. Refining player movement and physics is important. Achieving a good balance between online and offline play is an ongoing challenge. Addressing issues with the amount of grinding and fairness of recurrent revenue mechanics is something that absolutely needs to be sorted out. However, there is room to discuss ideas for the bonus content, and indeed, the prevalence of retro teams in NBA 2K has more or less established them as a key part of the experience, year in and year out. To that end, here are five ways to improve NBA 2K’s retro teams!

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Wayback Wednesday: Livin’ Da Dream in NBA 2K16

Livin Da Dream Title Screen (NBA 2K16)

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 Livin’ Da Dream, the MyCAREER story in NBA 2K16.

Career modes have come a long way since they were essentially franchise modes with player lock. The concept has continued to evolve this generation, with MyCAREER pioneering the use of in-depth stories to accompany the gameplay experience. This hasn’t been to everyone’s liking – indeed, I’ve been critical of the approach on more than one occasion – but there’s no denying that a tremendous amount of work has gone into the production values of MyCAREER stories. 2K has also brought big names on board to bolster both the writing and performances of the tales told in MyCAREER.

After telling the story of competing with Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K14 and enlisting the help of several NBA players to voice themselves in cutscenes mentoring your player in NBA 2K15, 2K went all out in NBA 2K16. They brought in acclaimed (and now Academy Award-winning) director Spike Lee to develop a story for the mode that allows gamers to live out their dreams of playing in the NBA. That theme gave the story its title – Livin’ Da Dream – and it was a significant milestone in the continuing evolution of MyCAREER. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Putting the 2K in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2

Victory in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2

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 partnering with 2K has impacted the NBA Playgrounds series, both positively and negatively.

Since its release last October, our coverage of NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has been fairly light. I must admit to missing a few bulletins regarding official patches, something I’ve tried to remedy recently. One of the main reasons that our coverage has been so lax is that our community hasn’t really taken to the game. There was some support of the first NBA Playgrounds a couple of years ago, especially when we heard that it would be available for PC as well as consoles, but since then, there hasn’t been much enthusiasm around these parts. The lack of modding probably doesn’t help.

It’s unfortunate, as NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has made some pleasing improvements on its predecessor. It has its shortcomings, but overall, it’s a very solid arcade basketball game. The partnership between Saber Interactive and 2K has helped the game attain a higher profile, and also facilitated new content and features that are most welcome. At the same time, however, there have been some changes that definitely feel as though they’ve been influenced by the larger company. These changes incorporate some of the worst parts of recent NBA 2K titles, and are thus disappointing to see. Let’s go over some of the best and worst aspects of NBA Playgrounds joining the 2K family.

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The Friday Five: 5 Retro Teams I’d Like To See in NBA 2K (Part 11)

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 part eleven in a series of lists of retro teams that I’d like to see added to NBA 2K.

It’s just about time for me to be moving on to some other topics with the Friday Five, as I’ve been covering retro teams I’d like to see in future NBA 2K games for a month now. However, I do have another five teams that I thought of while planning these features, so I figured I’d wrap things up for now and come back with new lists later on down the road. After all, this may be the last list for now, but I’m sure more teams will occur to me. As I’ve said, when you look beyond former champions, their opponents, and other noteworthy teams, you can come up with some fun and unorthodox ideas.

There are certainly some teams in Part 11 that fit that description! With the current decade drawing to a close, I’ve also looked to include a couple more retro teams from the past ten years, as some of them are becoming nostalgic in their own right. If I can talk about NBA 2K17 in Wayback Wednesday, then I can surely include a few teams from the early 2010s on these lists! As with my previous features, I’m making these suggestions in addition to the teams I’ve already mentioned; I’d still like to see those teams in NBA 2K as well. I’m also assuming that enough of the necessary players will be licensed, if they’re not in the game already. With that said, let’s get to the list!

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Wayback Wednesday: A Mistake Unnoticed in Over 20 Years

Kevin Edwards Credit in Attract Mode (NBA Jam TE PC)

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 a mistake in the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition that I haven’t noticed in over twenty years.

As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, NBA Jam Tournament Edition is one of my all-time favourite basketball games. While I own the game on both Super Nintendo and PC, I’ve always been partial to the latter. It’s the version that I played the most, and I have many fond memories of playing the game with my cousin. One school holidays, we spent a lot of time playing with and against every single team, beating everyone to unlock all the secret players, and challenging ourselves to hit statistical milestones. For a while, it was a fixture of our basketball gaming rotation.

That’s why it’s so strange that I’ve never noticed a certain mistake in the game in over twenty years of playing it. While playing as the New Jersey Nets for the No Threes Challenge, I noticed that Kevin Edwards actually has Blue Edwards’ portrait. I knew about both players and what they looked like, basically from the time I started playing NBA Jam TE, so it’s really odd that it’s never clicked until now. I thought that I’d see if I could delve into the issue further, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Experiments in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER

Retiring in MyCAREER (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 some experiments in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, and the discoveries about the mode that they’ve yielded.

Once again, despite my belief that I was over the career experience on the virtual hardwood, I’ve ended up playing MyCAREER extensively in NBA 2K19. It’s been a fun and rewarding experience this year, and I’ve enjoyed grinding my way up to 90 Overall without buying any VC, completing the first season and bringing another virtual championship to Chicago, and more recently, hitting 92 Overall and maxing out all my Badges. The online experience hasn’t been stellar this year, but I can say that I’ve enjoyed much of what the single player portion of MyCAREER has to offer.

Spending so much time with MyCAREER has piqued my interest in finding out more about the mode. In addition to the observations I’ve made over the course of playing my main game, I’ve also run a few experiments with additional saves. I’ve wondered whether certain events are scripted and consistent, if there’s a game over should you play or sim long enough, the mechanics of the Daily Prize Wheel, and even the speed of the bikes. Through those experiments, and a thorough playthrough of the mode, I’ve compiled some information about MyCAREER that I hope will be both helpful and interesting to gamers who may have similar questions about all of its ins and outs.

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The Friday Five: 5 Retro Teams I’d Like To See in NBA 2K (Part 10)

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 part ten in a series of lists of retro teams that I’d like to see added to NBA 2K.

With this list of retro teams, I’ve reached a total of fifty throwback squads that I feel would make fun additions to NBA 2K! Although I’ve already covered many of the obvious choices in previous lists, thinking back through over seventy years of NBA history offers up a continuous stream of possibilities. As I’ve noted in my previous articles, some of the recently added retro teams open the door for squads beyond former champions, their opponents, and other great teams of note. Just because a team didn’t achieve great success in real life doesn’t mean that they aren’t fun to play with.

To that end, here are five more retro teams that would be fun to have in NBA 2K by default! Once again, these squads don’t override my previous suggestions; they’re all teams that I’d be interested in seeing included in future games. These suggestions are also assuming that all of the key players (or at least most of them) can be licensed, if they’re not in the game already. After all, it would defeat the purpose of adding new retro teams if they can’t even field five real players, preferably their actual starting five (though NBA 2K does currently include retro teams that are missing one of their regular starters). With all that being said, let’s get to the list!

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Jam TE No Threes Challenge

No Threes Challenge in NBA Jam TE PC

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 on another challenge in NBA Jam TE for PC, namely the No Threes Challenge.

Since I enjoyed dusting off the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition to take on last week’s All Threes Challenge, I decided to immediately follow it up with the complete opposite: the No Threes Challenge! This time, the goal is to win a game without hitting a single three-pointer; an easier task than in most of the sim titles, but potentially tough because of the way the CPU prevents inside shots with blocks and shoves. This won’t be a hit with analytics enthusiasts, but I’m going to give it a try anyway, using the New Jersey Nets. Let’s go back for a challenge…way back…

Once again, I’m open to suggestions for further retro basketball gaming challenges, be they for NBA Jam TE or another title (provided of course I have access to the game in question). I’m also open to ideas for Wayback Wednesday retrospectives, so if you’ve got a challenge in mind or something you’d like me to cover in this nostalgic weekly feature, let me know in the comments below. Also feel free to share any stories of your own self-imposed challenges on the virtual hardwood! I hope you enjoyed going Wayback with me, and a reminder to please subscribe to the NLSC YouTube channel for more video content.

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Monday Tip-Off: Music in Basketball Video Games

NBA Live 19 Mixtape

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 role that music plays in the basketball gaming experience.

One of the most recent patches for NBA Live 19 added a new song featuring Jadakiss, further demonstrating that all kinds of new content can be added post-release these days. Reactions to the new song can basically be broken up into three main responses. If you dig the track, it’s cool to see and hear it in the game. If it’s not your sound, you might grumble about the lack of “real music” among the tracks. If you don’t have any strong feelings about the song, you’ll likely be largely indifferent, except perhaps for some frustration that it didn’t constitute a more significant addition or update.

For most basketball gamers, the soundtrack ultimately doesn’t make or break a title. The action on the virtual hardwood is of much greater importance; you can always mute the soundtrack and put on your own music, but you can’t always find a way to enjoy the experience when there are significant gameplay flaws, or the modes are lacking. Nevertheless, in its own way, music has been an important part of basketball gaming over the years. It’s easy to think of it as nothing but background noise, but it does subtly influence our opinions of games, and shapes our nostalgia for them. In some cases, it can even affect us beyond our view of the games themselves.

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