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Wayback Wednesday: 20 Years of Right Stick Dribbling

Wayback Wednesday: 20 Years of Right Stick Dribbling

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 reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of right stick dribbling becoming a standard aspect of controls in basketball video games.

There’s no doubt that the implementing dribbling controls on the right stick is one of the most important innovations in the history of the virtual hardwood. It’s not the only idea that has pushed the genre forward, but it has a case for being one of the best. Right stick dribbling is easy to take for granted now, as it’s become a mainstay of sim titles over the past twenty years. If you were playing basketball games when it made its debut however, you’ll remember what a big deal it was. And yes, as I am someone who remembers when it was a bold new idea, saying that does make me feel old!

Existential crises, bad knees, and yelling at clouds aside, the fact that we can now celebrate the twentieth anniversary of right stick dribbling mechanics speaks to what a great concept they’ve been. After all, we’ve seen a lot of gameplay ideas come and go, and control schemes that didn’t pan out. Right stick dribbling is a concept that was built to last, and basketball games are better for it. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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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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The Friday Five: 5 Retro Modding Ideas

The Friday Five: 5 Retro Modding Ideas

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 suggestions for retro modding projects.

As the stigma fades and retro basketball gaming increases in popularity, inevitably we start thinking about modding as well. After all, classic games are a blast to revisit as-is, but mods can breathe new life into them, too. Many of the modding tools are still available for retro basketball games, along with resources and archived mods to learn techniques from (or indeed, build upon). Even with the limitations of older titles, we’re capable of creating some outstanding mods that will facilitate new experiences on the virtual hardwood.

Needless to say, there are some challenges to overcome here. The audience is smaller, so anyone engaging in retro modding will be toiling on projects that are seen and used by fewer people. To that end, there are also fewer active modders for retro games, so some of the more ambitious projects may not have the level of detail we’d like, or be truly viable. Major roster mods in particular may need to use placeholder artwork, or whatever assets are available. That shouldn’t stop us from looking into retro modding, however. There’s always lingering interest in seeing new updates for old favourites, and there are plenty of retro modding ideas that we can and should at least consider.

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Wayback Wednesday: Playing An Older Game Second

Wayback Wednesday: Playing An Older Game Second

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 phenomenon of playing an older basketball game after its direct sequel, or one of its later successors.

Basketball video games have been around for decades now, with NBA Basketball – the very first NBA-licensed title – coming out in 1980. Furthermore, there’s been at least one annual release every year for at least a quarter of a century and counting. Every single game, good or bad, has been somebody’s first title and introduction to basketball gaming. In short, most people who are playing basketball games in 2022 haven’t been doing so since the beginning. That goes for me, too. Many gamers have hit the virtual hardwood long before I ever did in the mid 90s.

When you get into an established series, there’s a curiosity about what came before. This doesn’t just apply to video games, of course. If you catch an episode of a TV show that’s a few seasons in, or perhaps see a movie that’s part of a series or cinematic universe, you may be inclined to go back to the beginning. In basketball itself, there’s a desire to learn the history of the sport, the NBA, and other leagues…or at least, there used to be. The nature of video games makes going back to an older title after playing a newer game rather interesting, and it’s a phenomenon that I’ve experienced as both a younger and older basketball gamer. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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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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Virtual Hardwood Stories Forum Spotlight

Virtual Hardwood Stories Forum Spotlight

Times change, and different content comes in and out of fashion. However, one section of the NLSC Forum that has maintained a dedicated following throughout the years is the Stories from the Virtual Hardwood board. This is where you can share stories of your franchise and career mode games with your fellow basketball gamers, and really indulge your creativity.

There are some great active threads in the Stories from the Virtual Hardwood section at the moment, and I’d like to take a moment to spotlight them. First of all, we have “The 2K10 & Beyond Project“, a story by jubba910. This tale not only spans multiple seasons but also multiple games, beginning with the 2010 campaign in NBA 2K10. jubba910 is now up to the 2018 season in NBA 2K18, and has produced a very interesting alternate history!

Next up we have “The Wrath of the Rose” by veteran of our story section, kibaxx7. This story winds back the clock to the 1970s, with the Portland Trail Blazers’ entry into the NBA. It’s a few years in now, and has likewise produced some fun alternate history with great presentation. The tale is being told using NBA 2K14 PC and the Ultimate Base Roster.

I’ll also plug my latest story thread here, “Ain’t gonna let nobody write it, but me”. It provides running updates on my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER on PlayStation 4, in between the yearly recaps I’ve been posting in Monday Tip-Off. I’m currently in my fourth season, and expect to have it finished by the time NBA 2K23 is released.

Other regularly-updated topics include the UBR Resim by Mavsfan_1991, A Fantasy World by yeahnah, and truefaith0826‘s 1995-1996 Season. Check them out, and feel free to join in the fun yourself! Quick updates are welcome in this topic, while suggestions for telling your virtual hardwood stories can be found here. We also conducted a series of interviews with long-time contributors to the stories section some years back. Additionally, some of the best stories that have now finished can be found in the NBA Live and NBA 2K Hall of Fame boards. A big thanks to everyone who keeps the stories section going!

Monday Tip-Off: Zero-Sum Thinking & Basketball Gaming

Monday Tip-Off: Zero-Sum Thinking & Basketball Gaming

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 there’s too much zero-sum thinking in the basketball gaming community.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, zero-sum thinking involves perceiving situations as a zero-sum game; in other words, a scenario where a gain for one side means a loss for the other. Needless to say, this leads to a belief that mutual gain and benefits are impossible. Our success must come at the expense of someone else’s failure, and every situation involves a winner and a loser. Obviously there are zero-sum games and scenarios where this is true, but a bias towards zero-sum thinking does result in fallacious assertions.

Needless to say, zero-sum thinking occurs in a number of matters, many of which are more serious than basketball gaming. However, since that’s what we cover here at the NLSC, that’s the context I’m discussing here today. If you’ve observed or partaken in the discourse in the wider basketball gaming community, you’ll have encountered zero-sum thinking, even if you didn’t recognise or label it as such. Again, it’s hardly unique to basketball gaming, and is inevitable when passionate people have different ideas about their hobby. That doesn’t mean we can’t call it out though, because it does foster toxicity, and doesn’t help in the development of better basketball video games.

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NLSC Podcast #435: How EA Could Sell Us On NBA Live 24

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #435 of the NLSC Podcast!

Barring a very surprising announcement, NBA Live won’t be back in 2022. However, EA Sports has a golden opportunity to make a triumphant return with NBA Live 24 in 2023. The question is, how do they sell it to basketball gamers, and meet their expectations? We posed the question to the community, and received many enthusiastic answers as to what would encourage gamers to switch back to NBA Live, or double dip with NBA Live and NBA 2K. An old story about Julius Erving and the Utah Jazz also prompts us to consider interesting scenarios for a “What If” roster mod, and we recap a fun co-op session of NBA Inside Drive 2003 over Parsec.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

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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NLSC Podcast #434: NBA 2K23 Jordan Challenge & PC News

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #434 of the NLSC Podcast!

How much would you pay for a sealed copy of Lakers vs. Celtics? Here’s a hint: it’ll set you back more than the Championship Edition of NBA 2K23! Speaking of which, in the wake of the NBA 2K23 preview season tipping off, we discuss the cover reveals, pre-order bonuses, and the return of the Jordan Challenge. With the news that the PC version will be Current Gen once again, we consider the possible reasons for the decision, and the future of the series on the platform. We also talk about some interesting NBA Live rumours, and the underrated NBA Inside Drive series. In this week’s mailbag, the community reacts to the news about NBA 2K23 PC, and suggests new games for the Jordan Challenge.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

The Friday Five: 5 Events That Shake Your Confidence in a Game

The Friday Five: 5 Events That Shake Your Confidence in a Game

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 events that will shake your confidence in a forthcoming basketball game.

Although we can sometimes seem like a cynical bunch, I believe that a majority of basketball gamers do want to see a great new game every year. Sure, there’s a certain catharsis in a smug “I told you so”, but when it comes down to it, I expect most of us want to at least be satisfied with, if not blown away by, the latest release. It’s wise to keep our expectations realistic, and not get our hearts set on something that hasn’t been promised. At the same time, we can still be optimistic without getting carried away, or ignoring troubling signs.

To that point though, there are warning signs that we must pay attention to. These are the events that shake our confidence in a game, and for good reason. While it’s easy to jump to conclusions, there are recognisable patterns and red flags when it comes to the development of basketball video games. The longer you play them, and the more preview seasons that you experience, the better you get at recognising those signs. Also, while social media giving us access to the devs has been great for feedback, it can also leave us concerned about the people responsible for our favourite games. One way or another, these events will shake our confidence, and dampen our enthusiasm.

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Wayback Wednesday: Why Being On Fire Was So Cool in NBA Jam

Wayback Wednesday: Why Being On Fire Was So Cool in NBA Jam

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 being On Fire in the NBA Jam series, and analysing why it’s such a great video game powerup.

“He’s On Fire!” The iconic call from the legendary Tim Kitzrow echoes in the minds of all basketball gamers who’ve played NBA Jam. In fact, thanks to the game having such an impact on basketball and pop culture, people who have never played a single NBA Jam title are undoubtedly still aware of it! Being On Fire in an NBA Jam game is to arcade basketball gaming what Mario’s super mushrooms are to platformers. It’s not just a core aspect of the series’ identity, but something that its imitators have tried to replicate and put their own spin on, to varying degrees of success.

I’ve discussed the NBA Jam series several times in Wayback Wednesday features. This includes retrospectives of the original game, Tournament Edition (twice, in fact), and the overlooked 2003 release from Acclaim. I’ve investigated its unusual ratings, and reflected on other notable facts about various games in the NBA Jam lineage. However, apart from obligatory mentions when covering gameplay mechanics in my retrospectives, I’ve yet to dedicate an entire feature to being On Fire in NBA Jam. If I can talk about Kevin Edwards having the wrong portrait, I should definitely cover the game’s iconic powerup in-depth! To that end, let’s take a look back…way back…

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NLSC Podcast #433: A 10, But They Spoiled the NBA 2K23 Cover

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #433 of the NLSC Podcast!

The official Electronic Arts and WWE Games Twitter accounts made bewildering gaffes this past week, and like many of our fellow gamers, we’re unimpressed. Obsidian, meanwhile, displayed an attitude that we’d like to see more often. Elsewhere, NBA insider Shams Charania apparently leaked the NBA 2K23 cover player, and we have some thoughts on 2K’s choice. Since the NBA 2K23 preview season is almost upon us, we also reflect on NBA 2K22, summing up our final thoughts on the game, and giving it a rating out of ten. After reminiscing about a satisfying session of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, we open up the mailbag to discuss who should be the five best-rated players in NBA 2K23.

To get involved with the mailbag or to provide any feedback on the show, hit us up in the comments, reach out on social media, or post here in the NLSC Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. You can also find the show on our YouTube channel, along with the rest of our video content. As always, thanks for tuning in, and go get buckets!

The Friday Five: 5 Frustrating Restrictions in Basketball Games

The Friday Five: 5 Frustrating Restrictions in Basketball 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 five frustrating restrictions that we’ve encountered in various basketball video games.

There are obviously going to be restrictions in basketball video games, some of which we’ll find frustrating. In some cases, those restrictions are due to technical limitations. Others are design choices, and those are the ones that we find more bothersome, as we know it didn’t necessarily have to be that way. In all fairness though, these restrictions can sometimes be for the best. If not for some of them, games would be unbalanced and far less enjoyable. When cleverly implemented, restrictions can prevent exploits and ensure that games are challenging, without ruining the fun.

Striving for realism in sim games also results in restrictions that can be frustrating, but ultimately in an enjoyable way, since they reflect obstacles that teams and players do actually face in real life. To that point though, we’re bound to grumble when we’re restricted in a way that doesn’t accurately represent an NBA rule. As for frustrating restrictions that are simply design choices, there have been some over the years that just haven’t been good ideas. Alternatively, they’re good and sensible ideas in theory, but were poorly executed. Some of those restrictions are recent or rare, but others are recurring issues that we’ve been encountering in basketball games for generations.

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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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