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NLSC Podcast #327: Gonna Make You Sweat

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Episode #327 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Dee4Three and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

The PlayStation 5 reveal event brought us an Announcement Trailer for NBA 2K21, which gives us plenty to talk about this week! We recap and react to the trailer featuring Zion Williamson, and a whole lot of sweat. In addition to highlighting the parts that appealed to us, we also discuss our concerns, along with the expectations it’s given us for next gen. We also speculate whether the PC version of NBA 2K21 will be a next gen port, or last gen as was the case with NBA 2K14. The trustworthiness of developer blogs and preview media is another issue we’re going to be mindful of this preview season, as we reflect on past controversies. We also consider the impact of next gen NBA 2K21 on the future of NBA Live, and what we can expect from last gen NBA 2K moving forward.

What’s your take on this week’s conversation? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

Monday Tip-Off: The Right Direction for NBA Live

Monday Tip-Off: The Right Direction for NBA Live

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 thoughts on the right direction for NBA Live.

Needless to say, the past decade has been tough for NBA Live. Through cancelled titles and skipped years, the series has seen only five releases during that span. There have been promising aspects and good ideas present in those five games, and it could be argued that at least a couple of titles have been solid, but EA Sports has failed to move the needle. NBA Live is still languishing far behind where it needs to be as a viable alternative to NBA 2K and the enormous gulf in sales speaks volumes. NBA 2K has its issues, but NBA Live hasn’t been able to capitalise on gamer frustration.

The good news is that the door hasn’t been slammed shut on NBA Live. Thanks to a combination of readily apparent potential and 2K squandering goodwill, there is still interest in seeing NBA Live return to its former glory. Unfortunately, the series’ steps towards reaching that goal haven’t been as large as many of us would’ve liked, and one of the main reasons for that is the direction of the series. More specifically, this includes both the particular choices that have been made, and the tendency to change direction too often. NBA Live needs to have the right focus moving forward, but that raises the question: what is the right direction for NBA Live to take?

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Monday Tip-Off: Arguing For & Against Green Releases

Monday Tip-Off: Arguing For & Against Green Releases

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 some thoughts on Green Releases, specifically the arguments for and against the mechanic.

Back in May 2017, I discussed the future of Green Releases in NBA 2K. Three years on, the mechanic still remains an issue. It’s funny to look back and see that Mike Wang was talking about weaning gamers off the concept of Green Releases, only for them to still be in the game, relatively unchanged. I say relatively because NBA 2K18 attempted to artificially nerf them with a “Good” release actually only having a 5% chance of going in – less than a Slightly Early or Slightly Late release – and other games have also seen Beluba and co tinker with the perfect release windows.

Apart from that, the basic idea remains the same. Green Releases result in a made shot every time, unless it’s blocked or you’re too far behind the backboard. If you can learn the precise timing of a jumpshot animation and pay attention to the rumble feedback cues, you’ll be greening attempts with ease and regularity. We’re still as reliant on the approach as ever, and it doesn’t look like it’s something that NBA 2K – or NBA Live, now that it’s adopted the same style of shot mechanics and feedback – will be able to move away from. The question is: should it? It feels like we’re at a stalemate on the issue, so let’s go over the pros and cons of Green Releases once again.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Legacy of NBA 2K18

Wayback Wednesday: The Legacy of NBA 2K18

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 NBA 2K18, and the legacy that it has created.

The NBA 2K18 servers are no more. Well, I imagine they’re still physically around. It’s highly unlikely that 2K instructed someone to take a sledgehammer and go all Triple H on them, rather than just switching them off. The point is that online support has ended, which means MyTEAM, the first version of The Neighborhood, and all other connected content is gone. With this infamous release being officially put out to pasture, I believe it’s an apt time to offer up a final take on the game, and reflect on its legacy.

I know that it’s fairly recent by Wayback Wednesday standards, but it was released going on three years ago, which is about how old the All-Time College Teams DLC for NBA 2K17 was when I covered it. Besides, NBA 2K18 came out last decade, and that makes it sound old, right? Hey, it’s my feature, and I’ll bend the rules if need be! In any event, a retrospective of this controversial game feels quite timely, so let’s take a look back…not too far but still wayback…

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 06 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 06 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 06.

After the success of NBA Live 2005, NBA Live 06 proved to be a pivotal moment in the series; one that NBA Live is still feeling the effects of today. Because of those long-term ramifications, it’s all too easy to forget that NBA Live 06 is a tale of two games: a last gen and PC release that was at least on par with its predecessor, and a new gen launch title that was a disappointment. It’s unfortunate that the latter often overshadows the former, but it’s understandable, given the lasting impact that it had. Nevertheless, I’ll be covering both versions of the game in this retrospective. Let’s look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly in a significant year for NBA Live.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2005 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2005 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 2005.

In my NBA Live 2004 retrospective, I summed up that game by calling it a tough act to follow. That’s what makes NBA Live 2005 so impressive, as it met the standard of its predecessor and raised the bar even higher. Many would call it the best game in the NBA Live series, or at the very least, rank it somewhere in the top five, if not the top three. It’s a reputation that’s well-earned, as it improved upon NBA Live 2004 in just about every way possible, and still holds up extremely well over a decade later. It had a few issues of course, but it was still a great release, and remains a personal favourite of mine. Let’s take a look back at another milestone game in the NBA Live series.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2004 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2004 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 2004.

After NBA Live 2003 leaned too much towards an arcade style of gameplay, NBA Live 2004 was a very welcome course correction. It took the strong points of its predecessor, such as Freestyle Control, and built a more robust sim game on that foundation. It was also the beginning of a very solid three year run for NBA Live on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, before the series began to struggle with its transition to the next generation. NBA Live 2004 was generally very well-received in its day, and it remains a favourite for many long-time basketball gamers. It was definitely a return to form for the series, and the game most of us wished NBA Live 2003 had been.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2002 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 2002.

NBA Live 2002 is always an interesting game for me to revisit. I played the game a lot when it was new and did get genuine enjoyment out of it, but I also recall many frustrating moments as well. As such, whenever I fire it up, the good and the bad memories come rushing back the moment the intro starts playing. It’s a game that I’ve described myself as being oddly nostalgic for given my mixed feelings towards it, and indeed the time in my life when it came out. Within our community, it proved to be a very controversial release, and altered our perception of and attitude towards the NBA Live series as much as any other title. Let’s take a look back at this infamous game!

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2001 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2001 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 2001.

After firmly holding the title of the best NBA sim game on the market through the 90s and consistently improving from year to year, NBA Live 2001 was one of the first missteps for the NBA Live series. To be clear, I definitely don’t see it as an all-around terrible game, and there are games in the series that are a lot rougher around the edges, but NBA Live 2001 did have some significant problems. Looking back at the game and remembering the time I spent with it, I’d describe it as fun, but flawed. Its predecessors hadn’t been perfect of course, so was it just a case of impossibly high expectations after NBA Live 2000? Let’s revisit NBA Live 2001 and see.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 98 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 98 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 98.

In a Friday Five some five years ago, I discussed the five biggest leaps in basketball video games, within the span of one production cycle. While I stand by the choices I made when compiling that countdown, I have to admit that it was a mistake not to at least include NBA Live 98 as an honourable mention. Whenever I dust off the game for a trip down memory lane, I not only recall a lot of the improvements that were made over NBA Live 97, but also that it’s a game I personally underrated for a long time. I never disliked it or thought it was a bad game, but because I didn’t buy the PC version as soon as it came out, I didn’t appreciate how good it was back then.

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Monday Tip-Off: Revisiting My NBA 2K18 Dunking Issue

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 by revisiting my issue with dunking back in NBA 2K18’s MyCAREER.

From the first iteration of MyPLAYER Archetypes to NBA 2K20’s pie charts, player builds have been a contentious aspect of MyCAREER and its connected modes. The approach is intended to balance the game and allow us to create the type of player that best suits us, but in reality, it’s proven to be very restrictive. Only a handful of builds are viable – especially when it comes to online play – and those tend to be noticeably overpowered. Conversely, a lot of the builds that aren’t as viable are often outright broken, and not enjoyable to play with.

I encountered a very strange issue with dunking back in NBA 2K18, playing as a Sharpshooting Playmaker. Despite increasing my ratings, equipping the appropriate animations, and being very familiar with the advanced shooting controls, I was rarely able to get my player to dunk. Hearing that there might be an issue with tendencies for point guards created in The Prelude, I contacted 2K Support. Predictably, they were no help whatsoever. I’ve since made a few observations when creating similar builds in NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K20, and so this week, I’m briefly revisiting NBA 2K18’s MyCAREER to see if I can actually resolve my dunking issue.

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The Friday Five: 5 Excuses We Must Stop Making For Games

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 excuses that we must stop making in order to downplay valid criticisms of basketball video games.

There are times when it’s only fair to make excuses for basketball video games. There are limitations to what can be achieved with the technology that’s currently available. Issues with likeness rights meant that certain historical players can’t be included. NBA games have a brutal development cycle compared to titles that don’t come out every year. In fact, you might be inclined to call these “reasons”, as the term “excuses” often has negative connotations. It’s splitting hairs on the definition in some respects, but it’s understandable that some people balk at the idea of “making excuses”.

The problem with excuses is that they can easily work against our best interests. If we don’t hold developers accountable for certain decisions and design choices, then we’ll have no choice but to endure whatever undesirable situation we find ourselves in with basketball video games. Look, I’d like to think that I’m as passionate about the hobby as anyone else in the community, and I also believe in being fair and constructive in our criticism. It’s just astonishing how far some people will go to make excuses for the games though, even when an issue is clearly detrimental to them. These are the excuses that we need to cut out, or else we’ll continue to suffer the consequences.

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The Friday Five: 5 Gameplay Improvements NBA Live 20 Needs

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 improvements that NBA Live 20 needs to demonstrate in terms of its gameplay.

If NBA Live 20 is to be the big release many of us are hoping it will be, it will need to improve upon an area that’s been a perennial weakness since the series returned back in 2013: its modes. The different modes of play are what give basketball games their longevity, and this year’s release from EA Sports must add long overdue features and depth to Franchise, Ultimate Team, and online modes. Deeper customisation is also a must. Of course, while these are all vital areas of NBA Live that require attention, it’s crucial that above all, the gameplay experience continues to improve.

NBA Live’s gameplay has gone through some interesting ups and downs during this generation. NBA Live 14 felt very stiff on the sticks, with animations that looked very “last gen”. Since then, improvements have been made to the fluidity, the depth of the controls, and certain animations. Most NBA Live gamers would agree that there is still plenty of room for improvement, and I’m unquestionably in that camp. What are the most important changes and improvements that need to be made to gameplay in NBA Live 20? We compiled some great ideas in the Wishlist that we sent in to EA, but this week, I’d like to discuss five key areas where Live’s gameplay must improve.

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The Friday Five: 5 Things MyCOURT Needs

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 things that would enhance MyCOURT in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

As I noted in a Wayback Wednesday feature, when MyCOURT was first announced as a new addition in NBA 2K15’s MyCAREER, I didn’t think much of it. My initial thought was that it sounded like a gimmicky premise, another case of adding flash over substance. In hindsight, I was underestimating its usefulness. MyCOURT has not only proven to be an appealing player hub and base of operations for MyCAREER, but is very handy for testing out animations, getting a feel for your player, and earning some extra VC. In NBA 2K17, it could even be used to grind for Cap Breakers.

However, while MyCOURT remains practical and stylish as of NBA 2K19, there are a few things that could stand to be improved upon. Although new functions have been added in the form of mini-games and unlockable items, there are some noteworthy omissions in terms of useful options and equipment. From additional on-court options to menu functions and interactive elements of the environment, these things would allow us to get the most out of MyCOURT. They may not be the most crucial parts of MyCAREER, but having spent considerable time in the mode in NBA 2K19, I feel that these suggestions would spruce up our own private virtual hardwood.

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Monday Tip-Off: What NBA 2K Can Learn From Mortal Kombat 11

Start-Up Frames Explanation in Mortal Kombat 11

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 how NBA 2K could stand to take a few cues from Mortal Kombat 11.

The fact that I’ve been running a site dedicated to basketball gaming for eighteen years may lead you to believe that hoops games are all that I play, but in fact, I do enjoy quite a few other genres. As a gamer growing up in the 90s, there weren’t many games as cool (or should I say, kool) as Mortal Kombat. The MK series has obviously been very popular and successful through the years, and like many other gamers, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Mortal Kombat 11 last week. My copy arrived, I finished story mode in a single sitting, and am now looking forward to new kontent.

Fighting games and basketball games don’t have a whole lot in common – the cameos by Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam aside – but as I was going through all of the advanced tutorials in MK11, I was struck by their depth compared to NBA 2K’s 2KU. In addition to explaining the basic controls, Mortal Kombat 11’s tutorials provide a deep dive into the game’s mechanics, teaching gamers the fundamentals for playing competitively online and offline. With NBA 2K leaning so heavily on meta-gaming and mastering the minutia of its mechanics, there’s much that it could – and should – take from NetherRealm Studios’ latest release.

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