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Monday Tip-Off: Absolute Controls Are Absolutely Best

James Harden dribbles the basketball in NBA 2K18

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 Absolute controls setting in NBA 2K games, and why I feel they are the best approach.

It took me a while to get used to the controls in NBA 2K. Having spent years playing NBA Live, it was difficult getting used to dribbling moves being performed with left stick movement and the Isomotion trigger. Even after the series adopted right stick dribbling controls in NBA 2K13, I wasn’t quite as proficient in pulling off slick moves and breaking ankles as I had been in NBA Live. Eventually, I discovered the root of my clumsiness on the sticks: the default Camera Relative controller setting, which makes stick movement dependant on your player’s position relative to the camera.

The Absolute setting, which standardises stick movements no matter where you are on the court and which camera angle you’re using, made NBA 2K’s controls far more accessible to me. It helps that it’s the same approach that NBA Live has always used for its right stick controls, but aside from familiarity, I’ve always felt it simply made more sense. There’s a legacy issue in NBA 2K where the Camera Relative/Absolute setting randomly resets, which means I’m always checking to make sure that it’s still set to Absolute before I start a session. After all, when it comes to dribbling controls, I strongly feel that Absolute controls are absolutely best.

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The Friday Five: 5 Annoying Stats Bugs 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 annoying stats bugs that have shown up in various basketball games over the years.

Stats in basketball video games are perhaps just as important as they are in the real NBA. Sure, we want to see life-like animations, realistic strategy, and play games that feel good on the sticks, but accurate scores and statistics are a major factor in having as much realism as possible in a sim-oriented title. Even if you’re a gamer who takes a more casual approach to the accuracy of simulated and user-generated stats, chances are you’re interested in the stat-tracking aspect of basketball games, especially if you enjoy putting up big numbers on the virtual hardwood.

Unfortunately for gamers who care about stats one way another – whether it’s posting huge numbers every game, or enjoying a realistic style of gameplay with more true-to-life performances – various games have featured annoying bugs related to the in-game statistics. From undesirable sim engine results to errors with stat tracking and displays, these glitches have adversely affected some aspect of the numbers that are accumulated on the virtual hardwood. Be it a lack of accuracy or just a feeling of accomplishment that you feel cheated out of, here are five of the most annoying stats bugs that have been encountered in basketball video games.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 2003’s Settings Myth

Allen Iverson dribbles the basketball in NBA Live 2003

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 popular myth regarding a gameplay setting in NBA Live 2003.

As I noted in my retrospective of NBA Live 2003, while the game was a landmark title in terms of introducing right stick dribbling controls, it came up short as far as the level of realism was concerned. Needless to say, despite our disappointment with that aspect of the gameplay, we did our best as a community to find ways of enhancing the experience. The most common was making mass tweaks to the ratings in order to alter the gameplay, but this had undesirable side effects in Franchise mode, especially when it came time for the game to generate a new class of fictional rookies.

Not long after NBA Live 2003’s release, a claim was made that a bug in the game’s settings was responsible for the lack of realism in the gameplay. This naturally led to a lot of excitement, with gamers enthusiastically trying out the suggested workaround, hoping that it would lead to a more desirable sim-oriented experience. Although the suggestion was quickly proven to be a myth, that didn’t stop gamers from insisting otherwise. It’s an interesting situation to reflect upon after all these years, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Building My 90s All-Stars Ultimate Team

Ultimate Team: Scottie Pippen 90s All-Stars (NBA Live 18)

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 efforts to build a team of 90s All-Stars in NBA Live 18’s Ultimate Team.

As I’ve noted in previous articles and in episodes of the NLSC Podcast, my current mode of choice in NBA Live 18 is Ultimate Team. Unfortunately, Franchise mode just isn’t where it needs to be yet, and while I do like the concept of LIVE Events and LIVE Run, living in Australia, I’ve found online play to be very choppy so far in NBA Live 18. While I obviously hope NBA Live 19 will see an improvement in both of those areas, for the moment I am enjoying playing Ultimate Team. I was taken in by the mode when it debuted in NBA Live 14, so even if those other modes were more appealing to me right now, I know that I’d still be spending some time with LUT.

I spent a considerable amount of time with Ultimate Team back in NBA Live 15, and managed to put together a team comprised of 90s Legends. As Legends packs began to be released for NBA Live 18, I decided that I wanted to try that again, especially as it’s currently still the only way to play with Legends in NBA Live. After drawing Scottie Pippen a few weeks back, those efforts got off to a very promising start. After adding John Stockton and Karl Malone last week, I found myself with a formidable starting five that’s reminiscent of the old 90s All-Stars squad. While I’m quite satisfied with that lineup, I wanted to round out the bench with some more 90s players.

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The Friday Five: 5 Reasons We Still Need Offline Content

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five reasons why we still need to have robust offline content in basketball video games.

It’s no secret that basketball video games have been placing more and more focus on their online experiences. Whether it’s new content being pushed through for single and multiplayer challenges, head-to-head showdowns, or modes that allow you to team up with friends and take on other squads, online content has become a big part of basketball gaming. It’s an area where NBA Live and NBA 2K will continue to expand and innovate, and with the popularity of online multiplayer gaming, as well as a desire for dynamic experiences, it’s vital that both titles do just that.

Unfortunately, the focus on the online aspects of NBA Live and NBA 2K can leave the offline experience out in the cold. While some gamers may suggest that its time has past anyway, I don’t think that’s true. As much as NBA Live and NBA 2K need to follow the current trends and provide appealing online modes and content, the offline portion of the game should not be ignored. Offline single player modes and content still have their place in basketball video games, so it’s important that they aren’t ignored moving forward. If EA and 2K need to justify spending time on those areas, here are five reasons why we still need offline content.

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Wayback Wednesday: Jordan vs Bird: One on One Retrospective

Jordan vs Bird 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 PC version of Jordan vs Bird: One on One by Electronic Arts.

In my retrospective of Lakers vs Celtics last year, I took a look back at one of the most famous forerunners to EA Sports’ NBA Live series. Although it was the first game in the NBA Playoffs series, and the oldest game in EA’s lineage of five-on-five titles, Lakers vs Celtics was not the developer’s first foray onto the virtual hardwood. That distinction belongs to the 1983 Apple II release commonly referred to as One on One, and alternatively as One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird, or Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One. Featuring Julius Erving and Larry Bird going head to head in a one-on-one match-up, it was one of Electronic Arts’ early successes.

The game would pave the way for a 1988 release titled Jordan vs Bird: One on One. This time, Larry Bird was pitted against Dr. J’s heir apparent, Michael Jordan. Not only did it build on the success of its predecessor by featuring more modes of play, it also enjoyed a wider release, coming out on the PC, Nintendo Entertainment System, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive, Commodore 64, and Game Boy. We’ll be focusing on the PC version for MS-DOS today, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: All That’s Leaked is Hot Air

Kyrie Irving dribbles the basketball in NBA 2K18

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 annual round of deceptive, clickbait content that claims to be leaked footage and information.

The preview seasons for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 are still at least a few months away, but it seems that the fakers are getting an early start. Over the past couple of weeks, supposed “leaked” details and fake trailers for this year’s games from EA Sports and Visual Concepts have been making the rounds, and sadly, it seems a lot of people have been fooled. As we discussed in the most recent episode of the NLSC Podcast, these practices do nothing to help the basketball gaming community. We need to be aware that people are trying to fool us and call it out, not entertain the notion that clear fakes and clickbait lies are leaked media and reliable scoops.

This behaviour is nothing new, and I’ve discussed it before. As long as online gaming communities have been around, there have been trolls signing up to forums or getting in touch with fan websites, claiming to have insider information. With social media and YouTube providing platforms for virtually everyone to have their say and create content, it’s easier than ever to spread misinformation and hoaxes. The more tech savvy trolls can easily whip up screenshots and even videos that can be presented as leaked previews of an upcoming release. At a glance, the better fakes may be halfway convincing, but really, the only thing that’s leaking here is a bunch of hot air.

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The Friday Five: My Top 5 Favourite NBA 2K 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 countdown of my personal Top 5 favourite games in the NBA 2K series.

In the five years that I’ve been writing The Friday Five, I’ve covered a lot of topics. I’m always thinking of what to write about next, and when some topics come to mind, it occurs to me how I should’ve discussed them a long time ago. Such is the case with today’s column, which is a countdown of my Top 5 favourite games in the NBA 2K series. I covered my Top 5 favourite games in the NBA Live series almost three years ago, so it’s about time I compiled a similar list for NBA 2K. I’ve admittedly changed my mind a little in regards to my top NBA 2K games, while my list for NBA Live does remain the same as of now.

As always, I have to stress that this countdown is a list of personal Top 5 favourites. It isn’t meant to be an unbiased, definitive list of the five best games in the series so far. These rankings are influenced by my own enjoyment and overall satisfaction with each release, not just an evaluation of their quality. It’s a list that’s intended to start the conversation, not end it. If you disagree, that’s fine; it’ll be interesting to compare notes in the comments section once I’ve finished having my say. Without any further ado, these are my Top 5 favourite games in the NBA 2K series, at least as of March 2018.

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Wayback Wednesday: Slam ‘N Jam PC Retrospective

Slam 'N Jam: Hook Shot

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 PC version of Slam ‘N Jam.

Back in the 90s, there were quite a few basketball video games that only licensed the name and likeness of a lone NBA star. Games like Michael Jordan in Flight, Barkley Shut Up & Jam, and David Robinson’s Supreme Court, all featured their namesake player alongside fictional teammates and opponents. In 1995, Crystal Dynamics (the developer responsible for Gex and Tomb Raider) and Left Field Productions (makers of Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside) released a couple of games with the name Slam ‘N Jam. The first game, Slam ‘N Jam ’95, featured only fictional players. It was followed by a sequel in 1996, titled Slam ‘N’ Jam ’96 Featuring Magic & Kareem.

As the title would imply, the sequel licensed the names and likenesses of both Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While the original game had been exclusive to the 3DO, the sequel was released for the original PlayStation and SEGA Saturn. It was also ported to the PC, simply under the title of Slam ‘N Jam. That’s the version I’m focusing on today, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Juggling Realism in MyCAREER

Press Conference in MyCAREER (NBA 2K18)

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 MyCAREER should handle the amount of realism in all of its facets.

Although a shift in gaming practices may sometimes suggest otherwise, it’s fair to say that we generally want basketball video games to be as realistic as possible. Even if we’re indulging in a fantasy by putting ourselves into the NBA and simulating the life of a professional basketball player, the general aim is to mix reality and fantasy. Sure, the tales that are now told through MyCAREER may be a bit far-fetched, our abilities are greatly enhanced, and we receive a lot of attention for a raw prospect, but apart from that, the gameplay and overall experience is intended to mimic real life.

This premise has made MyCAREER an extremely popular and successful mode. As I’ve said before, it’s made a fan out of me, despite traditionally preferring the franchise experience. However, as MyCAREER has expanded and introduced new concepts, from the connected online experiences to the hub world of The Neighborhood, there have been more and more inconsistencies with the way the mode has handled realism. Some of them are quite puzzling, and difficult to justify or reconcile with other design choices. Moving forward, the MyCAREER team will need to decide how to handle realism; specifically, when to be strict, and when to take liberties.

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The Friday Five: 5 Underrated Features in the NBA 2K Series

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 features in the NBA 2K series that are arguably underrated.

Following on from last week’s column, which looked at five features of the NBA Live series that could be considered underrated, I’m now taking a look at NBA 2K. Visual Concepts’ series of sim-oriented basketball video games has received a lot of praise over the past decade, and for good reason. The NBA 2K series has earned a lot of critical acclaim and sold millions of copies on the strength of its gameplay, deep game modes, and overall attention to detail. Even though we have our criticisms, NBA 2K has definitely had its strong points that are well-known and enthusiastically praised.

As I said last week, however, it’s often the little things that really make the basketball gaming experience special. The big features are important and they’re obviously what sell the games, but the smaller details often provide enhancements in many areas, be it greater accessibility or fun ways to play the game. At the same time, there are features that aren’t necessarily small, but still somewhat overlooked, or just not given their due for how enjoyable, helpful, or innovative they are. With that being said, here are five of the more underrated features in the NBA 2K series. Hopefully, the ones that are absent from recent releases can be implemented again at some point.

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Wayback Wednesday: Investigating NBA Jam TE’s Ratings

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 ratings in classic NBA Jam games, specifically the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition.

While playing College Slam for last week’s Wayback Wednesday feature, I noticed something interesting about the individual player ratings. Since the generic players can be edited, there is a cap on their ratings to prevent you from maxing them out at nine in each category. Interestingly, the cap varies from player to player, which basically ensures that at least one player stands out as the star of the team with better all around ratings or high ratings in a few categories, while other players are capped at a lower amount of ratings points, establishing a hierarchy and balancing the squads.

Thinking back to some of the unusual ratings that I’ve noticed in the original NBA Jam games, I began to wonder if a similar approach had been taken in those titles, and whether it could account for some of the ratings that seemed too high or too low. I fired up the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition to make a few calculations and comparisons, and what I discovered was quite interesting. There does seem to be a method to the ratings, and I’m not sure if it’s ever really been explored, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Quest for a Reliable Jumpshot

Shooting a jumpshot on MyCOURT (NBA 2K18)

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 reflections on my experiences trying to find a reliable jumpshot for my MyPLAYER in NBA 2K18’s MyCAREER and 2K Pro-Am.

When The Prelude was released in September last year, I agonised a little over the MyPLAYER Archetype I wanted to run with. Although I was tempted to run with a Pure Playmaker, I decided that I’d give Sharpshooting Playmaker a try. It seemed like a solid choice, especially as we wanted to make sure that we had at least a couple of viable threats from the outside on the NLSC’s 2K Pro-Am squad. Given that I like to rack up assists and run the offense, retaining the key skills and Badges of a Playmaker also seemed like a wise idea.

The results have been mixed. The Sharpshooting Playmaker Archetype doesn’t have a Hall of Fame level Badge, which locks me out of attaining one of the Trophies. As I’ve previously discussed, due to what seems to be an issue with my player’s dunking tendencies, I can very rarely throw down, even though I’ve upgraded my rating to be able to unlock a few fancy dunk packages. My biggest issue, however, is that I’m yet to find a jumpshot animation that I’m comfortable with. I’ve tried several jumpshots, from real players’ signature animations to custom jumpshots of various combinations. Unfortunately, none of them have been as reliable as I’d like.

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The Friday Five: 5 Underrated Features in the NBA Live Series

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 features in the NBA Live series that I feel are somewhat underrated.

As we compile our Wishlist for NBA Live 19, it’s important that we focus on the big features and the most pressing issues with the game. The most significant fixes and improvements to the experience will come through the development team focusing on the key aspects of controls, strategy, AI, authenticity, options, functionality, and the game modes. In other words, the most desirable changes and additions will be to the core elements of the gameplay, and the game’s biggest features. We don’t want EA to focus on inconsequential details. For example, fluid, realistic gameplay and a deep Franchise mode make a difference; the colour of the menus does not.

However, sometimes the little things go a long way in enhancing the experience, and making NBA Live more fun. When compiling a Wishlist, it’s crucial that we point out those features as well, and how they can get better. To that end, I’ve been thinking about some of the features in previous NBA Live games that kind of fly under the radar, and are perhaps somewhat underrated. They may not be the flashiest features, or absolutely essential to the core experience, but if nothing else, they’re good ideas that I’d like to see return or retained in future NBA Live titles. Here are five such underrated features that the NBA Live series has had at one time or another.

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Wayback Wednesday: College Slam

College Slam 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 College Slam.

College Slam is a 1996 title that a lot of basketball gamers may not remember, if indeed they’ve ever heard of it. I personally wasn’t aware of it until years later, since as is the case with all college basketball video games, it wasn’t available in PAL regions. Essentially an NCAA version of NBA Jam, it was developed by Iguana Entertainment and published by Acclaim, the companies who brought NBA Jam to home consoles and PC. Unlike NBA Jam, it wasn’t released in arcades, and never achieved the same level of popularity, largely due to its more limited release.

In many ways, College Slam is a re-skin of NBA Jam with NCAA licensing, but that is selling the game a little short. It did introduce a few new features that set it apart from its NBA licensed predecessor, and make it an interesting game to revisit. If the 2003 release from Acclaim is the forgotten NBA Jam, then College Slam is surely the forgotten spin-off. It’s another game worth remembering however, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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