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 the story of how I stopped releasing roster updates for NBA Live, and my current stance on making any further roster mods.
In April 2013, I released the last of my current roster updates for NBA Live 2005 through to NBA Live 08. Although I mentioned at the time that it may well be the end for me making roster updates for those games, I did want to leave some wiggle room in case I returned for the 2014 season. As it stood, it’d basically taken me all season to get a new roster out. It’s safe to say that by that point, I was feeling significantly burned out on making roster updates for NBA Live. I could see the end looming, but I didn’t want to make the call. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, or feel like I’d failed.
To that end, I made preliminary preparations for a 2014 season roster. I moved the existing players around, changed jersey numbers, and even worked on a few logo updates. When that season passed by without a roster, I did the same thing for the 2015 campaign. That time, I even made a spreadsheet, intending to map out the bio data and some preliminary ratings for players that I’d need to create. I’d repeat the process of preparing a roster – even if it was just to create a save file ready to work on – over the next few years. Despite a small spark of willingness, those projects never came to fruition. This is how my NBA Live roster updates ultimately stopped.
Because I haven’t been as active in the modding scene for many years now, for NBA Live or NBA 2K, you may not know that I once released regular roster updates for the PC version of NBA Live. Maintaining the “official” NLSC roster updates was a task that I inherited from Tim and Lutz not long after I took over running the NLSC back in August of 2001 (yes, we’re coming up on my 20th Anniversary, as well as the 25th Anniversary of the NLSC itself). It wasn’t my first time making current season rosters, though. I’d made my own rosters and released them through my old site, the NBA Live Domain. When I took over the NLSC, I inherited the branding for my mods.
I created my first roster mods sometime late in 1997, not long after I discovered the NLSC and downloaded the tools that our founders had created. That means by the time 2013 had rolled around, I’d been a part of the modding scene for some sixteen years. It’s hard to say that and not sound like I’m bragging; like I’m trying to claim some superiority because of my longevity. The simple fact of the matter is that other people got bored of the hobby and moved on from the community, while I didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it no doubt spared them from the negative feelings I developed towards getting involved with modding, particularly the rosters.
What you may not know about current roster updates, and indeed any big project involving customising the rosters, is that it can be very repetitive work. Creating all of the missing players is repetitive. Going through all the ratings, attributes, and other player data and ensuring that everything is up to date and accurate is repetitive. It’s also very time-consuming. I’ve been able to create logo updates for multiple teams in a single day. There’s no way that anyone could whip up a quality roster mod in less than 24 hours, outside of some minimalist projects. Keeping a game updated through several seasons requires repeating lengthy, repetitive processes year after year.
Of course, it can also be an enjoyable process…at first. There’s satisfaction in seeing a project come together, and then putting it out there for other people to enjoy. Ideally it’s something that you’ll also enjoy playing with, but unfortunately that won’t always be the case, particularly when you continue to update a game that you’re no longer regularly playing. The point is that you need to have a lot of enthusiasm for the work you’re doing, not to mention the free time to get it done. For many years, I was able to find both the time and enthusiasm to keep working on roster updates for NBA Live 2005 through to 08, as well as some projects for a few of the older games in the series.
However, around about 2010 or 2011, I’d definitely started to lose enthusiasm and incentive to keep making roster updates for those games. NBA 2K was now out on PC, and more and more gamers were gravitating towards those releases. It became harder to justify putting so much time and effort into mods for games that fewer and fewer people were still playing. There were also fewer modders still working on those games who were willing and able to help out with art updates. The NBA Live PC project was envisioned as a community effort to keep NBA Live 06 updated. By the end, it was more a case of “the community asks Andrew when it’ll be done.”
My output decreased as my burnout grew. I once prided myself in getting rosters out by the start of a new season, or as soon as possible after Opening Night. By the 2012 season, my roster updates were released months into the season, with only a handful of follow-up releases. Over the years, a lot of people have suggested releasing fewer updates per season, in an effort to lighten the load. The irony here is that it doesn’t actually make things easier. There are still just as many players to create, as well as transactions to keep up with, and art updates to either make or source. In a way, it actually creates more work, because there’s more to catch up on between releases.
Sadly, making the rosters became a burden. Once that happened, the eagerness that people in the community had to get the rosters that had once been flattering and motivating, had instead become pressuring and off-putting. It wasn’t just the rude remarks – there’s a certain irony in being told “you’re so damn lazy” by someone who is sitting back waiting for somebody else to create a roster update free of charge – that were getting to me. Unfortunately, even friendly and supportive questions about when the roster could be expected felt like nagging and pestering, especially when I’d long moved on from those games. I simply wasn’t enjoying making rosters anymore.
It didn’t help that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to release comprehensive and completed mods, without considering demo releases and incremental updates. In other words, when it came time to update a game for a new season, I had to add all of the rookies, all of the training camp signees, get faces (or appropriate placeholders) for them, and ensure all of the team artwork was updated. Naturally that would’ve been the long-term goal, but I neglected the possibility of adding a few players at a time and releasing multiple offseason updates, in part because I knew it would lead to posts about “forgetting” to add things from people that didn’t read the release notes.
Decreasing interest in those games further suggested that it was time to let go. I released that final 2013 roster for NBA Live 2005-08, and did intend to follow up with some Playoff updates, fixes, and whatnot, while also considering continuing the updates for 2014. That never came to be. Whatever passion I still had left for making roster updates back then went into that release, and after that, I was done. Memories of good times crafting current rosters made me consider returning to those projects, and even taking some preliminary steps just in case. Once I started considering the logistics and recalling the tedious parts of roster making, however, I went no further.
Every so often, I’ll receive an email or private message about making some new roster updates for NBA Live. It’s usually an innocent request that is respectful of the work I put into those mods, and I understand wanting new content for old favourites. It’s often framed with the words “everyone is waiting for your new update” or “lots of people want a new roster” though, and frankly, that simply isn’t true. There’s interest in older NBA 2K games being updated, but not so much the final few NBA Live games on PC. It’s overstating the demand out of personal desire, and while I do understand, I must also politely but firmly point out that it isn’t actually the case.
With all that being said, the lure of roster modding is strong. It’s why I’m trying my hand at some updates for NBA 2K11. It’s why I consider ideas for more recent titles in the NBA 2K series. And yes, it’s why I won’t completely shut the door on more projects for NBA Live. The problem is that whenever I start, years of modding and previous burnout does cause me to run up against a wall every now and again. As before, my enthusiasm and motivation is tempered by the reality of creating mods for a smaller audience, and with less help than in the prime years of creating mods for NBA Live PC. The spark comes and goes, and there are only so many hours in a day.
As was the case in 2013 however, I hate to say never. Of course, the problem with “never say never” is that it can sound like an open-ended promise, so either way, there’s a chance you’ll disappoint people waiting on your work. The fact of the matter is that the content I’m creating now is much easier and less tedious to produce. I enjoy writing and podcasting, and even dabbling with some video content. When it comes to modding – which I have done in recent years – I’ve preferred to stick to smaller mods that interest me. Massive projects for games I’m no longer playing are tougher to get motivated for, but I won’t pretend that I don’t think about what could be done.
What does this mean for me in 2021, especially as March Modness tips off? Well, I’m not making any promises, but I won’t completely rule out anything that’s feasible and appealing to me. Whatever projects I take on, I want to approach them in a smarter way that avoids burnout and maximises productivity. That may mean demo releases, or collaborations. It certainly means focusing on projects I can be passionate about. At the end of the day, that’s what stopped my NBA Live roster updates: a lack of passion. You can be dedicated, but without passion and enthusiasm, a hobby can end up being a chore. Modding should be a fun hobby, and it’s my aim to always keep that in mind.