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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 Conversely, Direct Shoot – introduced in the NBA Live series around the same time as Direct Pass – has been replaced by other methods of advanced shooting controls.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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The Friday Five: 5 Predictable Moments in Basketball 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 moments in basketball games that are very predictable.

In real basketball, there’s a phenomenon of knowing a shot is going in as soon as it leaves your hands. It just feels right, the arc looks perfect, and it’s almost like there’s a sixth sense about it. Of course, that confidence isn’t always well-founded, in which case you may end up looking like Nick Young! We can get a similar feeling when we see someone else shoot the basketball, either on TV or when we’re on the court. It’s why we’re so surprised to see the great shooters and clutch performers miss attempts that we were absolutely sure would splash through the net.

As an artificial representation of the sport, basketball video games naturally contain some telltale signs that make them far more predictable than real life. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing of course, particularly when it’s a favourable outcome. Even when it isn’t, you’re at least able to brace yourself for the outcome, perhaps avoiding getting your hopes up. However, like a spoiler for a film, TV show, or indeed a video game with an in-depth narrative, it can detract from the experience by removing a sense of anticipation, with certain actions feeling inconsequential. For better or worse, here are five of the most predictable moments found in basketball video games.

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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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NLSC Podcast #400: Just Like We Remembered

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Episode #400 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.

Welcome to the 400th Episode of the NLSC Podcast! To mark the occasion, we’re reflecting on significant milestones in basketball gaming: the developments, good and bad, that shaped the genre. We also profile the infamous NBA Live 07 for Xbox 360. Was it as bad as most of us remember it being? Yes, but it’s still interesting to discuss! In this week’s mailbag, we provide further thoughts on the dunk meter in NBA 2K22 Next Gen. We also pick up where we left off in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition’s Road Trip, nominate games that we’d like to see re-made, and list our favourite teams to play with over the years.

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.

NLSC Podcast #386: Don’t Forget to Pump Fake

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Episode #386 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.

We’ve been sinking our teeth into Road Trip in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, as the co-op experience has proven to be a blast. The more we’ve played, the more we’ve been able to develop chemistry and hone our strategies. Speaking of which, we discuss moves and techniques that are all too easily overlooked, and some of the most unstoppable moves and players in basketball video games. We also react to the latest vague update on NBA Live, and the prospect of a F2P model for sim basketball games. Additionally, reflecting on our forthcoming 25th Anniversary leads to a story about the community circa 2004.

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.

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.

The Friday Five: 5 Missed Opportunities in Basketball Gaming

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 basketball gaming opportunities that developers missed out on.

The phrase “hindsight is 20/20” aptly reminds us that it’s easy to suggest alternative strategies and solutions after the event. All of the information is now apparent to us, and we have tangible results to evaluate and critique. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have awareness and foresight in the moment. Furthermore, even with the benefit of hindsight, lessons don’t always stick. To that end, we may recall another useful idiom that was coined by George Santayana, but is often misattributed or paraphrased: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I’m sure that you’ll agree that this applies to the many missed opportunities we’ve witnessed in basketball gaming. The full scope and impact of squandered chances and design choices isn’t always realised until years later, but we’re usually aware that it’s a bad idea at the time. As the years go by, it doesn’t get any less bewildering that these opportunities in the basketball gaming space – whether we’re talking sim or arcade games – are missed. These missed opportunities range from including appealing and beneficial content to fostering goodwill and creating excitement within the basketball gaming community. Here are five opportunities that developers let slip away.

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NLSC Podcast #373: Shiver With Anticipation

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Episode #373 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.

Our first foray into playing NBA 2K17 head to head using Parsec and Steam Remote Play didn’t go as well as we hoped, but we’re not giving up just yet. Following up on the announcement that prompted our main discussion in Episode #368, the PlayStation 3 Store is remaining open, preserving NBA Jam: On Fire Edition a little longer. Although the preview season is still months away, we’ve been thinking about past innovations that changed basketball gaming, and what would excite us for NBA 2K22. Surprisingly, it’s still not shoelace physics! In this week’s mailbag, we’re taking a look back at NBA Live 09 on PlayStation 2, and discuss buying prior gen games after we’ve moved on to a new console.

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.

Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 06 Xbox 360 Revisited

Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 06 Xbox 360 Revisited

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 Live 06 on Xbox 360, and following up on my previous retrospective of the game.

When I covered NBA Live 06 as part of my retrospectives for the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, I noted that the PC/current gen release and the Xbox 360 version received very different responses. NBA Live 06 on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox was generally well-regarded, whereas the Xbox 360 release is seen as the beginning of the series’ downfall. I would still agree with that assessment, but as I mentioned in Episode #363 of the NLSC Podcast, I’ve been having some second thoughts about the quality of the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 06.

That’s not to say that I think it’s the best game in the series, or that it wasn’t a major misstep in many ways. However, after firing up the game as part of my research for an article, I ended up playing a full game and really enjoyed myself. Considering that I described NBA Live 06 on Xbox 360 as having vastly inferior gameplay to the PC version in my aforementioned retrospective, it prompted me to spend some more time with the game and see if my opinion of it changed. Obviously it still has many issues, but does the reputation of NBA Live 06 on Xbox 360 overshadow some of its good points? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Divisive Artistic Choices

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 artistic choices in basketball video games that proved to be divisive.

It’s likely that at some point, you’ve heard the fable of “The miller, his son, and the donkey.” It’s the go-to fable whenever you want to illustrate that you can’t please everyone; or, to use the wording of the moral that’s appended to certain versions of the fable, “if you try to please all, you please none.” The fable is talking about actions, but the message holds true for art and entertainment as well. Whether it’s a video game, tabletop game, film, TV series (or an individual episode thereof), album, song, poem, drawing, painting, or whatever…nothing receives universal acclaim.

After all, it’s impossible for a single work to cater to everyone’s individual taste with its artistic choices. Of course, some artistic choices tend to evoke more extreme responses and opinions than others. They’re the proverbial “love it or hate it” artistic choices, with very little in between. It’s also interesting that some of the most divisive aspects of basketball games are generally inconsequential artistic choices that don’t inhibit the core gameplay experience. Atmosphere is still important though, and a gaudy art style can be off-putting. With that in mind, here are five of the most divisive artistic choices that we’ve seen in various aspects of basketball video games.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 08 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 08 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 08.

After NBA Live 07 fell flat on all platforms, the development team had their work cut out for them with NBA Live 08. As it turned out, the series bounced back with a very respectable release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Naturally it had its issues and room for improvement, but after playing it again for this retrospective, I’d have to say that it was underappreciated, at least in our community. There is a reason for that, of course. The prior gen version – from which the PC version was ported – was far more underwhelming, and ended up carving out a dubious legacy with long-time NBA Live fans. Let’s take a look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly of a milestone game.

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NLSC Podcast #352: NBA 2K21 Next Gen Impressions

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Episode #352 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

Through a stroke of good luck, we have Next Gen consoles earlier than anticipated! This means we’re able to join the cool kids who are already playing NBA 2K21 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, but we haven’t forgotten about Current Gen. The latest patch for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One has brought Winter to 2K Beach, but no fix for the broken Daily Bonus feature. After a bit of a grumble about that, it’s on to our initial NBA 2K21 Next Gen impressions, and they’re actually quite positive! In fact, tempered expectations and slider tweaks have us feeling pretty good about it. In this week’s mailbag, we talk about reliable tricks and cheats in old games, and the way that NBA 2K has changed focus and approach in recent years.

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 mailbag questions and topic suggestions for 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.

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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Monday Tip-Off: Do We Need Those Stinking Badges?

Monday Tip-Off: Do We Need Those Stinking Badges?

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 whether NBA 2K’s MyCAREER and its connected modes are too reliant on Badges, and their general implementation.

Sim games have long sought to properly differentiate between players, beginning with detailed ratings. Those base attributes alone haven’t always been sufficient though, and so developers have experimented with mechanics such as Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live, and Signature Skills in NBA 2K. Signature Skills have given way to Badges, which like their predecessors, grant boosts and represent special abilities that the standard ratings can’t account for. As with Signature Skills, or the similar Traits system in NBA Live, they’re available to real players and career mode avatars alike.

These days, Badges are probably more important than ratings/attributes. You can max out a player’s ratings in a certain area, but it takes the effects of a Badge to ensure that they’re sufficiently levelled up. On one hand, this does make the exceptionally skilled stand out from the very good, much as Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live once aimed to achieve. On the other hand, it also means that high ratings – which are theoretically only given to the best real players, and take a long time to grind for our MyPLAYERs – are far less powerful than they should be, if they aren’t paired with the various boosts afforded by Badges. Given these issues, do we need those stinking Badges?

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The Friday Five: 5 Nifty Features That Weren’t Advertised

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 nifty features that weren’t advertised, and we had to discover on our own.

Over the years, the preview season has grown shorter and less exciting. I’ll admit that for my part, there’s a certain amount of cynicism that’s inevitable after covering hoops games for so many years. Features and entire games that didn’t live up to the hype do leave one jaded, or at the very least, taking every preview with a grain of salt. On top of that, with only one game guaranteed to come out every year, we’ve lost that back and forth, those attempts at one-upmanship coming out of EA Sports and 2K Sports. Indeed, the preview season has been reduced to a handful of blogs close to launch.

Hopefully, the previews for the Next Gen version of NBA 2K21 will shake things up. It’s the version that’s received the most attention after all, whereas the Current Gen release was outsourced to another studio. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when a few things are left for us to discover. Indeed, even when the preview season felt longer and more exciting, developers wouldn’t go into absolutely every detail about the games. There were always a few nifty things that didn’t make the previews, or the list of features on the back of the box. It’d be nice to discover a few gems in the newly released Current Gen version of NBA 2K21, though; gems such as these nifty features in past games.

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