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Monday Tip-Off: Artificial Difficulty in Basketball Games

Artificial Difficulty Fires Up the AI (NBA Live 18)

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 at artificial difficulty in basketball games.

No matter what the genre, it’s all too easy to blame a video game itself when we lose. We’ll blame the controls, the mechanics, the AI, the overall design…anything except our own skills on the sticks and buttons. However, there are times when video games pose a challenge simply by not playing fair, manipulating and manufacturing the results. Be it rubber band AI, lightning fast reaction times, or some other tricky tactic, it all comes under the heading of artificial difficulty. Often a necessary evil, it can be used very effectively under certain circumstances.

If implemented poorly, however, artificial difficulty can ruin gameplay by punishing gamers for being too good. It can be particularly intrusive in sim-oriented basketball titles, where the gameplay is intended to accurately mimic the real life sport. There have been great improvements to the AI in the long-running NBA sim titles over the years, with many enhancements that have resulted in a more sophisticated virtual basketball experience. Unfortunately, a few legacy issues with artificial difficulty do remain. I believe it’s vital that the developers at EA Sports and Visual Concepts find a way to move past them in future NBA Live and NBA 2K releases.

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #249

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #249 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and I for a discussion of the past week in basketball and basketball gaming, including a new executive producer for NBA Live, the delay of NBA Playgrounds 2, the 2018 Conference Finals, and what we’ve been playing.

On this week’s show…

  • Seann Graddy is the new executive producer of the NBA Live series, with Sean O’Brien moving on to a new role at EA Sports. What does this mean for the series moving forward?
  • Viewership numbers for the NBA 2K League continue to dwindle. Is the League a flop – or on the way to being one – and what is it doing wrong?
  • NBA Playgrounds 2 has been abruptly delayed, less than a week ahead of its release. Saber Interactive are promising great things, but gamers are sceptical.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included more Ultimate Team challenges, LIVE Run, and some bargain retro game pick-ups. There’s also been a noteworthy development in the modding community.
  • We wrap up Episode #249 of the NLSC Podcast with a discussion of the 2018 Conference Finals.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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File Additions for NBA 2K14

NBA 2K14 Cover Art

Today’s file additions for NBA 2K14 PC include some more future prospect faces from Blang, and the latest retro faces by IceCr. Check them all out at the links below.

Blang
2019 Propects by Blang
Kevin Huerter Face

IceCr
Artis Gilmore Face
Bernard King Face
Oscar Robertson Face
Wilt Chamberlain Face
David Robinson Face
Bob McAdoo Face
Mitch Richmond Face
Reggie Miller Face
Rasheed Wallace Face

Thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to our Downloads database! If you need help uploading files, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For more information about downloads, the modding community, and File Additions bulletins, please see this FAQ in our Wiki.

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File Additions for NBA Live 2004

NBA Live 2004 Cover Art

We have a new release from the community for NBA Live 2004 PC today. Following on from Murat’s 2018 season updates, xshane has released a portrait pack for the current year. Check it out at the link below!

xshane
2017-18 Player Portraits

Thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to our Downloads database! If you need help uploading files, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For more information about downloads, the modding community, and File Additions bulletins, please see this FAQ in our Wiki.

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The Friday Five: 5 Hopes for NBA Playgrounds 2

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a breakdown of the main hopes that I have for NBA Playgrounds 2.

Originally set for release next week on May 22nd, NBA Playgrounds 2 has now been delayed to an unspecified date. While some basketball gamers have expressed their excitement about a follow up to last year’s title, others aren’t so thrilled. Some gamers feel that it’s coming too soon after the original, and are unhappy that support for the first NBA Playgrounds is ending with a few unfulfilled promises. Others simply didn’t care for the first game at all, and feel little incentive to give its sequel a chance. The indefinite postponement likely doesn’t allay their concerns or scepticism.

Even if the delay turns out to be for the best as Saber Interactive are insisting, NBA Playgrounds 2 is going to be a tough sell for some gamers. It’s going to take a quality release to win gamers over, with clear improvements that wouldn’t be possible via a patch. Whatever has led to the delay will also have to be a big deal. The previews have been somewhat promising so far though, and I do believe that NBA Playgrounds 2 has a great opportunity to become the definitive arcade hoops game of the current generation. There are a few things that it must do in order to achieve that however, which I’m outlining in the form of five hopes ahead of its eventual release.

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NBA Playgrounds 2 Delayed

NBA Playgrounds 2 Header

After releasing a trailer and confirming a release date of May 22nd last week, NBA Playgrounds 2 has been delayed. Saber Interactive posted the following announcement on the game’s official Facebook page:

We’ve got some news to share, but we want to start by saying ‘good things come to those who wait.’ There are exciting things brewing with the NBA Playgrounds franchise that we think will take arcade basketball to new levels.

We can’t tell you everything now, but we can tell you that this means our launch date of May 22nd will be moved out. Please be patient with us, we promise that NBA Playgrounds 2 will be better than ever. We’ll have more details to share soon.

Whether this means Saber are currently working on additional modes, content, or both is unclear at this point, but in any event, the release of the game has been pushed back. No new date has been specified as yet, but presumably NBA Playgrounds 2 will still be coming out before NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19. As soon as any further details are made available, we’ll be sure to post them.

In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, as well as join in the discussion here in the Other Basketball Games section of the NLSC Forum.

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New Modding Resource: Conversion Mod Progress Tracker

Conversion Mod Progress Tracker

If you’re working on a total conversion mod for NBA 2K, you might be interested in a resource that DaCrispy has uploaded, which helps you to track your progress. Check it out at the link below!

DaCrispy
Conversion Mod Progress Tracker

Thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to our Downloads database! If you need help uploading files, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For more information about downloads, the modding community, and File Additions bulletins, please see this FAQ in our Wiki.

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Wayback Wednesday: CustomArt in NBA Live

Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1996 Mod (NBA Live 2004)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at CustomArt in the PC versions of NBA Live.

As I mentioned in my retrospective of NBA Live on PC, modding was a big part of what made those releases the definitive versions of the game through to around the mid 2000s. The modding scene was able to become as large and successful as it did due to EA Sports’ willingness to make the game files easier to modify. While we were never provided any official tools, changes such as the adoption of DBF files, as well as the organisation and relative consistency of the art file formats, kept the modding community productive and our Downloads database filled with great updates.

One of the most significant developments in modding was CustomArt, introduced in NBA Live 2003 PC. The feature simplified the process of installing mods, while also providing in-depth customisation options. Should NBA Live return to the PC at some point, it’s definitely a feature that it needs to have, and it would also be great to have it natively supported in NBA 2K PC as well. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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File Additions for NBA 2K14

NBA 2K14 Cover Art

The latest file additions for NBA 2K14 PC include a handful of future prospect faces, and a G-League total conversion mod. Pick them up at the links below!

Blang
Moses Brown Face
Keldon Johnson Face
Kevin Pangos Face
Sekou Doumbouya Face

Devilsih et al
Gatorade League 18 Mod

Thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to our Downloads database! If you need help uploading files, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For more information about downloads, the modding community, and File Additions bulletins, please see this FAQ in our Wiki.

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Monday Tip-Off: Time to Close the Book on MyCAREER Stories

Proving Ground Characters in MyCAREER (NBA 2K18)

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 my take on the future of MyCAREER stories, which is basically that it’s time for them to end.

I know, I know. I’ve talked about MyCAREER stories a lot. I’ve made my position on them very clear since they made their debut in NBA 2K14. However, we’re now five years into the story-driven approach in MyCAREER. Not only can we rank the stories in a Top 5, at this point we’ve also had ample time to evaluate the approach so far, and consider how it should be handled moving forward. It’s fair to ask whether or not a story is necessary or wanted in MyCAREER, and if it is, what can be done to continue to innovate in future iterations of NBA 2K.

As you might expect, my suggestion is that a new approach is needed, but I’d like to explain my reasons beyond a simple distaste for the narratives we’ve experienced so far. This is intended to be a constructive piece that offers ideas and solutions, rather than just bashing an aspect of NBA 2K that I don’t particularly like. My dislike of the stories themselves is a factor, but if the goal is to innovate and offer new experiences, then MyCAREER stories could actually be getting in the way of that. While it would be possible to steer them in a new and more innovative direction, I do believe that it’s time to close the book on MyCAREER stories.

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #248

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #248 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Kenny and I as we discuss the new gameplay trailer for NBA Playgrounds 2, catch up on a week of basketball gaming, and offer up some predictions for the 2018 NBA Conference Finals and award winners.

On this week’s show…

  • NBA Playgrounds 2 is coming out May 22nd, as revealed by the new gameplay trailer. We’re feeling optimistic about the game, but we do have some specific hopes and expectations.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included an unlikely return to 2K Pro-Am; it didn’t go so well. A seven game series of 2v2 on MyCOURT was a lot more fun, though. We also talk Ultimate Team in NBA Live 18, and Basketball Classics on Steam.
  • We wrap up Episode #248 of the NLSC Podcast with a preview of the 2018 NBA Conference Finals, and predictions for this year’s award winners.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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File Additions for NBA 2K18

NBA 2K18 Cover Art

Time to get caught up on the latest file additions for NBA 2K18 PC! Today’s new and updated releases include fictional jerseys, player faces, and an ESPN scoreboard. Check them all out at the links below!

PickmansModel
Team USA Fictional Home/Away Jerseys
Miami Heat Vice City Inspired Jersey (Updated to v2.0)
Milwaukee Bucks Fictional Purple Jersey (Updated to v2.0)
New York Knicks Fictional Orange Jersey (Updated to v2.0)

Torogi
Kyle Korver Face
Jeff Green Face (Updated to v2.0)
Derrick Favors Face (Updated to v3.0)
George Hill Face (Updated to v2.0)
Stephen Curry Face & Body Model (Updated to v3.0)
Chris Paul Body & Face (Updated to v2.0)

dirtydraw & bongo88
ESPN Scoreboard (Updated to v2.5)

Thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to our Downloads database! If you need help uploading files, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For more information about downloads, the modding community, and File Additions bulletins, please see this FAQ in our Wiki.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve The Neighborhood

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five ways that The Neighborhood could be improved in NBA 2K19 and beyond.

Through articles, episodes of the NLSC Podcast, and posts in the Forum, I’ve made my opinion of The Neighborhood quite clear. In short, I like it about as much as I do MyCAREER stories, which is to say, not very much at all. To me, it’s amounted to a lot of wasted time running around the same mini suburb, going back and forth and enduring long loading screens. Whether it’s changing my animations, joining my friends in 2K Pro-Am or The Playground, or picking up my endorsement money, it’s basically impossible to have a streamlined experience.

However, while I certainly have my criticisms of The Neighborhood, I’d prefer them to be constructive. Even though I’m not a fan of the concept, there are ways that The Neighborhood could be more appealing and user-friendly, not to mention fairer in terms of grinding and potential microtransactions. My guess is that the developers aren’t going to give up on the concept after just one game, and if certain changes were made, I for one would probably find it at least a little more tolerable. With that said, here are five ways that the 2K team could improve on the whole experience of The Neighborhood in future games.

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NBA Playgrounds 2 Coming May 22nd; New Trailer

NBA Playgrounds 2: Dunking with Lonzo Ball

The release date for NBA Playgrounds 2 has been confirmed as May 22nd on all platforms, and the game is now available to preorder. As we noted a couple of weeks ago in Episode #246 of the NLSC Podcast, this is earlier than expected given the initial release window of Summer 2018. Instead, it’s in line with the release of the first game in May of last year.

A new trailer has also been released, showing off some gameplay highlights. The trailer also spotlights a few of the game’s key features, including the new player models and animation system, competitive online play, offline season mode, new power-ups, redesigned AI, dedicated servers, four player online co-op, and new venues. Check it out below!

Will you be picking up NBA Playgrounds 2? Have your say in the comments section below, and join in the discussion in this topic in the Other Basketball Games section of the NLSC Forum!

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File Additions for NBA 2K11

NBA 2K11 Cover Art

We’ve got some more file additions for an old favourite today, as DaCrispy has released two new mods for NBA 2K11 PC: updated 2017 season rosters, and an NBA Live 18 logo mod. Download them both at the links below!

DaCrispy
NBA Live 18 Logo Update
Updated 2016-17 Roster

Thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to our Downloads database! If you need help uploading files, be sure to check out this video tutorial. For more information about downloads, the modding community, and File Additions bulletins, please see this FAQ in our Wiki.

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