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Monday Tip-Off

Monday Tip-Off: The State of Official Rosters

Monday Tip-Off: The State of Official Rosters

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 thoughts on the state of official rosters in basketball games, particularly NBA 2K.

No matter whether you’re a developer working on the official rosters or a gamer who’s making unofficial updates for the community, it can often be a thankless job. There’s no chance of pleasing everyone when it comes to player ratings, especially given the overinflated importance that Overall Ratings are often ascribed. With over 400 active players along with historical content, it’s very easy to overlook a detail here and there, no matter how meticulous you are. I’m not sure that I’ve ever released a roster for NBA Live PC that didn’t have at least one small oversight.

The feedback that you’ll receive as a roster maker in the community, or indeed as the developer in charge of handling the official rosters, isn’t always constructive or very pleasant. We’re quick to sneer at a perceived bias or lack of knowledge, forgetting that we’re all prone to the same biases and knowledge gaps, to say nothing of human error. At the same time, we’re slow to give credit where it’s due. With that being said, there are some troubling trends when it comes to the official rosters in modern games, in particular NBA 2K. Without meaning to be insulting or self-righteous, it doesn’t feel like the rosters in recent titles have the same level of authenticity as they once did.

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Monday Tip-Off: Do We Need Those Stinking Badges?

Monday Tip-Off: Do We Need Those Stinking Badges?

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 thoughts on whether NBA 2K’s MyCAREER and its connected modes are too reliant on Badges, and their general implementation.

Sim games have long sought to properly differentiate between players, beginning with detailed ratings. Those base attributes alone haven’t always been sufficient though, and so developers have experimented with mechanics such as Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live, and Signature Skills in NBA 2K. Signature Skills have given way to Badges, which like their predecessors, grant boosts and represent special abilities that the standard ratings can’t account for. As with Signature Skills, or the similar Traits system in NBA Live, they’re available to real players and career mode avatars alike.

These days, Badges are probably more important than ratings/attributes. You can max out a player’s ratings in a certain area, but it takes the effects of a Badge to ensure that they’re sufficiently levelled up. On one hand, this does make the exceptionally skilled stand out from the very good, much as Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live once aimed to achieve. On the other hand, it also means that high ratings – which are theoretically only given to the best real players, and take a long time to grind for our MyPLAYERs – are far less powerful than they should be, if they aren’t paired with the various boosts afforded by Badges. Given these issues, do we need those stinking Badges?

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Monday Tip-Off: Imperfections Don’t Need Imperfect Solutions

Monday Tip-Off: Imperfections Don't Need Imperfect Solutions

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 simple but important message: imperfections in basketball games don’t need imperfect solutions.

There’s a running gag when it comes to Bethesda’s Fallout games: “it just works”. This sarcastic jab at bugs and other imperfections in the series is a reference to Executive Producer Todd Howard’s declaration that Fallout 4’s “dynamic game engine” would ensure that everything about it “just works”. And, to be fair, while I didn’t enjoy Fallout 4 as much as I did Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, the game does indeed work. Does everything work as well as it should? Not exactly, and that’s why Todd Howard’s utterance of those words has become a meme.

In all fairness to Todd Howard and Bethesda though, they’re not alone in that regard. To be completely fair to the Triple-A gaming industry at large, achieving perfection is easier said than done, and the scope of their products is going to result in issues such as bugs and oversights. As gamers, consumers, whatever we want to call ourselves, we do understand that. However, some things are just poorly planned, designed, and implemented. Although we do criticise these issues and suggest solutions, I’ve also seen many gamers defend these imperfections. Not because of the difficulty of game design, mind you, but the notion that imperfect solutions cancel out valid complaints.

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Monday Tip-Off: How Recent Should Retro Teams Be?

Monday Tip-Off: How Recent Should Retro Teams Be?

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 thoughts on how recent the retro teams in NBA 2K should be.

As we speed towards the release of NBA 2K21 Current Gen, we’re receiving the final tidbits about this year’s game. On that note, the official NBA 2K Twitter announced the inclusion of two new classic teams – the 2017 Toronto Raptors and 2019 Golden State Warriors – in NBA 2K21. As I noted in my bulletin, this follows on from the addition of six retro teams in NBA 2K20, along with the return of the All-Decade squads. While we haven’t had a dedicated retro challenge mode outside of MyTEAM since NBA’s Greatest in NBA 2K12, the games continue to add throwback content.

And yet, there’s something a tad unsatisfying about the announcement of those two teams. As former champions with some big names in their lineups, they’re obvious choices to join the ranks of classic squads. At the same time, they are very recent teams. Given the odd situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the NBA in, the 2019 Raptors are being added as a classic team before they’ve even been officially dethroned as the reigning champs. It isn’t the first time that a new retro team in NBA 2K has felt a bit too recent to truly be considered “retro” or “classic”, which therefore raises the question: how recent is too recent when it comes to retro teams?

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Monday Tip-Off: Unfinished NBA 2K20 Business

Monday Tip-Off: Unfinished NBA 2K20 Business

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 thoughts on sticking with or returning to NBA 2K20 after NBA 2K21 is released, in order to take care of unfinished business.

As I’m writing this, I haven’t pre-ordered NBA 2K21. That may change by the time you’re reading it, because I do intend to buy the Current Gen version of the game. In fact, I’m leaning towards getting the Mamba Forever Edition, in order to save money on the PlayStation 5 release later this year. The only reason I haven’t pre-ordered as yet is because there’s still time to do so, and it doesn’t matter whether you pre-order several weeks or just a few days in advance. They’re not going to run out of copies, and I’ll receive the bonuses either way.

Of course, with the release of NBA 2K21 looming, the clock is ticking on NBA 2K20. In fact, as this article is going live, we’re on the cusp of NBA 2K21’s demo being released. That means pretty soon, we’ll all be turning our attention away from NBA 2K20…or will we? The game has already received content beyond the usual cut-off, thanks to the NBA’s hiatus and restart; a situation that also means that NBA 2K21 will be released with this season’s rosters, and before the 2020 Playoffs are even over no less. With that in mind, I could definitely see myself sticking with NBA 2K20 a little while longer, or at least going back to it after trying out its successor.

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Monday Tip-Off: That One Change Every Year

Monday Tip-Off: That One Change Every Year

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 thoughts on how every year, there seems to be at least one change in basketball video games that many of us dislike.

It’s fair to say that we want to see change in basketball video games year-to-year; for the better, ideally! As much as we criticise the parts of games we don’t like, we have seen quite a few positive changes that have improved the overall on-court experience. Basketball games have come a long way, and it’s clear that some of our feedback has been taken into consideration by the developers. It always comes as welcome news when a major frustration is addressed in a new game, and the new approach allows us to enjoy it a lot more than its predecessor.

And then, there are the changes we don’t want to see. Everything was fine and the way we liked it, and suddenly, it’s drastically different. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting used to the change, but other times, it’s a pointless switch from something that was working and didn’t need to be touched. Whether it’s a major gameplay mechanic, a menu option, or something content-related, it’s a rare game that doesn’t have at least one noticeable change that won’t sit well with many of us. It may not completely ruin a game, and it may not be important to absolutely everyone, but it’s significant enough for a number of us to be bothered by the difference to the previous year’s release.

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Monday Tip-Off: Who Is Anderson Murray?

Monday Tip-Off: Who Is Anderson Murray?

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 Anderson Murray.

Who is Anderson Murray? That is the title of today’s article, and it’s also a question that you’ll see popping up on Reddit and Operation Sports if you Google the name. The Anderson Murray in question is a player that appears in NBA 2K20, albeit only in MyCAREER. I feel confident in saying that thanks to basketball gamers, he’s ended up playing for every team in the league. Don’t look for him in the record books next to Chucky Brown, Joe Smith, and Jim Jackson, however. Don’t search for him over on Basketball Reference, either. You won’t find him listed there.

No doubt there are actually people in the world called Anderson Murray, but none of them are currently playing in the NBA. And yet, there he is on the roster of every team. It seems that everyone has a different story when it comes to Murray. For some NBA 2K20 gamers, he’s an annoyance; a player that’s guaranteed to turn in subpar performances and someone they can’t wait to be rid of. For other gamers, however, he’s a reliable teammate who’s frequently helpful in padding assist numbers. His number and jersey may vary, but there’s one constant. Gamers wonder who Anderson Murray is, and just what he’s doing appearing as our teammate in MyCAREER.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Decline of MyCAREER Offline

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 decline of MyCAREER offline, and its effect on the career experience in NBA 2K.

MyCAREER has been my main mode of choice since I was drawn to it back in NBA 2K13. As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I’ve felt a desire to return to my roots as a franchise gamer – especially given the depth currently on offer in MyLEAGUE – and have also spent time with MyTEAM, as well as Ultimate Team in NBA Live over the past generation. However, MyCAREER has been difficult to quit, particularly as I’ve grown to appreciate the online scene through 2K Pro-Am. The connected experience offers several benefits, but it’s also contributed to the decline of MyCAREER offline.

I was originally going to cover this in a Friday Five article which would’ve been titled “5 Ways Offline MyCAREER Is Worse”, but I decided that the list format wouldn’t do the issue justice. One of the major reasons for my change of heart and mind is that I stumbled across this Reddit post from about five months back, outlining the way that MyCAREER offline has been downgraded over the years. It was well-researched, and I must credit it here as a source of information for the specific changes I’ve noted. Its title was apt, too. It’s a matter that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention, and I’d like to rectify that by covering it today, while also considering some possible solutions.

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Monday Tip-Off: Influencers on the Virtual Hardwood

Monday Tip-Off: Influencers on the Virtual Hardwood

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 thoughts on influencers in the basketball gaming community, and the influence they wield on the virtual hardwood.

If you take part in basketball gaming Twitter, you’ll recall that not too long ago, Flight publicly rebuffed overtures from Ronnie 2K to be brought into the fold as one of the “official” influencers for NBA 2K. I won’t go into the whole history of everything that happened between Flight and Ronnie, in part because it’s not really my brand, but also because there are others that can tell the story in more detail. The tl;dr version is that Ronnie publicly blackballed Flight from getting a logo, calling him a “bully” over some of his remarks. He’s since changed his tune, but for Flight it’s little, too late.

Look, while I can appreciate brands and digital marketers picking and choosing who they want to work with, and find it understandable if they’re hesitant to collaborate with someone when there’s been some friction, I really have to commend Flight in this situation. The exposure and other perks influencers gain from having agreements with 2K would be tough for most people to turn down; even if it does mean giving up some autonomy in your content. To rebuff Ronnie’s offer that came now that his audience makes him too appealing to blackball shows guts and integrity on Flight’s part. It’s an example that all influencers in the basketball gaming community should follow.

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Monday Tip-Off: 3v3 Pro-Am in NBA 2K20 is…FUN?!?

Monday Tip-Off: 3v3 Pro-Am in NBA 2K20 is...FUN?!?

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 thoughts on how 3v3 Pro-Am in NBA 2K20 has been…dare I say it…fun.

I’ve been critical of the lack of proper matchmaking and new restrictions on 5v5 Pro-Am since the latter was introduced in NBA 2K19. Last week, I noted that it took all three of our teammates quitting for Kenny and I to have one of the best games we’ve ever had in The Rec. I’m on record declaring that NBA 2K’s online experience is in really rough shape, regardless of its general popularity and engagement numbers. Despite some fun games here and there, I stand by that as being the case on the whole. There are many improvements that could be made to online play in NBA 2K.

However, I have found an online mode in NBA 2K20 that has been fun more often than not. So fun in fact, I’ve titled this article like a clickbait YouTube video. The NLSC squad hasn’t had a 5v5 Pro-Am game this year as we haven’t had the numbers, but on a few occasions we have been able to get three of us together. Normally in that situation we’d head to The Rec, where it’s a little easier to control things when you account for more than half of the team, or maybe The Playground, but not so much this year. Instead, we’ve given 3v3 Pro-Am a try, and I’d have to say that it may be the most consistently fun online mode in NBA 2K20.

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Monday Tip-Off: Thank You, Rec Quitters!

Monday Tip-Off: Thank You, Rec Quitters!

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 thank you to the Rec quitters that left Kenny and I to play 2-on-5 in a game last Saturday.

Because The Rec can be very hit and miss when it comes to having fun and playing a good game of virtual basketball, I’ve played much less of it this year. It’s a bit more enjoyable when you head there with a friend or two, but with three fifths of our regular NLSC squad understandably skipping NBA 2K20 after being disappointed with NBA 2K19, most of the times I’ve ventured into The Rec, I’ve gone there solo. Kenny and I have hopped on for a few sessions together though, and while there’s been frustration, we’ve at least been able to work (and commiserate) together.

That’s what we did last Saturday. Both of us were having a quiet evening at home – kind of the way it goes with the current pandemic, after all – so I hit him up about jumping on for a game or two. The first game was a frustrating overtime loss that we really shouldn’t have been in a position to win, yet could’ve if not for poor decision-making and clock management by our teammates. Thanks to some mic trouble, we also weren’t able to chat during that contest. After resolving that issue, we decided to play one more game, in which our three teammates all quit in the first quarter after we fell behind 15-5. As I said, I’d like to send out a thank you to those Rec quitters.

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Monday Tip-Off: We DO Give a Damn ‘Bout a Bad MyREP System

Monday Tip-Off: We DO Give a Damn 'Bout a Bad MyREP System

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 thoughts on the importance of fixing MyREP, not just in terms of its rewards system, but also allowing it to carry over year-to-year.

Keeping an annually-released basketball game fresh in a way that satisfies its toughest critics – the hardcore hoops gamers – is easier said than done. Take a ranking and rewards system such as MyREP, for example. If it’s the same year after year, we’re prone to complain about it being too stale and familiar. If it changes, there’s bound to be a lot of people who preferred the old system, as well as those that were open to a change, but aren’t feeling the new approach. There’s also the issue of having to start over from scratch every year; a common complaint in general these days.

I want to talk about both of those issues related to MyREP: its use as both a reward and matchmaking system, and the concept of being able to carry over rep from the previous game. It’s something I’d like to see NBA 2K get right as we enter a new generation with online basketball gaming as popular as it’s ever been, yet also in rough shape. Because of its effects on features and the online experience, it’s more than a cosmetic badge. We have good reason to give a damn about a bad MyREP system. Yes, that is a reference to “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and indeed, I’m keeping the musical motif going as I wax lyrical about this matter.

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Monday Tip-Off: A New Big Man on Campus

Monday Tip-Off: A New Big Man on Campus

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 recap of my experiences playing as a big man in The Rec, after years of assuming the role of a playmaking point guard.

I documented my experiences trying out a big man build that was similar to the way I played in my local league as a teenager many years ago, in a previous article that I titled MyPLAYER in the Middle. As I noted in that feature, playing as a big man after years of MyCAREER games as a point guard felt very strange and quite frustrating at times. It was, as you would expect, a major adjustment with such a drastic change in role, to say nothing of going back to being a 60 Overall after maxing out my point guard build at 99.9 Overall. At the same time, it was an interesting experience.

Of course, playing online is a whole different brand of virtual basketball, and I was curious to see how it compared to my experiences as a point guard. I’ve often heard that it’s easier to get games in The Rec as a big man, as they tend to be in higher demand due to a majority of gamers opting for point guard and wing builds. Having played several Rec games with guard-heavy squads, and sometimes struggling to get games because of people quitting to avoid that scenario, I was hopeful that that would hold true for my alternate build. As far as the quality of the on-court experience was concerned…well, I figured The Rec would always be The Rec, but it was worth a try.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Changing Face of NBA 2K

Monday Tip-Off: The Changing Face of NBA 2K

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 thoughts on the changing face and identity of the NBA 2K series in recent years.

Back in early May, I noticed a Tweet from Brian Mazique, in which he responded to the suggestion that NBA Live should be free to play as a way to win people back as they try to return to prominence. He described NBA Live as being irrelevant, noting that when it comes to NBA 2K, Visual Concepts and Take-Two are looking at games like Fortnite and Call of Duty as the competition and sources of ideas for engagement. It may sound harsh, and there are a lot of people who want to see NBA Live succeed and would be willing to make the switch if it did, but it’s an apt statement.

In fact, it’s apt on two counts. Gaining relevance and market share is obviously one of the challenges facing NBA Live, and that’s something I’ve previously discussed here in Monday Tip-Off. However, Brian is also quite right that with NBA 2K becoming a fixture in pop culture, and in some ways transcending its genre, its peers are popular games like Fortnite and the Call of Duty series. That’s a great position for NBA 2K to be in, but it’s also a troubling one for enthusiastic hoop heads. To state the obvious, those games are not basketball titles, whereas NBA 2K is. Competing with and borrowing from those games has resulted in a changing face and identity for NBA 2K.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Right Combination With Locker Codes

Monday Tip-Off: The Right Combination With Locker Codes

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 NBA 2K has finally hit the right combination with Locker Codes.

In one of my earliest Monday Tip-Off articles back in 2015, I criticised Locker Codes for the way they’d been implemented in NBA 2K. At the time, all codes were severely limited in both quantity and the amount of time gamers had to redeem them. To that point, gamers in different time zones rarely had a chance to successfully redeem any codes. Even if you made it a point to wait around for a Locker Code drop with the game loaded and code entry screen in front of you, the limited quantity always meant that your chances of successfully redeeming a prize were incredibly slim.

Furthermore, Locker Codes often yielded useless rewards, such as 100 VC or MT, or a shoe or animation for your MyPLAYER, even if you weren’t playing MyCAREER. It’s for that reason I included Locker Codes in a Friday Five list of useless features back in 2017. At the time I received some pushback on Twitter from someone who clearly didn’t bother to read my explanation, which was that while the concept wasn’t bad or pointless, the execution of the idea limited their usefulness. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. Over the past couple of years, NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K20 have made much better use of Locker Codes, and deserve credit for making that change.

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