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The Friday Five: 5 Pointless Options 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 options found in basketball games that are rather (or indeed, completely) pointless.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t hurt to have as many options as possible in basketball video games. When it comes to the selection of modes, we want options. When it comes to the controls, we want options. When it comes to gameplay sliders and game settings, we want options. When it comes to customising the game in any way…well, you get the idea. While it may seem intimidating to have too many options, I’d much rather that and simply ignore anything I don’t want to tinker with, rather than wish I had the ability to change something.

With that being said, there have been options and tasks in basketball video games that have felt pointless. In the best case scenario they can just be ignored, but they can still be annoying, if only because you can’t help but feel that they could (and should) be more useful. They leave you wondering why the developers bothered to have those options in the first place, or why something wasn’t done more efficiently. Others may simply be left over from previous games where they had more of a purpose, and some benefit the publishers more than gamers. Whatever the case may be, some options are quite pointless, and these are five that come to mind.

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Monday Tip-Off: Always Online Means Servers, Too

MyTEAM Servers Down for Maintenance (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 the perpetual problems with NBA 2K’s servers.

There’s an Australian idiom that goes “mad as a cut snake“. It can either mean very angry, or crazy and eccentric; in other words, playing off the two main definitions of “mad”. On this occasion, when I talk about being mad as a cut snake, I’m using it in the “angry” context and in reference to NBA 2K. Last week, I expressed my disgust on Twitter after issues with the MyTEAM servers caused me to waste a Locker Code following a disconnection. I usually prefer to keep my commentary constructive but sometimes, you just have to let off steam.

Look, I can keep things in perspective here. At the end of the day, basketball video games are just that: games. If the worst thing that happens to you in any given week is missing out on some free content in a basketball game, it’s been a pretty good week. Of course, this is a site dedicated to basketball gaming, so those are the matters that we concern ourselves with around these parts. As far as the issues that rank among the most concerning, online stability is undoubtedly up there. For all of the great things that NBA 2K has done with innovative modes and connected experiences, problems with the games’ servers continue to be a major letdown.

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NLSC Podcast #287: Renovating the Virtual Hardwood

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Episode #287 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing modding, including the history of our community and our own involvement with the hobby over the years.

After catching up on the results of Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals, we dive into this week’s topic: modding, also known as patching (or indeed if we want to get really fancy, renovating the virtual hardwood). We discuss the beginnings of our modding community and how it’s evolved over the years, as well as how we came to be a part of it. Our discussion also includes modding etiquette, and ways that we can improve as a community. We also talk about our favourite mods, both the ones that we’ve made and those that others have created. We wrap up with some tips for getting started, and touch upon what it might be like if NBA Live and NBA 2K could one day go head to head with modding on PC.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on our modding community here at the NLSC? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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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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NLSC Podcast #286: Online, Casuals, & Simulation

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Episode #286 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing the focus of online play in NBA Live and NBA 2K, and what that means for different types of basketball gamers.

We tip things off with a quick look ahead to the 2019 NBA Finals, as well as a few thoughts on the forthcoming gameplay patch for NBA Live 19. After catching up on the news, we dive into this week’s discussion topic: online, casuals, and simulation. We reflect on some recent Jordan Rec Center games in NBA 2K19, and how they’ve been indicative of changing attitudes towards the importance of sim-style virtual basketball. This leads us to question whether the core demographic is as sim as it used to be, or whether we’re now on the outer fringe. We also attempt to categorise the different types of hoops gamers, and throw out a few suggestions for improving the online experience by addressing various issues including matchmaking and gatekeeping.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the current direction of online play, and gameplay in general? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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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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NLSC Podcast #285: A Decade of Dominance for NBA 2K

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Episode #285 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing how NBA 2K has now enjoyed a decade of dominance in the basketball gaming genre.

Since overtaking NBA Live in sales beginning with the 2009 season releases, NBA 2K has secured its place as the dominant brand in basketball gaming for over a decade. We reflect on how NBA 2K’s journey has differed from that of NBA Live, and the way that journey has accounted for its continued quality, popularity, and financial success. At the same time, while NBA 2K’s success has ultimately been great for basketball gaming, there have been downsides to its dominance. We discuss where the game is headed, and name our favourite NBA 2K titles from the past decade.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on NBA 2K’s Decade of Dominance? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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NLSC Podcast #284: The Long and Winding Road to 99

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Episode #284 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Kenny and I are discussing the Road to 99 in MyCAREER, and the player progression systems in both NBA 2K and NBA Live.

We tip things off with a quick recap of some recent NBA Live 19 news, namely the return of LIVESTRIKE Events. Following the news round-up, we dive right into this week’s discussion topic: the Road to 99. Our conversation includes an update on our own journeys on the Road to 99, the way Cap Breakers differ between Archetypes, and the rewards at each tier. This also leads to comparisons with NBA Live 19’s progression system, as well as the progression systems from previous NBA Live and NBA 2K games. By the end of our discussion, we have a few thoughts on what we’d like to see in both career modes moving forward.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the Road to 99 in career modes? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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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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NLSC Podcast #283: A Chat With Izzy Snow

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Episode #283 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, my guest co-host is Izzy Snow, long-time community member, content creator, and the NBA Live 14 Gamer of the Year!

Izzy Snow joins the show to discuss his recent experiences with the full version of NBA Elite 11. This leads to a discussion of whether it was better for EA Sports to cancel the game outright, or if it would’ve been less damaging to release it and weather the bad reviews. We also talk about the current state of NBA Live and offer up some further thoughts on the issues with game modes, particularly Ultimate Team. In addition to revisiting NBA Live 06 on Xbox 360 and the question of where NBA Live needs to go from here, we also talk changes in the community, the need for competition, gaming habits as we get older, PC gaming and modding, NBA Playgrounds, and how Izzy became the NBA Live 14 Gamer of the Year back in 2014.

Tune in below!

Thanks once again to Izzy for joining the show this week, and be sure to let us know your thoughts on the topics that we discussed. Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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Monday Tip-Off: What NBA 2K Can Learn From Mortal Kombat 11

Start-Up Frames Explanation in Mortal Kombat 11

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 NBA 2K could stand to take a few cues from Mortal Kombat 11.

The fact that I’ve been running a site dedicated to basketball gaming for eighteen years may lead you to believe that hoops games are all that I play, but in fact, I do enjoy quite a few other genres. As a gamer growing up in the 90s, there weren’t many games as cool (or should I say, kool) as Mortal Kombat. The MK series has obviously been very popular and successful through the years, and like many other gamers, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Mortal Kombat 11 last week. My copy arrived, I finished story mode in a single sitting, and am now looking forward to new kontent.

Fighting games and basketball games don’t have a whole lot in common – the cameos by Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam aside – but as I was going through all of the advanced tutorials in MK11, I was struck by their depth compared to NBA 2K’s 2KU. In addition to explaining the basic controls, Mortal Kombat 11’s tutorials provide a deep dive into the game’s mechanics, teaching gamers the fundamentals for playing competitively online and offline. With NBA 2K leaning so heavily on meta-gaming and mastering the minutia of its mechanics, there’s much that it could – and should – take from NetherRealm Studios’ latest release.

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NLSC Podcast #282: A Tale of Six MyCAREER Stories

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Episode #282 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing the story-driven approach to MyCAREER that was introduced back in NBA 2K14.

After a quick round-up of the news, including an upcoming NBA Street event in NBA Live 19 and the latest patch for NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, we dive into this week’s main topic: MyCAREER stories. We begin with our overall impressions of the story-driven approach to MyCAREER over the past six games, and then move on to discuss each game’s story in detail. Along the way, we identify what we’ve liked and disliked the most about each tale and MyCAREER stories in general, and suggest ways that the approach could improve as a new generation looms.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on MyCAREER stories? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Empty Neighborhoods of NBA 2K PC

Deserted Cages in NBA 2K PC

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 lack of online activity in NBA 2K PC, as evident by the empty Neighborhoods outside of the US servers.

Since the launch of the current console generation, I’ve been picking up NBA 2K on both PC and PlayStation 4. This has led to a balancing act that usually results in one of the platforms being largely neglected. Because I’ve played a lot of 2K Pro-Am with the rest of the NLSC squad on PS4, the copy that’s usually gone to waste for me is the PC version. This year, I’ve made a better effort to play both of my copies, and had a lot of fun doing so. I’m almost at the point where I have a second MyPLAYER on PC at 90 Overall, and I’ve built up decent MyTEAM squads on both platforms.

However, while both platforms have been viable in terms of providing an enjoyable single player experience, it’s a different matter when it comes to online play. In short, if it’s a multiplayer experience I’m after, I’m choosing the PS4 over the PC every time. The simple reason for that is with the way The Neighborhood in particular functions, I’ve found it impossible to get a game. Firing up MyCAREER and loading into The Neighborhood drops you into an eerily empty and quiet game world, with no one in sight to play with or against. It’s not quite the same on the US servers, but for those of us in other regions, NBA 2K PC is a ghost town online.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Evolution of MyCOURT

Lodge MyCOURT in NBA 2K17

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 evolution of MyCOURT in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

When MyCOURT was first announced for NBA 2K15, it struck me as a gimmicky premise that wasn’t really worth getting excited about. In all fairness, my reaction was partly due to NBA 2K14 souring me on MyCAREER after really enjoying the mode in NBA 2K13, but even putting that aside, it sounded like a superfluous feature that was banking on 2K’s ever expanding “My” branding. As it turned out, MyCOURT has proven to be both a visually appealing hub for MyCAREER, and a means to get a hang of your player, try out custom jumpshots, and play some fun games.

Even as MyCAREER has adopted The Neighborhood as its primary game hub, our MyCOURT remains an important part of the game world. It’s also been revamped and renovated since its debut in NBA 2K15, with some cool designs and new mini-games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Repaving the Road to 99

Level Rewards on the Road to 99 (NBA 2K19 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 some ideas on how to improve the Road to 99 in future iterations of NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

The Road to 99 is a smart concept. From our point of view, it’s a good incentive to keep playing and levelling up in MyCAREER, providing both rewards and a feeling of accomplishment. Not unlike the Trophies and Achievements, we can get a high from unlocking new rewards, and seeing our Overall Rating climb higher and higher. From 2K’s perspective, it’s a brilliant way of encouraging engagement, and of course, microtransactions. After all, the quickest way to level up and get all that cool stuff is to buy VC for some quick boosts!

All cynicism over recurrent revenue mechanics aside, it is a fun concept, providing some added purpose to levelling up as high as you can. It gives the Overall Rating more meaning, and with some of the abilities that we can unlock, aptly represents the kind of influence players can have as they become stars and franchise cornerstones. Of course, while the Road to 99 is a great idea, it could be better implemented. Some milestones could be placed elsewhere on the Road to 99, while other logical rewards aren’t on offer at all. To that end, I’m taking a shot at repaving the Road to 99, with a few suggestions on how to handle the milestones and their rewards moving forward.

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