Monday Tip-Off: Pick Your Modding Projects Wisely

Monday Tip-Off: Pick Your Modding Projects Wisely

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 few thoughts on the need to be wisely judicious when picking modding projects to undertake.

I had what you might call a modding disaster last week. A project that I’d started on a whim went up in flames when an unexpected glitch ruined the better part of a day’s work, to the point where I had to abandon it. To say that it was extremely frustrating is an understatement. It was, after all, time that I could’ve spent on other modding projects that I’ve been trying to finish for a while now. Beyond that, I liked how it was beginning to come together. There was still some work to do, but it probably would’ve only taken another day or so.

I’ll describe the project and the resulting disaster in more detail momentarily, but in the aftermath of losing all that work, it really impressed upon me the need for good modding habits. There are reasons that we can find ourselves being pulled in many directions by appealing ideas for modding projects, why we neglect what’s already on the workbench for that shiny new spark of inspiration. Even if you only stick to one project at a time, however, there are pitfalls that can catch you out no matter how long you’ve been modding. Sometimes you won’t even consider them until it’s too late, and both time and work is lost. It’s why we need to pick our modding projects wisely.

So, the project I was working on was a minimalist retro team roster for the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 06. As I’ve recently discussed, that title has been my retro hoops gaming kick as of late, and it inspired me to mess around with the rosters. For the most part I was just making things for my own use, but knowing that it is possible to share Xbox 360 saves, I decided that I’d upload them for the community. The two modding projects that made it out into the wild are an End of Season roster update, and a custom roster which replaces the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers with their 1998 squads. They’re fairly light updates, but I did put time and care into them.

Created Michael Jordan in The Temple (NBA Live 06)

The roster featuring the two 1998 teams inspired me to expand into a makeshift retro roster filled with classic teams. For the most part, it meant rolling the teams back a few years. My plan was to focus on teams where it wouldn’t matter if they were missing a player or two that appeared more proimnently on another squad. This wouldn’t be an issue on PC of course, where it’s very simple to duplicate players and get around the CAP limit. After a day’s work, I had the framework for 29 teams: a few from the 90s, most from the early to mid 2000s, and the 2011 Heat and 2015 Warriors to round things out. The Bobcats featured a mix of their alumni throughout the years.

As far as minimalist modding projects go, I don’t mind telling you that it was pretty solid! Every team had at least eight players, and I’d made economical use of both the roster of available players and 50 available CAPs. My choice of so many teams from 2002 made me think that perhaps I should’ve just gone ahead and tried to make a 2002 season roster instead, but I didn’t want to lose the 1998 Bulls. And so, I moved all the original players around, and created the ones I needed. I left their specific ratings and face sculpting for later, but everything was in place. I saved the roster and then began adjusting the lineups, with a view to going through them and editing as necessary.

That’s when I noticed an oddity in the Boston Celtics’ lineup. With all the moves that I’d made, I anticipated the game automatically reordering the Celtics’ lineup according to Overall Rating, but for some reason, Erick Strickland – a shooting guard – had been placed at centre. Vitaly Potapenko – a centre – was at power forward, and the rest of the lineup was similarly out of position. I fixed it, and went into Edit Player to change Rodney Rogers’ primary and secondary positions. When I returned to the lineup screen, there were now two Erick Stricklands on the Celtics while Vitaly Potapenko had disappeared from the team completely, morphing into an Erick Strickland clone!

Dwyane Wade in the NBA Finals (NBA Live 06 Xbox 360)

Somehow – as far as I can figure, anyway – the two players had come to utilise the same data in the roster file. Releasing one Strickland sent them both into the Free Agents. At this point, the roster had auto saved, and I didn’t have a backup. I scolded myself for making such a rookie mistake, but then, I’d never seen a glitch like that before. Also, not knowing when or how it had occurred, in all likelihood my backup would’ve had the same issue. Extremely frustrated, I ended up deleting the roster. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so rash – if nothing else, I could’ve taken screenshots for this article – but deep down I knew it was ruined, and likely to glitch even further.

At that point, I just wanted to wash my hands of the entire roster. I wouldn’t have been so hasty if it were a mod for NBA Live 06 PC, as I likely would’ve been able to copy the data into a fresh DBF file if I chose to start over. On Xbox 360, that unfortunately isn’t feasible. And so, after a short deliberation, I scrapped it. I’m just thankful that I decided to leave the ratings fine-tuning and face editing for later, as that would’ve been a lot of work down the drain! As it stands, it’s given me a few ideas of what I can do with some roster modding projects for PC releases, and jumpstarted an eagerness to finish up the modding projects that I already have on my virtual workbench.

To that end, there’s a reason why I’ve found myself caught up in exploring modding projects for the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 06. Obviously it’s my nostalgic kick right now, but there’s a sense of freshness and excitement when you start putting a roster project together. It’s very satisfying to move swiftly through the early stages of getting the framework together, and to then have everything in place to start working on the finer details. You’re dealing with the big, quick parts, rather than the fiddly, time-consuming ones. Here there was also the novelty of doing something different in the form of a console update, as well as the appeal of it being a minimalist project.

Trading Players for Modding Projects (NBA Live 06 Xbox 360)

Of course, eventually you have to get to the fiddly details, and that’s when it can be very tempting to start something new, where you can make quicker progress through those early stages again. It’s an easy trap to fall into when it comes to roster modding projects; even minimalist ones. The fact I hadn’t started on that does avoid the blow of losing even more work, and on that note, I’m looking at the glitch as a blessing in disguise. Even as a minimalist project, it would’ve been a lot of time spent on a roster that probably wouldn’t be downloaded that much. The older PC releases still draw some interest with new mods, but a roster for Xbox 360 would’ve been very niche.

Therefore, I’m looking at the silver lining here. It serves as a reminder to constantly check work and have staggered backups, just in case. It’s also reminded me of how much quicker and easier some things are to accomplish on PC, and that that’s the platform to focus on when it comes to retro modding projects. I don’t regret having spent time on it, even though it basically ended in disaster. It reminded me of how fun it is to see a roster come together, it was something different to try, and researching the lineups was nostalgic. I’m going to cut my losses as far as making any further roster projects for the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 06, but it wasn’t all in vain.

Obviously, these are no stunning revelations; just reminders. It’s tough to resist the lure of the easier and enjoyable parts of the task, while growing bored of the lengthier, arduous portion. As I noted when I discussed how my roster updates for NBA Live came to an end, burnout doesn’t help either. It’s something that can be unavoidable, even if you do pick your modding projects wisely. However, you’ve still got to make that tough call. A minimalist retro team roster for NBA Live 06 on Xbox 360 was a fanciful idea, but isn’t really practical with widespread appeal. It would appear that a few glitches in the roster editing functions are capable of torpedoing your efforts, too.

Erick Strickland in NBA Live 06 (Xbox 360)

If you need a “palate cleanse” of sorts while working on big modding projects, my suggestion would be to find something small you can do. Something that doesn’t take too long to create and publish, but is still worthwhile and scratches the itch of both working on a mod and releasing it to the public. That’s what I’ll be doing as I try to make some of my roster mod ideas a reality, from NBA 2K11 updates to some retro projects for NBA Live on PC. Once again, the trick is to avoid the lure of the fresh start. It helps if you consider the potential popularity of a mod, preferably before you lose a day’s work to a glitch. Still, as long as you learn the lesson, that’s what counts.

Incidentally, it’s given me a new memory of Erick Strickland. Until now, I mostly remembered him for the time he entered a game with his jersey on backwards, with an announcer making the tongue-in-cheek observation that “his name is Dallas, and he plays for Strickland”. Henceforth, I’ll also remember him as the player that glitched out a roster, and caused me to throw out a day’s work and a modding project that I undertook on a whim. I’m not mad at him (or his virtual self), or even myself, really. Sometimes, that’s the way it goes with modding projects. It’s a reminder to pick them wisely, keep backups, and finish what’s on the workbench before beginning anew.

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