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Monday Tip-Off: I’ve Got To Use My Imagination

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on how we no longer have to use our imagination when it comes to career and franchise modes.

Yes, the title of this week’s column is indeed a reference to a song by Gladys Knight & the Pips. That’s about as far as the reference goes, however. Truth be told, I only know the song because Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favourite movies, and it’s on its soundtrack. In any case, imagination is a core component of gaming, no matter the genre. Whether we’re playing single player or multiplayer, we immerse ourselves in a virtual world. We share the goal of the player character, whether it’s saving the world, winning a championship, or causing mayhem as a goose.

Imagination has always been – and to some extent still is – a big part of basketball gaming. Whether we’re assuming the role of a general manager or coach, taking control of a star player, or stepping onto the hardwood or blacktop with our own avatar, there’s an element of fantasy at play. Of course, many years ago, we had to be far more imaginative as far as scenarios and stories. In franchise and career play, we filled in the gaps, created our own back stories, and would even role-play in our story section. These days, we don’t have to use our imagination so much, especially in the story-driven MyCAREER. Needless to say, there are benefits and drawbacks to this.

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Monday Tip-Off: 2020 Year in Review

Monday Tip-Off: 2020 Year in Review

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 back at the year that was 2020 here at the NLSC.

I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been one of the most unusual years that many of us have ever experienced. For me, it’s both flown by – as the years seem to do as you get older – yet it’s also dragged. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously disrupted life as we know it in so many ways, and contributed to 2020 being somewhat miserable. On top of that, we’ve lost some beloved athletes and celebrities, including Kobe Bryant. Although the hardships of the pandemic are not over yet, it’s safe to say that a lot of people are looking forward to a fresh start in 2021.

At the same time, there have been bright spots. The Next Gen consoles launched, and while it hasn’t been easy getting hold of one, people who do own them generally seem to be happy with them. Here at the NLSC, we were able to keep doing our thing for another year as far as producing content and supporting the modding community, and we also officially added a new member to our team. 2020 is a year that I’m sure a lot of people would rather be done with and soon forget, but since this is the last Monday Tip-Off of the year – there will be a Wayback Wednesday this week, and then The Friday Five will open 2021 – I’m taking the opportunity to look back at 2020.

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Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K18 Legend Edition Gold Still Available

Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K18 Legend Edition Gold Still Available

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 both the Legend Edition and Legend Edition Gold versions of NBA 2K18 are still available in the PlayStation Store.

I have to say that thus far, I’ve been impressed with the PlayStation 5. I’ve generally been enjoying my time with NBA 2K21 Next Gen, and I love the faster loading times. In particular though, I’ve been impressed with its backwards compatibility with PS4, especially when it comes to my games library and saved content. As I noted in a Wayback Wednesday article, copying saved data across for PS4 games is a snap. I was also very pleased to be able to get a free upgrade for Mortal Kombat 11, complete with all of the DLC I’d purchased, just by inserting the PlayStation 4 disc.

The access to the PS4 library – on top of various media apps being readily compatible with PS5 – has made the console feel like a worthwhile upgrade, even if there aren’t a lot of new games that I’m interested in right now. While browsing the PlayStation Store, however, I came across another point of interest, albeit a far less positive one. During a search to see if the NBA League Pass app was available on PS5 (it’s not; at least, not in my region), I noticed that the Legend Edition and Legend Edition Gold versions of NBA 2K18 are still available to purchase. There are some major issues with that, and the digital availability of older NBA 2K titles in general.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Rec Is Garbage, But Who’s To Blame?

Monday Tip-Off: The Rec Is Garbage, But Who's To Blame?

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 who’s to blame for The Rec being utter garbage in NBA 2K21, and how – or if – the problems can be fixed.

I have to blunt: The Rec is absolutely woeful this year. Walk-On play has always been a hit-and-miss alternative to team Pro-Am, owing to the all the issues that arise when you play with randoms. It’s been particularly toxic and unenjoyable in NBA 2K21, though. Admittedly, I can only speak to my experiences playing on the Australasian server, and I’ve yet to create a MyPLAYER on Next Gen and jump online. The scene may be a lot better on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, at least in North America. It’d be a low bar to clear, as the mode seems to have hit rock bottom.

While the issues are familiar, the continued decline of The Rec – and it’s felt like it’s grown even worse since NBA 2K21 Current Gen’s launch – raises a few questions. The two most pertinent are “who’s to blame”, and “how can it be fixed”. As you might imagine, the first issue has a significant impact on the second. The answer is quite complicated, and that naturally means the solution isn’t easy either. Still, I’ve been thinking about this a lot in recent weeks. While I am taking a moment to grumble here, I want to turn that into something constructive. If we as a community can identify these issues and suggest solutions, perhaps we can help improve the scene.

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Monday Tip-Off: Annual Rituals & Goals in NBA 2K

Monday Tip-Off: Annual Rituals & Goals in 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 reflections on my annual rituals and goals in NBA 2K games.

I buy NBA 2K every year. In fact, throughout this past generation, I’ve double-dipped with copies for PC (for mods) and PlayStation 4 (for online play). I suppose that makes me a part of the problem as far as supporting the game despite having gripes with it, but in my defense, I’m both a collector and a content creator. Without at least one copy of the game, it’s difficult to provide coverage post-release. I know this all too well, having covered NCAA Basketball 10 throughout its preview season, and then not at all afterwards because I couldn’t import the game (I since have for PS3).

It’s also my aim to enjoy the game every year, and with the NBA Live series being rather underwhelming or completely absent from the basketball gaming space for much of the past decade, I’ve been getting my virtual hoops fix from NBA 2K. As such, there are a few rituals I engage in, and goals that I strive for, in each new NBA 2K title. In some respects, it’s probably made it difficult to break some of the habits I’ve formed, especially in MyCAREER. On the other hand, it always provides me with some baseline goals from which I can derive a sense of accomplishment, as well as completion. If I manage to attain these goals, I feel like I’ve got my money’s worth.

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Monday Tip-Off: Unplayable Is A Strong Word

Monday Tip-Off: Unplayable Is A Strong Word

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 a word that I’m seeing a lot of basketball gamers using at the moment: unplayable.

In last week’s Friday Five, I talked about the tell-tale signs that allow us to spot a shill in the basketball gaming community, and by extension, why shills are such a pain. I stand by that, but it’s important that we look at both sides of the coin, so to speak. Shills and fanboys pollute the discourse, but so do haters. Even if we aren’t being outright haters, we can make ourselves look bad through exaggerated criticism, especially when we allow our frustration with an issue to get the better of us. This is when we’ll opt for clichéd buzzwords (usually snarky ones).

When we’re disgusted with a game, we want to express ourselves in the strongest possible manner. Words like “dreadful” pack so much more of a punch than just plain “bad”; at least until they’re overused. A good example of a popular word that lost its critical value through overuse is “cartoonish“, though it was often poorly defined to begin with. A word that I’ve seen used a lot lately is “unplayable”. It’s a strong word, in this context implying a complete lack of quality and enjoyment. There are times when it’s appropriate to describe a game as unplayable, but it’s a word we need to be careful about using. After all, used indiscriminately, it’ll lose impact and credibility.

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Monday Tip-Off: A Ticking Clock on Current Gen

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 thoughts on how there’s a ticking clock on the relevance of NBA 2K21 Current Gen, and indeed, the generation as a whole.

Last Thursday, I managed to secure a pre-order for a PlayStation 5, specifically the run that will be released in Australia circa December 8th. This means although I’ve missed out on the launch, it won’t be nearly as long a wait as I’d anticipated. It also means that I’m starting to get more excited about and interested in NBA 2K21 Next Gen. When it appeared as though I might not be able to actually play it until 2021, it was naturally difficult to get hyped. Now I can actually look forward to checking it out – and producing content for it – in the not too distant future.

Of course, this places the Current Gen version in limbo, a situation that most gamers predicted would happen. The PC version has the benefit of the modding community, but generally speaking, any excitement that surrounded the Current Gen release has given way to hype for Next Gen. Now that I’ll be able to play that version as well, I’m left wondering what to do with NBA 2K21 Current Gen for the next few weeks. I’ve also been wondering about the future of basketball gaming on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I’m optimistic that the PC will receive a Next Gen port as early as NBA 2K22, but the clock has to be ticking on the current generation of consoles.

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Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

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 the community really feels about VC in NBA 2K.

Back in October, I posted a poll on Twitter and in the NLSC Forum, asking a two-part question about Virtual Currency. The question I posed to my fellow basketball gamers was whether they had ever bought VC, and if so, did they buy it regularly and readily. I was interested to see the results, because the community’s thoughts on VC aren’t always as obvious as you might think. While it would likely be a very small minority that would argue that NBA 2K needs to have microtransactions, not all basketball gamers are completely against them.

As such, the matter of how we feel about VC isn’t open and shut. When you look at the poll numbers and opinions that people have offered up on the subject, it’s fair to say that the consensus is that we’re not fans of microtransactions and NBA 2K’s general approach with its freemium-like in-game economy. At the same time, being against the practice doesn’t mean that people don’t partake in it. Likewise, partaking in buying VC – at least somewhat willingly – doesn’t mean that someone necessarily disagrees with the criticism. Throw in staunch opposition and general apathy, and the question of how we feel about VC doesn’t always have an obvious answer.

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Monday Tip-Off: Ending Online Sessions on a High Note

Monday Tip-Off: Ending Online Sessions on a High Note

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 desire and the difficulty of ending online sessions of NBA 2K on a high note.

It’s now several months too late to pay tribute to the late Kenny Rogers, as well as somewhat out of place in content about basketball gaming. However, his signature song, “The Gambler“, provides an apt metaphor for this week’s topic. As the song tells us, in life – as in playing poker – there’s wisdom in knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em; when to walk away, when to run. The metaphor resonates because it’s important to know when to call it quits, when to persevere, and how to play the hand you’ve been dealt, literally and figuratively speaking.

Not everything has the same stakes, of course, but the metaphor works for a variety of scenarios. On this occasion, I’m applying it to online sessions in NBA 2K. Getting into the online scene over the past few years has been an interesting experience. It’s been frustrating at times, but also a lot of fun at others. Something that I and the rest of the NLSC Pro-Am squad have learned is that it’s very easy to play one game too many, and thus end the night on a sour note. It’s disappointing to end an evening of online hoops that way, and unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to avoid. Even when you know you ought to fold ’em, you can end up sticking around for a few more hands.

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Monday Tip-Off: Do We Take Basketball Gaming Too Seriously?

Monday Tip-Off: Do We Take Basketball Gaming Too Seriously?

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 by reflecting on a rather pertinent question: do we take basketball gaming too seriously?

The Dark Knight may be twelve years old at this point, but Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker still resonates with many avid fans of Batman movies and comics. A number of lines from that film have penetrated pop culture, from Alfred’s speech about some men just wanting to watch the world burn – a favourite of so many edgelord trolls who fancy themselves Machiavellian puppet masters – to the Joker’s wry and sinister quips. One that comes up a lot, especially out of context when someone happens to utter the words, is “Why so serious?

As such, even all these years later, it’s difficult to pose a question about taking something too seriously without that scene coming to mind, or someone quoting it in response. It’s also admittedly an odd question to pose on a fansite that’s dedicated to a hobby. After all, we’re all about basketball gaming, so we obviously approach the matter with a certain amount of dedication and emphasis on its significance. “It’s only basketball gaming” feels like an out of place rationale and reprimand in a community of virtual hoops enthusiasts. Of course, it always pays to keep matters in perspective. To that point though, have we lost that perspective over the years?

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Monday Tip-Off: Virtual Hooping With Non-Fans

Monday Tip-Off: Virtual Hooping With Non-Fans

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 virtual hooping with and against people who aren’t big fans of basketball.

As our community is obviously made up of people who are big fans of both real and virtual basketball, we don’t really look at hoops gaming from the point of view of people who aren’t into the sport. After all, basketball and sports games in general are – to some extent – aimed at a very specific crowd. Sim titles in particular are intended for the avid fans that are more likely to want a realistic depiction of the sport. That’s not to say they can’t be for everyone – I’m not a fan of gatekeeping – but their focus on authenticity and minute details generally appeals to the more hardcore hoop-heads.

That means despite their success and popularity, basketball games and other sports titles are still somewhat niche. To put it another way, many of us basketball gamers will also play games like Fallout, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Mario, Zelda, Mass Effect, and so on, but a majority of the gamers who play those titles aren’t necessarily interested in virtual hooping, or fans of real basketball for that matter. If anything, they’re more likely to enjoy an arcade title like NBA Jam as it’s easier to pick up and play, and has a broader appeal. Some non-fans will dabble with the sim titles as well though, and virtual hooping with them is often an interesting experience.

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Monday Tip-Off: Cynicism as a New Generation Looms

Monday Tip-Off: Cynicism as a New Generation Looms

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 previews of NBA 2K21 Next Gen have inspired cynicism for me, rather than excitement.

When the NBA 2K21 Next Gen trailer dropped, I was compelled to post a few Tweets outlining my initial impressions. As you can probably gather from that thread, as well as comments I’ve made in our Forum and on the NLSC Podcast, I wasn’t blown away by the trailer, or pumped up about the game. If you follow me on Twitter, take part in our Forum, read my articles, or listen to our Podcast, you’ll probably also know that I’m not the biggest fan of NBA 2K21 Current Gen, either. My disappointment with NBA 2K21 and other recent releases has set the table for some Next Gen cynicism.

Thinking back to the release of NBA 2K14 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I don’t remember feeling quite as cynical. It’s unfortunate, as I’d prefer not to feel that way. I don’t want my content to come across as jaded and overwhelmingly negative, but beyond that, as an avid basketball gamer, I want to enjoy my hobby and look forward to new games when they’re on the horizon. As NBA 2K21 Next Gen looms and we get our first glimpses and insights into the forthcoming game, my cynicism definitely outpaces my optimism in a way that it didn’t seven years ago. Today, I’m reflecting upon that, and how things have changed over the course of a generation.

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Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based 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 some thoughts on skill-based matchmaking.

Did you know that the concept of skill-based matchmaking, commonly abbreviated to SBMM, is controversial? I’ll admit that I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; especially given my experiences playing NBA 2K online. As the name implies, skill-based matchmaking is a system for matching both teammates and opponents in online play according to their abilities. The criteria and algorithms for this vary from game to game, but are generally based on winning percentage, ranking or reputation systems, and other statistics relevant to the genre.

Sounds like a good idea, right; the kind of proper matchmaking that we’d expect to see in a basketball game like NBA 2K, with all of its connected experiences? Well, you would think so, but not everyone is a fan of skill-based matchmaking. This disdain stretches beyond NBA 2K and the basketball gaming community, but the basic reasoning behind gamers’ objections to the concept remains the same. Frankly, this is unfortunate. SBMM is indeed a good idea, and would undoubtedly clean up the online scene in NBA 2K by reducing the toxicity and sense of gatekeeping. I’d like to explore why it’s necessary, and also examine the controversy surrounding SBMM.

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Monday Tip-Off: Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?

Monday Tip-Off: Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?

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 by pondering the question of whether or not NBA 2K can fairly be called pay-to-win.

Yes, discussing VC, microtransactions, and recurrent revenue mechanics in NBA 2K might seem like I’m beating a dead horse. However, it remains a persistent issue as of NBA 2K21, one that threatens the overall quality of the game. That might seem like I’m stating the obvious and preaching to the choir, but there are gamers who will still defend grindy mechanics and microtransactions. In all fairness, they admittedly aren’t mandatory, and the savvy NBA 2K gamer can find ways of enjoying the game’s most popular modes without buying VC, or even opting for the special edition.

Based on some remarks I’ve seen on basketball gaming Twitter though, I fear that we’ve grown somewhat complacent and dismissive of the problems that recurrent revenue mechanics cause. People, including prominent content creators, have declared that modes like MyTEAM and MyCAREER are no longer pay-to-win, owing to the amount of content that can be earned even if you staunchly refuse to buy VC. I do see their point of course, but I also believe that it’s missing the forest for the trees. There’s nuance and other problems that are being overlooked. First things first, though. Let’s address the question: is it fair to call NBA 2K, in its current state, pay-to-win?

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Monday Tip-Off: The State of Official Rosters

Monday Tip-Off: The State of Official Rosters

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 state of official rosters in basketball games, particularly NBA 2K.

No matter whether you’re a developer working on the official rosters or a gamer who’s making unofficial updates for the community, it can often be a thankless job. There’s no chance of pleasing everyone when it comes to player ratings, especially given the overinflated importance that Overall Ratings are often ascribed. With over 400 active players along with historical content, it’s very easy to overlook a detail here and there, no matter how meticulous you are. I’m not sure that I’ve ever released a roster for NBA Live PC that didn’t have at least one small oversight.

The feedback that you’ll receive as a roster maker in the community, or indeed as the developer in charge of handling the official rosters, isn’t always constructive or very pleasant. We’re quick to sneer at a perceived bias or lack of knowledge, forgetting that we’re all prone to the same biases and knowledge gaps, to say nothing of human error. At the same time, we’re slow to give credit where it’s due. With that being said, there are some troubling trends when it comes to the official rosters in modern games, in particular NBA 2K. Without meaning to be insulting or self-righteous, it doesn’t feel like the rosters in recent titles have the same level of authenticity as they once did.

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