The Friday Five: 5 Unlucky Moments in Modding

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 of the unluckiest moments that you’ll experience while modding.

With apologies once again to anyone who suffers from paraskevidekatriaphobia, it’s Friday the 13th today, which means it’s time for another Friday Five column talking about unlucky moments! I’ve been writing the Friday Five for a few years now, and in that time, we’ve had more than a couple of Friday the 13ths. In previous columns, I’ve discussed my favourite number thirteens, unlucky moments in basketball games (as well as a few of my own examples in that regard), and unlucky moments from NBA history, including one that actually took place on the date in question.

Of course, a big part of basketball gaming in our community is the hobby of modding, and it certainly has its unlucky moments as well. I’ve previously discussed one of my unluckiest moments in modding, but there are definitely more examples that I could name. I’m sure that a lot of modders have experienced at least one of these moments at one time or another, leading to them kicking themselves and cursing out their bad luck. If there’s one upside to such unfortunate moments though, it’s that they can be learning experiences, albeit very frustrating ones. Without any further ado, here are five unlucky moments in modding!

1. Losing Your Work Due to a Crash

Shaquille O'Neal on the Heat in NBA Live 2004

The idea of saving early and often was impressed upon me at an early age. The old adventure games from Sierra that I used to play basically made it into a mantra. It was something that I was advised to do in my first computer classes in primary school. To this day, I not only save documents regularly as I work on them, but I also tend to hit Ctrl-S more than once, just to be sure. In fact, I just did it as I was writing this very article. However, it’s easy enough to forget that fundamental lesson and end up losing your progress in a game, or something that you’ve been working on. Considering the scope of larger modding projects, this can be very unlucky indeed.

As I noted in a previous column, this happened to me in the middle of creating the Class of 2004 rookies for an NBA Live 2004 roster update. For whatever reason, I hadn’t been saving as I went, and the game randomly crashed as I was alt-tabbing between it and my browser. Whether it’s the game itself, one of the external modding tools, or Photoshop, software can and will crash, so it’s imperative that you save your work as you go. I didn’t, and I lost a day’s efforts as a result. Admittedly, it’s largely your own fault when it happens, so you’re kind of creating your own bad luck here. Still, it’s unlucky when a crash occurs the one time you neglect to take precautions.

2. Making a Mistake That Can’t Be Fixed

Modding Project: Ultimate Jordan Roster (NBA Live 08)

Ironically, while frequently saving your work is generally a good practice, it can also be the downfall of a modding project. While you may be taking great care to save your work so that it doesn’t get lost, what you’re saving may not be helpful in the long run. If you make a mistake early on in the modding process, it may be difficult – or in the worst case scenario, impossible – to fix it later on. Certain files can become more difficult to edit, or easier to corrupt, the more changes you make to them. A problem with a roster file may begin a domino effect, with more and more issues arising up to the point of it being unloadable, which ends up wasting hours upon hours of work.

For me, that happened with my work-in-progress Ultimate Jordan roster (which yes, I do intend to finish). Although I normally use a combination of DB Commander, batch files, and Microsoft Excel to externally edit the DBF files, I tried to speed things up by using the NBA Live 08 Editor. While the editor is safe to use in terms of the roster still working in-game, it changes the file structure, leading to problems opening the DBF files in Excel. Since that’s the quickest way to convert rosters and create batch files, I had to start over from a backup. It was just fortunate that I noticed the error early on and didn’t lose too much work, but you’re not always that lucky.

3. Deleting Work without Thinking

Have you ever thrown something away, and later regretted it? For me, that would be all of the Nintendo Magazine System issues that I owned, as well as a few basketball magazines that I threw out when I was culling my collection for storage space. It’s all too easy to do the same thing with digital content as well, such as saved games. It can happen with modding resources too, from old releases and backups to templates and works-in-progress. As noted above, you never know when you might need to revert to a previous version of a file, use a template, or re-upload an old release, so be vigilant in making backups, and be careful about what you sweep into the Recycle Bin.

I’ve generally held onto my resources and final versions of old releases, though there are some files that I still wish I had, including some early versions of EAGraph. I’m bugged by the loss of one work-in-progress in particular, especially since it was made by accident while working on a different idea. While trying to create a lighting file that made everything black and white, I accidentally made some edits that gave NBA Live 08 something of a cel-shaded look. It wasn’t until after I’d deleted the file that I realised I should’ve held onto it, and tried to develop it into its own mod. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to replicate what I accidentally created.

4. Being Beaten to the Punch

Tim Duncan on the 2001 Orlando Magic in NBA 2K14

Originality is always appreciated in the modding community, but it’s easier said than done. We generally end up with several people making face updates for the same players, and a number of jersey and court updates for the same teams. The bigger modding projects tend to be more unique of course, taking more time to complete. If a couple of people end up having the same idea, they might end up working together to ensure that a project comes to fruition, rather than creating competing releases. With that being said, it can be disheartening when you find out that you weren’t the only person to have a great idea, and unlucky if someone releases something before you.

My experience with this unlucky turn of events came in the form of an idea I had for a “What If?” roster for NBA 2K14. With other people handling the current rosters, I had an idea that I’d get into the NBA 2K modding scene with some concept mods, starting with a roster that explored various “What If?” scenarios: Tim Duncan signing with the Orlando Magic in 2000, LeBron James and Chris Bosh going to the New York Knicks as Jalen Rose predicted, and so on. As it turned out, user ChrisBrodbeck had the same idea, and managed to create such a roster while I was still planning mine. Unlucky on my part, but I’m glad that someone was able to do it, and do such a great job, too.

5. Discovering Modding Too Late In a Game’s Life Cycle

Kobe Bryant in the Complete Update Patch for NBA Live 96

No one wants to get to the party as it’s winding down, but when it comes to the hobby of modding, unfortunately that does happen quite often. Gamers who stick with an older release – which many do for a variety of reasons – may only discover us and the modding community after a lot of other people have moved on to a newer release. Eager for fresh content, and brimming with questions on how they can create mods themselves, they’ll be disappointed when there are only a few people around to offer up new releases or the advice they seek. Sometimes there’ll be grumbling about the lack of activity or helpfulness, but the problem is that they’re just too late to the party.

I can sympathise here, as I still enjoyed making updates for NBA Live 96 while I was running the NBA Live Domain, and by the late 90s, those updates didn’t have a huge audience. After a few years, and certainly after I took over the NLSC, I transitioned into making updates for the most recent game in the NBA Live series, which were in much greater demand. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from updating an old favourite though, and we’ll always have facilities and resources that cater to modding older games. You just have to keep in mind that if you come along after a particular game’s modding “boom”, you’ll be part of a niche group of retro gamers and modders.

Modders, what are some of your unluckiest moments in modding? Gamers, have you ever had any unlucky experiences when using mods or trying to edit a game yourself? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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