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Monday Tip-Off

Monday Tip-Off: Cynicism & Developer Blogs

Developer blogs always deliver promising information (NBA 2K19, MyLEAGUE)

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 cynicism we often feel when we read developer blogs.

NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 are just a month away from release, which means we’re in the thick of the preview season. We’re not necessarily getting huge information dumps or new media every day of the week, but the stream of previews is growing steadier as their launch draws nearer. Of course, there are still quite a few things that we’d like to learn about the upcoming games, even though they’re already available to pre-order and will be released in just four weeks. As previously discussed, this has become the norm for basketball gaming’s preview season.

So far, we’ve had one deep-dive developer blog for NBA 2K19, detailing all of the improvements and additions to MyLEAGUE, MyGM, and MyLEAGUE Online in this year’s game. More developer blogs should be on their way, and Mike Wang has also been dropping some important information about gameplay enhancements via his Twitter account, but sometimes it’s difficult to take even the best news at face value. When we take a look back at the developer blogs throughout the years, it’s easy to notice a few patterns and recurring themes. Some people may call it “hating”, but if you’ve experienced a few preview seasons, it can be tough not to get a little cynical.

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Monday Tip-Off: How Other Games Helped Our Modding Community

bigGUI came from the FIFA Modding Community

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 other games have helped our modding community here at the NLSC.

When it was announced back in June that Madden 19 would be released for PC, the news was met with enthusiasm, and not just from the Madden community. While PC gamers who have been waiting for the return of EA’s NFL series are reaping the most tangible benefits right now, it’s welcome news for those of us in the basketball gaming community as well. Madden’s return to PC bodes well for the possibility of NBA Live also making the jump back to the platform in the future, something we’ve wanted to see since the game became a console exclusive beginning in 2008.

For now though, it’s merely a promising sign for the future. As discussed in Episode #258 of the NLSC Podcast, it was encouraging to hear Connor Dougan talk about a PC version of NBA Live in a recent interview, and even make specific mention of mods. The prospect of a revitalised Madden modding community should also be of great interest to us as a possible indication of what we should expect from a future PC release for NBA Live. After all, while we’ve done some great work over the years, the other talented modding communities that created content for EA Sports games helped us immensely. Indeed, without their contributions, we’d have been far less productive.

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Monday Tip-Off: Time to Light the Fire on a New NBA Jam

A roster update added Kyrie Irving to NBA Jam: On Fire Edition

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 why it’s time EA Sports brought out another NBA Jam game.

Although I’m a long-time fan of sim-oriented basketball games, I’m also a big fan of NBA Jam from back in the day. It’s something that I’ve mentioned several times on the NLSC Podcast, and it’s likely quite evident from all the times that I’ve covered a topic related to NBA Jam in Wayback Wednesday features. When the possibility of a brand new entry in the series was seemingly hinted at earlier in the year, I compiled a list of things that I believe a new NBA Jam game should have. As much as a new NBA Street game would be great to have, I’m still partial to seeing another Jam title.

Not only do I believe there is still a market for the game, but it feels like the time is ripe to bring back NBA Jam. The success of the original NBA Playgrounds last year has rejuvenated interest in the genre, though it arguably never went out of vogue in the first place. More importantly, we now know that its sequel – freshly renamed NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 – will be published by 2K Sports. With NBA Playgrounds joining the “2K family“, I’d love to see EA Sports resurrect the classic arcade property that it owns the rights to. With 2K going all in on an arcade hoops title in addition to their long-running sim game, it’s time for EA to light the fire on a new NBA Jam.

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Monday Tip-Off: Should 99 Overall Ratings Be Possible To Attain?

Road to 99 Loading Screen 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 discussion of whether 99 Overall ratings should be possible to attain in NBA Live and NBA 2K.

Few aspects of the core gameplay experience in basketball video games cause quite as much controversy as overall ratings. They cause heated debates and much frustration when a player’s overall appears to be too high or too low, or otherwise incorrect when compared to other players. It’s all too easy to place too much emphasis on them, even though the individual ratings are more important, and the formula for calculating the overalls often makes it difficult to get every player’s rating to be “perfect”. However, although they can be problematic and even unclear, they are an important mechanic.

A debate that I’ve seen come up more than a few times over the years is whether or not any player deserves the maximum rating of 99 Overall. Not counting some of the boosted cards in Ultimate Team and MyTEAM, only a few players have reached that level in NBA Live and NBA 2K over the years, including Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Magic Johnson. It’s also become a prominent goal to reach in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER, emphasised by NBA 2K18’s Road to 99. Few things make a player stand out in a video game quite like boasting a maxed out overall rating, but the question remains: should 99 Overall be possible in the first place?

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Monday Tip-Off: The Self-Destruction of NBA Playgrounds 2

Kevin Durant shoots in NBA 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 some further thoughts on NBA Playgrounds 2, and how the game appears to be self-destructing before it’s even released.

Back in May, I wrote an article discussing the opportunity that NBA Playgrounds 2 had to become the definitive arcade basketball game of the current generation. In the immediate wake of the game’s indefinite postponement, such a suggestion still felt somewhat plausible. As the weeks and months have passed, however, it’s starting to feel laughable. We haven’t heard a single thing since the game was postponed, and despite vague promises in the game’s official Facebook group, there’s little to back up the idea that “good things come to those who wait”.

Right now, Saber Interactive is insisting that the game isn’t cancelled, and that the release was pushed back for positive reasons. While that may ultimately turn out to be true, their silence is not inspiring confidence. Gamers are starting to feel sceptical and cynical, rather than anticipating an announcement that’s still “coming soon”. While the game may indeed come out, it’s going to have a tough time living up to the hype and expectations set by its mysterious delay. Even if it turns out to be an improvement on the first NBA Playgrounds and a solid game, the opportunity to become the arcade basketball game of this generation may have slipped through Saber’s fingers.

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Monday Tip-Off: Previewing Offseason Modding Projects

NBA 2K11 Modding Preview: LeBron James Chalk Toss

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 preview of some modding projects that I’m looking to work on during the offseason.

I’ve been creating content for basketball video games since 1997, and needless to say, a few things have changed since then. The games have come a long way, and I have different responsibilities and interests within the hobby. Over the years, I’ve become less involved with modding. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, that’s mainly due to a combination of burnout, and having to ration my free time accordingly. Not as many people are playing the old games that I have more experience editing, and there’s a lot to learn in terms of modding NBA 2K, so I’ve felt less motivated.

However, having enjoyed the hobby for many years, it’s hard to resist the lure of making updates for games; especially old favourites. While I don’t want to set any dates or make any concrete promises, I am looking at getting involved with some bigger projects during this offseason. I’ve been tinkering here and there and mulling the possibility of getting more involved in modding again for a couple of years now, and the recent release of the new version of the Ultimate Base Roster has provided me with some added inspiration to dust off those modding tools. I’m also inclined to try out some new things. Here’s what I’m looking at working on in the coming weeks.

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Monday Tip-Off: Franchise Modes Still Matter in Basketball Games

Franchise Modes 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 discussion of why franchise modes still matter to the basketball gaming experience.

Reading through the deep dive blog on Madden 19’s Franchise mode, I have to admit that I felt a bit envious. While not all of the specific features would be appropriate for NBA Live 19, the point is that the Franchise experience in this year’s Madden will be receiving some significant attention. Although it’s been confirmed that all modes in NBA Live 19 will be getting some additions and enhancements – good news as the game aims to take the next big step – it’s probably safe to say that Franchise Mode will be a much lower priority than The One.

That’s understandable of course, as it’s catering to the current trend that favours career modes and their connected online experience. However, it’s been a long time since NBA Live’s Franchise mode was a high priority, receiving the attention that it needs and deserves. Indeed, there were a few missteps in the “streamlined experience” in NBA Live 18, so I’m hoping for some much-needed enhancements this year. NBA 2K meanwhile has featured a much deeper franchise experience in the form of MyGM and MyLEAGUE, though it could benefit from a few fixes and some fine-tuning. I hope neither game neglects their franchise modes, as they still matter to gamers.

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Monday Tip-Off: Nostalgia in Basketball Gaming

Vince Carter dunks in NBA 2K11

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 nostalgia in basketball gaming.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Deconstructing it as a concept is a little beyond a site dedicated to covering basketball video games but suffice to say, experts who know a lot more about psychology and sociology than I do have identified both positive and negative aspects of nostalgia. Nevertheless, I’d say that for most of us, it’s a healthy indulgence of our old favourites, whether it’s video games, television shows, films, music, sporting moments, or whatever. It’s often fun to reminisce, not to mention good fodder for discussion and debate.

Basketball games appeal to our nostalgia with retro content such as historical teams, but old hoops games themselves also hold a certain appeal. It’s fair to say that many of us are nostalgic for the titles we grew up playing; I know I am, which is why I enjoy producing my weekly Wayback Wednesday feature. We also hold up the best releases from yesteryear as a benchmark for new games, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, we do want to see basketball games continue to improve, especially when it comes to the annual releases. However, it is possible to get caught up in nostalgia, judging new games unfairly and exaggerating the quality of older titles.

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Monday Tip-Off: Matchmaking & Microtransactions

NLSC GrindTime in The Playground (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 two very important areas in NBA 2K19: matchmaking and microtransactions.

I’ve mentioned matchmaking and microtransactions in previous articles discussing what I feel must be done in future NBA 2K games, and with the preview season more or less underway, it’s time to revisit these issues. Both are aspects that the NBA 2K development team must handle carefully, to ensure that the experience provided by NBA 2K19 is as accessible and as enjoyable as it can be. If the wrong approach is taken, then this year’s game is going to suffer from the same problems as NBA 2K18, with similar backlash. 2K is overdue to show its fanbase some genuine goodwill.

I originally planned to discuss matchmaking and microtransactions separately, but the more I thought about it, the clearer it became that the two issues are closely linked. Their respective shortcomings in last year’s game combined to make its most popular online modes far less inviting and enjoyable than they should’ve been. The lack of in-depth matchmaking made the pay-to-win aspect of microtransactions a much larger issue. Likewise, the impact of microtransactions in NBA 2K18 made the lack of proper matchmaking all the more apparent and problematic. If handled better, they needn’t cause as many problems with the competitive balance in NBA 2K19.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Harsh Reality of the NBA 2K League

NBA 2K League Logo (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 early weeks of the NBA 2K League, and some of the harsh realities that the venture is facing.

To say that the NBA 2K League has received an overwhelmingly cold reception is an understatement. Sure, there are people streaming the games, catching the highlight reels, and generally enjoying the League. However, a lot of people have had some harsh words for it, too. Posts about the League on the official NBA 2K social media accounts are often derisive and insulting. Similarly, when the NBA’s official accounts post about the League, the responses are often downright hostile. Although there is support for the NBA 2K League, the detractors are much, much louder.

Furthermore, while the NBA 2K League has found an audience, it’s not a particularly big one given the overall strength of the NBA 2K brand. Pastapadre has been keeping tabs on the viewership numbers, which have sunk as low as 2000 viewers on a night when there were no real NBA games to compete with. Although it’s still early days, and 2K likely anticipated some teething problems in the inaugural season, there are plenty of discouraging signs moving forward. The harsh reality of the situation is that no matter how successful NBA 2K may be, the NBA 2K League may simply have too many things stacked against it to succeed.

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Monday Tip-Off: Two Comebacks in Ultimate Team

Mitch Richmond in Ultimate Team (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 clips from two recent comeback victories I earned in NBA Live 18 Ultimate Team.

As I’ve discussed in a previous article, and on several episodes of the NLSC Podcast, Ultimate Team has been my mode of choice in NBA Live 18. I’ve put together a team of 90s All-Stars that are quite fun to play with, and have generally allowed me to have a lot of success in the mode. However, some of the recent challenges have been…well, quite challenging, albeit mostly due to some cheap play by the AI. It’s resulted in few frustrating losses, though also some very rewarding victories. Over the past week, I managed to earn a couple of comeback wins that felt very satisfying.

After fighting back to pick up the victory in dramatic fashion in both games, I knew I had to keep the footage of the final minutes for posterity…and for an NLSC feature. Here for your enjoyment are the final moments of my two games against the Central Division Legends and this week’s Team of the Year Challenges. Catch it here on our YouTube channel if you can’t see the embedded video.

Even though blowout victories are fun in their own right, it’s very gratifying to be able to pull off wins like that in basketball games, especially when the CPU hasn’t been playing fair. Even though there were several moments of frustration throughout – and I do believe the tougher difficulty levels will need to be better balanced in NBA Live 19 – the furious rallies and final result made them two of my favourite games that I’ve played this year. Have you had any exciting wins in NBA Live 18 or NBA 2K18? Have you been playing Ultimate Team or MyTEAM? Let me know in the comments below, and please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more video content.

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Monday Tip-Off: An Actual Comparison of NBA Live’s Graphics

LeBron James dunks the basketball (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 a proper comparison of NBA Live’s graphics over the past few generations.

This topic has been on my list of Monday Tip-Off ideas for a while now, so it’s about time that I finally cover it. Since the reboot of the NBA Live series in 2013 with NBA Live 14, the game has been under heavy scrutiny from gamers and professional critics alike. It stands to reason, as our expectations of basketball video games have only grown over the years, especially with NBA 2K raising the bar with several fantastic releases. There has been a lot of very fair and accurate criticism of EA Sports’ hoops series, in this community and elsewhere, resulting in quality constructive feedback.

However, there have also been plenty of comments that are purely intended to bash the games, or present a hyperbolic critique. NBA Live’s graphics are usually the most frequent target in this regard, since they’re among the first impressions we have of any video game. Buzzwords like “cartoonish” are thrown around a lot, as are comparisons to PlayStation 2-era graphics. I’ve already explained the many problems with the word “cartoonish” in a previous article, so this time I’d like to focus on the accusations of “PS2 graphics”. Unlike “cartoonish”, there’s no ambiguity here, as we can make direct comparisons between games. When we do, it’s clearly an inaccurate assessment.

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Monday Tip-Off: Artificial Difficulty in Basketball Games

Artificial Difficulty Fires Up the AI (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 a look at artificial difficulty in basketball games.

No matter what the genre, it’s all too easy to blame a video game itself when we lose. We’ll blame the controls, the mechanics, the AI, the overall design…anything except our own skills on the sticks and buttons. However, there are times when video games pose a challenge simply by not playing fair, manipulating and manufacturing the results. Be it rubber band AI, lightning fast reaction times, or some other tricky tactic, it all comes under the heading of artificial difficulty. Often a necessary evil, it can be used very effectively under certain circumstances.

If implemented poorly, however, artificial difficulty can ruin gameplay by punishing gamers for being too good. It can be particularly intrusive in sim-oriented basketball titles, where the gameplay is intended to accurately mimic the real life sport. There have been great improvements to the AI in the long-running NBA sim titles over the years, with many enhancements that have resulted in a more sophisticated virtual basketball experience. Unfortunately, a few legacy issues with artificial difficulty do remain. I believe it’s vital that the developers at EA Sports and Visual Concepts find a way to move past them in future NBA Live and NBA 2K releases.

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Monday Tip-Off: Time to Close the Book on MyCAREER Stories

Proving Ground Characters 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 my take on the future of MyCAREER stories, which is basically that it’s time for them to end.

I know, I know. I’ve talked about MyCAREER stories a lot. I’ve made my position on them very clear since they made their debut in NBA 2K14. However, we’re now five years into the story-driven approach in MyCAREER. Not only can we rank the stories in a Top 5, at this point we’ve also had ample time to evaluate the approach so far, and consider how it should be handled moving forward. It’s fair to ask whether or not a story is necessary or wanted in MyCAREER, and if it is, what can be done to continue to innovate in future iterations of NBA 2K.

As you might expect, my suggestion is that a new approach is needed, but I’d like to explain my reasons beyond a simple distaste for the narratives we’ve experienced so far. This is intended to be a constructive piece that offers ideas and solutions, rather than just bashing an aspect of NBA 2K that I don’t particularly like. My dislike of the stories themselves is a factor, but if the goal is to innovate and offer new experiences, then MyCAREER stories could actually be getting in the way of that. While it would be possible to steer them in a new and more innovative direction, I do believe that it’s time to close the book on MyCAREER stories.

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Monday Tip-Off: Getting Back to Basics with NBA 2K19

2002 Kings Clones 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 how getting back to basics with NBA 2K19 would be a great move after the controversy and dissatisfaction that surrounded NBA 2K18.

For years, NBA 2K has been the dominant brand in basketball gaming. It started with EA Sports’ misfire when NBA Live 06 was released on Xbox 360, devoid of Dynasty Mode and generally being a rough transition to the next generation. As NBA Live continued to struggle, NBA 2K stayed the course and went from strength to strength, garnering higher ratings from reviewers and eventually becoming the top-selling NBA game when NBA 2K9 outsold NBA Live 09. The series has continued to innovate and receive praise from gamers and gaming publications alike, setting sales records and expanding its brand with its own weekly TV show, and now an eSports league.

And yet, despite all its success, the brand doesn’t feel as untouchable as it once did. NBA 2K18 received an unprecedented amount of backlash over its greedy and anti-consumer approach to microtransactions, which greatly affected some of its most popular modes. Beyond that controversy, a lot of gamers felt that the game had simply taken a few steps backwards with a new motion system that didn’t seem quite ready, AI that didn’t feel as smart or realistic, and rosters that were riddled with problems. While 2K’s strategies for “recurrent revenue” obviously won’t be going anywhere, I’d suggest that NBA 2K19 could otherwise really benefit from going back to basics.

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