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Monday Tip-Off: Nostalgia in Basketball Gaming

Vince Carter dunks in NBA 2K11

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on nostalgia in basketball gaming.

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

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

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #254

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Episode #254 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and myself as we discuss the cover leak for the Standard Edition of NBA 2K19, the situation with NBA Playgrounds 2, and our plans for this year’s games. Our Week in Basketball Gaming also returns, along with some other fun topics.

On this week’s show…

  • It seems the NBA 2K19 Standard Edition cover has been leaked, with Giannis Antetokoumpo being the featured player. We discuss the choice, and the situation with the Early Tip-Off Weekend being exclusive to the 20th Anniversary Edition.
  • NBA Playgrounds 2 was indefinitely postponed a month ago, and we still haven’t heard anything further. Is there any big announcement that could feasibly make up for the lack of hype?
  • What are our plans for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 when they’re released in September?
  • HAWK23 has made a welcome return to the community, and is currently looking at fixing up the links for the Ultimate Base Roster for NBA 2K12 and NBA 2K14 PC.
  • We reflect once again on our own history with modding, and why we don’t mod as much as we used to. We’re not shutting the door on the idea, though.
  • If an NBL 2K or NBL Live game were ever to be released, what would it be like? We have some fun with the idea.
  • We wrap up Episode #254 of the NLSC Podcast with a short discussion of the NBA Draft, and the (latest) Dwight Howard trade.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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The Friday Five: 5 Reasons Not to Ragequit

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 reasons why you shouldn’t ragequit when playing NBA Live or NBA 2K.

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s the CPU not playing fair, or an embarrassing deficit to an online opponent, we suddenly find ourselves wanting to ragequit a basketball video game. While it’s almost universally considered poor form to ragequit an online game you’re losing, it can be a healthy decision when you’re playing offline. It’s much better than breaking a controller (or anything else in the vicinity), and if you’re really not having any fun, you’re better off taking a break and trying again later. Generally speaking, it’s best not to try forcing yourself to endure unenjoyable experiences.

However, there are times when you should try to persevere. Beyond showing good sportsmanship in online play, there are incentives to gut out a game that isn’t going your way. You may be missing out on a potentially rewarding experience, as well as a few valuable lessons that may help you to improve your play on the virtual hardwood. No one likes to lose, and losing badly is a bitter pill to swallow, but strength in the face of adversity builds character; so does good sportsmanship, for that matter. Before you let your frustration get the better of you, here are five reasons not to ragequit when playing basketball video games.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Dunk Contest in Basketball Games

Tens in the Dunk Contest (NBA Live 2005)

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 Slam Dunk Contest in basketball video games.

The Slam Dunk Contest is the main event of All-Star Saturday Night, and with the notable exception of the 1998 All-Star Weekend, it’s been a fixture of the festivities since 1984. Although not every contest has been better than the last – and indeed, some years have been downright disappointing – it’s still provided us with many memorable examples of spectacular aerial artistry. It only stands to reason that we want to take part in the dunk contest in basketball video games, and fortunately for us, several titles over the years have afforded us that opportunity.

Implemented in a variety of ways over the years, the dunk contest has proven to be a fun mini-game to jump into whenever it’s been available to play at any time. Along with the Three-Point Shootout, it’s also deepened the franchise and career experiences by representing the most prominent events of the All-Star Weekend. The main event of the NBA’s midseason classic has an interesting history when it comes to the virtual hardwood, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #252

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Episode #252 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I as we recap all of the NBA Live 19 news coming out of EA Play, give our thoughts on the pre-order announcement for NBA 2K19, and discuss the end of the 2018 NBA Finals.

On this week’s show…

  • EA Play 2018 is upon us! Before the event tipped off, a teaser screenshot gave us a few clues about what to expect from NBA Live 19.
  • During the press conference, we got our first glimpse of NBA Live 19 via the official reveal trailer. We liked what we saw, and noticed several improvements over NBA Live 18.
  • In addition to the official reveal trailer, a ton of information was also posted, including the release dates for the demo and full game. We discuss what we know so far about expansions to The One, the new player progression system, some key gameplay improvements, and more.
  • The 20th Anniversary Edition of NBA 2K19 has been announced, along with its cover player, LeBron James. Unfortunately, there’s a distinct lack of goodwill in the approach this year.
  • NBA 2K18 has received one last official patch. However, in lieu of any patch notes, it seems that all it’s done is add a pre-order link for NBA 2K19.
  • We wrap up Episode #252 of the NLSC Podcast with our thoughts on the conclusion of the 2018 NBA Finals, and a look ahead to what may be another interesting offseason. Will LeBron make another controversial decision, or will he remain with the Cavaliers?

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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The Friday Five: 5 Times Basketball Games Were Rude to Gamers

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 examples of times where basketball video games were rude to the gamers playing them.

One of the great things about video games is that when they defeat or otherwise annoy you, you can tell them off without fear of repercussions. You can be as profane as you like – at least until your housemates or neighbours complain – and you won’t hear a single retort from the game or system. Of course, there are times when a game might sling a rude remark your way, sometimes in response to the way you’re playing, and other times almost completely unprovoked. That in turn might lead you to throw out a few more obscenities, though the game will take it all in stride.

As basketball video games have sought to incorporate more personality, and a bit of humour on some occasions, developers have slipped in a few rude messages. Now, these messages aren’t profane or obscene, but their blunt or taunting nature can leave you muttering a few choice words in response. Other times, the game isn’t trying to be rude, but whichever developer was responsible for writing the messages has ended up adopting a tone that they possibly didn’t intend. Whatever the case may be, I’m listing five times that basketball video games ended up being rude to gamers. Your opinion may vary as to whether or not they actually enhance the experience!

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #251

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Episode #251 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I as we follow up on some more snippets about NBA Live’s future, and discuss a couple of topics suggested by listeners. We also catch up on what we’ve been doing on the virtual hardwood, and talk about the 2018 NBA Finals.

On this week’s show…

  • A recent Polygon article has gone into a little more detail about the future of NBA Live, with additional quotes from Seann Graddy. We discuss what he might have meant when talking about the goal of appealing to a “new, younger demographic”.
  • What are our expectations in terms of demos for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19? Are they likely to be any different to recent demos and The Prelude DLC?
  • Is it likely that we’ll ever see a Free-to-Play basketball game, similar to Fortnite?
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included a couple of tough but satisfying victories in Ultimate Team, as well as success in LIVE Events. We also spent time with The One, checked out the community uploads in MyLEAGUE, and played with the All-Time Teams.
  • We wrap up Episode #251 of the NLSC Podcast with a quick recap of the Conference Finals, and our thoughts on the 2018 NBA Finals so far.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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

LeBron James dunks the basketball (NBA Live 18)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a proper comparison of NBA Live’s graphics over the past few generations.

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

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

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #250

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Episode #250 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I for another milestone episode, in which we have quite a few news stories to cover (and it’s not even the preview season yet!). We also have a few tales from our past week in basketball gaming, and thoughts on the Conference Finals.

On this week’s show…

  • A teaser for EA Play has confirmed NBA Live 19 – just in case there was any doubt – and tipped off the speculation as to who will be appearing on the cover this year.
  • Game Informer has posted an article providing us with some hints at the direction of NBA Live. While it’s not much to go on, it is still promising to hear.
  • A Memphis-based ESPN station took a few shots at NBA Live 18. A little awkward, given ESPN’s exclusive deal with EA Sports.
  • The latest Game of Zones episode made fun of NBA 2K18 and Ronnie 2K. Their response was admirable, but gamers weren’t letting them off that easy.
  • From Virtual Coppers to Virtual Currency, 2K’s promotion of the latest VC sale was a little on the nose.
  • It seems Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have done some mo-cap work for NBA 2K19. We discuss what that might mean for this year’s game.
  • PlayStation 4 users have received refunds for NBA Playgrounds 2. While it might just be a mandatory show of goodwill, it’s not a great look for the delayed title.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included a return to 2K Pro-Am, followed by an abrupt return to 2v2 on MyCOURT. The 90s All-Stars collection also continues to expand in Ultimate Team.
  • We wrap up Episode #250 of the NLSC Podcast with our thoughts on the latest results from the 2018 NBA Conference Finals, and make a couple of predictions.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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The Friday Five: 5 Options That Would Be Handy

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 that would be handy to have in NBA Live and NBA 2K.

When we’re compiling our Wishlists and sending feedback to EA Sports and Visual Concepts, it’s important that we prioritise. For example, a major gameplay flaw is far more important to address than a largely inconsequential cosmetic feature. Likewise, the functionality and user-friendliness of the menus is more important than the colour (though legibility and presentation obviously counts for something). Nevertheless, it’s also a good idea to point out features and options that aren’t necessarily vital, but in their own way, add something to the overall experience.

After all, sometimes it’s the little things that really make a game enjoyable. Some options are essential, such as difficulty settings, gameplay sliders, and controller configurations, but features such as atmosphere settings, an accelerated clock, stats normalisation, and other such options can really enhance the experience. We can still enjoy the games without them, and in the grand scheme of things, they probably don’t have a huge effect on Metacritic scores and general reception, but they’d nevertheless be welcome additions. Future versions of NBA Live and NBA 2K could be enhanced with the addition of handy options such as these.

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Monday Tip-Off: Artificial Difficulty in Basketball Games

Artificial Difficulty Fires Up the AI (NBA Live 18)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at artificial difficulty in basketball games.

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

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

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #249

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Episode #249 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I for a discussion of the past week in basketball and basketball gaming, including a new executive producer for NBA Live, the delay of NBA Playgrounds 2, the 2018 Conference Finals, and what we’ve been playing.

On this week’s show…

  • Seann Graddy is the new executive producer of the NBA Live series, with Sean O’Brien moving on to a new role at EA Sports. What does this mean for the series moving forward?
  • Viewership numbers for the NBA 2K League continue to dwindle. Is the League a flop – or on the way to being one – and what is it doing wrong?
  • NBA Playgrounds 2 has been abruptly delayed, less than a week ahead of its release. Saber Interactive are promising great things, but gamers are sceptical.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included more Ultimate Team challenges, LIVE Run, and some bargain retro game pick-ups. There’s also been a noteworthy development in the modding community.
  • We wrap up Episode #249 of the NLSC Podcast with a discussion of the 2018 Conference Finals.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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Wayback Wednesday: CustomArt in NBA Live

Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1996 Mod (NBA Live 2004)

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 CustomArt in the PC versions of NBA Live.

As I mentioned in my retrospective of NBA Live on PC, modding was a big part of what made those releases the definitive versions of the game through to around the mid 2000s. The modding scene was able to become as large and successful as it did due to EA Sports’ willingness to make the game files easier to modify. While we were never provided any official tools, changes such as the adoption of DBF files, as well as the organisation and relative consistency of the art file formats, kept the modding community productive and our Downloads database filled with great updates.

One of the most significant developments in modding was CustomArt, introduced in NBA Live 2003 PC. The feature simplified the process of installing mods, while also providing in-depth customisation options. Should NBA Live return to the PC at some point, it’s definitely a feature that it needs to have, and it would also be great to have it natively supported in NBA 2K PC as well. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #248

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Episode #248 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Kenny and I as we discuss the new gameplay trailer for NBA Playgrounds 2, catch up on a week of basketball gaming, and offer up some predictions for the 2018 NBA Conference Finals and award winners.

On this week’s show…

  • NBA Playgrounds 2 is coming out May 22nd, as revealed by the new gameplay trailer. We’re feeling optimistic about the game, but we do have some specific hopes and expectations.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included an unlikely return to 2K Pro-Am; it didn’t go so well. A seven game series of 2v2 on MyCOURT was a lot more fun, though. We also talk Ultimate Team in NBA Live 18, and Basketball Classics on Steam.
  • We wrap up Episode #248 of the NLSC Podcast with a preview of the 2018 NBA Conference Finals, and predictions for this year’s award winners.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live on PC Retrospective

Gilbert Arenas in NBA Live 08

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 history of NBA Live on PC.

It’s been over ten years since a PC version of NBA Live was released. For a long time, the series was the only NBA game that was consistently released on PC as well as the consoles, but beginning with NBA Live 09, it’s been a console exclusive. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall as the last couple of PC releases were problematic, not to mention ports of the previous console generation. Although the NBA 2K series would make its way to PC – the very year NBA Live left it, in fact – there is still interest in seeing EA’s game return to the platform. Unfortunately, so far our Wishlist requests and petitions have not yet yielded the desired outcome.

Hopefully, as the NBA Live series continues to rebuild and re-establish itself, we’ll see a PC release again one day. After all, through to around 2006, the PC version of NBA Live was arguably the definitive version of the game. It certainly helped put us on the map, and carve out a niche in the basketball gaming community with all of the work we put into modding the games. This week, I thought I’d reflect on the history of NBA Live on PC, in the hopes that its legacy will continue with a new release some day. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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