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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: 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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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: Aiming For Stats & Records

Monday Tip-Off: Aiming For Stats & Records

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 what it’s like when we aim for stats and records on the virtual hardwood.

Not to sound like a grumpy old man or anything, but there’s a big emphasis on stats and records in the NBA these days. That’s not to say they weren’t ever relevant, or something that fans and players alike never cared about. Wilt Chamberlain was very much aware of his stats and records, so this mentality predates the three-point era, let alone the past couple of generations. However, it does seem like everyone is obsessed with numbers these days – including rather obscure statistical achievements – to the point where actually winning games and even championships seems secondary.

It’s interesting how this mentality also applies to basketball gaming. Of course, we’ve long used hoops games to put up crazy numbers, leading to a big night for players in real life to be referred to as a “video game performance”. A handful of video games over the past couple of generations have even challenged us to put up stats and beat NBA records for Trophies and Achievements. The funny thing is that it’s not always easy to post ridiculous numbers on the virtual hardwood, or to replicate the feats of NBA greats and record holders. Also, while it’s fun to try alone, chasing records and stats can be a disastrous approach in online play, coming at the expense of winning.

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NLSC Podcast #418: House Rules, Epic Duels, & Offline Views

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #418 of the NLSC Podcast!

Mad as it may seem, we were compelled to revisit NBA Live 07 for Xbox 360 this week. It’s as rough as we remembered, and doesn’t hold a candle to NBA Live 06 on the same platform, which was a far more fun game to dust off! The College Hoops 2K8 Tournament has also been a blast to play and to watch, with the Sweet 16 almost in the books. After catching up on some recent stories from NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, we discuss house rules when playing against the CPU. What’s the best way to ensure fairness, and challenge? In this week’s mailbag, we’re talking about ideas for offline modes and content. As you might expect, the community isn’t just about the online experience these days!

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: Hacking MyCAREER in Older Games

Monday Tip-Off: Hacking MyCAREER in Older 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 by recounting the fun I’ve recently had with hacking MyCAREER in older games.

Here at the NLSC, our stance on hacking modes such as MyCAREER and MyTEAM has been the same as our policy on piracy: we don’t support it. Since we already walk a fine line with modding, we try to stay on the right side of both the law and our host’s terms of service, in order to avoid any unwanted repercussions. On top of that, there’s also the matter of fairness. While we can understand wanting to stick it to a Triple-A publisher by hacking MyCAREER or MyTEAM for content and in-game currencies, it’s also upsetting the competitive balance, and ruining things for your fellow gamers.

To that end, recounting my experiences hacking a MyCAREER save probably seems quite hypocritical. Here I am preaching fairness, while going against our own rules and community philosophy; talk about double standards! If you’re grumbling, I can appreciate where you’re coming from. However, there is a distinct difference between hacking to gain advantages in the connected modes of MyCAREER while the servers are still online, and messing around with an offline save years later. In fact, that’s a distinction that we can perhaps draw in our rules moving forward, because at a certain point, hacking MyCAREER for your own enjoyment does become fair game.

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The Friday Five: 5 Concepts That Changed NBA 2K Forever

The Friday Five: 5 Concepts That Changed NBA 2K Forever

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 concepts that ended up changing NBA 2K forever.

I’m no psychologist, but I’d hazard a guess and say that most of us have experienced an aversion to change at some point in our lives. Whether it’s apprehension of new surroundings, nostalgia goggles, or just plain comfort with the current arrangements, we’d prefer things not to change. Not to get too deep here – again, I’m no psychologist – but it’s important to accept change as part of life, and be able to adjust and grow. Of course, not all change is desirable, and change for change’s sake can prove to be a bad idea. Given the choice, it would’ve been preferable to leave things as they were.

We’ve seen a lot of these changes in basketball video games over the years. Many have been for the best, representing revolution and evolution within the genre. Others haven’t panned out so well. In the case of the latter, some of those concepts have only lasted a game or two before the developers scrapped them in favour of a new and better solution; or perhaps, returned to an old approach that still works best. Other concepts unfortunately stick around despite their negative impact, or at the very least, mixed results. For better or worse, these concepts have forever changed the NBA 2K series as we know it, either from a mechanical or philosophical standpoint.

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NLSC Podcast #410: Community Wishes For NBA 2K23

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From courtside of the virtual hardwood, it’s Episode #410 of the NLSC Podcast!

We had an exciting modding breakthrough this week, which means our All-Time Teams roster mod for NBA Live 96 PC is going to feature a detail that we could only dream of having back in the day! Our NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Tournament has also produced some great action so far, and once again, everyone seems to be having a fantastic time with it. Seeing as how it’s Wishlist season, this week’s extended mailbag segment is dedicated to what the community wants to see in NBA 2K23. We read out the suggestions that our listeners sent in, and give our thoughts on some great ideas for the next NBA 2K game.

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 Best Parts of Modern Basketball Gaming

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five examines the five best parts of modern basketball gaming.

Since I’ve taken a look at the best and worst parts of retro basketball gaming, it’s only fair that I reflect on the pros and cons of their modern equivalents. As I’ve said, while I do have a passion for retro basketball gaming and will always advocate for it, I’m also a fan of the modern games and spend a lot of time with them. New isn’t always better, but by the same token, old isn’t unsurpassable. Not everything holds up well, and basketball video games have come a long way in the decades that I’ve been playing them. And yes, saying that does make me feel very old.

Not so old that I can’t enjoy modern basketball gaming, however! Indeed, even if certain aspects aren’t completely to my taste, I can still appreciate them and see their appeal to other gamers; particularly gamers younger than me. It’s very easy to get caught up in what we don’t like about modern basketball gaming, and to that point, there are many valid criticisms that we can make. I will be getting to them in next week’s article, but for now, let’s focus on the best parts of modern basketball gaming. These are the five that spring to mind for me, and I’m sure you’ll agree that they represent evolution in the genre, and incentive to check out the new game each year.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Myopia of Mastering Mechanics

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 there’s a certain amount of myopia that comes with mastering mechanics on the virtual hardwood.

I think we can all agree that there should be some degree of challenge in basketball video games. A game that is easily mastered and beaten tends to be boring, though hoops titles – even sim-oriented ones – should nevertheless be accessible, and feature easier difficulty levels. When it comes to the virtual hardwood, there needn’t be a challenge on the level of the Souls series, or games like Returnal, the roguelike that was released earlier this year. Arcade or sim, they’re about representing the sport of basketball, not being exceedingly challenging and for the hardest of the hardcore.

At the same time, a certain amount of challenge and skill is expected of the online competitive scene. The best competitors are the ones mastering the mechanics and strategies that allow them to dominate and defeat their fellow gamers, not just the AI. Even offline, mastery on the sticks will allow gamers to rise to the sometimes unfair challenges of the Hall of Fame difficulty setting. This is obviously achieved through practice and dedication, which is a fair demand for the most challenging experiences in basketball gaming to make. However, in evaluating design principles and overall appeal and accessibility, mastering mechanics does unfortunately lead to myopia.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Upper End of the Demographic

Monday Tip-Off: The Upper End of the Demographic

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 being at the upper end of the basketball gaming demographic.

For all the criticism that The Simpsons receives for staying on the air as long as it has, it continues to be referenced in memes. Such is its impact on pop culture, and online discourse. There are two references to The Simpsons that are frequently trotted out to comment on age, and not surprisingly, they both involve that lovable curmudgeon, Abraham Simpson. In a flashback where a young Homer mocks Abe for being out of touch, Abe very ominously warns that when it comes to no longer being “with it“, it’ll also happen to Homer one day. Abe is also the infamous old man yelling at a cloud.

Now that I’m around Homer’s canonical age, I have to admit that I’m starting to feel what he felt in that episode. At the same time, I also relate to what Abe was talking about. Even though we Millennials are still copping flak from older generations, to Gen Z, we’reold heads“, too. We grew up admiring different players, and the video games we played didn’t have microtransactions. Our expectations are therefore quite different, and it’s apparent that many features are not aimed at us. As I said, I’m far closer to Homer in age than I am to Abe, but as I find myself at the upper end of the basketball gaming demographic, Grampa’s warning thus feels increasingly apt.

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NLSC Podcast #380: Why Isn’t This On PC?

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Episode #380 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this weekly podcast that’s all about basketball gaming.

We’re not sure if it’s a first for modding as a whole, but we may have engaged in the first remote modding session in the history of our community! Our efforts ensured that we’ll be able to set up retro teams in NBA Live 10 quickly and easily, which we’ve already tried with fun results. We’ve also revisited NBA Jam: On Fire Edition and NBA Street Vol. 2 this week, and were reminded why we love them. Of course, it also makes us wistful about the current selection of basketball titles. Meanwhile, Madden 22 PC being a Current Gen port raises some concerns. We also catch up on recent mod releases including NBL 2K21 and a great Larry Bird face, and note a potential NBA 2K22 leak. In this week’s mailbag, we recall NBA Action 95 for the Sega Genesis, and compare toxicity among NBA 2K gamers to other communities.

Join in the conversation in the comments below, or here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as mailbag questions and topic suggestions for future shows. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. The show also comes out on our YouTube channel, so be sure to subscribe for future episodes and other video content.

Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Gaming Habits vs General Gaming Habits

Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Gaming Habits vs General Gaming Habits

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 comparisons of my basketball gaming habits to my video gaming habits in general, and considering how they reflect one another.

In many ways, basketball gaming is notably unique compared to other genres of gaming. For example, in a basketball game, you participate in the sport of basketball. In other genres – outside of mini-games – you don’t. I know that these are the thought-provoking insights that you all come to the NLSC and read my articles for! In all seriousness, basketball gaming naturally involves different expectations, activities, and habits compared to other video game genres. One generally approaches sports titles with different ideas and methods than, say, an RPG or First Person Shooter.

And yet, some gaming habits cross the boundaries of genre, and habits in general are difficult to break. To put it another way, we each have our own gaming philosophies that influence how we play all our favourite games. I’ve stuck with a certain type of MyPLAYER build for years for the same reasons many of my Fallout playthroughs ended up being remarkably similar. That’s just one example of how my basketball gaming habits resemble the way that I play other games that I enjoy, even when those games have very little to do with the virtual hardwood. It hardly gets in the way of my enjoyment, but it does make it difficult to change things up when I feel so inclined.

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Monday Tip-Off: Canned Moments & The Myth of the Skill Gap

Monday Tip-Off: Canned Moments & The Myth of the Skill Gap

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 discussion of canned moments, and how they play into the myth of the skill gap in NBA 2K.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about NBA 2K implementing a “skill gap”. It seems that every year, we get a gameplay blog in which a new or tweaked mechanic is touted as bringing a proper skill gap to the forthcoming game. By and large, this is a promise that games have failed to deliver upon. That’s not to say that the changes aren’t improvements in their own right, or that there isn’t any skill involved in playing NBA 2K. Furthermore, gamers definitely do demonstrate different levels of skill – such as it is – especially in the online arena.

However, it isn’t a true skill gap as such, because the way one wins and loses in NBA 2K doesn’t necessarily come down to skill; or at least, not pure stick skills. There are factors such as meta-gaming in MyCAREER and its connected modes, and pay-for-advantage mechanics in terms of quick MyPLAYER upgrades and pack openings in MyTEAM. I’ve discussed those issues at length before, so I won’t be going into them today. Instead, I want to talk about core mechanics that stand in the way of NBA 2K truly having a skill gap. One of the most pressing issues in that regard, as I’m sure many NBA 2K gamers are all too aware, is the prominence of canned moments.

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NLSC Podcast #372: Sports Gaming vs. Competitive Gaming

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Episode #372 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Derek (aka Dee4Three) and I are your hosts for this weekly podcast that’s all about basketball gaming.

Roster editing has come to Basketball Classics, and we’re very impressed with what Josh and Dave have managed to implement. Meanwhile, the latest patch for NBA 2K21 Next Gen is slightly less exciting, but nevertheless contains a couple of important fixes. Taking a suggestion from Twitter, this week’s main discussion concerns the difference between sports gaming and competitive gaming, and the effects that the latter has had on the NBA 2K series. We talk about how gameplay and the online scene in NBA 2K could improve, and how NBA Live could capitalise on the situation. In this week’s mailbag, we reflect on Acclaim’s NBA Jam games, and the quality of sequels.

Join in the conversation in the comments below, or here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as mailbag questions and topic suggestions for future shows. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki. The show also comes out on our YouTube channel, so be sure to subscribe for future episodes and other video content.