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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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Monday Tip-Off: The Unexpected on the Virtual Hardwood

Kawhi Leonard dunks in NBA 2K19

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on how it’s difficult to implement the realism of unexpected moments in basketball games, without them coming across as contrived.

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

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

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

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five improvements that I’d like to see made to LIVE Run and LIVE Events in NBA Live 20 and beyond.

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

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

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live Picture Editor

No Portrait Available Texture (NBA Live Picture Editor)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the NBA Live Picture Editor, a tool for modding portraits in NBA Live 95, 96, and 97.

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

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

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Monday Tip-Off: Masking the Inner Workings of Gameplay

Clipping issues create canned moments that require better masking (NBA 2K19)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on a challenge that basketball titles are still facing: masking the inner workings of certain gameplay mechanics.

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

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

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The Friday Five: 5 Gimmicky Features That Turned Out Great

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five gimmicky features that turned out to be great additions to basketball video games.

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

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

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