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The Friday Five: 5 Things NBA Live Doesn’t Get Enough Credit For

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 NBA Live doesn’t get enough credit for.

We’re getting to the point in our 25th Anniversary of NBA Live celebrations where I’m talking about the fall of the series, and the struggles that it has endured for more than a decade now. It’s unfortunate that the retrospectives aren’t as positive as the earlier releases in the series, but it’s the truth, and a part of its history that needs to be discussed. It’s even more unfortunate that it’s the prevailing image for NBA Live: a struggling series that hasn’t been able to get things right for a couple of generations, and as such, remains lagging way behind NBA 2K; a game it once outsold annually.

After all, it wasn’t always that way. Because it’s been so long, it’s all too easy to forget that there are many things that NBA Live innovated and did well. To that end, the series doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, both from gamers who switched to 2K many years ago, and those who are too young to remember when the NBA Live series was king. On top of that, it’s quite easy to focus on the negatives and take things for granted. With that in mind, I’ll also be writing similar articles on things that NBA 2K and NBA Jam deserve more credit for. For now though, let’s take a look at five aspects of NBA Live throughout the years that do deserve more credit.

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NBA 2K21 Next Gen Gameplay Blog #2 Talks Movement & Contact

NBA 2K21 Next Gen Gameplay Blog #2

Following on from last week’s insight into shooting, dribbling, and passing, this week’s NBA 2K21 Next Gen gameplay blog covers movement and contact. We can expect to see a third gameplay blog next week.

Key points discussed in the latest blog include the rebuilt dribble movement, improved motion on defense, more realistic contact, and new foot planting technology. It also covers some features that are exclusive to the PlayStation 5’s controller, with its adaptive triggers and haptic feedback.

I encourage you to read the second NBA 2K21 Next Gen gameplay blog in its entirety for the full scoop, but I’ve also posted a summary below. Add your thoughts in the comments, and join in the discussion taking place here in the Forum!

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NBA 2K21 Next Gen Gameplay Blog #1 Talks Fundamentals

NBA 2K21 Next Gen Gameplay Blog #1

The first gameplay blog for NBA 2K21 Next Gen has been posted, and it’s all about the fundamentals. It discusses the basics of shooting, dribbling, and passing in NBA 2K21. As noted when the Next Gen trailer dropped, further blogs will go into detail about AI, physics, and other aspects of gameplay.

I’ve provided a concise summary of the NBA 2K21 Next Gen gameplay blog below, but some of the key points it touches upon include the ability to control short arcs and bank shots with the Pro Stick, a more readable shot meter, touch around the rim, and jumpers off the dribble. It also mentions foot positioning around the three-point line, new signature dribbles, different dribbling speeds, and reworked passing.

It’s definitely worth checking out the NBA 2K21 Next Gen gameplay blog in full, but once again if you’d like a concise breakdown, check out my summary below. Got any thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments, and join in the discussion here in the Forum!

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The Friday Five: 5 Community Issues NBA 2K21 Has Spotlighted

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 look at five issues within the basketball gaming community that NBA 2K21 has spotlighted.

NBA 2K21 Current Gen has been out for about a month, and following its release, gamers have had a lot to say about it. The game has had a mixed reception to say the least, and some of the new concepts haven’t resonated as positively as the developers no doubt hoped they would. A big patch came through on September 14th, which does seem to have allayed some concerns with the game. No release is ever perfect though, and not all issues can be caught before the game is in our hands, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting developers with several obstacles.

Gamers have been noting the issues with NBA 2K21 and sharing feedback with the developers accordingly, but I’ve noticed something else in the wake of the game being released. It seems as though NBA 2K21 has also spotlighted some issues within the community itself, both in the way we approach the games and how we interact with each other. These community issues aren’t necessarily new, and in some cases they’re the result of toxicity that’s compounded over the years. At the same time, I do feel as though certain aspects of NBA 2K21 have shone a light on some of these community issues, and I honestly feel that we could (and should) be doing better in these areas.

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Monday Tip-Off: That One Change Every Year

Monday Tip-Off: That One Change Every Year

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 how every year, there seems to be at least one change in basketball video games that many of us dislike.

It’s fair to say that we want to see change in basketball video games year-to-year; for the better, ideally! As much as we criticise the parts of games we don’t like, we have seen quite a few positive changes that have improved the overall on-court experience. Basketball games have come a long way, and it’s clear that some of our feedback has been taken into consideration by the developers. It always comes as welcome news when a major frustration is addressed in a new game, and the new approach allows us to enjoy it a lot more than its predecessor.

And then, there are the changes we don’t want to see. Everything was fine and the way we liked it, and suddenly, it’s drastically different. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting used to the change, but other times, it’s a pointless switch from something that was working and didn’t need to be touched. Whether it’s a major gameplay mechanic, a menu option, or something content-related, it’s a rare game that doesn’t have at least one noticeable change that won’t sit well with many of us. It may not completely ruin a game, and it may not be important to absolutely everyone, but it’s significant enough for a number of us to be bothered by the difference to the previous year’s release.

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NLSC Podcast #336: I’m A Surgeon With This Pro Stick

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Episode #336 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

Before we get to this week’s gaming news, we take a moment to reflect on the San Antonio Spurs’ 22-year Playoff streak coming to an end. On the subject of change, however, we have our first developer blog for NBA 2K21 Current Gen, previewing this year’s gameplay. We break down the changes to the Pro Stick, including the new dribbling and shooting controls, and other details provided by the blog. With a demo coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 24th, we also speculate on what it will entail, and discuss the likelihood of a Next Gen demo later this year. We’ve also got some new retro basketball game purchases to talk about, and once again touch on the modding possibilities for NBA 2K21 PC.

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.

NBA 2K21 Gameplay Blog & Demo Release Date (Current Gen)

NBA 2K21 Gameplay Blog

The NBA 2K21 gameplay blog for the Current Gen version has been posted, outlining what we can expect from this year’s release. A breakdown of the key points is as follows:

  • Beluba reiterated the focus on striking a good balance between realism and fun, once again referring to turnovers on long passes as an example of what they want to avoid.
  • Cover player Damian Lillard had several suggestions, including raising the maximum height for point guards in MyCAREER. It’s now 6’8″.
  • The Pro Stick controls have changed: Hold down for a jumpshot, hold left or right for escape dribbles, hold up for signature size-ups, tap for quick 1-to-1 dribble moves, tap while holding Sprint for quick momentum dribbles.
  • New signature size-ups have been added (for a total of 14 Street and 36 NBA animations), and moves are now more responsive and “chain-able”. Street moves are performed with a tap of the left trigger.
  • When shooting with the Pro Stick, the Shot Meter is replaced by target aiming inspired by NBA 2K17’s mechanics. Instead of timing the release, you can use the whole animation to hit the target window. The same mechanics apply to layups, but this can be disabled. There are also new shot types, and over 40 new shot landings for Park.
  • Block targeting has been improved, and some of the overpowered paint moves have been toned down. There are also signature defensive styles, and player movement has been refined for more responsiveness.
  • The Badge system is basically the same as last year, though it’s been refined based on telemetry data from popular builds. Shot speed has been moved back to the Jump Shot Creator, with the Quick Draw Badge being removed entirely.

Check out the NBA 2K21 gameplay blog for the full scoop! A demo will be dropping on August 24th, though no further details are available as yet. What are your thoughts on these changes and additions? Sound off in the comments below, and join in the discussion here the Forum!

Wayback Wednesday: Quick Strike Ballhandling

Wayback Wednesday: Quick Strike Ballhandling

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 Quick Strike Ballhandling, also known as Quick Strike Ankle Breakers.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call right stick dribbling controls one of the biggest, best, and most important advancements in basketball gaming. Although we were able to perform crossovers, spins, and other dribbling moves before Freestyle Control made its debut in NBA Live 2003, we were at the mercy of a button press as far as the specific move that was performed. Not only were we in complete control with Freestyle, we could perform moves on command that would’ve been far harder to implement using the old approach of face buttons for random dribbling moves.

As the years passed, EA Sports expanded on their player control concepts with ideas such as Freestyle Superstars, eventually dubbing their control scheme Total Freestyle Control. In the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of NBA Live 08 however, the controls were revamped once again. Freestyle Superstars was replaced by Go-To Moves, shooting went back to two buttons (a jumpshot and a combined dunk/layup button), and the dribbling mechanics were now called Quick Strike Ballhandling. Although it was a familiar system, it was more than just a new name. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast #324: Digging for Buried Treasure

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #324 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Dee4Three and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

NBA 2K20 is available at a discount on various digital platforms, as part of another push to pump up sales numbers for the game. It’s also received a new patch, though it appears to just be a hotfix for an issue with MyTEAM Unlimited. Meanwhile, the renewal of EA Sports’ exclusive deal with the NFL leads us to consider the ramifications if the NBA ever sought a similar arrangement with either EA or Visual Concepts. In our featured discussion this week, we talk about recent additions to our collections, games we’re coveting, pet peeves in older releases, and the appeal of simplicity. We also pay tribute to the late Jerry Sloan, legendary Utah Jazz coach and original star for the Chicago Bulls.

What’s your take on this week’s topics? 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.

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 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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NBA 2K20 Gameplay Blog: Motion System, Controls, AI, & More

NBA 2K20: Serge Ibaka

Following last week’s insight into MyGM and MyLEAGUE, the NBA 2K20 gameplay blog has been posted! NBA 2K Gameplay Director Mike Wang (aka Beluba) has provided an in-depth look at the improvements, additions, and changes to the on-court experience in this year’s release. As always, I encourage you to read the entire NBA 2K20 gameplay blog for the full scoop, but here’s an overview:

  • The Motion Engine has received an upgrade, improving foot planting, animation selection, momentum modelling, and realistic differentiation in player weight and speed. Sprinting has also been reworked to make it harder to abuse, with more visual feedback when a player is getting low on energy.
  • Ballhandlers now have contextual awareness that they didn’t before. More dribble moves and animations have been added, with a focus on signature styles. A new size-up mechanic will allow moves to be chained together more cleanly, and without pre-scripted sequences.
  • An arrow will assist in movement on defense, showing which direction a player is leaning or attempting to go. The arrow shows up at different times, according to the defender’s abilities. The player indicator will also change from a solid circle to a broken line, indicating how vulnerable they are to losing the ball on steal attempts. Steal spam has also been addressed.
  • Gathers have more flexibility this year, allowing offensive players to react to defense collapsing on them in the lane and branch into different finishes. Hundreds of new animations have been added including in-air collisions, hard fouls, grab blocks, and swats. The post game has also been enhanced with new moves on both sides of the ball.
  • Off-ball control has been expanded with juke moves, as seen in older games. Moves are performed with the right stick when playing off the ball. Off-ball collisions have also been improved, and a new quick screen control has been added.
  • Further enhancements have been made to AI at both ends. This includes improvements to the Adaptive Coaching Engine, and a new Dynamic Freelance engine. There are also new play action buttons, which you can customise with your favourite plays. Transition defense has also been re-written with new options.
  • CPU players now utilise shot timing mechanics, rather than Real Player %. Takeover has been tuned to be less OP and there are new Badges. According to a Tweet by Beluba, some Badges have also been removed.

Once again, be sure to check out the full NBA 2K20 gameplay blog for more details. Got any thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments below, as well as join in the discussion here in the NLSC Forum!

Wayback Wednesday: Training Camp in NBA 2K12

Welcome to Training Camp in NBA 2K12

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 Training Camp in NBA 2K12.

In recent years, it’s been noted that the NBA 2K series has been increasingly geared towards appealing to the hardcore online crowd. In a Reddit post that I’ve mentioned before (and no doubt will again), a former EVE Online developer has noted the series’ increasing focus on catering to elite players, and apparent hostility to newer gamers who are trying to hone their skills on the virtual hardwood. It’s fostered the “get gud” mindset, while failing to provide the onboarding, opportunities, and fair matchmaking that would allow less experienced players to strive for that.

As noted in that Reddit post, it wasn’t always that way. Earlier this decade, the NBA 2K games were going out of their way to teach gamers all of the basic and advanced controls, in an environment that was both helpful and creative. Those efforts began with the introduction of Training Camp in NBA 2K12, a feature that would carry over into NBA 2K13 and prior gen NBA 2K14. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast #285: A Decade of Dominance for NBA 2K

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #285 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing how NBA 2K has now enjoyed a decade of dominance in the basketball gaming genre.

Since overtaking NBA Live in sales beginning with the 2009 season releases, NBA 2K has secured its place as the dominant brand in basketball gaming for over a decade. We reflect on how NBA 2K’s journey has differed from that of NBA Live, and the way that journey has accounted for its continued quality, popularity, and financial success. At the same time, while NBA 2K’s success has ultimately been great for basketball gaming, there have been downsides to its dominance. We discuss where the game is headed, and name our favourite NBA 2K titles from the past decade.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on NBA 2K’s Decade of Dominance? 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.

Wayback Wednesday: The History of Jumpshots in Video Games

Kevin Durant shoots over Nicolas Batum (NBA 2K14)

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 the history of jumpshots in basketball video games.

Jumpshots are a basic staple of basketball, and one of the most common ways of scoring; especially in the modern era. With that in mind, it’s strange that they used to be one of the weaker aspects of the mechanics in basketball video games. In the early days of basketball gaming, jumpshots were nowhere near as reliable as they should have been. I even remember a strategy guide for NBA Live 96 basically advising against taking jumpshots and in particular long two-pointers, citing that they had all of the difficulty and risk of three-pointers, without the added reward of an extra point.

Thinking back on it now, that advice actually predicted the rise of analytics, as well as disdain for shooting from midrange. Of course, while opting for shots right at the rim or from beyond the arc and eschewing the midrange is all about efficiency in the modern NBA, in old school basketball video games, it was about effectiveness. Until the mechanics were properly developed, taking a jumpshot – even a wide open ten footer along the baseline – was unrealistically risky on the virtual hardwood. You can call this piece The History of Jumpshots in Video Games (Or, Why Shot Meters Are Important). Let’s take a look back…way back…

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