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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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NLSC Podcast #286: Online, Casuals, & Simulation

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Episode #286 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing the focus of online play in NBA Live and NBA 2K, and what that means for different types of basketball gamers.

We tip things off with a quick look ahead to the 2019 NBA Finals, as well as a few thoughts on the forthcoming gameplay patch for NBA Live 19. After catching up on the news, we dive into this week’s discussion topic: online, casuals, and simulation. We reflect on some recent Jordan Rec Center games in NBA 2K19, and how they’ve been indicative of changing attitudes towards the importance of sim-style virtual basketball. This leads us to question whether the core demographic is as sim as it used to be, or whether we’re now on the outer fringe. We also attempt to categorise the different types of hoops gamers, and throw out a few suggestions for improving the online experience by addressing various issues including matchmaking and gatekeeping.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the current direction of online play, and gameplay in general? 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.

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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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Monday Tip-Off: What NBA 2K Can Learn From Mortal Kombat 11

Start-Up Frames Explanation in Mortal Kombat 11

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 look at how NBA 2K could stand to take a few cues from Mortal Kombat 11.

The fact that I’ve been running a site dedicated to basketball gaming for eighteen years may lead you to believe that hoops games are all that I play, but in fact, I do enjoy quite a few other genres. As a gamer growing up in the 90s, there weren’t many games as cool (or should I say, kool) as Mortal Kombat. The MK series has obviously been very popular and successful through the years, and like many other gamers, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Mortal Kombat 11 last week. My copy arrived, I finished story mode in a single sitting, and am now looking forward to new kontent.

Fighting games and basketball games don’t have a whole lot in common – the cameos by Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam aside – but as I was going through all of the advanced tutorials in MK11, I was struck by their depth compared to NBA 2K’s 2KU. In addition to explaining the basic controls, Mortal Kombat 11’s tutorials provide a deep dive into the game’s mechanics, teaching gamers the fundamentals for playing competitively online and offline. With NBA 2K leaning so heavily on meta-gaming and mastering the minutia of its mechanics, there’s much that it could – and should – take from NetherRealm Studios’ latest release.

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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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NLSC Podcast – Episode #266

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Episode #266 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Arcane and myself as we give our thoughts on Patch 1.14 for NBA Live 19, discuss a promising development in the fight against online cheaters, and catch up with some recent NBA news. Also, it’s the return of Our Week in Basketball Gaming!

On this week’s show…

  • Patch 1.14 has come through for NBA Live 19. It’s a significant update, but does it address all of our most pressing concerns regarding gameplay and content?
  • Sony has patented technology intended to detect cheaters who are using lag switches. Needless to say, this could be very good news for online basketball gaming.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming is back! This week, we enjoyed Court Battles, LIVE Events, LIVE Run, and The League in NBA Live 19. Meanwhile, the grind is on in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER.
  • We wrap up Episode #266 of the NLSC Podcast with this week’s NBA discussion. Topics include Kemba Walker’s 60 point game, the latest development in the Carmelo Anthony saga, and Donovan Mitchell’s dubiously historical performance.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ideas for Basketball Games from Other Genres

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 ideas that future basketball games should consider borrowing from titles in other genres.

Basketball games, like all sports titles, differ from other genres of video games when it comes to their nuances and our expectations. In many video games, there are several breaks from reality that are not only acceptable, but desirable. The lack of realism in specific aspects of gameplay doesn’t break our sense of immersion the same way it will in a game that is attempting to accurately depict a sport. To that end, certain features, functions, and concepts that we find in other genres of video games aren’t necessarily a good fit in basketball titles.

At the same time, while Da_Czar’s famous catchphrase of “Don’t play video games; play basketball!” is a great philosophy for developers and basketball gamers alike, the fact remains that basketball games are still video games. There are aspects of real life, such as commercial breaks, that they don’t need to replicate. Similarly, there are good ideas for features, functions, and even content that can be utilised by a wide variety of genres. Even though the concepts aren’t basketball-centric in and of themselves, they could still greatly enhance future NBA Live and NBA 2K releases. Here are five such ideas that basketball games could stand to borrow and make their own.

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NBA 2K19 Pro-Am Includes Private Matchmaking

NBA 2K19 Pro-Am

During the NBA 2K League finals, some interesting and welcome news was revealed regarding Pro-Am in NBA 2K19. This year, the mode will include private matchmaking, for squads who want to battle each other directly. The system will work as follows:

  • Pro-Am teams can create passwords to share with other Pro-Am teams.
  • When both teams enter the password they are connected for a private game.
  • Privately matched games do not count as ranked games.

While private games will not count towards your squad’s ranking and cannot be used for boosting, NBA 2K19 developer Zach Timmerman has confirmed that they will allow you to earn XP, and therefore make progress towards MyPLAYER Badges.

Your thoughts? Have your say in the comments section below, as well as in this topic in the NBA 2K19 section of the NLSC Forum!

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Monday Tip-Off: Matchmaking & Microtransactions

NLSC GrindTime in The Playground (NBA 2K18)

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 two very important areas in NBA 2K19: matchmaking and microtransactions.

I’ve mentioned matchmaking and microtransactions in previous articles discussing what I feel must be done in future NBA 2K games, and with the preview season more or less underway, it’s time to revisit these issues. Both are aspects that the NBA 2K development team must handle carefully, to ensure that the experience provided by NBA 2K19 is as accessible and as enjoyable as it can be. If the wrong approach is taken, then this year’s game is going to suffer from the same problems as NBA 2K18, with similar backlash. 2K is overdue to show its fanbase some genuine goodwill.

I originally planned to discuss matchmaking and microtransactions separately, but the more I thought about it, the clearer it became that the two issues are closely linked. Their respective shortcomings in last year’s game combined to make its most popular online modes far less inviting and enjoyable than they should’ve been. The lack of in-depth matchmaking made the pay-to-win aspect of microtransactions a much larger issue. Likewise, the impact of microtransactions in NBA 2K18 made the lack of proper matchmaking all the more apparent and problematic. If handled better, they needn’t cause as many problems with the competitive balance in NBA 2K19.

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