The Friday Five: 5 Mods We Rarely See Anymore

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.

As I mentioned in Episode #178 of the NLSC Podcast, and as you can see in the NBA 2K17 Releases & Previews section of the Forum, our community is already hard at work figuring out how to develop mods (and indeed, already releasing some) for this year’s game from Visual Concepts. Modding – or patching, to use the old name for the hobby – is something that our community has been doing a fantastic job of for over twenty years now. I expect that we’ll see many more great mods being released over the next year, and beyond.

Although I haven’t been extremely active in the NBA 2K modding scene, I do keep tabs on it, and I’ve been involved with NBA Live modding since before I was running the NLSC. Not only have several modders come and gone, but certain types of mods have also seemingly gone in and out of fashion over the years. For this week’s Friday Five, I thought I’d create a list of five types of mods that we don’t see as often these days. That’s not to say that they don’t still get made from time to time, but for one reason or another, they’re not as popular as they once were. With that being said, perhaps we can bring a few of these mods back in NBA 2K17.

1. Legends Rosters

Lutz's Legends Roster for NBA Live 2000

Now, I know that a couple of people in our community are working on mods like this for NBA 2K17, and similar mods have been released in recent years, but way back in the day, they were staple releases for NBA Live. For those who are unaware of what I mean by Legends Rosters, basically they’re roster mods that add teams full of legends and other historically significant players. They most commonly take the form of All-Time Rosters, giving every team their all-time lineup consisting of the best players from yesterday and today.

Lutz was usually the one making the Legends Rosters for NBA Live every year, and I believe that HAWK23 – yes, the same HAWK23 who’s responsible for the Ultimate Base Roster – also did some work on a couple of those updates. The main obstacle in creating Legends Rosters is that the process is very time consuming. If nothing else, they require a lot of custom faces to be created. In older games, we’d often make do with created player faces, but these days there’s almost as much emphasis on accuracy in modding as there is in the development of the games themselves. I’d say that probably discourages a lot of people from developing these mods.

2. Champions Rosters

Lutz's Champs Roster for NBA Live 99

In a similar vein, while we do see Champions Rosters from time to time, they’re another example of mods that used to be released every year, but have become rarer in recent times. For the uninitiated, Champions Rosters are mods that generally replace the current NBA teams with noteworthy historical squads, namely former NBA champions (and usually their opponents as well). Like the Legends Rosters, if you’re a fan of nostalgia and want to play with the great teams and players of yesteryear, they’re definitely a lot of fun. Again, Lutz and HAWK23 did a lot of amazing work on those updates back in the day.

Of course, not unlike the Legends Rosters, the process of creating them isn’t as fun. They too are a massive undertaking, requiring a lot of new players to be added. Champions Rosters also generally include a lot more in the way of custom art assets, as not only do they require new faces for authenticity, but also era-specific courts, jerseys, and logos. As the games have become more sophisticated, the general expectation is that mods like this will be completely comprehensive. The fact that recent NBA 2K games already feature historical teams may also be a factor, but once again, I’d say the huge workload involved in these mods is the main barrier here.

3. Complete Player Update Mods

Allen Iverson Complete Update, one of Finnboy's Mods for NBA Live 2003

Around the turn of the century – I think that might be the first time I’ve used that phrase in relation to basketball gaming – complete player update mods were quite popular. We’re still seeing modders do some fantastic work with high resolution player faces, but at the height of NBA Live modding, a lot of people were making comprehensive player updates. I’m talking new face, new hairstyle, custom accessories, authentic shoes, and unique practice gear. When I say complete player update mods, I mean complete player update mods. There are still face updates with custom gear and the like, but not quite to the same extent.

I’d suggest that there are a couple reasons for this. A lot of the old modders used to specialise in a few different types of art mods, although there are still a lot of talented and versatile people in our modding community today. More likely, it’s due to changes in what we can actually do as far as customising the games. The CustomArt folders in NBA Live 2003 and NBA Live 2004 allowed us to easily assign custom jersey and shoe files to individual players, better facilitating a complete package update. Without the same functionality, there’s less incentive to create those mods.

4. Shoe Mods

Dahl's Air Jordan XXI Shoe Mod for NBA Live 06

If there’s a type of standalone update that’s really declined in popularity over the years, it would be shoe mods. A long time ago, the Shoes section of our Downloads database was overflowing with all kinds of kicks, and quite a few modders made them in addition to faces and gear (hence the aforementioned complete player update mods). If you take a glance at our Downloads database these days, you will see that people are still releasing shoe mods, but over a decade ago, there were dozens and dozens of them being made every year.

The reason for this is quite obvious. The level of detail in modern games is so much better than it used to be, and the shoe game is very strong in recent releases. A lot of signature shoes are included out of the box, and many more are pushed through via the official updates. The selection of shoes used to be much smaller in older games, and in really old titles, all of the shoes were generic, encouraging modders to enhance the game with authentic branding. We’ll probably never see a return to the heyday of shoe modding, but I expect we’ll probably see a few releases every now and again.

5. Unconventional Mods

Lutz's Silly Rosters for NBA Live 95

In trying to give a name to this last item, I originally went with words like “creative”, “concept”, “off-the-wall”, and “silly”. None of them felt appropriate; after all, there’s a lot of creativity in our modding community, pretty much everything can be called a “concept”, and terms like “silly” and “off-the-wall” seem too negative and insulting. I’ve settled on “unconventional”, because the mods I’m talking about aren’t your usual current roster update, NCAA/international league total conversion, or historical project. They add unexpected, even wacky content to the games, and sometimes make changes simply because those changes are possible to make.

These are mods like Lutz’s “Silly Rosters” for NBA Live 95, JaoSming’s “self alley-oops for every team” mod for NBA Live 2005, the Darth Maul face someone made for NBA Live 2000, and so on. Again, we do still see stuff like that, notably with MGX’s releases, but we mainly focus on mods that are based in reality. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but I do admire the creativity of unconventional and “just for fun” mods. Of course, the larger projects fall victim to the same problems as mods like the Legends Rosters and Champions Rosters, requiring a lot of time and custom art assets, without the same level of interest to justify the efforts.

What are some other mods that you miss, or recall being made much more frequently back in the day? Let me know 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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