Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
As I’ve mentioned before, unfortunately I’m not able to commit to any big patching projects these days (particularly any current roster updates); as such, my output has slowed in recent years. While I’d never like to close the door on patching completely, it’s no longer the main content that I’m producing here at the NLSC, and I’m mostly focusing on smaller releases when I do get time to whip something up.
Of course, even while I was still patching more actively, there were ideas that I just didn’t get around to doing due to other commitments, or the project being too difficult or too time consuming to make happen. I thought I’d share some of those ideas in this week’s Friday Five, mostly just for fun and to wonder what could’ve been, but also to put the concepts out there in case anyone else in the community wants to give them a shot. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at some patching ideas I haven’t been able to do anything with.
1. That’s Entertainment!
This is an idea that I had for NBA Live 07, that was intended to be a throwback to the “silly rosters” that Lutz included as part of his roster update pack for NBA Live 95. Those rosters included celebrities, politicians, and fictional characters taking to the hardwood, along with members of the NBA Live community (including the NLSC’s founders: Tim, Brien, and Lutz himself). It was fun to fire up those rosters and mess around a bit, when you wanted to take a break and try something a little different.
I wanted to recreate that fun, and the working title of the project was “That’s Entertainment!”. My plan was to replace all of the NBA teams with squads of celebrities and fictional characters, somewhat related to their original location. For example, the Bucks were to be replaced by the characters from That 70s Show, which was set in Wisconsin. The characters from M*A*S*H replaced the Celtics, since a few of the main characters were from Boston or elsewhere in the New England area. Being the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Cavaliers would have become a team of singers and musicians, from Buddy Holly to Michael Jackson.
Sounds like a fun idea, right? Well, I thought it would be fun to play with, at any rate. However, I then started to think about how many players would need to be created, all of whom would need their own faces. On top of that, the mod would need a league’s worth of new team artwork. It was just going to take too much time, and would have required several enthusiastic contributors to really be something special, so unfortunately I gave up on it after an evening of putting together something of a rough draft beta. And yes, that save is long gone now.
2. Michael Jordan Tribute
If you’re a frequent reader of The Friday Five, or a long-time member of the NLSC Forum, you’re probably aware that my all-time favourite player is Michael Jordan. Needless to say, I enjoyed seeing him on the covers of NBA 2K11 and NBA 2K12, and really enjoyed re-living some of his greatest moments in 2K11’s Jordan Challenge. It also struck me as something that would really be cool to try and re-create in a patch for NBA Live.
Now, I wouldn’t be able to add a brand new mode that actually presented the user with goals to complete, but it’s certainly feasible to overwrite teams and create historical rosters. Since there are 30 NBA teams, and MJ played fifteen years in the league, my idea was to add thirteen Chicago Bulls teams and two Washington Wizards squads – one from each season of his career – along with an opponent that held some significance. The 1998 Utah Jazz, the 1989 Cleveland Cavaliers, the 1992 Portland Trail Blazers…you get the idea.
I think that it could have been a fairly successful patch, as historical mods tend to be quite popular – nostalgia is a powerful thing, after all – so it would’ve been worth the effort. However, it’s still an idea that requires a lot of time and energy, as well as the contribution of updates that I can’t make myself (player faces, jerseys, and so on). I’ve never actually made a start on this one, but it’s an idea that’s continued to pop into my head from time to time.
3. NBA’s Greatest Teams
Similar to the above idea, the introduction of NBA’s Greatest in NBA 2K12 got me thinking that it would be fun to bring all those teams to NBA Live. In some ways, I could see this concept faring a little better than the Michael Jordan Tribute. Granted, MJ is regarded by most fans as one of the best players of all-time (if not the best player of all-time), and he remains immensely popular. However, a mod that focuses on several great players as opposed to just one great player does have broader appeal, and allows for a wider variety of interesting match-ups.
One of the most impressive things that the developers at Visual Concepts did with NBA’s Greatest was the historical presentation: the era-specific overlays, visual filters, and even distorted sound. We wouldn’t be able to replicate all of that in a patch for NBA Live, but I had the idea of creating greyscale textures for the teams from the 60s, so that everything would appear to be in black and white. When you used them against a team from later eras, it would be as if the more recent team had stepped back in time – or vice-versa – with the contrast between black and white and full coloured textures being an artistic flourish.
At this point, you can probably guess what put an end to the idea. Yes, once again, it would have been very time consuming to make all of the necessary art, including greyscale versions to replicate the old broadcasts. If someone would like to give it a shot though, be my guest. Without wanting to sound egotistical or anything, I was quite pleased with the solution that I came up with, so it’d be cool to see someone put the concept to good use.
4. Cel-Shaded Graphics for LIVE JAM
This one’s a little different, as it’s a much smaller project, and one that actually came about while I was messing around with the NBA’s Greatest Teams concept. My original thought was that I could alter the lighting file to make everything black and white, or slightly washed out to represent the earlier days of colour television. That way, the mod could feature a few different lighting files – preferably with a way of easily switching between them – so that the user could manually choose the visual effects that they wanted.
A nice idea in theory, but as far as turning the presentation black and white is concerned, it just couldn’t be done. I came up with all kinds of failed attempts, one of which gave the game something of a cartoonish, cel-shaded look, with black outlines around the players. This would’ve been good if I was trying to replicate the Legends Showcase downloadable content for NBA 2K12, but that wasn’t my aim. However, it then occurred to me that it would be a good look for the LIVE JAM mods that I made for NBA Live 2005-08.
Unfortunately, by the time the thought had entered my mind, I’d already discarded that modified lighting file. Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to replicate those results, and after many, many attempts to do so, I ultimately gave up. If anyone else wants to open up the lighting file in 2005-08 and give it a shot, let me know how you get on, and whether you can re-create that effect. If nothing else, let it be a lesson to all the patchers out there: if you accidentally create something interesting and potentially useful, keep a copy of that file. You never know when it might come in handy.
5. World League Basketball: The Patch
I’ve mentioned World League Basketball for the Super Nintendo in a couple of previous Friday Fives. One of my all-time favourite games, it’s the PAL version of an NCAA Basketball title developed by Sculptured Software. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the North American version features Division I college teams with fictional players, while the PAL/European version features the same players in a fictional global league. Amusingly, the Japanese version – titled Super Dunk Shot – features NBA teams and players with names and logos that have been changed just enough to qualify as parodies, and avoid a trademark infringement lawsuit.
It’s pretty good for a basketball game that was made in 1992, indeed being the first 3D basketball game released on a console. The graphics are primitive by today’s standards and there is no visible crowd, but it doesn’t hold up too badly overall, even though it’s obviously been far surpassed. However, what made the game so appealing for me, back then and today, is its fictional players and setting. You don’t have to worry about statistics or shot distribution, or make any other comparison to reality. You can just go out and play some virtual basketball.
My plan was to utilise the generic faces that are used by the generated rookies, and see if I could get some fictional courts, jerseys and so on in there later. I figured if nothing else, the initial/beta release could be a completely fictional NBA, just to gauge interest in the concept. That’d still be a fairly lengthy project though, and a lot of effort to go to if no one was really interested in the idea. Of course, JaoSming has explored a similar concept with his All-Pro Basketball mods for the NBA 2K series, so I guess I’m not alone. So, if anyone wants to use the idea, go right ahead!
That’s all for now. I hope that you enjoyed the insight into some patching ideas that I wasn’t able to get off the ground, and if you feel inspired to give them a shot yourself, by all means go for it! In the meantime, if you’re a patcher, what are some projects that you haven’t been able to complete? If you don’t patch yourself, but enjoy playing with them, what are some projects that you’d like to see, be they for NBA Live or NBA 2K? Just keep in mind, I’m not taking any requests! Anyway, let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for checking in this week, please join me again next Friday for another Five.