We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on the importance of enjoying your own mods.
While I can still have a blast playing classic basketball games in their vanilla state, it’s a lot of fun to revisit old mods at the same time. That’s something that Dee and I have been doing in several of our Parsec sessions. We’ve revisited NBA Live 98 and 99 with the Legends and Champs rosters that Lutz made more than twenty years ago. We also used some of my old mods, such as the 1996 rosters for NBA Live 2004 and later NBA Live 2001, the current roster pack that also added the Dream Team and Team USA 2012 for NBA Live 06, and a couple of work-in-progress projects.
As I said, all of those games are still fun to play in their default state. However, using those mods made them even more enjoyable, as it was an interesting change of pace from the usual retro gaming experience. Playing Lutz’s rosters for the first time in years, I was once again reminded of how impressive they were, and how the work of our founders and other early modders inspired me to get into the hobby. To that point, as egotistical as it may sound, playing with some of my own old mods led me to think “Hey, I did a pretty decent job with these!” There were also moments that I cringed and wanted to follow up with new releases, but I found enjoyment in my work.
I believe that’s a key ingredient in modding. I know that some people just mod to create work for the community – or more unfortunately for the scene, make money – but historically, I’d suggest that plenty of modders do play with their own creations. After all, the whole point of modding is to update, fix, or enhance the game in some way. Whether it’s adding missing players, replacing a face that doesn’t look quite right, expanding the range of jerseys, or creating foreign league and college rosters, modding is about taking something we don’t like about the game – or an idea for an alternative experience – and then doing something about it, to the best of our abilities.
Obviously, the community aspect of the modding scene has always involved sharing your work with your fellow basketball gamers. However, it usually started because there was something about the game you wanted to change and improve for your own enjoyment, which you knew others would appreciate as well. If you made a current roster update, it’s probably the roster that you used for a franchise game. If you made a retro season or classic team roster, it’s because you wanted to play with and against those players. Faces, courts, jerseys, presentation updates…whatever mods you made, you’d generally use them to enhance your own experience on the virtual hardwood.
That’s something that I certainly did, at least for many years. Current and retro rosters were my bread and butter from the early days of NBA Live modding (or patching, as we used to call it), and when I took over running the NLSC and Lutz stepped down, my mods inherited the NLSC “branding”. As such, I was the “roster guy” for the site, though I handed off the updates for older games to various people as I moved on to the latest release. I took pride in my work on the rosters, and I did use them in my various franchise and Dynasty games. Towards the end of NBA Live’s run on PC and into the early 2010s however, I was working on the rosters far more than using them.
Because I was the NLSC’s “roster guy” and there was still interest in having current season updates for those games, I did feel a sense of obligation to keep them going. I hadn’t truly embraced NBA 2K yet, so I wasn’t playing or modding the latest games in that series. I was mostly sticking with NBA Live 06, but even then, I was continuing my Bulls Dynasty. This meant that the mods I was making were for the community’s benefit, but not something that I was personally enjoying. There was satisfaction in the rosters coming together – which is why I understand how some people mod more than they play – but when I look back, I can also see how it contributed to burning out.
Of course, that wasn’t the first time that I hadn’t truly enjoyed the fruits of my labour when it came to roster projects. The whole reason that I made 1996 rosters for NBA Live 2001 and NBA Live 2004 was that I was already feeling nostalgic for that era by the early 2000s, despite still being quite young myself, and that season not even being a decade old yet! It might therefore come as a surprise when I admit that not only did I never play through a single season using those mods, but I didn’t use them nearly as much as I would like once they were done. In fact, I’m more enthusiastic about using them now as part of my retro gaming than I was when those games were current!
There is a reason for that. By the time I finished the 1996 roster for NBA Live 2001, I was already playing NBA Live 2002 on PlayStation 2, and NBA Live 2003’s release was looming. Similarly, I’d already spent hundreds of hours playing a Dynasty that I’d started with current rosters in NBA Live 2004, and with NBA Live 2005 approaching, I was ready to move on again. At the time, I wasn’t too disappointed, and even now I’m not too regretful. Completing those projects was a fun experience that provided a sense of accomplishment, and I was pleased to have created something that others could (and seemingly did) enjoy. The journey was ultimately still fulfilling for me.
The same goes for the current roster updates I was making for NBA Live. They were something that I could take pride in, and while they could be a chore which eventually led to burnout, parts of the process were still fun. I found satisfaction in creating work that the community could enjoy free of charge as always, though less altruistically, the support and kind comments were always flattering. In the end though, it became too difficult to justify creating updates for games that fewer and fewer people were playing, myself included. It’s not about popularity or ego, but rather supply and demand. On top of everything else, I myself didn’t even have a use for my own work!
Fortunately, I’m now able to benefit from those efforts as part of my retro basketball gaming sessions. Any new work I can create for old favourites – including enhancing prior projects – is likewise based around my own enjoyment and sharing that fun with the community. Mind you, while I may have lost sight of this approach to modding, my fellow basketball gamers have clearly kept it in mind. For example, Dee and his brothers frequently play with the mods he’s made for NBA 2K17, such as the Ultimate Classic Teams Roster. That roster adds teams they want to play with to a game that they love, and so it remains a staple of their sessions with NBA 2K17 to this day.
Stildo33 is another example. He and Dee have an ongoing MyLEAGUE with his 1995 season rosters for NBA 2K19 PC, which they play over Parsec. He also has a “What If” scenario with Len Bias playing for the 1986-1987 Boston Celtics, making use of that roster (changed to include a major fictional aspect, obviously). These are great examples of enjoying your own mods! Even if Dee and Stildo33 weren’t playing with those rosters, they’d still be greatly appreciated by the community, and undoubtedly still would’ve been rewarding for them to create. Their satisfaction hasn’t ended with the release of those projects however, as they’ve been enjoying the work they’ve done.
I’d encourage everyone involved with modding, whether it’s for the latest NBA 2K or an older title, to create projects that they themselves are interested in. I can attest to rosters feeling like much less of a chore when you’re keen to play with them yourself. That’s not to say that it’s essential. I did describe it as a key ingredient in why we make mods, but again, some people do enjoy that process more than actually playing the games themselves. If that’s what you prefer, then that’s completely fine. Passion projects are important if you love to play as much as tinker, though. Not only will you create something you’ll really enjoy, but you’ll likely fill a niche with your mod, too.
That’s the approach that I’ll be taking with any mods that I create moving forward, big or small. I’m also keen to play more games with old projects, whether it’s with Dee on Parsec, or solo against the CPU. I’m reluctant to call it making up for lost time, since that arguably carries too negative of a connotation. “Regret” similarly feels like too strong of a word given the circumstances. After all, there’s joy in discovering that these mods can be used to inject even more fun into retro gaming, which has become a staple of my sessions on the virtual hardwood over the past couple of years. That may seem obvious, but there is an argument for playing those games vanilla, too.
To use a term that I’ve become very fond of, old basketball games are interactive almanacs. There’s appeal in revisiting them as-is, to experience the official snapshot of the NBA that they preserve. Also, while I will touch on the modding scene for a title when I cover it for Wayback Wednesday, playing a game in its default state is important as far as providing an accurate retrospective. If a particular Legend was missing from the rosters, or there was a prominent issue that was unofficially fixed through the efforts of the modding community, those are vital details that are masked by a heavily modded game. In short, there are times when I’ll forego those mods.
Apart from that however, I’m keen to dust off more old mods while revisiting classic games. They won’t all be my work, but I’m sure some of my rosters will be utilised in those sessions. In the case of projects such as those 1996 season rosters, I’ll be able to enjoy all the work that went into them, all these years later. Once again, any new work that I undertake will be based on my passion for the game in question, and having something that can enhance my enjoyment even further. This may seem like an outdated idea in a time when more and more modders are monetising their content, but through enjoying your own mods, the hobby can be so much more rewarding.