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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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NLSC Podcast – Episode #247

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Episode #247 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I as we discuss DLC ideas for future NBA Live games, the tip-off of the NBA 2K League, NBA Street Vol. 2, and other news and events from the past week in both basketball gaming and the real NBA.

On this week’s show…

  • FIFA 18 will be receiving free downloadable content for the World Cup, which gives us ideas for future NBA Live games. In fact, there’s quite a few things NBA Live could borrow from its EA Sports brethren.
  • Play has begun in the NBA 2K League, with the inaugural tip-off tournament now complete. We offer up a few impressions of what we’ve seen so far.
  • In order to make the Wall of Fame in NBA 2K19, you’ll need to reach 99 Overall by May 31st. For some of us, that’s simply going to be too much grinding.
  • A recent GQ article took a look back at NBA Street Vol. 2, calling it the last truly great basketball game. Do we agree with that assessment?
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included more games of Ultimate Team, and a foray into MyTEAM.
  • We wrap up Episode #247 of the NLSC Podcast with a few NBA topics, including the latest action from the 2018 NBA Playoffs, and a head coaching opportunity for Becky Hammon.

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: Arcade Modes in NBA Live

Arcade Mode in NBA Live 2000 featuring Shaq

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 Arcade mode settings that were once available in NBA Live.

By definition, NBA Live has always been a sim title. Granted, the level of realism hasn’t always been satisfactory, and in the case of certain releases – NBA Live 2003 in particular – the style of gameplay has skewed a little towards being arcade. However, there are several distinct features and concepts that define the arcade basketball game genre, such as exaggerated dunks, a lack of rules, and a more casual, “video game” approach to the setting and gameplay. Whatever shortcomings any NBA Live or NBA 2K title may have, they are – by design and concept – sim titles. Games like NBA Jam, NBA Street, and NBA Playgrounds, on the other hand, are arcade games.

With that being said, there have been a couple of times over the years that NBA Live has tried to cater to the desire for an arcade experience. This was achieved through the Arcade mode gameplay setting in NBA Live 99 and NBA Live 2000. The experience was still far more sim-oriented than games like NBA Jam or NBA Street, but it was still noticeably wackier and less realistic than usual. It was an interesting attempt to cater to varied tastes among basketball games, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #246

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Episode #246 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I as we talk about content updates for NBA Live 18, NBA 2K developers soliciting feedback on Twitter, questions regarding NBA Playgrounds 2’s release date, and more, including another week in basketball gaming and the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

On this week’s show…

  • A new roster has come through for NBA Live 18, and while it’s welcome, it also highlights how the official updates need to improve. Some of the new content in Ultimate Team has also sparked controversy among NBA Live gamers, though it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Beluba has been soliciting feedback for NBA 2K19 through Twitter polls. We’re pleased to see those efforts, though the voting has been a little surprising so far.
  • Pre-order information for NBA Playgrounds 2 mentions a May release. As we note, that isn’t Summer anywhere on Earth.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming has centred on NBA Live 18, as we take a momentary break from NBA 2K18. Instead of MyCAREER and 2K Pro-Am, it’s all about The One and Ultimate Team for us right now.
  • We wrap up Episode #246 of the NLSC Podcast with our usual chat about real basketball, including the ongoing 2018 NBA Playoffs and LeBron James’ future.

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 Playoffs Mode is Essential

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 offers up five reasons why a standalone Playoffs mode is essential in NBA Live and NBA 2K.

The 2018 Playoffs are well underway, with one second round match-up already set and all other first round series currently on the brink of being decided. The race for the Larry O’Brien trophy is kicking into high gear, with most of us having fun either cheering on teams and players that we like, or cheering against the ones that we don’t. I’m sure that quite a few gamers are replicating the excitement of the postseason on the virtual hardwood, having reached that point in modes like MyLEAGUE, MyGM, Franchise, or MyCAREER, or alternatively playing through a standalone tournament in Playoffs mode.

Of course, while it’s long been a staple of NBA video games, the standalone Playoffs mode has been left out of several titles. Despite the Playoffs being the only mode of play in NBA Live’s forerunner, the aptly titled NBA Playoffs series, it’s been missing from several of EA Sports’ subsequent hoops titles, including NBA Live 18. It was also dropped from a few games in the NBA 2K series, but fortunately it’s currently available as an option in the MyGM/MyLEAGUE menu. While other modes may be more popular – and let’s face it, bigger money earners – it’s essential that a standalone Playoffs mode remains in NBA 2K, and returns in future NBA Live games.

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The Friday Five: 5 Unlucky Moments in Modding

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 of the unluckiest moments that you’ll experience while modding.

With apologies once again to anyone who suffers from paraskevidekatriaphobia, it’s Friday the 13th today, which means it’s time for another Friday Five column talking about unlucky moments! I’ve been writing the Friday Five for a few years now, and in that time, we’ve had more than a couple of Friday the 13ths. In previous columns, I’ve discussed my favourite number thirteens, unlucky moments in basketball games (as well as a few of my own examples in that regard), and unlucky moments from NBA history, including one that actually took place on the date in question.

Of course, a big part of basketball gaming in our community is the hobby of modding, and it certainly has its unlucky moments as well. I’ve previously discussed one of my unluckiest moments in modding, but there are definitely more examples that I could name. I’m sure that a lot of modders have experienced at least one of these moments at one time or another, leading to them kicking themselves and cursing out their bad luck. If there’s one upside to such unfortunate moments though, it’s that they can be learning experiences, albeit very frustrating ones. Without any further ado, here are five unlucky moments in modding!

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March Modness 2018 Is Over; Winner Drawn Soon

NLSC March Modness

March is over – almost a week ago, in fact – and as such, our inaugural March Modness event has also drawn to a close. A huge thank you to all of our modders who participated in the giveaway, as well as those who simply continued to release their work last month. We’ll be drawing the winner of the contest soon, and delivering the prize of their choice once NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 are available to pre-order and are subsequently released later this year.

As I mentioned in my original bulletin, we’ll certainly consider making this an annual event here at the NLSC, to celebrate our modding community. We might also consider other community-driven events, and I’d like to offer some more giveaways that are open to everyone later on this year as well. As I noted here in the NLSC Forum, while March Modness may be over for this year, I’ve felt inspired to get back into the hobby a little more, and expect to be releasing some more work throughout this month. We won’t be running another giveaway alongside it, but as far as my own efforts are concerned, I’m hoping to make it Add-On April. I’ll post further details, and releases, as soon as possible.

Thank you as always to everyone in our modding community who contributes to our Downloads section, as well as our resources. I encourage everyone to make use of our hosting facilities whenever possible, to ensure that files don’t get lost over time. If you need help using the upload facilities in our Downloads database, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For modding resources, please see the Tutorials & FAQs subsections in the Forum, as well as the guides in our Wiki. Stay tuned for more great mods for a variety of basketball video games!

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The Friday Five: 5 Annoying Stats Bugs 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 annoying stats bugs that have shown up in various basketball games over the years.

Stats in basketball video games are perhaps just as important as they are in the real NBA. Sure, we want to see life-like animations, realistic strategy, and play games that feel good on the sticks, but accurate scores and statistics are a major factor in having as much realism as possible in a sim-oriented title. Even if you’re a gamer who takes a more casual approach to the accuracy of simulated and user-generated stats, chances are you’re interested in the stat-tracking aspect of basketball games, especially if you enjoy putting up big numbers on the virtual hardwood.

Unfortunately for gamers who care about stats one way another – whether it’s posting huge numbers every game, or enjoying a realistic style of gameplay with more true-to-life performances – various games have featured annoying bugs related to the in-game statistics. From undesirable sim engine results to errors with stat tracking and displays, these glitches have adversely affected some aspect of the numbers that are accumulated on the virtual hardwood. Be it a lack of accuracy or just a feeling of accomplishment that you feel cheated out of, here are five of the most annoying stats bugs that have been encountered in basketball video games.

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