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NLSC Podcast #286: Online, Casuals, & Simulation

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Episode #286 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing the focus of online play in NBA Live and NBA 2K, and what that means for different types of basketball gamers.

We tip things off with a quick look ahead to the 2019 NBA Finals, as well as a few thoughts on the forthcoming gameplay patch for NBA Live 19. After catching up on the news, we dive into this week’s discussion topic: online, casuals, and simulation. We reflect on some recent Jordan Rec Center games in NBA 2K19, and how they’ve been indicative of changing attitudes towards the importance of sim-style virtual basketball. This leads us to question whether the core demographic is as sim as it used to be, or whether we’re now on the outer fringe. We also attempt to categorise the different types of hoops gamers, and throw out a few suggestions for improving the online experience by addressing various issues including matchmaking and gatekeeping.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on the current direction of online play, and gameplay in general? 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.

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Monday Tip-Off: Brown Shirt & Grey Sweatpants

Brown Shirt & Grey Sweatpants (NBA 2K14 MyCAREER)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at the perennial default outfit for all of our MyPLAYERs: a brown shirt and grey sweatpants.

Am I really supposed to talk about basketball video games in the wake of the Game of Thrones finale? Well, that is what we’re all about here at the NLSC, so yes; I’ll keep my focus on the virtual hardwood! After the heaviness of that finale however, I feel like tackling a lighter subject to tip things off this week. I’m usually not one to talk about fashion – these are not Barbie dress-up games, as we’ve been reliably informed – but I am going to talk about clothes this week. More specifically, I’m talking about the outfit that our MyPLAYER wears at the beginning of every MyCAREER game.

The brown shirt and grey sweatpants that we continue to sport at the beginning of our journey on the Road to 99 has become a staple of the MyCAREER experience. As a default outfit, it’s visually unremarkable, yet still full of meaning as far as the whole experience is concerned. Interestingly, it’s a look that more than a handful of gamers are actively choosing for themselves, at a point where a majority of MyCAREER and Playground devotees are opting for more outlandish outfits. Humble attire as it may be, those brown shirts and grey sweatpants are something of a running gag, a clever gimmick, and a deceptive tactic all rolled into one.

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The Friday Five: 5 Toxic Behaviours of Online Basketball Gamers

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 discusses five toxic behaviours that are all too frequently encountered in online basketball gaming.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of fun playing NBA Live or NBA 2K online this year. I have taken part in some very enjoyable games, and that’s kept me from giving up on the online modes altogether, but it’s felt like the experience has taken another step backwards. The lack of deep matchmaking and proper balance, gatekeeping measures such as requiring five users per side in Pro-Am, and increased focus on meta-gaming, have made online play a lot less fun in NBA 2K. Meanwhile, input lag and other gameplay issues have afflicted NBA Live’s online experience.

It’s not just issues with modes and mechanics, however. We gamers also bear much of the responsibility here, as there is a lot of toxicity among those who like to play NBA 2K and NBA Live online. I’ve discussed toxic behaviour in the community before, and since writing that Monday Tip-Off article, the situation hasn’t improved. Various aspects of the games do cultivate a toxic atmosphere and attitudes, as evident by other online gaming communities that are friendlier or more sporting, but ultimately we’re responsible for our own actions. To that end, curbing these five toxic behaviours will require a combination of changes to the games, and improvements in our attitudes.

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The Friday Five: 5 Improvements for LIVE Run & LIVE Events

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 I’d like to see made to LIVE Run and LIVE Events in NBA Live 20 and beyond.

As EA Play 2019 and another preview season loom, we await detailed information on NBA Live 20. We know that the game is coming out and that unfortunately for PC users it will be console-only, but at this early stage, there are still many other things that we are waiting and hoping to hear. While we’ve already submitted our Wishlist and development is well underway, it’s definitely still worth discussing the features and changes that we’d like to see. Not only does it reiterate what we’ve outlined in our Wishlists, you never know what can be pencilled in for post-release updates.

When I discussed ways to improve the online experience in NBA 2K20, I noted that I have become more interested in online modes in recent games, after years of being an offline gamer. I still believe in the importance of robust offline modes, which is why I compiled a list of ways to improve NBA Live’s Franchise mode back in March. The One and its connected experiences have received the most focus in recent years, and I have had some fun with them, jumping on for a game of LIVE Run or taking part in some of the LIVE Events. However, they haven’t felt quite as enjoyable or rewarding as the online modes in NBA 2K. Here are five improvements that could change that.

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The Friday Five: 5 Gimmicky Features That Turned Out Great

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 gimmicky features that turned out to be great additions to basketball video games.

If you’ve been playing basketball video games for some time and experienced more than a couple of preview seasons, it’s tough not to get cynical. Chances are you’ve bought into the hype and been disappointed at least once over the years, and have likely learned to take previews with a grain of salt. Many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to features that sound gimmicky, particularly if they’re given a name that makes for a good blurb on the back of the box, but doesn’t sound like it will address our concerns regarding the experience on the virtual hardwood.

Of course, names can be deceiving. Some of the best features don’t have fancy names, while other times it’s the features with gimmicky labels that have a positive impact. A feature needs a marketable name if it’s going to be a selling point, and as long as it’s something that enhances the game, it’s all for the best. Thankfully, there have been several such features throughout the years, some being very pleasant surprises after a gimmicky name initially led us to be dismissive of them. Most of us will undoubtedly remain somewhat sceptical whenever we encounter fancy names during the preview season, but here are five features that turned out great despite sounding gimmicky.

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Monday Tip-Off: What NBA 2K Can Learn From Mortal Kombat 11

Start-Up Frames Explanation in Mortal Kombat 11

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at how NBA 2K could stand to take a few cues from Mortal Kombat 11.

The fact that I’ve been running a site dedicated to basketball gaming for eighteen years may lead you to believe that hoops games are all that I play, but in fact, I do enjoy quite a few other genres. As a gamer growing up in the 90s, there weren’t many games as cool (or should I say, kool) as Mortal Kombat. The MK series has obviously been very popular and successful through the years, and like many other gamers, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Mortal Kombat 11 last week. My copy arrived, I finished story mode in a single sitting, and am now looking forward to new kontent.

Fighting games and basketball games don’t have a whole lot in common – the cameos by Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam aside – but as I was going through all of the advanced tutorials in MK11, I was struck by their depth compared to NBA 2K’s 2KU. In addition to explaining the basic controls, Mortal Kombat 11’s tutorials provide a deep dive into the game’s mechanics, teaching gamers the fundamentals for playing competitively online and offline. With NBA 2K leaning so heavily on meta-gaming and mastering the minutia of its mechanics, there’s much that it could – and should – take from NetherRealm Studios’ latest release.

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NLSC Podcast #282: A Tale of Six MyCAREER Stories

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Episode #282 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing the story-driven approach to MyCAREER that was introduced back in NBA 2K14.

After a quick round-up of the news, including an upcoming NBA Street event in NBA Live 19 and the latest patch for NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, we dive into this week’s main topic: MyCAREER stories. We begin with our overall impressions of the story-driven approach to MyCAREER over the past six games, and then move on to discuss each game’s story in detail. Along the way, we identify what we’ve liked and disliked the most about each tale and MyCAREER stories in general, and suggest ways that the approach could improve as a new generation looms.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on MyCAREER stories? 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.

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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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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve Online Modes in NBA 2K20

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 improve online modes in NBA 2K20.

For many years, there wasn’t much that I could personally say about online play. I was mostly an offline basketball gamer, and while I was only too eager to pass along any feedback on behalf of online gamers, it wasn’t an experience that I took a whole lot of interest in. That changed in NBA 2K16, when Arcane and I were encouraged to join Kenny, The X, and Valor for some 2K Pro-Am games. I had enjoyed playing a few games of Online Team Play in NBA Live 08 as it was new and interesting, and Pro-Am proved to be an enjoyable spin on the concept.

As much as I value the single player experiences in modern basketball games, there’s no denying the importance of online modes. Visual Concepts clearly has a lot invested in the online experience, not only through providing a variety of ways to play online in NBA 2K, but also through their partnership with the NBA for the NBA 2K League. Despite that focus, and the general popularity of online play in NBA 2K, there are some major drawbacks and troubling legacy issues that need to be addressed in future games. I’m hoping that NBA 2K20 does see some key improvements in the game’s online modes, and this is how I believe that can be achieved.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Empty Neighborhoods of NBA 2K PC

Deserted Cages in NBA 2K PC

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 lack of online activity in NBA 2K PC, as evident by the empty Neighborhoods outside of the US servers.

Since the launch of the current console generation, I’ve been picking up NBA 2K on both PC and PlayStation 4. This has led to a balancing act that usually results in one of the platforms being largely neglected. Because I’ve played a lot of 2K Pro-Am with the rest of the NLSC squad on PS4, the copy that’s usually gone to waste for me is the PC version. This year, I’ve made a better effort to play both of my copies, and had a lot of fun doing so. I’m almost at the point where I have a second MyPLAYER on PC at 90 Overall, and I’ve built up decent MyTEAM squads on both platforms.

However, while both platforms have been viable in terms of providing an enjoyable single player experience, it’s a different matter when it comes to online play. In short, if it’s a multiplayer experience I’m after, I’m choosing the PS4 over the PC every time. The simple reason for that is with the way The Neighborhood in particular functions, I’ve found it impossible to get a game. Firing up MyCAREER and loading into The Neighborhood drops you into an eerily empty and quiet game world, with no one in sight to play with or against. It’s not quite the same on the US servers, but for those of us in other regions, NBA 2K PC is a ghost town online.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ways to Improve MyCAREER in NBA 2K20

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 improve MyCAREER in NBA 2K20.

MyCAREER remains the most popular mode in NBA 2K, both for the ability to live the life of an NBA player, and participate in online multiplayer gaming through the connected experiences of 2K Pro-Am and The Playground. It has achieved popularity through being a deep and robust mode, and innovations such as detailed stories. While its implementation of VC has at times been controversial due to the way it encourages microtransactions, it’s contributed greatly to the recurrent revenue model despite some vocal grumbling from gamers. Overall, it’s been a huge success for NBA 2K.

Nevertheless, both the offline and online aspects of MyCAREER still have room for improvement. I’ve enjoyed the experiences they offer despite traditionally being a franchise gamer, and found myself getting drawn back into MyCAREER in NBA 2K19 despite feeling that this may be the year to take a break. Having played the mode extensively over the past few years, I have a few thoughts on how it could provide an even better experience for basketball gamers. From the handling of the story and goodwill, to game balance and better functionality, here are five ways that NBA 2K20 could make an already great mode even better.

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Monday Tip-Off: Repaving the Road to 99

Level Rewards on the Road to 99 (NBA 2K19 MyCAREER)

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 ideas on how to improve the Road to 99 in future iterations of NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

The Road to 99 is a smart concept. From our point of view, it’s a good incentive to keep playing and levelling up in MyCAREER, providing both rewards and a feeling of accomplishment. Not unlike the Trophies and Achievements, we can get a high from unlocking new rewards, and seeing our Overall Rating climb higher and higher. From 2K’s perspective, it’s a brilliant way of encouraging engagement, and of course, microtransactions. After all, the quickest way to level up and get all that cool stuff is to buy VC for some quick boosts!

All cynicism over recurrent revenue mechanics aside, it is a fun concept, providing some added purpose to levelling up as high as you can. It gives the Overall Rating more meaning, and with some of the abilities that we can unlock, aptly represents the kind of influence players can have as they become stars and franchise cornerstones. Of course, while the Road to 99 is a great idea, it could be better implemented. Some milestones could be placed elsewhere on the Road to 99, while other logical rewards aren’t on offer at all. To that end, I’m taking a shot at repaving the Road to 99, with a few suggestions on how to handle the milestones and their rewards moving forward.

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NLSC Podcast #279: Fixing 2K Pro-Am & The Online Experience

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Episode #279 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! Arcane and I are your hosts this week, and we’re debuting a revamped format. As I previously noted, we’re looking to focus on one main discussion topic per episode, following a brief round-up of any news and community announcements. We’re hoping that this will also allow us to conduct more interviews, and produce other special features.

We’re tipping off the revamped NLSC Podcast with a quick recap of Patch 1.23 for NBA Live 19 and Patch 1.09 for NBA 2K19, before getting into this week’s topic: the problems with 2K Pro-Am, and how we’d fix them. 2K Pro-Am is a mode that we’ve played a lot these past few years, and frequently talked about on the show. We’ve had a lot of fun with it, but we’ve also endured several frustrating sessions, due in large part to changes that have not always been for the better. After identifying the most pressing issues with 2K Pro-Am, we suggest a few possible solutions that we’d like to see implemented in NBA 2K20 and beyond.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on 2K Pro-Am, and how would you improve it? 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.

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Monday Tip-Off: Experiments in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER

Retiring in MyCAREER (NBA 2K19)

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 experiments in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, and the discoveries about the mode that they’ve yielded.

Once again, despite my belief that I was over the career experience on the virtual hardwood, I’ve ended up playing MyCAREER extensively in NBA 2K19. It’s been a fun and rewarding experience this year, and I’ve enjoyed grinding my way up to 90 Overall without buying any VC, completing the first season and bringing another virtual championship to Chicago, and more recently, hitting 92 Overall and maxing out all my Badges. The online experience hasn’t been stellar this year, but I can say that I’ve enjoyed much of what the single player portion of MyCAREER has to offer.

Spending so much time with MyCAREER has piqued my interest in finding out more about the mode. In addition to the observations I’ve made over the course of playing my main game, I’ve also run a few experiments with additional saves. I’ve wondered whether certain events are scripted and consistent, if there’s a game over should you play or sim long enough, the mechanics of the Daily Prize Wheel, and even the speed of the bikes. Through those experiments, and a thorough playthrough of the mode, I’ve compiled some information about MyCAREER that I hope will be both helpful and interesting to gamers who may have similar questions about all of its ins and outs.

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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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