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Monday Tip-Off: Free-to-Play & Triple-A Basketball Games

Monday Tip-Off: Free-to-Play & Triple-A Basketball Games

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 prospect of Triple-A basketball games being free-to-play (aka F2P).

It’s no secret that NBA Live, once the brand leader in sim NBA video games, has been struggling for well over a decade. It hit a low point with the failed attempt to rebrand and revamp the series with NBA Elite 11, one that it hasn’t been able to recover from to date. With its inability to topple NBA 2K, or even just make some inroads into gaining a bigger share of the market, I’ve seen people suggest that the console version of NBA Live become a free-to-play title. The argument is that it would be a lower risk, and encourage more gamers to give it a try.

Interestingly, I’ve also seen suggestions that NBA 2K become a free-to-play game. In this case, the suggestion has nothing to do with quality, but rather finance. As you’re undoubtedly well aware, the nature of NBA 2K being an annual release means that in modes such as MyCAREER and MyTEAM, there’s a reset on our progress with each new game. That means more grinding, and more money spent. With annual sports titles often being derided as glorified roster updates, it’s no surprise that a free-to-play model, or perhaps a new game every few years with subscriptions for updates in between, are ideas that have been floated. I certainly have some thoughts on that.

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The Friday Five: 5 Cover Players That Made the Finals The Same Year

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five cover players that made the NBA Finals in the same season their game came out.

The 2022 NBA Finals are upon us! Fittingly, in this 75th Anniversary season, the two teams squaring off are the Golden State Warriors, and the Boston Celtics. Not only are they two of the original three BAA/NBA teams – the New York Knicks being the third – but the Warriors and Celtics have plenty of championship history between them. The Warriors were the inaugural BAA champions, and have gone on to win another five titles since. Boston, meanwhile, were long-time record holders for total NBA championships, and are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers with 17.

While there’s plenty of real life history involved with this year’s Finals matchup, it is lacking a tie-in with the virtual hardwood, namely involving cover players. There was only one game on the market for the 2022 season – NBA 2K22 – and while it boasted a few different covers, none of them featured a player that will be competing in this year’s championship series. Popularity and marketability are obviously the deciding factors when EA Sports and Visual Concepts choose their cover players, rather than likelihood of winning or at least competing for a title that year. Of course, it’s quite fortuitous when they do! Here are five cover players that made it as far as the Finals.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways Your Turnovers Are Inflated

The Friday Five: 5 Ways Your Turnovers Are Inflated

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five ways that your turnovers will be inflated in basketball video games.

In an era where stat-padding is encouraged – in real life and on the virtual hardwood – the turnovers column is one that you don’t want to fill. They indicate ballhandling blunders, and only serve to help the other team; especially live ball turnovers! Of course, a perfect game is easier said than done, as mistakes will happen. If you look at some of the best playmakers throughout NBA history, you’ll see that their turnovers are often high. The downside of handling the ball so often is that you will be targeted by master thieves, and you’ll have more passes to be intercepted or mishandled.

Turnovers in sim basketball games generally reflect the ways that players cough up the ball in real life, but the numbers can be inflated. The goal of representing real life mistakes can lead to contrived situations where the ability to keep control of the ball and make smart decisions is taken out of the user’s hands. In the worst case scenario, this leads to losses when the game decides that despite doing everything correctly, the user will commit a costly turnover at an inopportune moment. If nothing else, it will lead to inflated numbers that don’t quite tell the truth about a gamer’s ability to take care of the rock. Here are five ways that your turnovers are bound to be inflated.

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The Friday Five: 5 Reasons NBA Live Flopped on PS4/X1

The Friday Five: 5 Reasons NBA Live Flopped on PS4/X1

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five examines the five main reasons that NBA Live flopped on the PS4/X1, aka the eighth generation consoles.

Unlike certain content creators and other haters in the basketball gaming community, I don’t delight at NBA Live’s shortcomings, or gleefully dance on its grave. While NBA 2K has provided many of us with hours upon hours of entertainment on the virtual hardwood and blacktop, we’ve also seen the drawbacks that come with a lack of competition in the genre. If you’re a fan of football games – NFL, that is – you’ve known the pain of not having alternatives even longer than basketball gamers. Even if the lone game is satisfactory, the lack of choice still stings.

Of course, it’s not quite the same situation. Madden’s monopoly comes from EA Sports having the clout and money to secure an exclusive contract when the NFL were offering it. NBA 2K’s monopoly, meanwhile, has been solidified by EA’s inability to produce a viable alternative. We’re more than a decade removed from NBA Live being the top-selling basketball game, and longer still from when it was easily the gold standard in the genre. Its attempts to rebuild during the PS4/X1 generation were largely disappointing, and have left the series in a tenuous position. These five factors are the chief reasons that those NBA Live games flopped.

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NLSC Podcast #426: Variety & Options on The Virtual Hardwood

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #426 of the NLSC Podcast!

After an unscheduled break due to one of us being under the weather, we’re back on the air! We’ve been playing a variety of classic basketball games since our last show, particularly favourites from the late 90s and early 2000s. Notably, we’ve been playing them with some classic teams and legends roster mods, which is tempting us to get stuck into some retro modding. We also provide updates on our ongoing seasons, including Shawn Kemp highlights and an example of video games imitating life. On a less positive note, a couple of recent Tweets have reminded us that elitism and gatekeeping is alive and well within the basketball gaming community. Needless to say, we feel compelled to hit back against those attitudes. In this week’s mailbag, the community tells us their favourite games in the NBA Live series, and we share our thoughts on those titles.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

Monday Tip-Off: Choose Your Own Adventure

Monday Tip-Off: Choose Your Own Adventure

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 my thoughts on how basketball video game modes can sometimes limit your ability to choose your own adventure.

When I discussed playing through a second season in NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER and my enthusiasm for embarking on a third campaign, I mentioned that I would have some decisions to eventually make. Right now, I’m enjoying being a member of the virtual Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 season, coming off back-to-back titles and a triumphant rise to superstardom. However, I can never rule out the possibility of playing for another team, with the Chicago Bulls being a prime candidate. If nothing else, I’d appreciate seeing some new uniforms from game to game!

However, moving on in NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER isn’t as easy as it is in later games. Glancing at my rookie contract, it may be a while before I’m able to pursue any other career opportunities outside of the City of Brotherly Love. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s based on reality. At the same time, it gets in the way of that “choose your own adventure” aspect of role-playing in basketball video games. It’s not the only mode that’s placed restrictions on how it can be played, and how much freedom you have to seek out desirable scenarios. This can be frustrating, yet also an interesting and challenging part of the single player career and franchise experiences alike.

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March Modness 2022 Tips Off Today

NLSC March Modness

It’s that time of the year again, so we’re tipping off our fifth annual March Modness! The event is a celebration of modding, and the modding community that we’ve built and maintained over the past 25 years. Naturally we support modding all year round, but we’ve nominated March as a time to get extra creative and productive!

As always, March Modness includes a giveaway. All you need to do is upload a new mod to the Downloads section with “March Modness” in the description, and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of NBA 2K23 PC. The mod can be for any basketball game that can be modded, including retro titles. Full terms and conditions can be found below. Congratulations once again to Pep, the winner of last year’s giveaway!

Additionally, I’m taking this opportunity to announce a change to the way I post bulletins about recent uploads. For years now, I’ve been using the term “File Additions” for those bulletins, as it’s what our founders used when they first began maintaining a Downloads database back in the mid 90s. It’s something I’ve kept out of tradition, but in order to move with the times and remove any ambiguity, those posts are now going to be titled “Mod Releases”.

I’m looking forward to this being an exciting and productive March Modness. As always, I’ll be looking to get in on the fun myself with a few releases. The modding bug does bite from time to time, and this is obviously the month to indulge it. Stay tuned for those releases, and all of the great work that I’m sure is coming this month!

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NLSC Podcast #414: Pump Us Up, Don’t Leave Us Deflated

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #414 of the NLSC Podcast!

Does the community still feel the same excitement and anticipation for the latest release every year? We open up the mailbag to discuss the titles that basketball gamers felt the most hyped about, as well as the factors that have dampened our enthusiasm over the past decade or so. We also recap another fun week in basketball gaming, which included a return to Fantasy Teams in NBA Live 10, heroics from Steve Kerr in NBA Live 95, a surprising challenge playing NBA Live 2003 PC co-op, and a new take on NBA Live 15. There also the latest games from our NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Tournament to recap, and a tale of retro collecting disappointment to share.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

Wayback Wednesday: The Broken Rotation Screen in NBA Live

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at the broken rotation screen that appeared in various NBA Live releases.

During my extended NBA Live 10 retro kick, I wondered why I didn’t spend more time with it when it was new. I’ve wondered the same about some of its immediate predecessors, a couple of which were fairly solid in their own right. Issues with lobs and broken plays soon reminded me why. The fact of the matter is that NBA Live 10 does have some quirky moments that were annoying when it was the newest game I owned, but are more tolerable now that the game is nostalgic. My involvement in NBA Live modding also kept me focused on the PC releases.

However, reflecting on it further, I’ve also realised that the quality of Dynasty mode played a large role here. In many ways, I feel that Dynasty peaked with the prior gen version of NBA Live 06, which also included the PC port. It’s not that there weren’t any improvements in the following games, but there were also inaccuracies with the sim engine, and other such annoyances. Oh, and the broken rotation screen, which affected basic functionality, and stood in the way of one of the main joys of roster management: creating different lineups. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Look Beyond What You See

Monday Tip-Off: Look Beyond What You See

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 look beyond what you see when it comes to visuals on the virtual hardwood.

I’ll be honest: I never thought that I’d be quoting Rafiki in an article about basketball video games. The sentiment fits though, so hey, hakuna matata. As in the metaphor that’s repeated a few times during the course of The Lion King 1½, there’s value in looking beyond the superficial aspects of basketball video games. That’s not to say that graphics aren’t in any way important. They form our first impressions of a new title, and when a new generation launches, we do expect to see some sort of leap as far as the graphics are concerned.

As such, I’m not trying to dismiss criticism of – or downplay disappointment in – the graphics of NBA 2K on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (or any other game, for that matter). However, there’s a reason we have a long-running gag on the NLSC Podcast about cancelling pre-orders if a new game doesn’t feature any shoelace physics. It’s easy for me to say because I grew up with games that look extremely primitive now, but we can get too caught up in visual details that are inconsequential in the long run. Whether critiquing a game or simply seeking to enjoy it, I’d suggest that you’ll gain far more valuable insights and satisfaction if you look beyond what you see.

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NLSC Podcast #413: More NBA Video Games, Please

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #413 of the NLSC Podcast!

Catching up on the latest results from our NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Tournament, we reflect on a truly epic comeback! We also recap the fun we had connecting on Parsec to play NBA Live 2004 PC with the 1996 season mod, another exciting countdown with the Top 10 Plays, and recent fun going back to an NBA 2K14 MyCAREER save. This week’s main topic is the variety of NBA video games that we used to enjoy. We open up the mailbag to see which NBA video games the community most wants to see return instead of (or in the best case scenario, in addition to) NBA Live, and discuss our memories of those titles.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

The Friday Five: 5 Retro Players We’re Unlikely to See

The Friday Five: 5 Retro Players We're Unlikely to See

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five retro players that we’re unlikely to see included in future games.

There isn’t a year that goes by where NBA 2K is missing some noteworthy retro players. Contrary to what some people believe, this isn’t due to laziness or ignorance of NBA history. It’s all down to licensing issues, as NBA 2K – and any NBA video game, for that matter – cannot include any retro players that haven’t agreed for their likenesses to be used. While we have seen some players added (or in certain cases, return) to the roster of retro content, there are some names that just seem unlikely to ever be officially included in NBA 2K moving forward.

Please note that I’m making an educated guess here based on previous remarks and other factors regarding these retro players, at the time of writing. If by some chance they’re included in future games, then this is my disclaimer against a “gotcha”. I’ve been wrong before, and situations can certainly change. However, considering the circumstances for these five retro players, I would be very surprised if we see any of them appear in forthcoming releases. It’s unfortunate as placeholders stick out like a sore thumb, the absence of big names is strongly felt, and it does make certain classic squads highly unlikely. It is what it is however, and in some cases, it’s understandable.

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Monday Tip-Off: Worst Game Ever…Until Next Year

Monday Tip-Off: Worst Game Ever...Until Next Year

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 few thoughts on the suggestion that every game in the NBA 2K series gets labelled the “worst game ever”, until its successors make it retroactively liked.

There are apologists in the basketball gaming community, who shamelessly shill and defend NBA 2K at every turn. Of course, there are also haters who are disinterested in offering fair and constructive criticism. You’ve got also got fans who can sometimes be overzealous in looking at things through rose-coloured glasses, and critics who don’t necessarily take certain factors into account. There are many opinions that are expressed loudly, and they aren’t always the most nuanced takes. Thanks to their volume however, they’re the ones that stand out, even if they’re in the minority.

And then, there’s the alleged phenomenon of every NBA 2K being labelled the worst in the series, only to be praised when the next game is released. Frankly, this notion that the community bashes every single game before retroactively loving it isn’t fair or accurate. If you go back to some user reviews of older games, you’ll find plenty of positivity. However, there’s truth in saying that some gamers seemingly dislike every new release, while others appear to change their tune years later. It leads to criticism being downplayed on the basis that “every new game is always hated”. We even see developers allude to that notion when defensively duelling with disgruntled gamers.

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NLSC Podcast #412: Community Wishlist For NBA Live 23

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #412 of the NLSC Podcast!

After last week’s show, we’ve been moved to revisit NBA Live 2001 and NBA Live 2002. Though both were controversial releases in our community, they definitely have their bright spots. Speaking of old NBA Live games, work continues on our All-Time Teams Roster for NBA Live 96 PC. There’s also been an exciting development as far as modding NBA Live 10 on PlayStation 3. As for the future of the series, while NBA Live 23 hasn’t been announced, it’s clear that we’re not the only basketball gamers hoping that the series will return. We discuss the likelihood of it finally happening this year, and revisit our expectations. We then open up the mailbag to discuss the community’s Wishlist for a hypothetical NBA Live 23.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

Wayback Wednesday: Direct Shoot, The Overlooked Mechanic

Wayback Wednesday: Direct Shoot, The Overlooked Mechanic

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 Direct Shoot, which I believe is an overlooked gameplay mechanic in older NBA Live titles.

If you’ve played any of the early NBA Live games, you’ll likely remember a feature called Direct Pass. Even if you’re unfamiliar with those old releases, you can probably glean from the name alone that Direct Pass is what has come to be known as Icon Passing. NBA 2K popularised the latter name, though I still tend to use the terms “Direct Pass” or “direct passing”, because it’s the nomenclature from the games that I grew up playing. It’s the same reason that I use the name “Decade All-Stars” more often than “All-Decade Teams”. It’s just the branding that I’m used to.

While the name Direct Pass has fallen out of vogue, the concept is obviously still used in modern titles, without any major changes. Conversely, Direct Shoot – introduced in the NBA Live series around the same time as Direct Pass – has been replaced by other methods of advanced shooting controls. To that end, I’d suggest that it’s an overlooked stepping stone to mechanics that we now take for granted. I know that I’ve certainly underutilised it when playing those older games, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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