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The Friday Five: 5 Keys to a “No Money Spent” Experience

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 tips that are the key to having a “No Money Spent” experience in NBA 2K.

Microtransactions remain a controversial issue in NBA 2K, and Triple-A gaming as a whole. Although they are technically optional, there’s no denying that 2K’s recurrent revenue mechanics are implemented in a way that does all they can to push gamers towards spending real money on Virtual Currency. Gamers who spend level up quicker and end up with better cards sooner, and in turn, they set the competitive balance in online play. Even if you stick to the offline modes, opting for the No Money Spent approach ensures a lengthy grind, year after year.

Of course, for those of us who don’t want to support the recurrent revenue business model and spend additional money on a game that’ll be outmoded in a year, finding a way to beat the system is a point of pride. There’s great satisfaction to be had in enjoying a game without having to shell out cash in order to level up efficiently, or access some of its best content. Once again though, NBA 2K is subtly (and not-so-subtly) trying to push us towards spending at every turn, so the No Money Spent approach takes a few tricks, discipline, and a willingness to work the system. To that end, here are five keys to getting the most out of a No Money Spent experience.

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Monday Tip-Off: Imperfections Don’t Need Imperfect Solutions

Monday Tip-Off: Imperfections Don't Need Imperfect Solutions

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 simple but important message: imperfections in basketball games don’t need imperfect solutions.

There’s a running gag when it comes to Bethesda’s Fallout games: “it just works”. This sarcastic jab at bugs and other imperfections in the series is a reference to Executive Producer Todd Howard’s declaration that Fallout 4’s “dynamic game engine” would ensure that everything about it “just works”. And, to be fair, while I didn’t enjoy Fallout 4 as much as I did Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, the game does indeed work. Does everything work as well as it should? Not exactly, and that’s why Todd Howard’s utterance of those words has become a meme.

In all fairness to Todd Howard and Bethesda though, they’re not alone in that regard. To be completely fair to the Triple-A gaming industry at large, achieving perfection is easier said than done, and the scope of their products is going to result in issues such as bugs and oversights. As gamers, consumers, whatever we want to call ourselves, we do understand that. However, some things are just poorly planned, designed, and implemented. Although we do criticise these issues and suggest solutions, I’ve also seen many gamers defend these imperfections. Not because of the difficulty of game design, mind you, but the notion that imperfect solutions cancel out valid complaints.

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NLSC Podcast #335: For a Few Dollars More

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Episode #335 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

The NBA 2K21 Current Gen trailer has given us something to really sink our teeth into this week. We share our thoughts on what we saw, and touch on some of the community reactions. A glimpse of the new Shot Meter and recent comments by Beluba also inspire us to once again discuss shooting mechanics. Meanwhile, remarks by 2K’s CEO have continued to stir up controversy regarding the Next Gen price increase. We have a few things to say on the matter, along with our subsequent expectations for Next Gen. With the NBA Live 16 servers shutting down, we also encourage everyone to wrap up their business ASAP, and take some time to reflect on the game.

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.

Monday Tip-Off: Influencers on the Virtual Hardwood

Monday Tip-Off: Influencers on the Virtual Hardwood

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 influencers in the basketball gaming community, and the influence they wield on the virtual hardwood.

If you take part in basketball gaming Twitter, you’ll recall that not too long ago, Flight publicly rebuffed overtures from Ronnie 2K to be brought into the fold as one of the “official” influencers for NBA 2K. I won’t go into the whole history of everything that happened between Flight and Ronnie, in part because it’s not really my brand, but also because there are others that can tell the story in more detail. The tl;dr version is that Ronnie publicly blackballed Flight from getting a logo, calling him a “bully” over some of his remarks. He’s since changed his tune, but for Flight it’s little, too late.

Look, while I can appreciate brands and digital marketers picking and choosing who they want to work with, and find it understandable if they’re hesitant to collaborate with someone when there’s been some friction, I really have to commend Flight in this situation. The exposure and other perks influencers gain from having agreements with 2K would be tough for most people to turn down; even if it does mean giving up some autonomy in your content. To rebuff Ronnie’s offer that came now that his audience makes him too appealing to blackball shows guts and integrity on Flight’s part. It’s an example that all influencers in the basketball gaming community should follow.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Changing Face of NBA 2K

Monday Tip-Off: The Changing Face of NBA 2K

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 the changing face and identity of the NBA 2K series in recent years.

Back in early May, I noticed a Tweet from Brian Mazique, in which he responded to the suggestion that NBA Live should be free to play as a way to win people back as they try to return to prominence. He described NBA Live as being irrelevant, noting that when it comes to NBA 2K, Visual Concepts and Take-Two are looking at games like Fortnite and Call of Duty as the competition and sources of ideas for engagement. It may sound harsh, and there are a lot of people who want to see NBA Live succeed and would be willing to make the switch if it did, but it’s an apt statement.

In fact, it’s apt on two counts. Gaining relevance and market share is obviously one of the challenges facing NBA Live, and that’s something I’ve previously discussed here in Monday Tip-Off. However, Brian is also quite right that with NBA 2K becoming a fixture in pop culture, and in some ways transcending its genre, its peers are popular games like Fortnite and the Call of Duty series. That’s a great position for NBA 2K to be in, but it’s also a troubling one for enthusiastic hoop heads. To state the obvious, those games are not basketball titles, whereas NBA 2K is. Competing with and borrowing from those games has resulted in a changing face and identity for NBA 2K.

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NLSC Podcast #328: Rumours & Boomers

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Episode #328 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, NBA Live wasn’t featured at EA Play 2020. We reflect on how it’s made the community pessimistic about the series’ future. Elsewhere, the inevitable lull following NBA 2K21’s announcement trailer has tipped off this year’s rumour mill. As we’re not fans of misinformation, we analyse the rumours making the rounds, and offer up some tips to avoid falling for clickbait. The NBA 2K League also comes up when we broach the topic of online play, as does a program that’s worth checking out. In modding news, we note a couple of recent developments, and once again talk about minimalist mods. We wrap up with a discussion of a forgotten 1-on-1 tournament that the NBA held in 1972, including how such a tournament could work today. Old heads that we are, there’s also some grumbling and further push back on the whole “plumbers and dentists” rhetoric.

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.

NLSC Podcast #323: But Will There Be Shoelace Physics?

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Episode #323 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Dee4Three and I are your hosts for this week’s show.

As The Last Dance draws to a close, 2K are cashing in with a new GOAT Michael Jordan card in NBA 2K20 MyTEAM, and classic Bulls gear in MyCAREER. There might be a way of getting all of those items, but are we willing to pay the price? Speaking of future purchases, the PlayStation 5 tech demo has given us a glimpse of what to expect from next gen. We consider what it might mean for basketball games, and whether the tech will be put to good use. That leads us to reflect on what it’s like to be in the older age bracket of the basketball gaming demographic, as well as whether it’s possible to enjoy a broken game. Our recent poll also sparks a discussion on different approaches to retro team roster mods.

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.

Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Gaming Belongs to Suits

Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Gaming Belongs to Suits

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 the rather dismal realisation that basketball gaming belongs to the suits.

I know I said that many things aren’t worth an angry rant, but this isn’t going to be an angry rant. I’m feeling a certain amount of exasperation and pessimism, yes, but I’m trying to remain calm and not rage for the sake of it. As a new generation looms, many of us are wondering what it means for basketball gaming. The genre has already come a long way – a few backwards steps not withstanding – and it remains to be seen what can be accomplished with the added power of the forthcoming consoles. The problem is that that kind of innovation doesn’t appear to be the focus.

Perhaps that’s a harsh and unfair assertion, given that we’re nearing the end of the current generation. We couldn’t have imagined some of the things that we’ve seen over the past seven years, when the previous generation was seemingly tapped out after producing some outstanding basketball games. However, the difference this time around is that gaming has changed. Games are designed with recurrent spending in mind, and microtransactions are no longer just for free-to-play titles. Quality seems secondary to pushy recurrent revenue mechanics; a trend that’s highly unlikely to end anytime soon. It’s clear that the suits control the destiny of hoops games.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Dumbing Down of MyTEAM

Monday Tip-Off: The Dumbing Down of MyTEAM

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 the dumbing down of MyTEAM in recent NBA 2K games, and how it’s affecting the mode.

I’ll occasionally see a comment on Twitter or Reddit to the effect of “Who even plays MyTEAM?” It’s your standard “I don’t like it, therefore it sucks and no one else likes it either” rationale that’s all too common among toxic gamers, but it comes off as especially ridiculous when you’re talking about a mode like MyTEAM. After all, its popularity rivals MyCAREER and its connected modes, and thanks to the content that comes through all season long, it makes Take-Two a lot of money. It is possible to play without spending any money, of course, but many who do spend, spend big.

I like the idea of modes like MyTEAM and Ultimate Team. I never thought they’d be for me, but I’ve had fun with them in NBA 2K and NBA Live over the course of this generation. I’ve generally avoided spending money and in NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K20 in particular, I’ve still managed to pick up some really good cards. However, there are problems with MyTEAM, and it’s safe to say that it’s affecting the quality and appeal of the mode. On the whole, it feels like 2K has been dumbing the mode down with the special cards they introduce every year, along with a lack of attention to detail. The mode hasn’t been completely ruined, but it could be in much better shape than it is.

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NLSC Podcast #320: A Post-Mortem of NBA 2K18

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Episode #320 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Dee4Three and I conduct a “post-mortem” examination of NBA 2K18, in particular noting how it’s proven to be a turning point for the NBA 2K series, and also catch up on some recent news.

A welcome hotfix has arrived via Patch 1.12 for NBA 2K20, which resolves the free throw music bug introduced by the previous title update. Unfortunately, we’re not as pleased to see the new Out of Position packs in MyTEAM. After catching up on the news, we dive right into the topic we introduced at the end of Episode #319: a post-mortem look back at NBA 2K18. We reflect on the initial reactions to the game, the backlash to criticism, and the eventual change in perspective. In addition to discussing issues with gameplay mechanics and microtransactions alike, we note how it was a turning point as far as gamers losing fondness for and trust in NBA 2K, and being more willing to criticise it. We also touch on developer blogs, the NBA 2K League, and compare and contrast the situation with NBA Live’s downfall over the past 15 years.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on NBA 2K18? Do you also see it as a turning point for the NBA 2K series? 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.

NLSC Podcast #319: It’s All About The Details

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Episode #319 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Dee4Three and I are catching up on recent news regarding MyTEAM and ESRB ratings for loot boxes, discussing our latest retro game pick-ups and what we’ve been playing, and a few other things that have been on our minds.

A Locker Code celebrating Mamba Day has provided everyone with a free, guaranteed Kobe Bryant card in MyTEAM. Unfortunately, issues with the card’s ratings underscore an ongoing problem with the mode. We discuss the importance of accuracy in details such as player ratings, Badges, and animations, and the need for variety and balance in cards. With Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett going into the Hall of Fame this year, we also reflect on some other players who are worthy of induction. We also touch on the new ESRB ratings for loot boxes, and whether we think the change will make much of a difference. Discussing our recent retro game pick-ups and what we’ve been playing also leads us to talk about the appeal of college games, the quality of NBA 2K15, and a very controversial opinion about NBA Live 07.

Tune in below!

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.

Monday Tip-Off: Not Worth an Angry Rant

Monday Tip-Off: Not Worth an Angry Rant

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 my reflections on how a frustrating gaming session isn’t worth an angry rant.

I had a rough session in The Rec last Friday. In fact, that’s been a trend whenever I’ve felt like jumping online as of late, but this was a particularly bad outing. It was the kind of unpleasant experience we talked about a lot on the NLSC Podcast, until it occurred to us how often we were repeating ourselves, and that it was getting as dull to talk about as I’m sure it was to listen to. Nevertheless, after I was done, I was all ready to have an angry rant about it. I figured a vicious spray on Twitter might be a fitting prelude to an article in which I’d elaborate upon my displeasure.

Except, I didn’t go on that angry rant on Twitter, and I didn’t write a similarly furious article. I cleansed my palate with a game in The Cages – one I didn’t care about and only played to farm the Daily Bonus VC – and then I put the game aside. Funnily enough, I found myself recalling a line from Dinotopia, a book I haven’t read in many years: “Breathe Deep, Seek Peace”. And so, that’s what I did. My thoughts on my recent experiences in The Rec and the criticisms I have of NBA 2K’s online scene haven’t changed. It’s just that expressing them via the angry rant that I was composing in my head simply wasn’t worth the time and effort to post.

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NLSC Podcast #314: Our Unfinished Business & Nostalgic Phases

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Episode #314 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Dee4Three and I discuss a recent controversy with MyTEAM in NBA 2K20, as well as having unfinished business and nostalgic phases when it comes to basketball video games.

In the wake of the NBA shutdown, the official NBA 2K Twitter has been doing a great job of engaging with fans. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of 2K’s handling of MyTEAM bans due to Auction House sniping. We discuss the lack of communication and clear guidelines, as well as the staggering amount of money some gamers pump into the mode. Turning our attention to older games, we reflect on unfinished business in titles from yesteryear. In particular, we discuss the difficulty of going back and spending a lot of time with old favourites, the idea of basketball games (and sports games in general) having a different concept of completion, and games we wish that we’d played more. This leads into a discussion of nostalgic phases: the times where we’ve briefly become obsessed with revisiting certain hoops games that we love.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the NBA 2K20 MyTEAM controversy? Do you go through retro gaming phases with classic basketball games? 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.

NLSC Podcast #313: NBA 2K20, Sixth Months Later

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Episode #313 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join Dee4Three and myself as we share our impressions of NBA 2K20 six months and several patches after its release. We also discuss some NBA Live rumours, using NBA Live 19 as a guinea pig, and a promotion in NBA 2K19.

Following on from last week’s episode, we have a new rumour about NBA Live to discuss. We weigh in on the potential impact of NBA Live skipping another year, and possibly missing the launch of a new console generation. The prospect of using NBA Live 19 for extended testing ahead of a new release also comes up; could it benefit the series moving forward? Elsewhere, a promotion in NBA 2K19 is clearly trying to boost NBA 2K20’s already record-setting sales and engagement numbers. This leads into our impressions of NBA 2K20, six months after its release and following several patches. We talk about our enjoyment of the game, the impact of legacy issues, and where it ranks for us on the current generation. A couple of topics for future shows are also teased.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on NBA 2K20 six months after its release? Do you think EA is making a mistake, and should they utilise NBA Live 19 for testing? 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.

Monday Tip-Off: Axing MyCAREER Stories & The Neighborhood

Monday Tip-Off: Axing MyCAREER Stories & The Neighborhood

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 Visual Concepts is unlikely to return to the old style of MyCAREER, axing both The Neighborhood and stories in future NBA 2K releases.

There’s a rather poignant analogy in Fallout 3, courtesy of Moira Brown. Discussing the post-apocalyptic world and her pet project (and the Lone Wanderer’s quest) of compiling the Wasteland Survival Guide, she compares the situation to putting broken glass back together. She notes that it’ll never be whole in the same way it used to be, but you can use the pieces to make something else, like a mosaic. As an analogy, it’s a good way of describing the inability to go back to the way things used to be, but still making the best of the situation and building something new.

We can apply this metaphor to two concepts in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER: the story-driven approach, and the game world of The Neighborhood. At this point they’re established staples of MyCAREER, but they aren’t universally liked. That’s not unusual, of course; you can’t please everyone in everything that you do. However, those two concepts do present some recurring problems, and frustration with them has been building since they were introduced. It seems that a lot of gamers would prefer MyCAREER to return to the way it used to be, but again, axing those features seems highly unlikely. Calling back to Moira Brown’s analogy, has the glass been broken?

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