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Wayback Wednesday: Revisiting the NBA Live 96 PC Rosters

Wayback Wednesday: Revisiting the NBA Live 96 PC Rosters

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m revisiting the rosters in NBA Live 96 PC.

Have I mentioned that old basketball video games can be interactive almanacs? I believe I have, once or twice! It’s one of the things that I enjoy the most about retro basketball gaming, on top of the nostalgic throwback gameplay of course. As I’ve noted on several occasions, sim titles capture a snapshot of the league at the time they were released. This includes interesting trivia such as phantom stints, familiar faces in unfamiliar places, and familiar faces back in familiar places, to name just some of the examples that I enjoy keeping my eye out for.

I’ve previously revisited the rosters in NBA Live 2002, NBA Live 95 (both PC and Super Nintendo), and NBA Live 99 PC (with the official update). Those were fun trips down memory lane, but I’m even more excited to revisit the rosters in NBA Live 96 PC. It’s one of my all-time favourite basketball games, and while I sunk countless hours into it playing with my 1998 season roster, I also spent a considerable amount of time with the default lineups. It’s also helped me out with modding, and even in answering trivia all these years later! Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Secret Courts Unlocked by Cheats

The Friday Five: 5 Secret Courts Unlocked by Cheats

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five secret courts that can be unlocked using cheats in various basketball video games.

Wasn’t it way more fun unlocking content in basketball video games by completing tasks or entering secret codes, than buying it with microtransaction-based in-game currency? I know, I know, more Grumpy Old Man griping about the Good Old Days, but come on, am I wrong? I mean, not everything was better “back in the day”, but bonus content that we could all enjoy without pumping more money into the game, or mindlessly grinding, was a far superior and way fairer approach. If you disagree, then I’m sorry, but you might just be too far gone as a shill!

Alright, alright, enough with the antagonistic commentary about microtransactions! That issue aside, basketball video games have had some cool secrets over the years, and it was always entertaining punching in codes to access them. Those secrets also gave rise to a number of urban legends and hoaxes, but some were legit, allowing us to change things up on the virtual hardwood. Indeed, some of those secrets and bonus content directly involved the virtual hardwood, as basketball games have included some secret courts that can only be unlocked via cheats. It was a fun way to alter the setting and atmosphere, and with that in mind, here are five of the best secret courts.

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Wayback Wednesday: The NBA Live Toolkit

Wayback Wednesday: The NBA Live Toolkit

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at an essential modding utility in the early days of our community: the NBA Live Toolkit.

In some respects, roster editing in basketball video games has come a long way. We have access to animation packages, salary data, and other attributes that used to be hidden. At the same time, the in-game roster customisation tools still have many of the same drawbacks as they did in much earlier games. There are still attributes and bio data that we can’t edit or add for created players, or even modify for original players. Placeholder players are still difficult to deal with, as they’re not completely customisable. To make truly detailed roster mods, we need external editing tools.

Fortunately, talented people in the community have been able to step up and develop roster editing tools throughout the years. It began with our founders’ editors for the early NBA Live games, Vl@d took on the challenge for the burgeoning NBA 2K modding scene, and Looyh continues to carry the torch today. It hasn’t been easy, with executable and save files needing to be mapped and decoded. However, editing roster files did become easier with the adoption of the DBF format, and the process was further simplified by the NBA Live Toolkit. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Tom Gugliotta & Basketball Video Games

Wayback Wednesday: Tom Gugliotta & Basketball Video Games

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at Tom Gugliotta and some interesting trivia regarding his career and appearances in video games.

There are some well-known examples of players whose history with basketball video games is interesting and unusual. It seems such a weird and unfathomable situation nowadays, but back in the 90s, Roster Players were frequently a necessity due to the absence of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, owing to them retaining the rights to their likenesses. Shaquille O’Neal was also briefly exclusive to NBA Live, and even David Robinson once required a stand-in. Of course, I also enjoy delving into virtual hardwood trivia concerning far more obscure players, such as Junior Harrington.

Now, on the scale of obscurity to all-time fame, Tom Gugliotta is probably closer to the likes of MJ, Chuck, Shaq, and The Admiral than he is to Harrington. That is to say, if you were to ask long-time basketball fans and history buffs, they’d be far more likely to recall Googs than Junior. With that being said, like so many players of yesteryear that were very good but not all-time greats, Gugliotta doesn’t get talked about enough. That’s unfortunate from a basketball standpoint, but his career also resulted in some fun NBA video game trivia. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Trade Confirmation in NBA Live 2000 Franchise

Wayback Wednesday: Trade Confirmation in NBA Live 2000 Franchise

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at the trade confirmation pop-up in NBA Live 2000’s Franchise mode.

The evolution of basketball video games has resulted in the revamping or complete disappearance of features, both big and small. To that end, if you’re a veteran of the virtual hardwood, there’s bound to be at least one feature from an old favourite that you miss in newer titles. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t take long for a useful feature or gameplay mechanic to disappear. We’ve seen numerous short-lived features, some of which are unique to the games they appear in. They may not be popular or even absolutely necessary, but our desire to see them return makes them Wishlist staples.

I have a shortlist of such features, but one of the first that always comes to mind is the trade confirmation pop-up in the very first Franchise mode in NBA Live 2000. It was such a fantastic detail, yet it was gone the very next year, and has never returned in any games since. Not only that, but the concept doesn’t seem to have ever been picked up by NBA 2K, or the Season and Franchise modes in any other series for that matter. This may seem like a very esoteric feature to cover, but if you’ve played Franchise in NBA Live 2000, you’ll know why it matters. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Revisiting the Lockout Season in NBA Live 99

Wayback Wednesday: Revisiting the Lockout Season in NBA Live 99

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at the transitional rosters of the 1999 lockout season, as captured in NBA Live 99 PC.

It’s been 25 years since a lockout led to NBA games being cancelled for the first time, with the threat of an entire season being lost. I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying attention to the looming labour crisis as a teenage Chicago Bulls fan in 1998. I was focused on following the action, hoping that Michael Jordan would win another scoring title and the Bulls would end the year as champions once more. The rumours that concerned me were that it would be The Last Dance, which it obviously was. Furthermore, the magazines I was reading weren’t really covering it, and NBA Action definitely wasn’t!

Fortunately, the season was saved when ultimatums were issued – though, it wouldn’t be the last labour dispute – and the 1999 lockout ended on January 20th, 1999. On top of shortening the 1999 campaign to 50 games, it also meant that video games such as NBA Live had to launch with final 1998 season rosters. Fortunately for PC gamers, EA Sports released an official patch that not only fixed a few bugs, but updated the game for the new season. As such, NBA Live 99 PC in its updated state does preserve the rosters from a weird, yet memorable season. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Crazy Create-a-Player Accessories

Wayback Wednesday: Crazy Create-a-Player Accessories

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at some of the crazy accessories that were once available in Create-a-Player.

It’s stating the extremely obvious to say that basketball video games have become far more realistic over the years. From graphics and animations to AI and content, the advances in tech have facilitated sim games that resemble real life far more closely. That’s not to say that older games didn’t do their best, and sim titles were definitely aimed at hardcore hoop heads more so than arcade games such as NBA Jam. They were still video games at the end of the day though, and as such, sometimes featured elements that weren’t so serious.

A great example is the crazy accessories that were often available in Create-a-Player. I’m talking about the accessories that you’d never see an NBA player wearing during a game, but were nevertheless available to assign in Create-a-Player in many old sim games, such as the early NBA Live releases. They’re something that we don’t see today; at least in traditional gameplay. They’re a relic of 90s basketball gaming, and looking back, their phasing out heralded a shift towards a more realistic approach. It was the right move, but they did serve a purpose. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Fun Cheat Codes in NBA Live 98

Wayback Wednesday: Fun Cheat Codes in NBA Live 98

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at some of the fun cheat codes that can be found in NBA Live 98.

For those of us who grew up in a time long before premium downloadable content and microtransactions, cheat codes are incredibly nostalgic. Whether they helped us to beat a difficult level, unlocked bonus content, or altered the gameplay in some way, cheat codes were fun and empowering. When you discovered a code or other secret, whether it was via word of mouth or printed in a gaming magazine, you couldn’t wait to try it out! Of course, there were also countless urban legends and hoaxes, as well as erroneous listings that weren’t properly vetted.

Indeed, I’ve previously debunked a handful of fake codes for NBA Live 2002. As I said at the time, while it was satisfying to do the research and get that confirmation, it’s disappointing that the game didn’t hold any cool secrets. Fortunately, there are other basketball games that have entertaining hidden content to discover! This does include sim titles, and one game with a number of fun cheat codes is NBA Live 98. Both the PC and PlayStation version of the game include bonus content and features that are hidden behind codes, and if you grew up with either release, you probably have fond memories of unlocking them. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Famous Numbers, Not So Famous Players

Wayback Wednesday: Famous Numbers, Not So Famous Players

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at some famous jersey numbers that were worn by players who weren’t so famous, and the video games where you’ll find them.

There was a commemorative magazine published not long after the Chicago Bulls won their fifth NBA championship. As an avid fan, I read it cover to cover until it was no longer pristine. On top of recapping the championship season, the magazine delved into the history of the Bulls. I was fascinated to learn that although Michael Jordan became the last and most famous Bull to wear number 23, he was the seventh player in club history to don it. You have to remember that in 1997, such information wasn’t readily available and accessible in less than a minute!

That tidbit of Bulls and MJ trivia has stuck with me. The longer I’ve been a basketball fan, and the more players that I’ve seen come and go, the more I’ve seen other stars end up sharing their number with far less distinguished NBA alumni. Like so much other historical trivia, these examples frequently present themselves whenever I’m revisiting an old video game, and see players in the rosters that I haven’t thought about in years. While they may not have reached the same level of fame and success as the stars who donned those jerseys, there’s still that connection to their famous peers and their iconic numbers. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Best Shout Outs to Previous Games

The Friday Five: 5 Best Shout Outs to Previous Games

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of the five best shout outs that basketball games have made to previous entries in their series.

Who doesn’t appreciate a good callback? Whether it’s an Easter egg/fleeting reference or something more prominent, continuity never goes astray. This applies to video games as much as books, films, and television shows, especially as the medium has strived to improve its storytelling across various genres. Whether it’s a cameo like Harold’s appearance in Fallout 3, a peek at an era from a previous game as in the Monkey Island series, or the Elder Scrolls’ running gag about stolen sweetrolls, they’re an enjoyable part of video game lore and exploration.

Needless to say, basketball video games and other annual sports titles are a little different. By their very concept, they have numerous sequels and there are several similarities between games, right down to the players as long as they’re active or on a classic team. In other words, the ubiquitous aspects of the genre don’t count as shout outs to previous games. However, various basketball video games have found ways to celebrate their lineage, or feature a unique nod to their predecessors. These shout outs to previous games may be minor and we wouldn’t necessarily miss them if they weren’t there, but oftentimes they’re the fun details that make a game feel special.

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Monday Tip-Off: My 25 Favourite Basketball Video Games

Monday Tip-Off: My 25 Favourite Basketball Video 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 a countdown of my Top 25 favourite basketball video games, in celebration of another milestone here at the NLSC.

On Saturday, I celebrated my 22nd year of running the NLSC. It’s been a long ride with plenty of ups and downs, but I’m still very glad that I accepted the gig when Tim moved on to work at EA Sports, and that I stuck it out through some rough patches to enjoy the good times. To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to rank my Top 25 favourite basketball video games. This being my 22nd Anniversary as webmaster/admin of the NLSC, I was originally going to pick my Top 22 games. Top 25 has a better ring to it though, and it also serves as a belated 25th Anniversary celebration for the site itself!

Before we get to the countdown, let me emphasise once again that it is a Top 25 of my favourite basketball video games; not the Top 25 best hoops titles. That’s a different list, and if I were being more objective, there are games I’m listing here that wouldn’t make the cut. Because I haven’t spent as much time with certain NBA 2K, College Hoops, or NCAA Basketball/March Madness titles, I don’t have as much of an affinity for them, though that may well change in the future. I haven’t “forgotten” about those great basketball video games, but they haven’t become one of my personal favourites (as yet, anyway). With that being said, here are my Top 25 virtual hardwood classics!

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Wayback Wednesday: Can You Update NBA Live 99 N64 for 1999?

Wayback Wednesday: Can You Update NBA Live 99 N64 for 1999?

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m going back to the N64 version of NBA Live 99, and seeing if it can be suitably updated for the 1999 season.

While I do have fond and nostalgic memories of the Nintendo 64, it’s fair to say that the console hasn’t aged as well as other platforms. The 3D era was in its infancy, so on top of graphics that tend to be unappealing nowadays, many games display the teething problems of expanding into a new plane while designing game worlds and gameplay. Some of the best releases do still hold up, though very few of them tend to be sports games. The N64’s controller is a major culprit here, as it wasn’t ideal for several cross-platform genres.

Nevertheless, I was excited to get NBA Live 99 for N64 for Christmas in 1998. Due to the lockout of course, the game had to launch with final 1998 season rosters. This ultimately wouldn’t be a problem on PC, thanks to mods and official patches. As we were a long way from consoles supporting downloadable updates, those platforms were left out in the cold. We had to make do with the default rosters, or try our best to update them ourselves. With that being said, is it possible to make a sufficiently detailed roster update for NBA Live 99 on N64? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Loading Screens in Basketball Games

Wayback Wednesday: Loading Screens in Basketball Games

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at loading screens in basketball video games.

While catching up on some Zero Punctuation and Extra Punctuation videos, the one in which Yahtzee is reminiscing about loading screens really spoke to me. And so, once again, I’m shamelessly jumping on a topic that was brought up by a far, far more well-known content creator! It’s a topic that I undoubtedly relate to, though. In the video, Yahtzee notes the nostalgia at play here, acknowledging that faster loading times are obviously an improvement. However, for gamers of our generation, they’re not just a reminder of youthful excitement, but also examples of creative design.

In particular, Yahtzee notes the use of mini-games and interactive elements on loading screens. This got me thinking about how basketball games have tried to keep us entertained while they load, notably the approach that NBA Live took during the seventh generation. Needless to say, lengthy loading times are not something I want to see return, and they can be an annoyance while retro gaming. There’s nevertheless nostalgia there however, and it’s interesting that some ideas were dropped before loading times were shortened. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: No Portrait Available

Wayback Wednesday: No Portrait Available

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at the “No Portrait Available” placeholders that are a staple of old basketball video games.

Beyond obvious examples such as dated graphics, fewer modes, and less bonus content, there are some hallmarks that immediately identify basketball video games as old school. They are the approaches and design choices that modern games eschew, either because they’re no longer necessary, or newer technology facilitates preferable solutions. These days, you’d never see a Free Agents Pool that’s limited to the same number of players as a regular team. No active players will be represented by Roster Players, since the entire league is covered by the current licensing agreement.

That brings us to another staple of old games that we no longer see: a generic portrait for players who are missing a proper one. If you’ve been playing basketball games for a long time, these players with no available portrait will be part of the nostalgia that you feel for old favourites, whether it’s the approach in general or some more specific examples. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: A Tribute to DB Commander

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m paying tribute to some very useful software in our modding community: DB Commander.

There have been a number of important modding tools developed over the years. The early NBA Live editors tipped everything off, bringing modding to games that were definitely not designed with it in mind. They were followed by the NBA Live Toolkit, which made editing the new roster database files so much simpler. The EA Graphics Editor and other tools expanded modding (or patching, as it used to be called) beyond rosters, facilitating a plethora of custom faces, jerseys, courts, and more. When NBA 2K came to PC, REDitor II, RED MC, and other utilities made modding viable.

However, one of the most useful tools in NBA Live modding didn’t come from our community. That wasn’t unusual of course, as some of our most frequently-used modding tools were originally developed for other EA Sports PC releases. The one that I’m talking about today is a commercial solution, though many of us did stick with the shareware release. That program is DB Commander, developed by T&T Solutions. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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