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Monday Tip-Off

Monday Tip-Off: Reviving the Retro Modding Scene

Monday Tip-Off: Reviving the Retro Modding Scene

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on reviving the retro modding scene, and how we could best accomplish that.

Given that my dissatisfaction with the most recent releases in the NBA 2K series has pushed me towards retro basketball gaming – however you want to define that – I’m obviously intrigued by the prospect of reviving the retro modding scene. To reiterate a point I made when I discussed the definition of retro gaming, retro modding means different things to different people, but broadly speaking, I’d suggest that it refers to nostalgic favourites that the community has largely moved on from, but a dedicated contingent of people still revisit and have interest in modding and using mods for.

As far as the specific titles, we can name some popular examples here. NBA 2K13 and NBA 2K14 are two of the most modded games of their generation, and they hold up well. There’s a ton of nostalgia for the later NBA Live releases on PC, especially NBA Live 2005 and NBA Live 06, with NBA Live 2003 and NBA Live 2004 being up there as well. NBA 2K11 has some untapped potential, and is a game I’ve seen gamers cite as one they’d like to see benefit from more retro modding. NBA 2K17 and NBA 2K19 are two recent classics that gamers want to keep alive. I love the idea and support the initiative, but to make it happen, we must keep a few things in mind.

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Monday Tip-Off: I Bought VC For The First Time In Years (And I Hate That)

Monday Tip-Off: I Bought VC For The First Time In Years (And I Hate That)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on buying VC for the first time in years, and how it bummed me out to do it.

The first time I spent real money on VC was in the PlayStation 4 version of NBA 2K14. Intrigued by my first look at MyTEAM, I figured I’d drop a few bucks on it and try my luck. I had one very lucky pull – a 1993 Michael Jordan card – but it was quite clear that generally speaking, it’d be a poor investment. I also splurged on some VC in NBA 2K16, 2K17, and 2K18 in order to upgrade my MyPLAYER to be ready for the online scene sooner. Beginning with NBA 2K19 however, I began adhering to a strict No Money Spent policy. I found great satisfaction in not giving in to the pressure.

I continued that approach in future games, while encouraging my fellow gamers to do the same. That hasn’t changed: I despise the pushiness of microtransactions in NBA 2K, and how the quality of the on-court experience suffers if you want to take the long road. However, I must admit that as far as buying VC myself, after abstaining for several years, I gave in. While it isn’t one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever done in my life – I’ll keep those stories to myself, thank you very much! – I certainly wasn’t pleased that I did it. There was a reason for it, but even so, I do regret my lack of patience, and participation in a practice that continues to ruin the NBA 2K series.

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Monday Tip-Off: A Requiem for ICQ

Monday Tip-Off: A Requiem for ICQ

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a requiem for ICQ.

Alright, so this topic isn’t strictly related to basketball gaming, but hey, it’s my column and I’m essentially the editor-in-chief here, so who’s going to stop me? Besides, ICQ is certainly relevant in the history of our community, as plenty of people who were around in the early days – me included – used it to chat with each other. Indeed, for those of us who were online in the late 90s, ICQ was likely one of our first instant messaging clients along with AOL Instant Messenger, aka AIM. I’m guessing that most of us haven’t used the program in years, but ICQ has remained active as of 2024.

Until now, that is. On May 24th 2024, it was announced on ICQ’s official website that the service will be shut down on June 26th, after almost 30 years. As someone who used ICQ back in the day, I’m compelled to become the latest person to eulogise this vestige of 1990s internet. Considering that we’ve also been around since 1996 and will now outlast ICQ, it also has me thinking about the passage of time; what’s come and gone, and what the internet has gained and lost over the years. I realise that this isn’t Wayback Wednesday, but nevertheless, I wanted to reminisce about ICQ and reflect on its impressive longevity, as well as my nostalgia as an Elder Millennial.

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Monday Tip-Off: Black Plates & The Big Picture

Monday Tip-Off: Black Plates & The Big Picture

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on the issue of “black plates” in NBA 2K24, and how complaints about those gamers are missing the big picture.

After several years of grinding to level up a MyPLAYER so that I could partake in MyCAREER’s connected online modes, I gave up shortly into the life cycle of NBA 2K21. It’s simply not fun to repeat that journey every year, especially as the mode has become pushier and pushier with its recurrent revenue mechanics, and the scene has only grown increasingly toxic. With that being said, I do keep tabs on what’s going on with NBA 2K’s online scene, paying attention to what my fellow basketball gamers are saying about it on social media and Reddit.

Sadly, from the sounds of things, not much has changed. Well, it might’ve grown even worse if anything, but it certainly hasn’t improved! It seems that one of the biggest issues in NBA 2K24 – at least according to discussions over on the official NBA 2K subreddit – has been the matter of “black plates”. For those who are unaware, this is referring to a rep system in MyCAREER’s connected modes, which displays different colours behind a MyPLAYER’s overall depending on their online performance. As the players with the lowest rep, “black plates” are generally avoided. While this is understandable, it exemplifies an ongoing issue with the design of 2K’s online modes.

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Monday Tip-Off: Padding & Politics in Player Ratings

Monday Tip-Off: Padding & Politics in Player Ratings

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on the padding and politics involved with player ratings.

Although the discussion has seemingly turned to MyPLAYER builds and figuring out the meta, I’d suggest that real player ratings will always be a point of interest. They’re still vital in accurately representing the players’ abilities and skill levels, and if you play franchise modes or with retro teams, you’ll notice mistakes and inconsistencies. There’s also still an interest in which players are top-rated in key categories such as dunking and three-point shooting, as well as where everyone ranks with their Overall Ratings. Again, it may not be as much of a focus now, but there’s still a discussion.

To that point, it’s clear that personal opinions and politics do play a role in both our view of the ratings, as well as how they’re assigned in the first place. Lest I sound like a grumpy old head grumbling about modern games, let’s make it clear that this has been going on for many, many years! Indeed, I’d suggest that as long as basketball video games have had visible ratings – and in some cases, where there have been some sneaky hidden mechanics – player abilities have been subject to padding and politics. There are times when it’s been fairly benign or even enhanced the experience, but it can certainly be problematic and damaging when it leads to widespread inaccuracies.

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Monday Tip-Off: Defining “Retro” in Retro Gaming

Monday Tip-Off: Defining Retro in Retro Gaming

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on the accuracy of the word “retro” when it comes to retro gaming, basketball or otherwise.

For a few years now, I’ve preferred playing old favourites and discovering new retro kicks to spending time with the latest NBA 2K. I do always want to give the newest release a chance, but beginning with NBA 2K21 – both versions, in fact – I’ve found more joy in revisiting older titles. It’s something that Dee enjoys as well, and we’ve often advocated for retro gaming on the NLSC Podcast, as well as through our other content. “Retro gaming” is the term that we often use, but considering the recency of some of the titles, it leads one to wonder: is “retro” really the right word?

Indeed, this is a question that goes beyond basketball gaming: how old does a game need to be to truly qualify as “retro”? Is there a generational cut-off? Is there a term that’s more appropriate, or less misleading? After all, “retro” means different things to different people. Depending on how old you are and when you started gaming, the primitive titles of your youth will seem like truly ancient history to some, while others remember them as landmark jumps and technological feats. While I’m generally fine with using “retro gaming” as a blanket term for the hobby and practice of playing older video games, there’s ambiguity to the term that invites a thoughtful discussion.

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Monday Tip-Off: Makeshift Classic Teams & Other Minimalist Rosters

Monday Tip-Off: Makeshift Classic Teams & Other Minimalist Rosters

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on my recent habit of creating and playing with makeshift classic teams – and other minimalist rosters – while retro gaming.

There are multiple ways in which I can indulge my NBA nostalgia. I can simply revisit an old game and play with rosters that are now a time capsule. For over a decade now, the NBA 2K series has provided a plethora of historical content, from classic teams to All-Time squads to the Decade All-Stars. There are also mods that I can download, or I could always create my own retro rosters in one of my favourite games. In short, if I feel like taking a trip down memory lane on the virtual hardwood, it can be done with impressive accuracy.

As such, I will absolutely do all those things! However, cobbling together makeshift classic teams has become a consistent part of my basketball gaming over the past year or so. I’ve also tinkered with the rosters of old games I’m dusting off by rolling them back to the previous season, or creating minimalist Legends squads. It may sound highly unnecessary when there are games that already provide that content, not to mention strange that I’m not opting for more accuracy with a full retro mod. However, I’ve had a blast incorporating some minimalist modding into my retro gaming. There’s an undeniable appeal to assembling something new with only the content on hand.

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Monday Tip-Off: Not So Fast, Past Me!

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off by revisiting an article I wrote in 2019, in order to discuss just how much I disagree with Past Me.

Normally, I reserve revisiting and republishing articles for Wayback Wednesday, though it’s one of my more rarely-used topics. However, this is more of a sequel column; a follow-up to opinions I expressed going on five years ago, that I strongly disagree with now. That’s not a bad thing, of course. It’s a positive trait to be able to remain open-minded, changing your stance when new evidence is presented and not just continuing to believe something because it’s been your view for so long. Ideally, we should be able to look back at what we’ve said and who we were, and see growth.

While browsing our archives, I was reminded of a Monday Tip-Off that I wrote back in 2019: “The Difficulty of Going Back“. As that title suggests, Past Me was opining that it was becoming increasingly challenging to return to older releases, and bring them back into my basketball gaming rotation. Considering how passionately I’ve advocated for retro basketball gaming since then, it should be obvious how much my opinion has changed! Of course, just as there are reasons I’ve become more receptive to going back to older hoops titles once again, there were reasons why Past Me felt it was growing difficult; even with a long history of retro gaming. Allow me to explain.

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Monday Tip-Off: The NBA 2K24 Backlash, In Perspective

Monday Tip-Off: The NBA 2K24 Backlash, In Perspective

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on the backlash that NBA 2K24 has received, and trying to put it all into perspective.

It’s fair to say that NBA 2K24 has received significant backlash. The PC version was at one point the worst-rated game on Steam, and although its rating has rebounded somewhat since then, the reviews still skew mostly negative. It doesn’t help that it’s a port of the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version, but a glance at Metacritic reveals a user score of 2.1 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X as well. There are positive reviews for NBA 2K24 on Metacritic, but for the most part, once again the user scores are far more negative than the ones from professional critics.

The backlash goes beyond scathing scores for NBA 2K24, however. You’ll see far more negative comments about the game wherever it’s being discussed, be it social media, forums, or Reddit. Dissatisfaction with the game and disgust with recurrent revenue mechanics has been building for years, and as a result, gamers are more forthcoming with criticism and disdainful remarks than ever before. This has only increased since content creators who cover MyTEAM have exposed how the mode has reached new heights – or perhaps, lows – in terms of greed. Yes, there’s backlash against NBA 2K24, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, it likely won’t make a difference.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Harsh Reality of PC Basketball Gaming

Monday Tip-Off: The Harsh Reality of PC Basketball Gaming

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a frank discussion of the harsh reality of PC basketball gaming.

I won’t say that I’ve never been one to engage in tribalism with my various fandoms. Back in the 90s, I was a Nintendo kid. That meant in my mind, Nintendo ruled, Sega sucked, and all of the blast processing in the world couldn’t convince me otherwise. In the Monday Night Wars, I was Team WWF, and outside of local indie promotions here in Australia, WWE is still my wrestling company of choice. When it comes to basketball, my allegiance is to the Chicago Bulls. While that doesn’t mean I hate every other team, there are absolutely a few that I’ve actively cheered against!

In short, while I believe tribalism makes fandoms incredibly toxic, I can’t claim that I’ve always been above it. However, one war that I’ve never taken a side in is the whole Console vs. PC debate among gamers. That’s because I’ve always played games on both, going right back to my introduction to console and PC gaming, the Mattel Intellivision and TI Basic respectively. Some of my favourite games only came out on consoles, some only came out on PC, and some – including basketball games – came out on both. PC basketball gaming is what our community was built upon, and I’m obviously a big fan of it, but there’s a harsh reality with the platform we must face.

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Monday Tip-Off: Low-Stakes Basketball Gaming

Monday Tip-Off: Low-Stakes Basketball Gaming

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on how much I’m enjoying low-stakes basketball gaming.

Naturally, Play Now/exhibition mode is a necessary staple in basketball video games, as it is in all sports titles. It’s important to be able to just jump into a game where the result doesn’t have to count, especially while we’re getting acclimated to a new title. However, historically speaking, I generally haven’t played too many exhibition games once I’m hooked on a release. More often than not, I’ve just used Play Now to grab screenshots for an article or news post, immediately quitting after getting what I need. If I was going to settle down to play a full game, I wanted it to count for something.

Over the past few years though, my habits have drastically changed. I’m still eager to play games that count, as my ongoing NBA 2K14 MyCAREER and other preserved save files demonstrate. At the same time, I’ve become far more open to – and keen on – low-stakes basketball gaming. Even putting aside sessions where I’ve just fired up a game to capture screenshots or video for a feature, I’ve probably played more Play Now and exhibition mode games in the past couple of years than I have in a long time; perhaps ever in my decades of hitting the virtual hardwood! I must say that it’s been incredibly refreshing, and as such, it’s something that I intend to keep doing.

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Monday Tip-Off: C’mon Take-Two…CTC

Monday Tip-Off: C'mon Take-Two...CTC

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a clear message for Take-Two: when it comes to historical players, CTC; cut the cheque!

Browse the classic teams or the lineups in MyNBA Eras, and you’ll be able to compile a lengthy list of players who are missing. Now, getting everyone into the historical rosters in NBA 2K is easier said than done, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see complete lineups outside of community-made projects. It should also be noted that 2K has made significant strides here, working diligently with Kenny Gattison – former NBA player and now Vice President of membership and Player Programming for the NBRPA – to get more alumni onto the virtual hardwood.

Even with his assistance, it’s not an easy task. Some players are difficult to track down, while others may not be interested in participating. If they’ve passed away, their family may be understandably reluctant to sign over their likeness rights. And of course, other players may simply be unimpressed by the offer Take-Two has made to them. In fact, three of the biggest names who remain absent – Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, and Rasheed Wallace – have been pretty clear that they’re dissatisfied with 2K’s pitch to be in the games. Indeed, when Sheed was asked about his absence, his response was CTC; cut the cheque! As such, I believe Take-Two should cough up.

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Monday Tip-Off: Video Game Teams

Monday Tip-Off: Video Game Teams

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at the concept of Video Game Teams.

Dee and I have mentioned “Video Game Teams” and “Virtual Hardwood Legends” on several episodes of the NLSC Podcast. That’s because they’re part of some of our favourite basketball gaming memories, and I know that we’re definitely not alone in that regard. There have been many articles and posts from basketball and other sports gamers who fondly recall players and teams that were dominant in video games – even unstoppable – irrespective of their real life performance. Indeed, video games are undoubtedly responsible for gamers becoming fans of certain teams and players!

At the same time, enthusiasm for the real sport frequently determines our choices in video games. For example, we’re more likely to use our favourite players and teams – if we have them – because there’s already some degree of emotional investment. We’ll also seek out a change of pace though, and if we’re passionate about the sport and its history, we’ll recreate interesting scenarios and historical showdowns. Over the years, we’ve seen many busts that become superstars on the virtual hardwood, and teams that fared much better in games. They’re often a blast to play with, but as the term “Video Game Teams” might be somewhat ambiguous, I figured I’d take a shot at defining it.

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Monday Tip-Off: Giving NCAA Games The Old College Try

Monday Tip-Off: Giving NCAA Games The Old College Try

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on my recent interest in college basketball video games, particularly EA’s NCAA series.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles and on our podcast, I didn’t grow up playing college basketball games, as issues with international licensing rights prevented them from being released outside of North America. With no PAL versions of the games, it was usually unfeasible to import them, since they wouldn’t work on the hardware that I own. Of course, college basketball itself isn’t as popular in Australia as the NBA or our own NBL are, so I’ve always had a more casual interest in the NCAA anyway. At the same time, I was intrigued by college basketball video games.

After all, I loved playing with the fictional players in World League Basketball, which of course was originally a college hoops title that was rebranded for PAL regions. I also read previews of NCAA games with a degree of envy, my interest piqued by mechanics such as momentum meters, the ability to shatter the backboard, and the inclusion of classic teams. When a friend gifted me his old PlayStation 3 back in 2019, I was finally able to add a few college basketball games to my collection. It was satisfying to track them down and finally check them out after all this time, as well as write about them. Recently however, they’ve been getting more time in my rotation.

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Monday Tip-Off: Don’t Let Imperfection Stifle Fun

Monday Tip-Off: Don't Let Imperfection Stifle Fun

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some advice to not allow imperfection get in the way of having fun on the virtual hardwood.

When it comes to sim basketball games – or sim sports titles in general – accuracy is obviously the name of the game. Inaccuracies, whether aesthetic or gameplay-related, stick out like a sore thumb. We have a similar philosophy when it comes to modding. Missing or incorrectly assigned art updates, inaccurate ratings, or some other mistake, will not go unnoticed. Perfection is a lofty and indeed impossible goal, but developers and modders alike strive to come as close to it as possible. At some point of course, we do need to make peace with some level of imperfection.

In fact, it’s important to not let imperfection stifle or stand in the way of fun. Again, this isn’t to say that accuracy isn’t important or something to aim for. However, by focusing on imperfections or allowing limitations to shoot down an otherwise good idea, you’re robbing yourself of a good time on the virtual hardwood. You can and certainly should point out errors, and constructively criticise aspects of games and mods that could stand to improve. There are undoubtedly times when an imperfection will detract from the experience. With that being said, as the saying goes, perfection is the enemy of good, and the pursuit of it can often stand in the way of our enjoyment.

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