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Monday Tip-Off: Can NBA Live Be Relevant Again?

Monday Tip-Off: Can NBA Live Be Relevant Again?

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: can NBA Live be relevant again?

As a long-time basketball gamer that grew up with NBA Live, it gives me no joy to dump on the franchise. I believe that there are content creators out there who delight at the series’ struggles and subsequently ripping into it, but I’m certainly not one of them. For all the great things that NBA 2K has done, the slips in quality here and there, and of course the increased focus on microtransactions, demonstrate why it’s important to have choice and competition in the basketball gaming space. Some say NBA Live should just pack it in, but frankly, we need it, and we need it to succeed.

Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done. NBA Live has struggled to get to where it needs to be over the past decade. Again, it brings me no joy to say that, nor do I relish pointing out that not only has its quality suffered, but so has its relevance. Indeed, a friend of mine who isn’t really into basketball, but picked up NBA 2K20 on special after watching The Last Dance, mentioned he was surprised that EA Sports doesn’t have a new basketball game out. It’s not surprising that someone who isn’t into the scene doesn’t know the full story behind the fall of NBA Live, but nevertheless, it speaks volumes about its relevance today. The question is: can EA change that?

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Monday Tip-Off: The Right Direction for NBA Live

Monday Tip-Off: The Right Direction for NBA Live

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 the right direction for NBA Live.

Needless to say, the past decade has been tough for NBA Live. Through cancelled titles and skipped years, the series has seen only five releases during that span. There have been promising aspects and good ideas present in those five games, and it could be argued that at least a couple of titles have been solid, but EA Sports has failed to move the needle. NBA Live is still languishing far behind where it needs to be as a viable alternative to NBA 2K and the enormous gulf in sales speaks volumes. NBA 2K has its issues, but NBA Live hasn’t been able to capitalise on gamer frustration.

The good news is that the door hasn’t been slammed shut on NBA Live. Thanks to a combination of readily apparent potential and 2K squandering goodwill, there is still interest in seeing NBA Live return to its former glory. Unfortunately, the series’ steps towards reaching that goal haven’t been as large as many of us would’ve liked, and one of the main reasons for that is the direction of the series. More specifically, this includes both the particular choices that have been made, and the tendency to change direction too often. NBA Live needs to have the right focus moving forward, but that raises the question: what is the right direction for NBA Live to take?

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The Friday Five: 5 Ideas That Were Better In Theory

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 is a list of five ideas in basketball games that I believe were better in theory.

Basketball video games – and sports games in general – are often accused of being little more than expensive annual roster updates. As my interview with former NBA Live programmer Rod Reddekopp revealed though, even in the early days, a lot of code had to be rewritten and updated every year. Unless there are significant and noticeable changes in the modes, graphics, or gameplay however, it’s quite likely that we won’t appreciate all that work. On top of that, each new game needs some kind of hook, a fancy selling point that can be promoted in previews and on the back cover.

From our point of view, we want basketball games to keep getting better and add new content, and that means exploring new ideas. Whether it’s a change to the controls or a new gameplay mechanic, improved presentation and details, a new or enhanced mode, or additional historical content, we always want to see freshness and innovation. Our Wishlists show that we have plenty of ideas of our own that we’d like to see added in future games, and developers also have their own roadmap. The problem is that not all ideas pan out, no matter how creative and promising they once seemed. Ideas like the ones I’m talking about today were good in theory, but not in execution.

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Monday Tip-Off: An Open Letter from An Old Head

Monday Tip-Off: An Open Letter from An Old Head

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 an open letter to younger basketball gamers and fans from an admitted old head of 34.

Hey there, younger fans of basketball and basketball gaming! Do people still say hey for hello? I’m trying to avoid a “How do you do, fellow kids?” type of scenario here. Because let’s face it, there is a generational gap between some of us, and I’d rather not condescend to you, or look foolish with some ill-fitting slang. I’ll just stick with hey. Anyway, I’m Andrew, and to a lot of people who are into basketball and basketball video games, I would definitely qualify as an old head. At least, that’s the term I’m seeing used in a lot of online conversations to describe someone like me.

I’ll admit that at the age of 34, I still feel too young to be classified as an old head. It’s probably a fitting term, though. My all-time favourite band and television show are both only slightly younger than I am. My nostalgia is rooted in entertainment and events from well over a decade ago, and my opinions on sports, movies, television, and gaming no doubt reflect that. I’m at that odd stage where I still feel a bit rebellious towards the generations older than me, while at the same time starting to feel like a grumpy old man. Before I completely devolve into yelling at clouds however, I’d like to try bridging the gap between an old head like me and the younger generation.

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NLSC Podcast #292: MyCAREER Killed The Franchise Mode

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #292 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Arcane is back on the show this week as we catch up on the latest NBA 2K20 news, and discuss how a focus on career modes this generation has affected the course and quality of basketball gaming.

‘Tis the preview season, which means that there’s a lot of talk about bullshotting as new NBA 2K20 screenshots continue to drop. The soundtrack for this year’s game has also been revealed, not only bringing tracks from the big names, but also providing an opportunity for unsigned artists. However, the biggest news of the week is that the NBA 2K20 Demo will be released on August 21st. We speculate on what the new MyPLAYER builder might entail, what other content we can expect, and how the demo experience will translate to the full release. After noting the lack of NBA content in recent NBA 2K demos, we move on to this week’s featured discussion: has the focus on career modes adversely affected other modes, and the basketball gaming experience in general? As much as we’ve enjoyed MyCAREER this generation, it does feel as though other aspects of the games have been neglected. We consider what this might mean for the genre moving forward, and whether it’s another sign we’re no longer part of the core demographic.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the latest NBA 2K20 news, and the heavy focus on career modes in today’s basketball games? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

Monday Tip-Off: Should NBA Live Be More Like NBA 2K?

James Harden shoots in NBA Live 19

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 an interesting and important question that continues to be hotly debated: should NBA Live be more like NBA 2K?

As NBA Live continues to rebuild and re-establish itself in the face of NBA 2K’s dominance, there is a debate among basketball gamers as to the best direction for the game. There are gamers who would prefer that NBA Live remains distinctly different to NBA 2K in focus, style, and approach, and generally reject any suggestions that Live should borrow ideas from 2K. Conversely, as noted here on Reddit, there are others who would prefer that NBA Live essentially copy NBA 2K, but for a few details here and there (such as avoiding 2K’s approach to microtransactions).

Naturally, between those two extremes are more nuanced suggestions about NBA Live doing its own thing, while also borrowing some of NBA 2K’s best ideas (and in some cases, putting its own spin on them). To that end, of course, there’s still debate as to which ideas should be borrowed, how closely NBA Live should mimic what NBA 2K is doing, and to what extent any 2K concepts should be reworked. It leaves us with the question of whether or not NBA Live should be more like NBA 2K, or as the thread over on Reddit put it, “NBA 2K re-skinned” rather than NBA Live. For me, the answer is yes…and no.

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The Friday Five: 5 Gameplay Improvements NBA Live 20 Needs

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 is a list of five improvements that NBA Live 20 needs to demonstrate in terms of its gameplay.

If NBA Live 20 is to be the big release many of us are hoping it will be, it will need to improve upon an area that’s been a perennial weakness since the series returned back in 2013: its modes. The different modes of play are what give basketball games their longevity, and this year’s release from EA Sports must add long overdue features and depth to Franchise, Ultimate Team, and online modes. Deeper customisation is also a must. Of course, while these are all vital areas of NBA Live that require attention, it’s crucial that above all, the gameplay experience continues to improve.

NBA Live’s gameplay has gone through some interesting ups and downs during this generation. NBA Live 14 felt very stiff on the sticks, with animations that looked very “last gen”. Since then, improvements have been made to the fluidity, the depth of the controls, and certain animations. Most NBA Live gamers would agree that there is still plenty of room for improvement, and I’m unquestionably in that camp. What are the most important changes and improvements that need to be made to gameplay in NBA Live 20? We compiled some great ideas in the Wishlist that we sent in to EA, but this week, I’d like to discuss five key areas where Live’s gameplay must improve.

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The Friday Five: 5 Interesting Ways to Play Basketball Games

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 is a list of five ways to make your basketball gaming experiences more interesting.

As we discussed in last week’s episode of the NLSC Podcast, the offseason is upon us, which means we’ve put in nine solid months of gaming with last season’s basketball titles. It’s around this time of the year that our habits on the virtual hardwood tend to change. Maybe we start spending time in a different mode, or try to finish up all of our business before this year’s games are released. If we’re enjoying what we’re doing, we may keep playing the current game throughout the preview season. Or, after so many months, we may feel it’s time to shelve the games and play something else.

If you are still keen on virtual hoops at this point of the year, you might feel inclined to try something different. For that matter, you may be considering new ways to play in the upcoming games, as it’s easy to get into a rut and fall back into old habits year after year. I know that I’ve often vowed to change things up by trying a different build or doing something out of the ordinary, only to opt for the familiar. There are some ideas that I’d like to try out at some point though, as well as a few that I have tried, if only briefly. If you’d like a different basketball gaming experience, consider these suggestions this offseason, or come NBA Live 20 and NBA 2K20.

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NLSC Podcast #283: A Chat With Izzy Snow

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #283 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, my guest co-host is Izzy Snow, long-time community member, content creator, and the NBA Live 14 Gamer of the Year!

Izzy Snow joins the show to discuss his recent experiences with the full version of NBA Elite 11. This leads to a discussion of whether it was better for EA Sports to cancel the game outright, or if it would’ve been less damaging to release it and weather the bad reviews. We also talk about the current state of NBA Live and offer up some further thoughts on the issues with game modes, particularly Ultimate Team. In addition to revisiting NBA Live 06 on Xbox 360 and the question of where NBA Live needs to go from here, we also talk changes in the community, the need for competition, gaming habits as we get older, PC gaming and modding, NBA Playgrounds, and how Izzy became the NBA Live 14 Gamer of the Year back in 2014.

Tune in below!

Thanks once again to Izzy for joining the show this week, and be sure to let us know your thoughts on the topics that we discussed. Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

Monday Tip-Off: Are Basketball Gamers Still Sim?

NBA 2K has been drifting from the sim style

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 whether or not basketball gamers are still in favour of sim gameplay and game modes.

For many years, we basketball gamers would talk about how we wanted to see the five-on-five games become more realistic. As technology improved, we saw a steady and pleasing increase in the level of simulation basketball, with NBA 2K in particular achieving some fantastic results in developing sim gameplay. Sim gameplay is what we always emphasised in our Wishlists, and the cause was likewise championed by Da_Czar, the President of Sim Nation who now puts his knowledge and enthusiasm for realistic virtual basketball to use as a developer on the NBA 2K team.

However, despite the influence of Da_Czar, as well as other sim-oriented developers such as Scott O’Gallagher and Gameplay Director Mike Wang, NBA 2K has been drifting towards a more casual style. The change is definitely not due to a lack of knowledge, dedication, talent, or resources, as we’ve seen what NBA 2K is capable of in terms of being an outstanding basketball sim. NBA Live, despite having its roots in a sim style, has also been focusing more on the streetball side of things in The One. These changes in style are obviously being done to appease the core demographic. As such, it’s not just about whether or not the games are sim, but if we gamers are, too.

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NLSC Podcast – Episode #274

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #274 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! It’s been a busy week in basketball gaming with multiple patches and content updates, while things have also been interesting in the real NBA thanks to the trade deadline. Along with what we’ve been doing on the virtual hardwood, it’s given Kenny and I plenty to talk about.

On this week’s show…

  • NBA Live 19 received a substantial title and content update this week. Getting a trade deadline roster update in time for the weekend was a pleasant surprise, but the addition of in-game injuries came as even better news. It leads us to reflect on some changes that were patched into NBA Live 10 all those years ago.
  • Following up on Patch 1.08 for NBA 2K19, there have indeed been some improvements in terms of cutting down on body steals. Will the changes stick for NBA 2K20, though?
  • With NBA 2K trying to strike a balance between its sim roots, competitive online play, and occasional demands for less realism, has the series become a victim of its own success due to the influx of more casual basketball gamers?
  • NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has received new content, just in time for the All-Star Weekend (and Valentine’s Day). We share a few more opinions on the game, and also discuss the removal of the first NBA Playgrounds game from the Steam Store.
  • Our Week in Basketball Gaming included progress into Season 2 of MyCAREER, an online session for the NLSC crew, LIVE Events swag, and MyTEAM Domination. It also included a bit of modding, with further updates to a work-in-progress roster update for NBA 2K11.
  • We wrap up Episode #274 of the NLSC Podcast with this week’s NBA discussion. Topics include the flurry of movement at the trade deadline, and a look ahead to the 2019 All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.

Click Play to listen to the show!

Have some thoughts on the latest episode? Got a mailbag question or topic suggestion for the next show? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

Monday Tip-Off: Online vs. Offline in Basketball Gaming

Playing online in LIVE Run (NBA Live 19)

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 the divide between online and offline enthusiasts within the basketball gaming community, and how it’s affecting the development of hoops titles.

By definition, fanatics are not always logical, with measured, reasonable opinions. It’s a rare fanbase that doesn’t have some sort of schism, if not a multitude of factions that hold differing opinions. I touched on one such example in last week’s feature, noting that there’s often dissonance when it comes to younger gamers, and those who have been playing basketball games for a long time (in some cases, more than a couple of decades). There are a lot of things that most basketball gamers want and can agree on, but also some very different ideas about features, identity, and overall direction.

The most noticeable schism within the basketball gaming community would have to be between online and offline gamers. The rise of online gaming in general, and the expansion of multiplayer modes in basketball games specifically, has led to a faction of hoops gamers who play exclusively online, with little interest in the offline modes. At the same time, there are a lot of gamers who prefer the single player experience. In the middle of the Venn diagram are gamers who play both online and offline to some extent, sitting in the crossfire of two passionate factions who are not only taking shots at developers, but also each other. Unfortunately, it makes us a hard group to please.

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Monday Tip-Off: NBA Live’s Identity & Longevity

Cherashore Tournament in The Streets World Tour (NBA Live 19)

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 NBA Live needs to establish its identity, and deliver an experience with greater longevity.

There seems to be somewhat of a divide and a notable amount of unrest among NBA Live gamers at the moment. At a time when we should be consolidating out feedback – obligatory cheap plug for our NBA Live 20 Wishlist – there’s a lot of argument about the future of the series. Many gamers are expressing concerns and frustration, while others are arguing that we must all be supportive and, to borrow a slogan, trust the process. Both sides have a point and are coming from a good place, though I do find myself agreeing more with the former group.

That’s probably because the group that’s most frustrated tend to be gamers my age. We remember a time when NBA Live was the dominant brand in 5v5 sim-oriented NBA games, and all the things that made it successful. Needless to say, that’s led to a bit of sneering at us allegedly out of touch “old heads”; a term that’s quickly come to highlight the toxicity in today’s basketball gaming community. At the same time, it is certainly easy to get caught up in the past, and we do need to have some patience, but it’s getting tougher for a lot of NBA Live loyalists to remain patient. Ultimately, NBA Live needs to forge an appealing identity that results in longevity and a deeper game.

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The Friday Five: 5 Stages of Playing Through a Season

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 lists the five stages of playing through a season in any basketball video game mode.

As I write this, I’m approaching the end of the regular season in my MyCAREER game in NBA 2K19. Once again, not a bad effort for someone who was supposedly burned out on career modes! Having sufficiently levelled up my player for the online experiences, I am in a position where I can take a break from MyCAREER, but I also feel compelled to at least play through to the end of the first season. After all, I’m potentially less than thirty games away from cleaning up in the regular season awards, and leading the Chicago Bulls to another (virtual) championship.

I’ve played through at least one full season in multiple basketball games, including NBA Live 2004, NBA Live 06, NBA 2K13, and NBA 2K17. There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment in doing so, and if you’re really into the game, then the season does go by much quicker. It still takes some time though – especially if you’re playing twelve minute quarters – and there are undoubtedly moments where you must push yourself to complete the journey, particularly if you aren’t simulating any games. You’ll probably end up experiencing the five stages of playing through a season: a list that I’m making up, but one that I believe will resonate with many basketball gamers.

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The Friday Five: 5 Alternatives to Overall Ratings

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 explores five possible alternatives to having Overall Ratings in basketball video games.

If you play basketball video games – and in particular, if you maintain the rosters for them – then Overall Ratings often cause a lot of hassle. I’ve written not one but two articles on the matter, and since then, the situation sadly hasn’t gotten any better. During this past preview season, there was plenty of grumbling when an Overall Rating was revealed and it didn’t seem quite right. For their part, players themselves have strong opinions as to what their ratings should be. Of course, many of them feel they should be 90+ Overall; even rookies who still have everything to prove!

Overall Ratings remain a point of contention in basketball games (and sports games in general), but unfortunately, they are a necessary evil. They provide us with a succinct overview of a player’s value and standing in the league compared to his peers, which is important when trying to put together trades in the franchise modes. The concept of 99 Overall Ratings also gives us a lofty goal to shoot for in the career modes. As such, Overall Ratings aren’t going anywhere. I do think we need them, but what if we were to replace them with a less controversial system? Does such a solution exist? Well, here are five possibilities that I can think of, that might be viable alternatives.

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