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Monday Tip-Off: Masking the Inner Workings of Gameplay

Clipping issues create canned moments that require better masking (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 a challenge that basketball titles are still facing: masking the inner workings of certain gameplay mechanics.

Game development isn’t easy. It’s something that is all too easy to forget when we’re grumbling and making snide remarks about a game we’re unhappy with. That’s not to say that we cannot and should not be critical, and then channel that into constructive feedback. After all, that’s how we can take an active role in the development of the games that we play. However, we do need to keep in mind that creating a realistic and enjoyable basketball game isn’t as simple as typing plain English into a file, and then saving it as a program. Unfortunately, coding just doesn’t work that way.

Indeed, there is a certain amount of trickery when it comes to designing video games. Like a magic act, various techniques are used to create illusions and cover up how it’s done. Of course, a magic trick is ruined if you spot wires, gimmicks, or the moves that make it happen. Similarly, the special effects in older movies can be very distracting, whether it’s the strings holding up puppets, or primitive CGI. The analogy here is that sometimes when we’re playing a basketball game such as NBA Live or NBA 2K, we can spot the strings, see through the sleight of hand, or notice the shortcomings in the special effects. Masking those tricks is an important challenge in future games.

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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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Monday Tip-Off: The Mixed Bag of CPU Teammates in 2K Pro-Am

Tip-Off in NBA 2K17's 2K Pro-Am

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 the quality of CPU-controlled teammates in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am.

As the artificial intelligence in basketball video games has become more sophisticated, CPU-controlled teammates have thankfully become much more reliable. That’s not to say that there aren’t any frustrating moments where they seemingly forget how to play basketball, but compared to early hoops titles, there’s less of a need to frantically switch control of players and take charge of everything yourself. Needless to say, if you’re locked to controlling a single player – as is the basis of modes such as MyCAREER and 2K Pro-Am – it’s even more important that CPU-controlled teammates are competent.

Barring a connection problem, you’ll never start a game of 2K Pro-Am with more than two AI players. If you consistently run with a full squad of five players, they’ll seldom be an issue at all unless someone fouls out, or is booted due to a low teammate grade. However, if you frequently jump online to play 2K Pro-Am, chances are you’ll deal with a CPU-controlled teammate at some point. It’s at that point you’ll discover that although AI in basketball games has come a long way, the quality of your CPU teammates is still very much a mixed bag.

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