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NLSC Podcast #346: And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

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Episode #346 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

Controversy strikes as an unskippable ad has made its way into NBA 2K21 Current Gen. It isn’t the first time this generation, but the backlash has prompted a statement from 2K, one that we find questionable. This prompts us to recall other controversies, and the tendency for some gamers to make excuses for them time after time. We also talk about the logistics of an indie developer making a fully 3D 5v5 basketball title. With the release of the third gameplay blog for NBA 2K21 Next Gen, we have our first look at MyPLAYER builds and AI improvements. Once again, the included clips seem to tell a different story to what’s been written in the blog. The changes to builds, Badges, and the Takeover system leads to a discussion of stories and RPG mechanics in MyCAREER. After summing up our thoughts on the gameplay blogs, we dive into a fun topic: the amazing fictional NBA team names in Super Dunk Shot!

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. The show also comes out on our YouTube channel, so be sure to subscribe for future episodes and other video content.

Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

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 skill-based matchmaking.

Did you know that the concept of skill-based matchmaking, commonly abbreviated to SBMM, is controversial? I’ll admit that I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; especially given my experiences playing NBA 2K online. As the name implies, skill-based matchmaking is a system for matching both teammates and opponents in online play according to their abilities. The criteria and algorithms for this vary from game to game, but are generally based on winning percentage, ranking or reputation systems, and other statistics relevant to the genre.

Sounds like a good idea, right; the kind of proper matchmaking that we’d expect to see in a basketball game like NBA 2K, with all of its connected experiences? Well, you would think so, but not everyone is a fan of skill-based matchmaking. This disdain stretches beyond NBA 2K and the basketball gaming community, but the basic reasoning behind gamers’ objections to the concept remains the same. Frankly, this is unfortunate. SBMM is indeed a good idea, and would undoubtedly clean up the online scene in NBA 2K by reducing the toxicity and sense of gatekeeping. I’d like to explore why it’s necessary, and also examine the controversy surrounding SBMM.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways NBA 2K Online Is A Mess

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 outlines five reasons that the online scene in NBA 2K is a mess.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve discussed problems with the online experience in NBA 2K, and while I’d prefer not to harp on issues or be repetitive in my content, it’s also important to point out problems. This is particularly important when certain issues remain unresolved for several years running, leading to increased frustration for everyone, and an aspect of basketball gaming that isn’t nearly as good as it could and should be. Having spent more time playing NBA 2K online recent years, I’ve grown dismayed and disenchanted with the experience due to several recurring problems.

Frankly, NBA 2K online is a mess. It’s kind of bewildering, actually. With the launch of the NBA 2K League, the online scene is obviously being pushed as a big part of the game, and yet it’s never been weaker or less inviting. That’s not to say that it can’t be any fun at all. I won’t pretend that I haven’t had enjoyable sessions here and there, or that NBA 2K online doesn’t have anything to offer; at least on paper. The good news is that there are solutions that would clean up the mess that is online play in NBA 2K. The bad news is that many of the problems are persistent legacy issues, so it remains to be seen if they’ll ever be properly addressed in future games.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Online Experience We’ll Never Have

Monday Tip-Off: The Online Experience We'll Never Have

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 the online experience I’d love to see in NBA 2K, but we’re highly unlikely to ever have.

Aside from some admittedly fun sessions of 3v3 Pro-Am and jumping into The Rec after spinning double MyREP on the Prize Wheel, I’ve not been playing online in NBA 2K20. I’d been dabbling with a session or two in The Rec every so often, but in order to finally let MyCAREER go, I’ve focused on finishing my rookie season and generally avoided taking part in any of the connected experiences. Thanks to so many hit-or-miss sessions, I no longer have the same enthusiasm for the online experience that I once did. It’s made it much easier to abstain from those modes.

Even the satisfying runs in 3v3 Pro-Am had their annoyances. Despite playing well and even winning eight games in a single session, I somehow dropped from 99.9 to 99.4 Overall, spotlighting some of the major flaws with the MyREP and Overall Rating systems in NBA 2K20. Of course, the tendency to punish rather than reward is just one of the problems with the online experience in NBA 2K. It’s unfortunate, as online play in NBA 2K should be so much better than it is. From issues with lag and matchmaking to meta-gaming and what it takes to get there, I can’t help thinking about the online experience that NBA 2K should offer, but we’re unlikely to see.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Dumbing Down of MyTEAM

Monday Tip-Off: The Dumbing Down of MyTEAM

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 the dumbing down of MyTEAM in recent NBA 2K games, and how it’s affecting the mode.

I’ll occasionally see a comment on Twitter or Reddit to the effect of “Who even plays MyTEAM?” It’s your standard “I don’t like it, therefore it sucks and no one else likes it either” rationale that’s all too common among toxic gamers, but it comes off as especially ridiculous when you’re talking about a mode like MyTEAM. After all, its popularity rivals MyCAREER and its connected modes, and thanks to the content that comes through all season long, it makes Take-Two a lot of money. It is possible to play without spending any money, of course, but many who do spend, spend big.

I like the idea of modes like MyTEAM and Ultimate Team. I never thought they’d be for me, but I’ve had fun with them in NBA 2K and NBA Live over the course of this generation. I’ve generally avoided spending money and in NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K20 in particular, I’ve still managed to pick up some really good cards. However, there are problems with MyTEAM, and it’s safe to say that it’s affecting the quality and appeal of the mode. On the whole, it feels like 2K has been dumbing the mode down with the special cards they introduce every year, along with a lack of attention to detail. The mode hasn’t been completely ruined, but it could be in much better shape than it is.

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Monday Tip-Off: Why NBA 2K Needs Matchmaking

Monday Tip-Off: Why NBA 2K Needs Matchmaking

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 an outline of why it’s important that future NBA 2K games implement proper matchmaking.

When NBA Live 08 implemented Online Team Play post-release, we were seeing the future of online basketball gaming. Although subsequent NBA Live titles would build upon that first iteration of the concept, it’s ultimately been NBA 2K that has taken the experience to new heights. The idea of creating your own player and joining up with other gamers to play multiplayer games where every player is user-controlled has become the most popular experience in NBA 2K. It’s even led to the founding of a professional eSports league, run in conjunction with the NBA itself.

Given the popularity that online play now enjoys, it’s both puzzling and disappointing that NBA 2K is lacking such a critical component of the experience: matchmaking. It’s kind of implemented in that there’s a rep system (albeit one that’s problematic), position logic behind teaming up players in the Rec Center, and a rough ranking system in team Pro-Am. However, it’s nowhere near as deep or effective as it needs to be, and in the case of The Playground, it’s completely non-existent. Simply put, if NBA 2K is going to cater to its large paying audience and establish a respectable competitive scene, it needs to have proper matchmaking.

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Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K Online Is In Terrible Shape

NBA 2K Online

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 the quality of online play in NBA 2K; or, more accurately, the lack thereof.

Hey, remember when I wrote about the desire to balance positivity and negativity in my articles? I mentioned that I wanted to avoid writing an article about online play in NBA 2K that ended up being more of a rant than constructive criticism, cathartic as it may be. Well, I’m going to go ahead and vent a little. I was originally going to leave it at my Friday Five detailing my experiences with the Jordan Rec Center, but I need to expand upon that. As someone who was traditionally an offline gamer who has since been drawn into online in recent years, I’m now remembering why I avoided it.

When the NBA 2K League was announced, I noted the slight possibility that it would have some tangible benefit for the rest of us. Specifically, I suggested that in the best case scenario, it would encourage 2K to improve their servers and address some of the long-standing issues with online gameplay, in order to make the “home version” of the NBA 2K League more like the real thing. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. NBA 2K online has strayed further and further away from sim basketball, and the servers continue to be extremely unreliable. Combine this steady decline with a toxic part of the community, and honestly, I don’t see the situation getting any better.

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NLSC Podcast #292: MyCAREER Killed The Franchise Mode

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Episode #292 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Arcane is back on the show this week as we catch up on the latest NBA 2K20 news, and discuss how a focus on career modes this generation has affected the course and quality of basketball gaming.

‘Tis the preview season, which means that there’s a lot of talk about bullshotting as new NBA 2K20 screenshots continue to drop. The soundtrack for this year’s game has also been revealed, not only bringing tracks from the big names, but also providing an opportunity for unsigned artists. However, the biggest news of the week is that the NBA 2K20 Demo will be released on August 21st. We speculate on what the new MyPLAYER builder might entail, what other content we can expect, and how the demo experience will translate to the full release. After noting the lack of NBA content in recent NBA 2K demos, we move on to this week’s featured discussion: has the focus on career modes adversely affected other modes, and the basketball gaming experience in general? As much as we’ve enjoyed MyCAREER this generation, it does feel as though other aspects of the games have been neglected. We consider what this might mean for the genre moving forward, and whether it’s another sign we’re no longer part of the core demographic.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the latest NBA 2K20 news, and the heavy focus on career modes in today’s basketball games? 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: We’re Part of The Problem

The Playground in NBA 2K19

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 how we gamers are part of the problem when it comes to recent issues with NBA 2K19.

I try my best not to be repetitive in the topics I choose for my weekly features. Unless I’m producing a series centred on a certain theme or topic, I try to space out similar features and even alternate between games wherever possible. I also want to be as fair-handed as possible, and not resort to bashing for the sake of outrage clicks. With that being said however, although I’ve discussed issues with online modes and play in the last couple of Monday Tip-Off articles, recent events in NBA 2K19 have made it impossible not to touch on them once again this week.

Where to begin? An influx of new gamers from a recent sale has been blamed for persistent problems in MyTEAM’s Auction House, an issue that remains unresolved. The appearance of an unskippable ad has naturally raised the ire of many gamers, both for its inconvenience and inappropriateness in an E-rated game. This is all on top of the continued dissatisfaction with the game’s heavy focus upon microtransactions and gambling-like mechanics. Those issues all deserve scorn, but as I prepared to talk about them and criticise NBA 2K’s handling of the situation once again, a nagging thought came to mind: like it or not, we’re part of the problem.

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The Friday Five: 5 Toxic Behaviours of Online Basketball Gamers

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 discusses five toxic behaviours that are all too frequently encountered in online basketball gaming.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of fun playing NBA Live or NBA 2K online this year. I have taken part in some very enjoyable games, and that’s kept me from giving up on the online modes altogether, but it’s felt like the experience has taken another step backwards. The lack of deep matchmaking and proper balance, gatekeeping measures such as requiring five users per side in Pro-Am, and increased focus on meta-gaming, have made online play a lot less fun in NBA 2K. Meanwhile, input lag and other gameplay issues have afflicted NBA Live’s online experience.

It’s not just issues with modes and mechanics, however. We gamers also bear much of the responsibility here, as there is a lot of toxicity among those who like to play NBA 2K and NBA Live online. I’ve discussed toxic behaviour in the community before, and since writing that Monday Tip-Off article, the situation hasn’t improved. Various aspects of the games do cultivate a toxic atmosphere and attitudes, as evident by other online gaming communities that are friendlier or more sporting, but ultimately we’re responsible for our own actions. To that end, curbing these five toxic behaviours will require a combination of changes to the games, and improvements in our attitudes.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve Online Modes in NBA 2K20

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 to improve online modes in NBA 2K20.

For many years, there wasn’t much that I could personally say about online play. I was mostly an offline basketball gamer, and while I was only too eager to pass along any feedback on behalf of online gamers, it wasn’t an experience that I took a whole lot of interest in. That changed in NBA 2K16, when Arcane and I were encouraged to join Kenny, The X, and Valor for some 2K Pro-Am games. I had enjoyed playing a few games of Online Team Play in NBA Live 08 as it was new and interesting, and Pro-Am proved to be an enjoyable spin on the concept.

As much as I value the single player experiences in modern basketball games, there’s no denying the importance of online modes. Visual Concepts clearly has a lot invested in the online experience, not only through providing a variety of ways to play online in NBA 2K, but also through their partnership with the NBA for the NBA 2K League. Despite that focus, and the general popularity of online play in NBA 2K, there are some major drawbacks and troubling legacy issues that need to be addressed in future games. I’m hoping that NBA 2K20 does see some key improvements in the game’s online modes, and this is how I believe that can be achieved.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways the CPU Messes With You

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 lists five ways that the CPU will mess with us in basketball video games.

As we all know, multiplayer gaming has its ups and downs. Whether it’s the pain of getting less than ideal teammates online, the frustration of encountering cheesers who spam exploits, or dealing with that one friend who takes things too far messing with you while you’re sitting on the same couch, there are times when you’d prefer to be enjoying single player gameplay. Of course, the single player/offline experience isn’t immune to such chicanery, as games will pull some dirty tricks in order to prevent you from beating them. CPU opponents in basketball games are no different.

To some extent, this is a necessary evil. As far as basketball games have come, they still have limitations. Gameplay is now more realistic with CPU opponents that are bolstered by AI that is smarter, but it still can’t match the creativity and cleverness of a human brain. Tilting a few aspects of the game in the CPU’s favour and including comeback mechanics allows it to be competitive and challenging, though can feel like artificial difficulty. There are also moments that are more benign and don’t necessarily stand in the way of winning, but nevertheless feel like the CPU is messing with us. Here are five examples of the CPU thumbing its nose at us on the virtual hardwood.

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