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 ways that the NBA 2K modding scene is better than what we had with NBA Live back in the day.
So, last week I discussed five ways that NBA Live modding was better than the NBA 2K modding scene. It’s always difficult to write an article like that without sounding like a grumpy old man yelling out clouds, and lamenting bygone days that were far from perfect if we’re being completely honest. As I acknowledged, there were issues in the NBA Live modding community, too. Some of them remain problems with NBA 2K modding, but there are others that we no longer have to deal with. It certainly isn’t all doom and gloom when it comes to tinkering with NBA 2K.
While the different approach to design and file structure has presented us with some new challenges, there are aspects of NBA 2K on PC that make modding much easier. As a community, we’ve also been able to build upon what we established, and take advantage of new technology to help each other out. I stand by what I wrote last week, because there are aspects of NBA Live modding that would be great to have when creating work for NBA 2K. However, there are exciting possibilities with NBA 2K modding, and it’s why I’m interested in getting more involved with it. Here are five ways that the hobby has improved since we started modding NBA 2K on PC.
1. All-Star & Special Team Mechanics
As much as I used to love the All-Star Weekend, updating NBA Live’s rosters to reflect the current season’s participants was something I dreaded. Well, perhaps not dreaded, but it was a bit of a chore. Players on the All-Star and Rookie Challenge teams had their own entries in the database, separate to the version that appeared on their regular team. Adding new players meant creating a dummy player, and then overwriting them with the appropriate player’s data; simple, but time-consuming. It also meant managing two separate database entries when updating ratings, which in later games had to be done externally rather than through Edit Player in-game.
When I started tinkering with NBA 2K11’s rosters, I discovered that it handles the All-Star and other special teams much differently. There are values for “overriding rotations”, which basically means assigning a player to the roster of a special team; no need to create a copy of them! It also means that if you modify the player, that same data is used when they appear on the All-Star/special team roster. This does result in a few limitations and potential inaccuracies, but for the most part, it’s a fantastic way of handling assignments to the All-Star lineups. There are duplicates among the classic teams, but in that case it’s a necessity, and far preferable to universal player data.
2. Deeper In-Game Roster Editing Functions
In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that roster editing was absent from NBA Live 14 through NBA Live 16, had to be patched into NBA Live 18, and was buggy in NBA Live 19. It’s a staple of the genre that the series has nevertheless neglected far too often. Even when it’s been there, it’s never really had the depth to create detailed roster mods without being supported by external editing. The same can be said for NBA 2K as its in-game player editing is still missing access to certain data, but it still has more tools to work with. Funnily enough, we did actually get some of them in NBA Live 18, but they weren’t present in the titles of NBA Live’s modding heyday.
On the surface, the availability of external roster modding tools may seem to render these in-game editing functions less important. However, it’s vital that we have them. It’s always safest to do as much as possible in-game, so as to avoid corruptions and other mistakes that are difficult (or impossible) to undo. Many important attributes and tendencies were hidden in NBA Live, and could only be edited externally. Having access to similar attributes in NBA 2K, not to mention contract and injury data, is a huge benefit. There are still things that could be added, but compared to NBA Live, there’s so much we can do even before we have access to an unofficial roster editor.
3. In-Depth Tutorials & Video Guides
There were efforts to share knowledge during the height of NBA Live modding, but it feels as though we’ve done a better job as a community when it comes to NBA 2K. Of course, this can be attributed to the explosion of video content, and the increased ease of producing it compared to over fifteen years ago. It’s also easier to preserve content these days. A number of people posted tutorials on their personal modding sites, many of which have been lost to time when free hosting providers such as Yahoo! Geocities shut down. While there’s no guarantee that a video won’t disappear from YouTube, it usually doesn’t happen to modding tutorials, thus they remain available years later.
I believe starting from scratch as far as having to work out processes and techniques for NBA 2K modding also allowed for a fresh start. Towards the end of the peak of NBA Live modding, we probably didn’t always do a great job of explaining the basics to new modders. There was an assumption that everyone knew or would easily grasp that info, which wasn’t the case. This isn’t to say that we can’t strive to do a better job with our NBA 2K modding resources, but as the community makes new discoveries together, there’s been an effort to document the steps and create reference materials. Combined with easier video production, we now have better modding resources.
4. Content Available By Default
Never underestimate the importance of default assets! In NBA Live and NBA 2K modding alike, the more content we have in the game by default, the less we have to create for major projects. This is especially true of retro content, from the complement of throwback jerseys to the players that are included on the classic teams. That doesn’t mean that there’s never any need to create better versions of content that’s already in the game, but having that content in some form is a tremendous time-saver that allows us to focus on creating what’s missing. Don’t get me wrong; there’s still a ton of work associated with retro season mods. There’s far more to work with right away, though.
Although we did have a decent starting point with the retro content available during the heyday of NBA Live modding, it can’t compare to what we’ve had in NBA 2K since the introduction of The Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11. Even if there are minor inaccuracies in courts and jerseys, faces that could be better, and ratings to fix, being able to repurpose that content allows for a massive head start. It facilitates so many minimalist modding projects, such as rolling a classic team forward or backward a year or two. Leftover assets and even MyTEAM and Park content have been put to use by modders. There’s much that we can add, but it helps when it’s already there.
5. Large Projects Are More Common
This isn’t to say that we didn’t have major modding projects for NBA Live, because we absolutely did. Current roster updates became more comprehensive once we began including art updates, and there were retro season mods, college mods, FIBA mods, and so on. The NBA Live Street 2003 mod is an early example of a large project that aimed to overhaul the game, and the Supreme Update Mod was also an impressive undertaking. There were other big projects, and perhaps I’m selling the number of such mods for NBA Live a little short, possibly due to them becoming lost. It does feel like there’s been a concerted effort to create massive mods for NBA 2K, though.
If nothing else, we’re seeing major projects that continue to receive updates for many years following their initial release. The Ultimate Base Roster and U R Basketball both continue to provide current season updates, in addition to being comprehensive collections of retro roster mods. The retro seasons project for NBA 2K19 continues to branch out in two directions. There have also been NCAA and foreign league mods, and projects like Dee’s classic team rosters. There’s been plenty of collaboration, and while there is sometimes still friction, modders have demonstrated commitment and cooperation. I hope that continues, and that these huge mods remain freely available.
What’s your take on the NBA 2K modding scene? If you’ve been around long enough to be a part of both, how does it compare to the NBA Live modding scene at its peak? Have your say in the comments, 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.