Monday Tip-Off: The Lure of Roster Modding

Kawhi Leonard in the 2012/2013 Roster for NBA Live 08

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.

It’s been almost four years since I released my last current roster updates for NBA Live 2005 through 08. Although I’ve dabbled with beta versions of a fictional league roster and an Ultimate Jordan roster – and I would like to return to those projects at some point – it would seem that my days of working on the rosters and other big modding projects are getting further and further behind me. That’s not to say that I won’t continue to release work here and there, or that I’m completely done with modding, but right now, I’d have to say that I think I’m done with regular current season roster updates.

I’m phrasing it that way because I wouldn’t want to say that I’m definitely, unquestionably done, at least until I get to a point in my life where being involved in modding simply isn’t feasible. While I don’t want to give the impression that any announcements or releases are imminent, doing some more work with rosters is something that I wouldn’t want to rule out completely. As tiresome as the process can be, as much as it can become a chore, I can’t deny that as someone who has worked on such projects for many years, the lure of roster modding is often strong.

In case you’re wondering why I stopped making roster updates for NBA Live, it was both a combination of burnout, and simple supply and demand. I’ve talked about the appeal of modding old basketball video games before, and I still believe that it’s fun to go back and update an old favourite. However, as I’ve also noted, modding is a hobby that you can get burned out on, especially when you’ve been at it for several years. Current roster updates take a long time to make, and once a game has been out for a few years, there are fewer and fewer people interested in playing it. As such, it gets harder to justify spending all that time and energy updating its rosters.

LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant in an updated roster for NBA Live 08

That’s not to say that there isn’t any interest though, and if you feel like updating an older version of NBA Live or NBA 2K, by all means do so! It’s a fun creative outlet, and there is an audience for those updates. However, that audience gets smaller as each year passes, which is something I have to remind gamers who email me claiming that “lots of people” are waiting for me to release new NLSC rosters. As I’ve said before, I don’t want to be mean and snarky because the requests are generally polite and it doesn’t hurt to ask, but the truth is a lot of people have actually moved on from those older games. The interest just isn’t there like it used to be.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that the thought of making some roster updates didn’t cross my mind every now and again. Although I eventually became burned out on them, for many years I did really enjoy creating those patches. I’m reminded of that enjoyment whenever I do dabble, such as the aforementioned fictional league and Ultimate Jordan rosters, or the “Definitive” updates I made as part of our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content. At times, I’ve compiled information and assets “just in case”, though lingering burnout, other projects, and real life commitments have ultimately stood in the way of getting involved again.

The lure is there though, and I do find myself mulling the possibility of getting involved in roster modding again. In addition to the aforementioned projects that have a beta release, I do think about whether I could find a way to streamline and release some current season updates for NBA Live 2005 through 08. I also wonder about updating an older but still beloved NBA 2K, such as NBA 2K11. With not everyone happy with the official rosters for NBA 2K17, I can’t help but consider whether there’s a viable project there. Thinking back to my old LIVE Jam mods for NBA Live, perhaps bringing an NBA Jam-like experience to NBA 2K17 would be fun.

Making grand plans and getting excited about the thought of creating something fun and cool is only natural when you’ve been involved with modding for a long time. The thing is, you have to avoid the trap of biting off more than you can chew, especially as you get a bit older and have to prioritise your time. It’s one of the reasons that our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content is going into double overtime; I had big ideas, but things kept getting in the way, and so the features are ongoing two years later. I still plan on finishing them of course, but I do feel bad about the erratic schedule. I’m wary of the same thing happening if I were to return to roster modding.

Kevin Durant on the Warriors in potential NLSC Roster Patches for NBA 2K11

And yet, it’s still something that I don’t want to rule out. Once again, I must stress that this isn’t an announcement of a work in progress, or an impending release. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, or make promises that I can’t keep. As burnout took its toll, I found myself doing that too often during the last couple of years that I was actively maintaining the NLSC roster updates: announcing my intentions, setting deadlines and release dates, and then inevitably having to push them back. Even though I wasn’t doing it maliciously, it wasn’t fair to the people who had been so supportive of my efforts for many years, and below the standards I wanted to uphold.

If I were to ever get back into roster modding, my approach would be somewhat different. I used to only release projects once they’d been completed, which yields a more satisfactory result, but takes longer and accelerates burnout. Beta and “demo” versions can be confusing if users don’t catch the release notes, but they can help in getting projects out quicker, and put less pressure on modders. I’d probably need to collaborate a little more often as well, rather than trying to shoulder all of the workload myself. Being overwhelmed by numerous projects and the work that they require is a good way to never finish them (or indeed, start them in the first place).

Even though I’m not announcing or promising anything here, I’ll certainly admit that the lure and appeal of roster modding is real. It’s why I definitely appreciate the work that people like HAWK23, skoadam, slimm44, Dee4Three, Book_Gazette, Medevenx, and others creating roster projects have done in recent years. I know how time consuming and frustrating the process can be, but also how enjoyable it is, too. I can’t say whether I’ll ever get back to making rosters myself, but I can’t completely dismiss the possibility, either. For now, I hope that the community will continue to support our current roster modders, as well as new modders as they come along.

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January 24, 2017 7:57 am

Thanks! My releases get better and better as I’ll go. I’ll get a better Gaming PC hopefully soon as I am still on a bad laptop. Of course, it takes a lot of work but I appreciate the thanks given. Then, of course, you’ll see me more on the newer games such as 2K11, 2K12, 2K13/14 and 17.

May 9, 2019 1:51 pm

The more you play in the game, the better modders makes it.