Monday Tip-Off: No Conspiracy with NBA 2K Modding

MJ and Pip in the He's on Fire 2K14 mod for NBA 2K14 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.

In many respects, our modding community for NBA 2K is still going strong. We have modders developing updates for NBA 2K16 PC, as well as some of the other recent releases, chiefly NBA 2K14. Thanks to the talents, intuition, and perseverance of some of our most dedicated members, we’ve been able to make some in-roads into modding NBA 2K16, despite the challenges posed by the new file containers that were introduced in NBA 2K15, the first time the PC version was ported from the PlayStation 4/Xbox One release.

Of course, the last two PC releases aren’t as moddable as their predecessors, which has understandably led to some grumbling. However, it’s also given rise to conspiracy theories that 2K Sports are trying to shut down the modding community, especially in light of a couple of former NLSC team members being hired by Visual Concepts. It’s a frustrated declaration that I often see whenever the difficulty in modding the latest NBA 2K releases is discussed, and I can appreciate the sentiment. We’ve been able to do some great things through modding, and it’s a shame that the hobby has suffered a few setbacks due to technical limitations these past couple of years.

However, it’s a misguided suggestion, and also a little insulting to a couple of people who have done some outstanding work for us. To that end, I feel it’s an issue I should discuss in more detail.

Here’s the thing: if Visual Concepts wanted to shut down the modding community, they could do it very easily with a cease and desist notice. It’s their intellectual property that we’re fiddling around with, and modding often makes unauthorised use of likenesses, trademarks, and copyrights. It’s one of the main reasons why 2K can’t (and doesn’t) openly acknowledge or support the modding community, as was the case with EA Sports and the PC releases of NBA Live back in the day. The fact that we don’t allow modders to charge for releases helps us stay out of trouble, but Visual Concepts would actually be within their rights to shut down modding.

Ultimate 90s Bulls vs. Suns in the Ultimate Base Roster for NBA 2K14 PC

And yet, they haven’t, and don’t seem to be interested in doing so. In fact, while modding NBA 2K16 still isn’t as easy as it was with earlier releases, there are some signs that the game may have been quietly made to be more modder-friendly. For a start, modding the game didn’t get any tougher with NBA 2K16. There were no additional restrictions, closing off the in-roads that were made with NBA 2K15. In fact, the structure of the file archives seems to become more logical, and organised. As a result, a tool to import and export files was developed more quickly, and the modding community has been more active this year.

Alright, so Visual Concepts hasn’t broken out the lawyers, and they haven’t gone out of their way to design the game in a way that makes it more difficult or impossible to mod. What about hiring some key members of the modding community? Well, while that’s obviously made things a bit tougher, requiring new people to step up and spearhead modding initiatives, it’s ridiculous to suggest that that was their motivation for hiring those individuals. It would be far easier – not to mention cheaper – to go the cease and desist route, rather than hiring members of the community and paying them to work there instead of developing tools and mods.

That also brings us to some rather unfortunate implications. While I don’t think that anyone has explicitly said it – as yet, anyway – the suggestion that 2K is hiring people from the community to put a stop to modding also implies that people like JaoSming and Leftos can be “bought”, and have therefore “sold out” by going to work there. At the very least, that downplays their talents, implying that they were only hired to spite a specific niche of the fanbase, rather than for what they can do in their roles at Visual Concepts. At worst, it’s a nasty (and false) accusation to make about their characters. Either way, it’s a very disrespectful implication.

One only has to look at the depth and scope of MyGM and MyLEAGUE to see what Leftos has been able to do as a member of the NBA 2K development team. He’s in a position to do great things for the game, far more significant than anything he would be able to do from a modding standpoint. He’s also in a position to advocate for the PC community, and you can see him helping out with some support in the Forum, as well as keeping tabs on our feedback. While not a developer, JaoSming is another voice from our community there at Visual Concepts, still checking in with the goings on around these parts. We still benefit from their hard work and enthusiasm.

Andrew Wiggins in the March Madness 2K14 mod for NBA 2K14 PC

I guess I also bristle at the suggestion of a conspiracy because Jon and Leftos are my friends, and while I was as sorry as anyone else to lose them from the NLSC team, I’m also proud of them, and happy that they can fulfil a dream. I refuse to disparage their talents, or cynically imply they’re “sell-outs”, just because things are a little tougher in the modding scene these days. Once again, it just makes no sense. Consider that Leftos is from Greece, meaning there’s extra work required in actually getting him to Novato and set up to work in the US in the first place. A lot of effort (and paperwork) to supposedly spoil the fun of a niche group of gamers, wouldn’t you say?

Instead of grumbling and cooking up conspiracy theories, we should be using ingenuity and perseverance to make the best of the current situation. Furthermore, since we do actually know a couple of people at Visual Concepts, we’re in a position to provide them with feedback on how the game could be more modder-friendly. We know what kind of functionality we need to make great mods, and we have many examples from previous NBA 2K titles – as well as several PC releases of NBA Live – to demonstrate how future games can make modding easier and more accessible.

Look, I understand the frustration. One of the reasons I’ve yet to really get involved in 2K modding is that it’s not as straightforward and user-friendly as NBA Live modding, even before the release of NBA 2K15. I’m also aware that a conspiracy theory isn’t going to disappear just because one person wrote an article denouncing it. However, these assertions that Visual Concepts hates the modding community and is actively trying to shut it down completely forego logic in their speculation, while ignoring some important facts.

Therefore, I believe it’s important that those facts are put out there, and that we analyse the situation logically. Until I see that cease and desist, until I hear from some lawyers, I’m certainly not going to be convinced of any conspiracy. In the meantime, I believe we should be more constructive, providing feedback that can benefit the modding community. Again, we have some direct lines of communication to the NBA 2K development team, which is a great opportunity. Rather than make wild accusations, let’s present them with suggestions that can effect positive changes for modding moving forward.

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April 11, 2016 10:44 pm

Fully agreed, its not conspiracy, its a fact. They are not interested in modded 2016 roster for NBA 2K15, they are not interested in modded 2017 Roster for 2K16. They want to force basketball fans to buy their game every next year, even if it looks almost the same. They are not interested in modding, because its against their incomes. We cant blame them for this but please stop forcing us to believe that nothing had changed since few years. Its a fact.

April 12, 2016 5:37 am

There is no way that 2k is against modding despite what some people might say as I have seen them retweet mod videos that have being sent there way in the passed but as they keep changing there files system each year making it harder for mods I can definitely see where people are coming from.

I second what Andrew says about if 2k wanted to shut it down they have plenty of evidence plus power to do so so they would of done it by now.

But like most mods the good creative people of the community put out like the nba cheerleader switch up mod drew worldwide attention which only got 2k more attention when if you think about it the attention for 2k should be dying down in preparation for 2k17.

Hopefully EA puts nba live back on the pc one day but as long as either game is out there on this format I think there open to seeing what people can do with it.

April 12, 2016 2:08 pm
Reply to  mp3

I never said 2k is againt modding or they want to shut down. They are interested in controlled modding. This is one of the reason we have quasi modding in game thx to Leftos.

April 12, 2016 3:05 pm

Ahhh. This is good article. This may even be a classic. I’m always up for a good conspiracy.

Best part of the article in my opinion:

“Instead of grumbling and cooking up conspiracy theories, we should be using ingenuity and perseverance to make the best of the current situation.”