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Monday Tip-Off: Without Quality, More Is Less

Monday Tip-Off: Without Quality, More Is Less

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some frank thoughts on how more is less when quantity outpaces quality in the content of basketball video games.

One of my recurring criticisms of NBA Live throughout the eighth generation – and it also applies to games in the seventh generation to some extent – is that they’re lacking in depth. Modes have been barebones (or “streamlined”, as promotional material likes to call it), and games have also been light on additional content and features compared to NBA 2K. While problems with NBA Live’s gameplay have ultimately been larger issues, the lack of depth unquestionably contributes to them being subpar. It’s felt like there’s been minimal effort beyond including the basics.

However, while NBA 2K can boast greater depth from its historical content to a wide variety of intricate modes, it has a recurring problem of its own. While there’s far more to the average NBA 2K release than just about any NBA Live game to date, not all of that content is well-made and of high quality. The lack of attention to detail in certain areas makes it seem as though content and features were added for the sake of padding the game and looking impressive at a glance, without implementing them properly. That may seem harsh, and it’s not my intention to imply that the developers aren’t working hard or don’t care. Still, without quality, more is undoubtedly less.

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Monday Tip-Off: Hitting The Modding Wall

Monday Tip-Off: Hitting The Modding Wall

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on how it’s all too easy to hit the modding wall.

Modding can be a ton of fun. To that point, there have always been people in the community that have enjoyed modding games more than playing them. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that some people would prefer to tinker with a broken but moddable game than play a great game that isn’t modder-friendly. I personally prefer the latter, but I do understand the thought process. There’s tremendous satisfaction in crafting fantastic mods, particularly comprehensive projects. As long as you’re modding for the right reasons, by all means indulge that creativity!

Of course, like just about any creative endeavour, there are tedious moments. Hitting the modding wall takes a few different forms, but it usually comes down to reaching a stage in the project that isn’t fun, or is technically challenging. It may be repetitive work, or a limitation that you have to find a way around before you can continue. The modding wall will often delay projects, and in the worst case scenario, derail them and cause them to be dropped altogether. It’s not a good feeling, especially when you’ve been so excited about an idea and sunk hours into a project. It’s possible to break through the modding wall, and the first step is to realise that you’re not alone.

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Monday Tip-Off: Retro Basketball Gaming Is Filling A Gap

Monday Tip-Off: Retro Basketball Gaming Is Filling A Gap

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on how retro basketball gaming is filling a gap in the market.

Unfortunately, we are not in a golden age for basketball gaming. Sure, NBA 2K is more successful than ever as it sells millions of copies, makes bank with recurrent revenue, and enjoys mainstream popularity. However, when you glance at Steam reviews and user scores on Metacritic, it’s obvious that gamers are far less satisfied than they used to be. With NBA Live faltering, collapsing, and failing to rebuild properly, 2K has no competition. No other publishers are jumping into the space, and the one major release we did have – NBA Playgrounds – was swallowed up by 2K.

If you want a new basketball video game every year, there’s only one choice. It’s not the worst choice we could possibly have – better to have NBA 2K in its current state than NBA Live in its most recent form – but even if this is the best monopoly possible, it’s still a monopoly. For younger basketball gamers, NBA 2K being the only viable choice – or indeed, the only choice, period – may be all they know. Those of us who remember a time when several developers were producing basketball titles are much more likely to feel wistful at the lack of choice. On the plus side, retro basketball gaming is now more frequently filling that gap, and giving us something else to play.

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Monday Tip-Off: How NBA 2K23 Would Win Me Over

Monday Tip-Off: How NBA 2K23 Would Win Me Over

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with an outline of how NBA 2K23 would win me over.

Let’s be clear about this. In the grand scheme of things, NBA 2K23 doesn’t need to win me over. I’m just one person, and I’m not one of their big name influencers. The game won’t need my stamp of approval in order to sell at least ten million copies. Furthermore, given that I am a collector and still a content creator, I’ll be contributing to those sales figures anyway. In that respect, you could argue that it makes me part of the problem, but hey, like I said, I’m just one person. In short, I acknowledge that whether or not NBA 2K23 wins me over, it will be a success by almost every metric.

That goes without saying, but that’s not the issue here. This isn’t about what NBA 2K23 must do to be successful, but what it would take to get someone who has greatly preferred to play NBA 2K14 over NBA 2K21 and NBA 2K22 to get hooked on a new game once again. It’s an uphill battle, because some of the changes I’d love to see will never happen, due to business reasons. I’m obviously also very enthusiastic about this retro kick with NBA 2K14. However, I do aim to approach every new game with an open mind, and a willingness to keep playing if I’m enjoying myself. To that end, with the right changes and improvements, I could definitely be won over by NBA 2K23.

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Monday Tip-Off: Disposable Games & Always Online Pains

Monday Tip-Off: Disposable Games & Always Online Pains

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on the approach of the annual games becoming disposable, and the increased reliance in “always online”.

I’ve been working in IT since 2005, providing technical support and PC repairs. In that time, I’ve noticed a change that has likewise been a trend with other devices, from phones and televisions to major appliances. While hardware repairs are still sought out and provided, we’ve trended towards being a throw-away society. Expense or difficulty in performing repairs makes buying a replacement – presumably a newer model – a more common and desirable solution. Buying a new system also seems more likely than upgrading existing hardware, again due to convenience or feasibility.

So it goes with products such as video games, too. There is inevitability to this, of course. Nothing lasts forever, and manufacturers and software developers naturally want to sell new products. More than ever before though, basketball games are being designed to be disposable. The reliance on server-side content, necessitating an “always online” approach, is the reason for this. While this content has enhanced titles and eventual server shutdowns are understandable, the way that it’s made games more disposable is nevertheless unfortunate. If nothing else, it’s a tremendous blow to a community that does have a contingent of retro gamers who like to dust off old titles.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Habit Basketball Gamers Can’t Break

Monday Tip-Off: The Habit Basketball Gamers Can't Break

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at the habit that most basketball gamers struggle to break.

By now, many of the basic concepts and mechanics in basketball video games are well-established. That familiarity allows experienced virtual hardwood gamers to get acclimated with new titles swiftly, and in turn, enjoy them sooner. To that point, when there are major changes to an aspect of the core mechanics, it’s far more likely that the initial impressions will be negative, or at least mixed. Sometimes this is because the changes that have been implemented failed to improve upon the previous concepts. Other times, it reveals our inflexibility regarding certain habits.

There’s one habit in particular that I believe most of us have trouble breaking. It’s not entirely our fault, of course. Basketball video games encourage us to make habitual use of this mechanic. It represents a core aspect of playing the sport, and allows us to perform advanced moves. We’ve always had to be careful about how we use it, as its short-term benefits are balanced by finite availability and long-term drawbacks. As sim games in particular have become even more realistic and sophisticated, overuse of this mechanic has been exposed as a bad habit. I am of course referring to sprinting – or turbo, as it’s also been called – and our tendency to constantly move at top speed.

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Monday Tip-Off: Born To Be A Retro Gamer

Monday Tip-Off: Born To Be A Retro Gamer

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off by reflecting on how my earliest experiences with video games made it far more likely that I’d become a retro gamer.

Outside of firing up NBA 2K22 to get screenshots or investigate its latest updates, I haven’t played the game for months. Not on PC, not on PlayStation 4, and not on PlayStation 5. I don’t feel compelled to grind and level up a player in MyCAREER, or to jump into The Rec. There are aspects of MyTEAM that I like, but I don’t fancy putting in the time to collect cards that I won’t be able to use come NBA 2K23. I’d start a MyLEAGUE or MyNBA with the Chicago Bulls, but honestly, I don’t enjoy the gameplay enough in either version of NBA 2K22 to do so.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time playing through multiple seasons in NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER. I’ve revisited other standout games from yesteryear, such as NBA Live 10 and NBA Live 06. Quite simply, I’ve found far more enjoyment and satisfaction in doing that than trying to find a way to have fun with NBA 2K22. It’s not that I refuse to play new games, or that I haven’t enjoyed more recent releases. I also don’t believe that older games were, without exception, all flawless masterpieces; they weren’t. I do find it easy to go back to old favourites however, as well as give other retro titles a second look. When I think back, I may have always been destined to be a retro gamer.

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Monday Tip-Off: Free-to-Play & Triple-A Basketball Games

Monday Tip-Off: Free-to-Play & Triple-A Basketball Games

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on the prospect of Triple-A basketball games being free-to-play (aka F2P).

It’s no secret that NBA Live, once the brand leader in sim NBA video games, has been struggling for well over a decade. It hit a low point with the failed attempt to rebrand and revamp the series with NBA Elite 11, one that it hasn’t been able to recover from to date. With its inability to topple NBA 2K, or even just make some inroads into gaining a bigger share of the market, I’ve seen people suggest that the console version of NBA Live become a free-to-play title. The argument is that it would be a lower risk, and encourage more gamers to give it a try.

Interestingly, I’ve also seen suggestions that NBA 2K become a free-to-play game. In this case, the suggestion has nothing to do with quality, but rather finance. As you’re undoubtedly well aware, the nature of NBA 2K being an annual release means that in modes such as MyCAREER and MyTEAM, there’s a reset on our progress with each new game. That means more grinding, and more money spent. With annual sports titles often being derided as glorified roster updates, it’s no surprise that a free-to-play model, or perhaps a new game every few years with subscriptions for updates in between, are ideas that have been floated. I certainly have some thoughts on that.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Worst Virtual NBA Finalists

Monday Tip-Off: The Worst Virtual NBA Finalists

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at the worst virtual NBA Finalists that I’ve encountered in all my years of basketball gaming.

Simulation engines are far from infallible. They already have a tough task as far as generating realistic results, given that the actual NBA can produce some unexpected outcomes. However, some of the results we see in our virtual seasons are definitely unrealistically favourable to upsets and underdogs. It makes me wonder about the articles that simulate the forthcoming season in NBA 2K. Did they run with the first simulation, or did they have to keep trying until the game produced more believable results, with realistic NBA Finalists and Champions?

Having finished seasons in multiple games, I’ve encountered a variety of virtual NBA Finalists, including a few surprising ones. The Minnesota Timberwolves in Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER would definitely qualify as such a squad. Indeed, when I mentioned to Dee4Three that they were my opponent, and sent him a screenshot of their roster, he observed that they were a strong candidate for the worst team to ever make the NBA Finals. Dee suggested that they merited a closer look in an article, and I liked the idea; especially as it got me thinking about some of the other virtual NBA Finalists I’ve faced in games, and whether any were as weak as those Timberwolves.

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Monday Tip-Off: Year 3 in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER

Monday Tip-Off: Year 3 in NBA 2K14 MyCAREER

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a recap of Year 3 in my ongoing NBA 2K14 MyCAREER.

How enthusiastic was I to dive into Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER game? Well, it was only at the end of March that I was recapping Year 2, and noting how the adventure continues in the mode. By mid May, I’d played through another 82 games, and tipped off my third postseason. I found myself under the weather with a couple of illnesses and ailments this past month, and playing MyCAREER served as “comfort food”. I was already keenly playing through the third season from the time I posted my last recap, but that did allow the journey to move along even swifter.

Entering Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, I had a few goals. I wanted to beat the previous year’s record of 72-10, establishing a new mark for excellence in the regular season. Obviously, I wanted to win a third consecutive championship, and take home another MVP trophy. While I’d already averaged a triple-double in Year 2, ticking off that familiar goal, it was still my aim to post big numbers once again. However, I also had some – shall we say – less selfish goals. I also wanted to get Carmelo Anthony more involved in the offense, and to help Terry Hanson win the Rookie of the Year award. So, how did Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER ultimately turn out?

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Monday Tip-Off: Guess It Is A Barbie Dress-Up Game

Monday Tip-Off: Guess It Is A Barbie Dress-Up Game

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my observations of how, contrary to what Ronnie 2K once said, NBA 2K has become a Barbie dress-up game.

There’s an online maxim to the effect of “the internet doesn’t forget”. In short, it refers to how the comments and content that we post online is there in perpetuity, and may reflect poorly upon us when it’s rediscovered years later. Celebrities have lost face (and gigs) when old Tweets have resurfaced. Everyday people have had difficulty in their offline lives after they’ve gone viral for the wrong reasons. I’ve been contacted by a few former community members asking if we can scrub their posts from the Forum, as they don’t want youthful silliness to affect their future job prospects.

Controversy has a way of following people long after they’ve apologised and atoned, or indeed, allegations have been proven false. As they say, mud sticks. However, one might suggest that that’s fair if the person in question has remained unapologetic, and the problematic situation persists. It’s certainly fair to keep bringing up an issue that people try to sweep under the rug. That happens far too often within the basketball gaming community, where outrage over persistent problems is fleeting. It’s why every so often, I’ll bring up the time that Ronnie 2K made a snarky comment about NBA 2K not being a Barbie dress-up game; especially now that it’s kind of turned into one.

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Monday Tip-Off: Hey, That Meme Looks Familiar!

Monday Tip-Off: Hey, That Meme Looks Familiar!

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on encountering a familiar image in a meme, and other moments of recognition.

It’s good advice to be careful about what you put out there on the internet. We’re not always as anonymous as we think, and poor behaviour can come back to haunt us. In general, it’s prudent to exercise caution in sharing personal information and even photos, as it can compromise one’s safety. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re a content creator, even in a niche community. Someone with an axe to grind may be petty enough to use it to directly harass you, or talk trash about you elsewhere online. I’ve encountered both during my time running the NLSC.

On a lighter note, when it comes to the content you create for one and all to see, you never know where it will end up. It’s both exciting and humbling when something gains traction, as my article on the Rising Cost of MyCAREER did last year, or when your work is referenced, as a WhatCulture video did with a post about NBA Elite 11. On the other hand, it’s funny when parts of your content end up being recycled, or shared outside of the original context. In particular, I’ve seen some of my screenshots show up in other articles, or on social media. And, speaking of the latter, there’s one familiar screenshot that has been used in a meme shared by several accounts.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Community, Or The Wrong Parts of It?

Monday Tip-Off: The Community, Or The Wrong Parts of It?

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on blaming the entire basketball gaming community for changes and additions that only a vocal minority asked for.

Even though everyone in the basketball gaming community shares a common passion, we’re not always on the same page. We’re divided along several lines: mode of choice, online or offline gaming, ideal controls and mechanics, how much realism the games should have, and so on. This makes it impossible for anyone to speak on behalf of the entire community, and no one person’s vision alone is right for basketball gaming. In turn, developers have many voices to listen to – some offering up conflicting feedback – and so are guaranteed to disappoint a contingent of the fanbase with certain choices.

While we collectively understand that, in our disappointment and indeed our outrage, it’s difficult to accept. When we’re disappointed and angry – whether it’s about video games or anything in life – we want to lay blame. We point the finger at developers, the suits, and even ourselves. In all three cases, that blame isn’t entirely misplaced. However, when it comes to blaming ourselves, we’re talking about a much larger group; a group that has less control than the other two, and is less likely to be wholly in agreement. As such, when we blame what we see as an undesirable aspect of NBA 2K on the community, we’re often pointing the finger at the wrong parts of it.

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Monday Tip-Off: Could College Basketball Be EA Sports’ Niche?

Monday Tip-Off: Could College Basketball Be EA Sports Niche?

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on the prospect of EA Sports using college basketball as a springboard for their return to the virtual hardwood.

Excluding the mobile version of NBA Live, we haven’t seen a new basketball video game from EA Sports since 2018. There was time when such a thing seemed like an unthinkable prospect. Sure, NBA Live had had a rough release here or there, and NBA 2K steadily rose to become the premier brand by the end of the 2000s. We still expected a basketball game from EA, though; two in fact! With the NCAA series ending in 2009, and NBA Live missing several years beginning with the cancellation of NBA Elite 11, we’ve grown accustomed to their hoops titles being benched.

Not everyone has a problem with that. For some gamers, it’s EA Sports’ just deserts after failing to develop a satisfactory basketball title, or perhaps moving away from the PC platform (or indeed, both). I do understand that sentiment. However, for all the good things that NBA 2K has done, we’ve seen the downside of 2K having a virtual monopoly over the virtual hardwood. Unfortunately, while there would be a benefit to competition and choice in the space, NBA Live has not been able to deliver and be that viable alternative. With that in mind, eschewing the NBA in favour of a new college basketball game could prove to be EA Sports’ best move at this juncture.

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Monday Tip-Off: Mentoring Terry Hanson & Making a Star

Monday Tip-Off: Mentoring Terry Hanson & Making a Star

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with tales of mentoring Terry Hanson, and trying to turn him into a star in my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER.

I’ve always enjoyed generated rookies in franchise modes, and later career modes as well. While NBA 2K’s franchise modes have allowed for custom Draft Classes – and this customisation is important to have – I personally prefer fictional players as the years progress. They become Virtual Hardwood Legends in our save files, weaving stories of Hall of Famers, breakout stars, and unfortunate busts. We can do that with actual NBA players too, of course, but generated rookies are a blank slate with no real world comparisons. We can completely indulge our imaginations with them.

Terry Hanson is a generated rookie in Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, a game that I just can’t get enough of right now. To date, I’ve done all the things that all of us always do in the NBA side of MyCAREER. I’ve set records, averaged a triple-double, and won championships. I’ve levelled up my MyPLAYER, maxing out at 97 Overall, as was the case with some builds in NBA 2K14. I’ve turned my avatar into an All-Star and punched his ticket to Springfield when the time comes to hang it up. Inevitably, if we play NBA MyCAREER long enough, we’ll fulfil a destiny of superstardom that’s at the heart of the story. Now I’m writing a new chapter: making Terry Hanson a star.

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