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 back at the year that was 2019 in basketball gaming, and our community here at the NLSC.
We’re at the start of a new week, but a couple of days away from the end of the year, not to mention a decade. Given the timing, I’ve decided to use this week’s Monday Tip-Off to reflect on the past twelve months, just as I did last year. Although this isn’t The Friday Five, I will be using a similar format on this occasion, as I’d like to take the opportunity to spotlight some of my favourite content from the past year, and discuss various aspects of the hobby under their own subheadings. If you’ve missed out on any of these features, I’ll be linking to them so that you can check them out.
Overall, it’s been another successful year here at the NLSC. Our modding community is still productive, and we’ve been able to do some fun things with our content. We expect to be around for some time yet, and basketball gaming itself is still thriving. There have been some ups and downs as there always are, and that does leave us with a few issues that we need to deal with moving forward. However, I’m confident that we can come together as a community and work out appropriate solutions. Without any further ado, here are my reflections on the final year of the 2010s, and an editor’s pick of articles, podcasts, and other features that I’m particularly proud of.
NLSC Podcast Rewind
I’m starting with the NLSC Podcast, because I believe 2019 was a strong year for the show. We were on hiatus more often than I had anticipated, due to a combination of burnout, technical problems, and difficulty lining up our schedules. However, when we’ve been on, I’ve been really happy with the shows that we’ve produced. Back in April, we revamped the show to be less rigid and with a greater focus on a featured discussion topic. Our goal was to ensure that we could have great conversations about basketball gaming without having to rely on breaking news, while continuing to share our thoughts on current events as they present themselves. I believe we’ve done that.
The biggest milestone for the NLSC Podcast this year was getting an interview with the voice of NBA Jam, Tim Kitzrow. Tim was a guest I’ve wanted to have on the show for some time, and it was a thrill to finally arrange it. He couldn’t have been more generous with his time, enthusiasm, and stories, and it’s one of my favourite experiences, not just in all my years of recording the podcast, but in all my years of covering basketball video games and running the NLSC. It’s among the list of ten episodes that I’m picking as our top ten shows of 2019, and linking to below for your convenience. If you haven’t heard them yet, by all means give them a listen!
- Episode #280: Tim Kitzrow, Voice of NBA Jam
- Episode #301 & Episode #302: 25th Anniversary of NBA Live
- Episode #281: Trusting the Process with NBA Live
- Episode #299: What Basketball Gamers Want
- Episode #279: Fixing 2K Pro-Am & The Online Experience
- Episode #284: The Long and Winding Road to 99
- Episode #304: Talkin’ ‘Bout Next Generation
- Episode #283: A Chat with Izzy Snow
- Episode #300: Hunters & Collectors
- Episode #303: Putting On Our Virtual GM Suits
Weekly & Special Features Editor’s Picks
Throughout 2019, it was my continued goal to make sure that Monday Tip-Off, Wayback Wednesday, and The Friday Five came out each and every week. I also wanted to keep striving for more interesting topics and important commentary related to basketball gaming. I’d like to think that I put together some enjoyable content this year, and I’m quite proud of several features in particular. I know that written content may seem passé in the age of YouTube videos and streaming, but I’ve yet to find a format for a video feature that I can produce regularly and be satisfied with. That’s not to say I didn’t and won’t produce videos, but they’re definitely not my main medium.
I’ve tried to keep things fresh with each of my three weekly features. I want there to be a mixture of reviews and retrospectives, opinion pieces and constructively critical commentary, historical comparisons, informative lists and fun trivia, and content that celebrates basketball gaming. I feel I’ve been able to do that, and it will continue to be my aim. I’ve also been able to produce content celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live. That will continue into 2020 – though I’d like to avoid the lengthy overrun of the 20th Anniversary content – so stay tuned for that. Also, check out my favourite Friday Five, Monday Tip-Off, and Wayback Wednesday features from 2019!
- Clickbait & You! – A Public Service Announcement
- A Week Playing in The Rec
- A Crossroads in the Modding Community
- Entering the Hall of Fame in MyCAREER
- Putting the 2K in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2
- Experiments in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER
- NBA Live’s Identity & Longevity
- Why NBA 2K Needs Matchmaking
- Should NBA Live Be More Like NBA 2K?
- 2K’s Overlooked Gambling Mechanic
- Reimagining The Jordan Challenge
- Reimagining NBA’s Greatest
- MJ on the Japanese NBA Live 2002 Cover
- The Original NBA Jam
- Jordan Challenge vs NBA’s Greatest
- Vince Carter & The NBA Live 2000 Sim
- A Tribute to MessenjahMatt
- The Weirdest NBA Tall Tale I Ever Heard
- Kobe Bryant’s Fictional NBA 2K10 Cover
- A Mistake Unnoticed in Over 20 Years
The Friday Five
- 5 Excuses We Must Stop Making For Games
- 5 Players Who Only Appeared on Certain Teams in Games (& Part 2)
- 5 Planned Features That Fell Through
- 5 Basketball Gaming Theories
- 5 What If Scenarios in Basketball Gaming
- 5 Players In More Video Games Than NBA Games Played (Part 3)
- 5 False Memories in Basketball Gaming
- 5 Wholesome Moments in Basketball Gaming
- 5 Suspended Players in NBA Video Games
- 5 Interesting Ways to Play Basketball Games
The State of Modding
On a personal note, it’s been satisfying to get back into some modding in 2019. I’m still working on the roster update for NBA 2K11, and hope to have something out as soon as I can get more art updates (particularly faces) in place. I’ve enjoyed providing status updates via the Making a Mod series, as it’s something a bit different and it’s given me some experience producing and editing unscripted videos. I actually have a list of mods I’d like to create, and I hope that I can make a number of them come to fruition at some point. With that in mind, one of my goals moving forward is to be a bit more active in the modding community in 2020.
Going back to a Monday Tip-Off article I wrote, as a modding community, I feel that we’re at a crossroads. While there’s plenty of great work being done, attitudes towards the hobby are rather concerning these days. There’s a big push to monetise the hobby, with ad links becoming problematic for end users and more modders trying to find ways to charge for mods without explicitly doing so. As we enter a new decade, we’re going to have to figure out some appropriate policies regarding Patreon, ad links, and other pressing issues. We need to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen other modding communities, and ensure that we don’t destroy what we’ve worked so hard to build.
Discussion & Community Thoughts
While our modding sections remain active, we have seen a downturn in the amount of general discussion regarding the games. It seems that a lot of gamers are less likely to discuss what they’re playing, talk about the quality of gameplay and modes, and chat about strategies. There’s also less chatter in our off-topic sections. It’s something that I and a few other long-time members are trying to address by creating topics of interest, and setting an example as far as engaging in conversation. Obviously we’re indirectly competing with several other platforms these days, but given that we are a community of dedicated basketball gamers, I’d like to see us make better use of our Forum.
The same goes for our original content. I’d love to have more engagement there, and to that end, I’ve found a plugin that connects Forum accounts to main page logins. We were getting spammed by someone with a weird axe to grind, so I’ve disabled guest comments for the moment. As always, I welcome any constructive suggestions for improving our facilities, as well as creating content that interests you. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to fulfil every single request, but if there’s anything I can do to make the NLSC better, and it’s at all feasible, I’ll certainly consider it. I want this to be a fun and informative place for basketball gamers to spend time visiting on a regular basis.
Basketball Gaming in 2019
What about the games we play? Well, 2019 delivered some bad news in the form of another NBA Live game being cancelled. We can split hairs over whether or not NBA Live 20 was technically cancelled when it was never actually officially announced or previewed, but the bottom line is that EA Sports skipped releasing a game in 2019. It’s been a rough decade for NBA Live, beginning with the cancellation of NBA Elite 11 and now ending with another year on the sidelines. It’s important that we have at least two viable sim games on the market, so I for one hope that NBA Live can finally make a big comeback in 2020, and provide an appealing alternative to NBA 2K.
Speaking of NBA 2K, the series continues to be successful, but it’s been a fall from grace as far as goodwill with the community. NBA 2K20 has proven to be another controversial release, with criticism of some of its design choices and recurrent revenue mechanics, as well as mixed thoughts on its quality. I’ve personally had fun with it, though there are aspects of NBA 2K19 that I preferred. I’ll go into more detail in a future article, but I’m finding the game to be more enjoyable now that I’m sticking to the single player experiences. As strong as NBA 2K’s brand is right now, there are plenty of ways that it can improve heading into a new decade and a new generation.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll see another NBA Jam game anytime soon. I think EA Sports are wasting that license, especially when they failed to capitalise on the 25th Anniversary of the game last year. Of course, they haven’t done much to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live this year, either. As I said on the NLSC Podcast, we’ll still celebrate it with some fun content anyway. It’s arguably more important that they focus on the future rather than the past, though I’d suggest that making NBA Live a success does require glancing back at the ideas that made it great all those years ago. We’re certainly eager to help out with any constructive feedback in that regard.
We didn’t see a new version of NBA 2K Playgrounds, which wasn’t surprising. It appears that Saber Interactive will simply update NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 via a mixture of paid DLC and free content updates. It’s nice to have an arcade hoops game on the market, and one that’s still being supported, but it’s still a pale imitation of NBA Jam. Although the partnership with 2K Sports has allowed them to add new players including Michael Jordan, it’s also seen the game adopt some of NBA 2K’s greedier ideas. I think the series has a future, though it has to decide whether it’s an old school arcade game, or more of a hybrid with a few sim gameplay mechanics.
On a more positive note, Josh and Dave from Namo Gamo released v1.0 of Basketball Classics on Steam in December 2019. I’ve been singing its praises for a while now, but it truly is a great game, a really enjoyable throwback to old school sports games with modern design concepts. As I’ve said, it’s been an honour to have been a small part of the journey, as well as be included in the game as an unlockable character! I think this game will be a hit with older and younger gamers alike, much the same way that a lot of other retro-inspired titles in other gaming genres have been. It’s a game that I’ll definitely enjoy playing and continuing to talk about in the future.
Closing the book on 2019
How to summarise not just a year but a whole decade in a couple of paragraphs? Well, not to sound cliché, but it’s been a wild ride! In some ways, basketball games have never been better, especially in terms of online content and depth of the modes; at least in NBA 2K. However, it also feels like we should be in a golden age, but thanks to the adoption of microtransactions and NBA Live’s struggles, we’re closing the year and the decade with a degree of uncertainty and disappointment. At the same time, there’s still hope. There are dedicated people working on the games, and a new generation looms. Here’s hoping we see some awesome things, beginning in 2020!
As for the NLSC, we plan on sticking around for a while yet. I don’t like to push it too much, but if you are willing and able to help out with our hosting fund, we do have a Patreon, GoFundMe, and PayPal tip jar. We’re discussing ideas for Patreon rewards, and we’ll see what we can do in 2020. Apart from that, simply visiting us regularly, checking out our content, and being a good, friendly Forum citizen helps us out. Once again, it’s my goal to make the NLSC the best possible source of news, information, mods, and fun content for basketball gamers. We can do great things for the games in our community, and I’m looking forward to doing my part in those continued efforts.
Thank you for your support throughout 2019, and for however long each of you has been with us. I’ve been running the site for eighteen years now, and while it feels like a long time, it’s still something that I enjoy, take pride in, and intend to do for some time yet. Thank you to the other members of the NLSC Staff for helping out in the Forum, and in creating content. Thank you to my co-hosts and guests on the NLSC Podcast, and to everyone who makes running the site worthwhile. Please enjoy these editor’s picks of our 2019 content, feel free to dive deeper into our archives, and be sure to stay tuned throughout 2020 as we enter a new decade on the virtual hardwood!