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Wayback Wednesday: Freestyle Air in NBA Live

Wayback Wednesday: Freestyle Air in NBA Live

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at Freestyle Air in NBA Live.

The entire history of basketball video games provides us with countless examples of developers striving for deeper controls. From the addition of sprint and steal buttons, to right stick dribbling and advanced shot types, the games have evolved to give us more and more control over the action. In the early to mid 2000s in particular though, we saw major additions and frequent changes as developers attempted to implement mechanics that were long-term solutions, or could pave the way for them. Dual analog gamepads becoming the standard peripheral also freed up buttons for new functions.

When NBA Live 2003 introduced us to right stick dribbling with Freestyle Control, it was indeed a revolution. The ability to perform specific moves on cue instead of just having to hope for the best with our press of a generic dribble moves button changed basketball gaming forever. However, while it was vital that we had more control over fundamentals such as dribbling, stealing, and stance, we also needed to direct the action when we left the virtual hardwood, and that’s where Freestyle Air comes in. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Revisiting NBA Live 2001

Wayback Wednesday: Revisiting NBA Live 2001

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m revisiting NBA Live 2001, and sharing some further opinions on a game that I’ve previously profiled.

Thanks to my efforts in amassing a large collection of basketball video games, I have a plethora of classic (and not-so-classic) titles that I’m yet to cover here in Wayback Wednesday. One of my goals for 2023 is to finally get around to games that have been on the To Do List for years, including the NBA Street series. However, there are titles that I’ve changed my mind about upon revisiting them with fresh eyes. When I’ve experienced a significant change of heart, it only feels appropriate that I follow up with an updated retrospective.

As I’ve previously discussed, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for games such as NBA Live 06 for Xbox 360, NBA Live 10, and NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4/Xbox One. Last year, I reflected on how my stance on NBA Live 2003 had softened. While I don’t completely disagree with my prior criticisms, I can now find more enjoyment in it as a retro gaming experience. I can say the same for NBA Live 2001 PC, which I ended up revisiting while feeling nostalgic ahead of my twenty year high school reunion. Similar to NBA Live 2003, it’s a game I’ve had mixed opinions about over the years. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The First Friday Five

Wayback Wednesday: The First Friday Five

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at my very first Friday Five, published ten years ago today.

As I always note in my introduction for Wayback Wednesday, one of the intended purposes of this weekly feature is to republish old articles, usually with some added commentary. Funnily enough, that was actually the subject of the very first Wayback Wednesday, as I posted an article that was no longer available on the site due to us switching content management systems. However, much like Jerry West winning the first NBA Finals MVP despite losing the series, this didn’t set a precedent! I’ve mostly opted for retrospectives and other game-oriented features over republishing articles.

Honestly, I do think that’s the right call, as it’s the optimal use of a weekly feature such as Wayback Wednesday. It’s handy to leave the door open to republishing lost articles and generally digging into our own archives, but I believe that basketball video games should always be the star of the show, so to speak. With that being said, since it is ten years to the day that I posted my first edition of The Friday Five, I’m reflecting on the beginning of my longest-running NLSC feature, as well as the topic that it covered. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Improving NBA 2K Discourse in 2023

Monday Tip-Off: Improving NBA 2K Discourse in 2023

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on how we can improve the discourse around NBA 2K in 2023 (and beyond).

I realise there’s a certain futility in articles such as this. The people who read them are likely already in agreement with the message, while those who really need to heed such suggestions are unlikely to do so. In other words, I’m preaching to the choir while simultaneously yelling into the wind. Still, it never hurts to try! I don’t pretend that I have the reach or the words to eliminate toxicity from the discourse surrounding the NBA 2K series. Nevertheless, if it makes a few people think, or encourages a more positive example, it’s a worthwhile endeavour.

And yes, the word “toxic” gets thrown around a lot these days, but it’s not inaccurate. Mind you, because it’s so ubiquitous, it’s undoubtedly an uphill battle to change the culture of online discourse, whether it’s NBA 2K, real hoops, or basically anything else that we care to discuss with each other. As I said though, if it gets a few people thinking differently about NBA 2K discourse and critique, then in my view it’s worth a try. These are things that I believe we should keep in mind when we’re discussing the issues with NBA 2K and their possible solutions, and pretty much all discourse regarding the series. I promise that they’re not all phrased as stuffy “Do Nots”!

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA 2K13 Retrospective

Wayback Wednesday: NBA 2K13 Retrospective

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at NBA 2K13.

As a 90s kid who grew up with NBA Live, that series has been the focus of several of my retrospectives. In addition to Wayback Wednesday features, I’ve also covered every NBA Live as part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations. I haven’t celebrated NBA 2K’s milestones in the same way, mostly because while I do consider myself a fan of the series now, I don’t have the same nostalgia for and experience with it going right back to the beginning of my basketball gaming. Games like NBA 2K14 and even NBA 2K11 have only become some of my all-time favourites in retrospect.

However, there are NBA 2K titles that I’ve played enthusiastically from launch, and am nostalgic for. Indeed, this year marks the tenth anniversary of the first 2K title that I was hooked on from day one: NBA 2K13. While the cancellation of NBA Live 13 was another blow for EA Sports, it opened up an opportunity for me to expand my basketball gaming horizons, and Visual Concepts didn’t disappoint. Even putting aside my personal affinity for NBA 2K13, I believe it’s one of the strongest releases in the NBA 2K series. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: 20 Years of Right Stick Dribbling

Wayback Wednesday: 20 Years of Right Stick Dribbling

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of right stick dribbling becoming a standard aspect of controls in basketball video games.

There’s no doubt that the implementing dribbling controls on the right stick is one of the most important innovations in the history of the virtual hardwood. It’s not the only idea that has pushed the genre forward, but it has a case for being one of the best. Right stick dribbling is easy to take for granted now, as it’s become a mainstay of sim titles over the past twenty years. If you were playing basketball games when it made its debut however, you’ll remember what a big deal it was. And yes, as I am someone who remembers when it was a bold new idea, saying that does make me feel old!

Existential crises, bad knees, and yelling at clouds aside, the fact that we can now celebrate the twentieth anniversary of right stick dribbling mechanics speaks to what a great concept they’ve been. After all, we’ve seen a lot of gameplay ideas come and go, and control schemes that didn’t pan out. Right stick dribbling is a concept that was built to last, and basketball games are better for it. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Habit Basketball Gamers Can’t Break

Monday Tip-Off: The Habit Basketball Gamers Can't Break

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at the habit that most basketball gamers struggle to break.

By now, many of the basic concepts and mechanics in basketball video games are well-established. That familiarity allows experienced virtual hardwood gamers to get acclimated with new titles swiftly, and in turn, enjoy them sooner. To that point, when there are major changes to an aspect of the core mechanics, it’s far more likely that the initial impressions will be negative, or at least mixed. Sometimes this is because the changes that have been implemented failed to improve upon the previous concepts. Other times, it reveals our inflexibility regarding certain habits.

There’s one habit in particular that I believe most of us have trouble breaking. It’s not entirely our fault, of course. Basketball video games encourage us to make habitual use of this mechanic. It represents a core aspect of playing the sport, and allows us to perform advanced moves. We’ve always had to be careful about how we use it, as its short-term benefits are balanced by finite availability and long-term drawbacks. As sim games in particular have become even more realistic and sophisticated, overuse of this mechanic has been exposed as a bad habit. I am of course referring to sprinting – or turbo, as it’s also been called – and our tendency to constantly move at top speed.

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Monday Tip-Off: Shot Aiming Is A Hit & Miss Idea

Monday Tip-Off: Shot Aiming Is A Hit & Miss Idea

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on shot aiming mechanics, and how they are a hit and miss idea; pun fully intended.

There’s been a lot of talk about the skill gap in NBA 2K in recent years, as you would expect with a greater emphasis on the online competitive scene. Much has been said about the need to separate the good from the great, the scrubs from the elite, and truly celebrate and reward stick skills on the virtual hardwood. Mind you, several gamers push back on the idea of proper matchmaking, so I do question how “competitive” the scene really is. Many of the mechanics that those gamers champion are likewise of questionable value when it comes to the skill gap, and overall quality of gameplay.

Shot aiming is a prominent and somewhat controversial example. On paper, it’s a good idea. It’s more skilful then simply pressing and holding a button, and one could argue that it’s trying to emulate actual basketball skills and technique. In practice, it’s seldom worked out as well as intended, and developers have ended up shelving the concept quite quickly each time it’s been attempted. I have some mixed feelings about shot aiming. I can see the logic behind the idea, but its repeated shortcomings leave me sceptical that it can truly work. Furthermore, I’m bothered by the elitism that it fosters, and the notion that any objections or criticism of it indicates a lack of skill.

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Wayback Wednesday: Direct Shoot, The Overlooked Mechanic

Wayback Wednesday: Direct Shoot, The Overlooked Mechanic

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 Direct Shoot, which I believe is an overlooked gameplay mechanic in older NBA Live titles.

If you’ve played any of the early NBA Live games, you’ll likely remember a feature called Direct Pass. Even if you’re unfamiliar with those old releases, you can probably glean from the name alone that Direct Pass is what has come to be known as Icon Passing. NBA 2K popularised the latter name, though I still tend to use the terms “Direct Pass” or “direct passing”, because it’s the nomenclature from the games that I grew up playing. It’s the same reason that I use the name “Decade All-Stars” more often than “All-Decade Teams”. It’s just the branding that I’m used to.

While the name Direct Pass has fallen out of vogue, the concept is obviously still used in modern titles, without any major changes. Conversely, Direct Shoot – introduced in the NBA Live series around the same time as Direct Pass – has been replaced by other methods of advanced shooting controls. To that end, I’d suggest that it’s an overlooked stepping stone to mechanics that we now take for granted. I know that I’ve certainly underutilised it when playing those older games, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast #406: What A Croc!

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Episode #406 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this weekly podcast that’s all about basketball gaming.

Crocs have been added as footwear in NBA 2K22’s MyCAREER, and we’re…underwhelmed. This leads us to discuss 2K’s priorities, and how we’d prefer that they make fairer deals with historical players, not to mention finally license some prominent absentees. Voting has closed on the game for the next NLSC Tournament, and one of us may have put our hand on the scales. While we’ve been enjoying playing a variety of older titles as of late, certain games do make us miss enhancements from newer releases. To that point, we reflect on how it took an unusually long time for NBA 2K to adopt right stick dribbling controls, and an overlooked mechanic in NBA Live. We also cover some recent retro roster modding developments, and resolve to keep playing the games that we  find the most appealing in 2022.

Join in the conversation in the comments below, or here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as mailbag questions and topic suggestions for future shows. 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: The Myopia of Mastering Mechanics

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 there’s a certain amount of myopia that comes with mastering mechanics on the virtual hardwood.

I think we can all agree that there should be some degree of challenge in basketball video games. A game that is easily mastered and beaten tends to be boring, though hoops titles – even sim-oriented ones – should nevertheless be accessible, and feature easier difficulty levels. When it comes to the virtual hardwood, there needn’t be a challenge on the level of the Souls series, or games like Returnal, the roguelike that was released earlier this year. Arcade or sim, they’re about representing the sport of basketball, not being exceedingly challenging and for the hardest of the hardcore.

At the same time, a certain amount of challenge and skill is expected of the online competitive scene. The best competitors are the ones mastering the mechanics and strategies that allow them to dominate and defeat their fellow gamers, not just the AI. Even offline, mastery on the sticks will allow gamers to rise to the sometimes unfair challenges of the Hall of Fame difficulty setting. This is obviously achieved through practice and dedication, which is a fair demand for the most challenging experiences in basketball gaming to make. However, in evaluating design principles and overall appeal and accessibility, mastering mechanics does unfortunately lead to myopia.

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NBA 2K22 Gameplay Insights in Latest Courtside Report

NBA 2K22 Gameplay Blog

Following on from yesterday’s trailer, the latest Courtside Report (aka developer blog) provides insights into gameplay in NBA 2K22. As previously announced, we can also expect a blog detailing improvements and changes to MyTEAM to be posted sometime this week.

The gameplay blog is the most comprehensive insight thus far. To highlight some of the major points, 17 new Badges have been added, for a total of 80 in both Current Gen and Next Gen. There are new dribbling packages, and dribbling movement is faster paced. Dunk packages can also be customised. Defensive AI has been rewritten, the shot contest and blocking systems have been rebuilt, and “ghost contests” have been removed. There’s also a new Shot Meter with a dynamic make window, and Shot IQ is a major factor in shot success.

You can find a detailed summary of the blog below. What are your thoughts on the reported improvements to gameplay in NBA 2K22? Have your say in the comments, and join in the discussion here in the NLSC Forum! Once again, stay tuned for more information about MyTEAM in this year’s game.

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NLSC Podcast #383: It’s Still All Speculation

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Episode #383 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this weekly podcast that’s all about basketball gaming.

Before we started recording this week’s show, we played games of Double Dribble Playoff Edition and the SNES version of NBA Live 95. One holds up a little better than the other, but both were fun to revisit! Speaking of NBA Live, EA Sports are set to make an announcement regarding the return of one of their old series. Will it be their long-running NBA title, their college hoops series, or something else? Meanwhile, as the NBA 2K22 preview season looms, some apologists are already warming up their excuses. In this week’s mailbag, we’re talking about the peak era for basketball gaming, and underrated gameplay additions.

Join in the conversation in the comments below, or here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as mailbag questions and topic suggestions for future shows. 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: Canned Moments & The Myth of the Skill Gap

Monday Tip-Off: Canned Moments & The Myth of the Skill Gap

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 discussion of canned moments, and how they play into the myth of the skill gap in NBA 2K.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about NBA 2K implementing a “skill gap”. It seems that every year, we get a gameplay blog in which a new or tweaked mechanic is touted as bringing a proper skill gap to the forthcoming game. By and large, this is a promise that games have failed to deliver upon. That’s not to say that the changes aren’t improvements in their own right, or that there isn’t any skill involved in playing NBA 2K. Furthermore, gamers definitely do demonstrate different levels of skill – such as it is – especially in the online arena.

However, it isn’t a true skill gap as such, because the way one wins and loses in NBA 2K doesn’t necessarily come down to skill; or at least, not pure stick skills. There are factors such as meta-gaming in MyCAREER and its connected modes, and pay-for-advantage mechanics in terms of quick MyPLAYER upgrades and pack openings in MyTEAM. I’ve discussed those issues at length before, so I won’t be going into them today. Instead, I want to talk about core mechanics that stand in the way of NBA 2K truly having a skill gap. One of the most pressing issues in that regard, as I’m sure many NBA 2K gamers are all too aware, is the prominence of canned moments.

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NLSC Podcast #362: Putting the Ball in the Basket

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Episode #362 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this weekly podcast that’s all about basketball gaming.

A bevy of retro season roster mods are being produced at the moment, which we’re excited to see. The fact that there are a couple of 2005 season mods out or in the works reminds us that time is marching on, and our nostalgia is getting old! We also have some advice for getting big projects done and released. Meanwhile, NBA 2K21 Current Gen and Next Gen have both received new patches, so we briefly discuss some of the changes. This week’s main discussion is a deep dive into shooting mechanics: the history and evolution, the best and worst concepts, and everything in between. In the latest mailbag, we discuss the forthcoming Space Jam sequel, and consider another What If scenario.

Join in the conversation in the comments below, or here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as mailbag questions and topic suggestions for future shows. 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.