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Monday Tip-Off: Why NBA 2K Needs Matchmaking

Monday Tip-Off: Why NBA 2K Needs Matchmaking

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 an outline of why it’s important that future NBA 2K games implement proper matchmaking.

When NBA Live 08 implemented Online Team Play post-release, we were seeing the future of online basketball gaming. Although subsequent NBA Live titles would build upon that first iteration of the concept, it’s ultimately been NBA 2K that has taken the experience to new heights. The idea of creating your own player and joining up with other gamers to play multiplayer games where every player is user-controlled has become the most popular experience in NBA 2K. It’s even led to the founding of a professional eSports league, run in conjunction with the NBA itself.

Given the popularity that online play now enjoys, it’s both puzzling and disappointing that NBA 2K is lacking such a critical component of the experience: matchmaking. It’s kind of implemented in that there’s a rep system (albeit one that’s problematic), position logic behind teaming up players in the Rec Center, and a rough ranking system in team Pro-Am. However, it’s nowhere near as deep or effective as it needs to be, and in the case of The Playground, it’s completely non-existent. Simply put, if NBA 2K is going to cater to its large paying audience and establish a respectable competitive scene, it needs to have proper matchmaking.

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Monday Tip-Off: Revenge of the Nerfs

Monday Tip-Off: Revenge of the Nerfs

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 recent nerfs to VC rewards in NBA 2K20, and the underlying issues with transparency that they represent.

By now, you’ve probably heard that a recent update for NBA 2K20 has nerfed the amount of VC for starting salaries and endorsements in MyCAREER. While the nerfs to salaries only apply to new games, several NBA 2K20 gamers have reported that the amount of VC they’ve already negotiated for endorsement deals has been retroactively reduced. On top of that, it’s now far more difficult to negotiate with teams and brands, as there’s very little wiggle room in the counteroffers that they will accept. In short, VC can no longer be earned as quickly as it could be at launch.

Nerfs to VC, Badge progression, and other aspects of NBA 2K games are nothing new. Changes like this are always going to be controversial and anger a portion of the userbase, but the main point of contention for most gamers is that we didn’t receive any notice. The nerfs weren’t listed among the laughably short list of patch notes for the most recent update, nor were they announced or explained via the game’s official social media accounts. While this particular issue only affects MyCAREER, it’s emblematic of a much bigger and recurring problem with NBA 2K, that being an overall lack of transparency, communication, and goodwill.

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Monday Tip-Off: The In-Universe Value of VC (NBA 2K20 Edition)

Monday Tip-Off: The In-Universe Value of VC (NBA 2K20 Edition)

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 the in-universe value of VC in NBA 2K20’s MyCAREER, and some of the issues that it underscores.

Even though I’ve decided to move away from MyCAREER this year – a decision that I feel even more comfortable with having played a few games – my long tenure with the mode means that I still have some residual interest in what goes on with it. At the very least, I want MyCAREER, its connected modes, and The Neighborhood, all to be as good as they can be for the people who are interested in them. To that end, VC is still one of the most troubling issues: how much you earn, the prices of upgrades and cosmetic items, and the discrepancy between in-universe and real world value of VC.

The last couple of years, I’ve calculated the in-universe value of Virtual Currency in NBA 2K18 and NBA 2K19‘s Neighborhoods. Last year’s “exchange rate” was simply ridiculous, as 1 VC was equivalent to at least $105 in-universe, based on a salary of 500 VC representing a dollar amount of $4.29 million per year (and thus $52,317 per game). The exchange rate wasn’t consistent, as 1000 VC equated to an annual salary of $25.23 million ($307,682 per game), placing the value of 1 VC at around $308 in-universe. Needless to say, this made the in-universe price tags on clothing items truly insane. What’s the situation like this year? Let’s take a look and find out.

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The Friday Five: 5 Excuses We Must Stop Making For 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 excuses that we must stop making in order to downplay valid criticisms of basketball video games.

There are times when it’s only fair to make excuses for basketball video games. There are limitations to what can be achieved with the technology that’s currently available. Issues with likeness rights meant that certain historical players can’t be included. NBA games have a brutal development cycle compared to titles that don’t come out every year. In fact, you might be inclined to call these “reasons”, as the term “excuses” often has negative connotations. It’s splitting hairs on the definition in some respects, but it’s understandable that some people balk at the idea of “making excuses”.

The problem with excuses is that they can easily work against our best interests. If we don’t hold developers accountable for certain decisions and design choices, then we’ll have no choice but to endure whatever undesirable situation we find ourselves in with basketball video games. Look, I’d like to think that I’m as passionate about the hobby as anyone else in the community, and I also believe in being fair and constructive in our criticism. It’s just astonishing how far some people will go to make excuses for the games though, even when an issue is clearly detrimental to them. These are the excuses that we need to cut out, or else we’ll continue to suffer the consequences.

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NLSC Podcast #294: Microtransactions, Mega Profits

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #294 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week Arcane and I cover all of the latest previews for NBA 2K20, along with record-setting numbers for NBA 2K19, and the latest word on NBA Live 20.

A statement from Andrew Wilson has reiterated that NBA Live 20 is coming. Free-to-play has neither been denied nor confirmed, which along with talk of a “different approach”, has us feeling a little concerned. We also wonder what a free-to-play NBA Live 20 would look like. As for NBA 2K20, we have a better idea of what it will look and play like thanks to this year’s gameplay blog, as well as Tweets from Beluba. There are some very promising details, but we have been burned before. News on the WNBA’s presence in NBA 2K20 emphasises the gap between NBA 2K and NBA Live, which leads to a discussion on the matter of who did it first vs. who did it best. Finally, record-setting numbers for NBA 2K19’s sales and recurrent revenue are something Take Two has to be very pleased with, but it speaks volumes about the attitude and resolve of the basketball gaming community.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the latest NBA 2K20 developer blogs, increases in recurrent revenue, and the situation with NBA Live? 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: Should NBA Live Be More Like NBA 2K?

James Harden shoots in NBA Live 19

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 an interesting and important question that continues to be hotly debated: should NBA Live be more like NBA 2K?

As NBA Live continues to rebuild and re-establish itself in the face of NBA 2K’s dominance, there is a debate among basketball gamers as to the best direction for the game. There are gamers who would prefer that NBA Live remains distinctly different to NBA 2K in focus, style, and approach, and generally reject any suggestions that Live should borrow ideas from 2K. Conversely, as noted here on Reddit, there are others who would prefer that NBA Live essentially copy NBA 2K, but for a few details here and there (such as avoiding 2K’s approach to microtransactions).

Naturally, between those two extremes are more nuanced suggestions about NBA Live doing its own thing, while also borrowing some of NBA 2K’s best ideas (and in some cases, putting its own spin on them). To that end, of course, there’s still debate as to which ideas should be borrowed, how closely NBA Live should mimic what NBA 2K is doing, and to what extent any 2K concepts should be reworked. It leaves us with the question of whether or not NBA Live should be more like NBA 2K, or as the thread over on Reddit put it, “NBA 2K re-skinned” rather than NBA Live. For me, the answer is yes…and no.

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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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Monday Tip-Off: Putting the 2K in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2

Victory in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2

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 partnering with 2K has impacted the NBA Playgrounds series, both positively and negatively.

Since its release last October, our coverage of NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has been fairly light. I must admit to missing a few bulletins regarding official patches, something I’ve tried to remedy recently. One of the main reasons that our coverage has been so lax is that our community hasn’t really taken to the game. There was some support of the first NBA Playgrounds a couple of years ago, especially when we heard that it would be available for PC as well as consoles, but since then, there hasn’t been much enthusiasm around these parts. The lack of modding probably doesn’t help.

It’s unfortunate, as NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has made some pleasing improvements on its predecessor. It has its shortcomings, but overall, it’s a very solid arcade basketball game. The partnership between Saber Interactive and 2K has helped the game attain a higher profile, and also facilitated new content and features that are most welcome. At the same time, however, there have been some changes that definitely feel as though they’ve been influenced by the larger company. These changes incorporate some of the worst parts of recent NBA 2K titles, and are thus disappointing to see. Let’s go over some of the best and worst aspects of NBA Playgrounds joining the 2K family.

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #278

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #278 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Join me for a look back at the updates that came through for NBA Live 19, NBA 2K19, and NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 this week, as well as a couple of other basketball gaming topics.

On this week’s show…

  • New rosters have come through for NBA Live 19, featuring further lineup, gear, and ratings updates. We also have some clarification on the situation with Kawhi Leonard’s shoes.
  • In celebration of LeBron James passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list, we have another shot at a Pink Diamond LeBron in NBA 2K19’s MyTEAM. March Madness packs have also been added, while the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers are featured in the latest throwback packs.
  • The latest patch for NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has added new content including players, vanity items, and a Safe Schools for Alex Playground, as well as a new Court Editor. Unfortunately, the approach to the Court Editor doesn’t match the goodwill of their charitable endeavours.
  • Experiments with MyCAREER have yielded some interesting information about the popular mode. More to come in next week’s Monday Tip-Off!
  • Episode #278 of the NLSC Podcast wraps up with a listener question regarding celebrity teams, and the likelihood of celebrities being featured in future versions of NBA Live and NBA 2K.

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.

The Friday Five: 5 Ideas NBA 2K Should Borrow from NBA Live

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 ideas that NBA 2K should borrow from NBA Live.

The time has come to compile and finalise our Wishlist for NBA 2K20, and send it off to the development team at Visual Concepts as soon as possible. While NBA 2K is currently a very deep and successful NBA sim, I would suggest that most basketball gamers would agree that there’s still room for improvement. This includes polishing up existing features and addressing some gameplay concerns, but as far as changing concepts and approaches, or implementing new features, I do believe that NBA Live has some ideas that NBA 2K could borrow.

A lot of people may scoff at that and dismiss the notion out of hand. After all, when you’re the premier product, you lead; you don’t follow. However, even though NBA 2K is undisputedly the brand leader and NBA Live continues to rebuild after many rough years, EA Sports’ long-running hoops title has featured some really good ideas, even as it’s struggled to make a dent in NBA 2K’s sales. Great as it is, there are some aspects of NBA 2K that feel dated or problematic, and some of the solutions may lie in NBA Live’s approach to those features. 2K has borrowed from NBA Live before – right stick dribbling being a prime example – and it could stand to do so again.

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Monday Tip-Off: Hitting 90 Overall in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER

Trophy for reaching 90 Overall in MyCAREER (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 my reflections on hitting 90 Overall in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, without spending any money on VC.

The Road to 99 in MyCAREER is a journey that can be incredibly tedious. It’s hardly a stunning revelation that this is by design, a method of encouraging gamers to pay for VC in order to skip the long grind. As much as I dislike the practice, my desire to play online with my friends in the NLSC’s 2K Pro-Am squad has seen me resort to buying VC in previous games in order to sufficiently boost my attributes on Day 1. I decided that after last year’s unashamed money grab, I would avoid buying any VC in NBA 2K19. Instead, I’d try to grind up my player the long way.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I finally hit 90 Overall. Although it felt like a long road with a lot of grinding, it did actually happen a little quicker than I had first anticipated. Nevertheless, it was tremendously satisfying, and proof that it can be done within the first few months of owning the game (albeit with some good luck). As I consider how much further I’ll travel down the Road to 99, I thought that I’d reflect on the journey so far, as well as some of the strategies that I found useful along the way. If you’re still striving to hit 90 Overall or better and are determined not to spend any money on VC, hopefully I can offer up some encouragement and helpful pointers.

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Pink Diamonds Aren’t Forever: 2K’s Latest PR Blunder

Redeeming Locker Code for Pink Diamond LeBron James (NBA 2K19 MyTEAM)

It’s the holidays; I shouldn’t be writing a negative or critical article. As we wind down 2018, I wanted to focus on having fun with basketball video games, reflect on the year that was, and then get back to critique and heavier topics in the New Year. Sadly, we have a controversy on our hands. In case you missed the drama, a Locker Code for a Pink Diamond LeBron James got out into the wild on Christmas Day. Naturally, a lot of MyTEAM gamers were quick to snap it up, bolstering their collection with a card that most of us probably wouldn’t ever get our hands on otherwise. It was, if you’ll excuse my tongue-in-cheek usage of a clichéd phrase, a Christmas miracle.

And then, 2K went Ebenezer Scrooge on MyTEAM gamers. After the code had been in the wild for several hours, its reward changed to a LeBron James Free Agent card. The worst was yet to come however, as gamers discovered that the original card had been removed from their collection entirely. Some logged on to discover it was gone, while the more unlucky gamers had it stripped from their lineup as they were using it, resulting in wins counting as losses and other rewards going missing. It would seem that the Pink Diamond wasn’t meant to be released, but its removal has led to another PR blunder for 2K Sports, when they could’ve spread some Christmas cheer.

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The Friday Five: 5 Tips for Managing & Earning VC in MyCAREER

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 offers five tips for earning and managing VC in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER.

Fighting the urge to buy VC to level up faster in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER? You’re not alone, as the game is designed to push you in the direction of microtransactions. Since the situation is unlikely to get better anytime soon, I’ve decided that it would be more productive to focus on some content that helps gamers rather than critiques 2K’s design choices. After all, while microtransactions are strongly encouraged, VC can indeed be gained without spending real money. With that in mind, I’ve devised five tips that I hope will be useful for both earning and managing VC.

Before I get to the tips, I should emphasise that it’s still going to be a long process. As the push for recurrent revenue is quite aggressive, the grind is very real. Perseverance will pay off, however. Aside from the pre-order bonus for the standard edition, I’ve not spent any VC that I didn’t earn in-game, and as of this writing, I’m sitting at 74 Overall (starting from the base rating of 60). I did skip The Prelude for this player, though as a bonus tip, I would suggest that you play through it in order to get a head start on upgrades and Badges, as well as an opportunity for a higher salary out of the gate. With that being said, let’s take a look at some strategies for VC budgeting!

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The Friday Five: Top 5 Positives and Negatives in NBA 2K19

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 another double countdown, this time featuring the Top 5 Positives and Top 5 Negatives in NBA 2K19.

My full reviews for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 will be out shortly, but before then, I wanted to offer up some more of my initial impressions of this year’s games. This time I’m talking about the latest offering from Visual Concepts, NBA 2K19. After really enjoying NBA 2K17, I was quite disappointed with NBA 2K18. It wasn’t just the unapologetically greedy approach to microtransactions and the brutal grind, either. I just didn’t enjoy the gameplay experience, and thus shelved NBA 2K18 much earlier than previous games, firing it up only to get screenshots for articles.

In a nutshell, I felt that NBA 2K18 was a surprising regression for the NBA 2K series, uncharacteristically stumbling off course. Is NBA 2K19 heading back in the right direction? In some respects, yes, but there are some key areas of concern, and design choices that I’m disappointed in. The team at Visual Concepts clearly did learn a few lessons from last year’s game however, and took gamer feedback to heart. With that in mind, NBA 2K19 is – as quite a few people have put it – the game that we should’ve received last year. At the same time, it’s not entirely the game that I was hoping for this year. Let’s take a look at the Top 5 Positives and Negatives, at least as I see them.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways Basketball Games Are Less Fun Now

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 ways that basketball video games are less fun these days.

Basketball video games have improved in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades, but it hasn’t always been a smooth journey. There have been missteps along the way, and moving forward, there’s obviously still room for improvement in both NBA Live and NBA 2K. Despite that, it’s fair to say that in many ways, basketball games are better than they’ve ever been, providing extremely fun experiences thanks to the factors I discussed in last week’s Friday Five. At the same time, there are a few aspects of today’s games that make them less fun than their predecessors.

It’s difficult to say that without sounding like a grumpy old man being held hostage by his own nostalgia, but it’s true. While design concepts and technology have come a long way, there are certain trends – some specific to basketball games, others common to video gaming in general – that make us yearn for the good old days. In some cases, the good old days aren’t even that long ago, with some of these issues infiltrating our favourite basketball games within the past few years. It’s not that basketball games aren’t fun anymore, or necessarily worse than the titles that came before them, but the particular elements I’m about to discuss have come to affect our enjoyment.

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