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.
In last week’s Friday Five, I discussed how our modding community could improve in terms of its attitude and practices. Having put that very important message out there, I wanted to cover more of a modder Wishlist in this week’s Five. These are the features and resources that I believe would really help facilitate modding, allowing us to create even better mods for the current generation of basketball video games.
As many of you are probably aware, many of the file formats have changed since the PC version of NBA 2K became a port of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version. On top of that, NBA 2K’s roster files have never been particularly modder-friendly compared to the DBF files that the PC versions of NBA Live utilised. Of course, NBA Live itself doesn’t support modding right now, being a console-only release. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of ideas that would help out the modding community – I only have the five points to work with, after all – but they are the first that come to mind for me, and are intended to tip off the conversation.
1. Deeper In-Game Roster Editing Functions
One of the main barriers to creating better and more comprehensive mods for the current generation of basketball video games is the difficulty in externally modding the roster files. Of course, the only reason we need to do that in the first place is because we can’t do everything that we need to do with the in-game roster editing functions that are currently available. If those functions were expanded, then there would be no need for us to fool around with the roster files directly. If we could do everything we needed to do in-game, it would be far more convenient, not to mention far less likely to cause errors through modding.
To throw out a few specifics off the top of my head, expanded in-game roster editing functions would need to include the ability to edit any and all aspects of player data – including hidden ratings, tendencies, and attributes – as well as enter all of that data manually for created players. The ability to create new teams, and edit/re-brand existing teams outside of MyLEAGUE and MyGM, is also a must. While switching to a file format that is easier to edit (such as NBA Live’s DBFs) would be nice too, I think the ideal solution would be to eliminate the need to externally edit roster files altogether.
2. Deep In-Game Art Editing Tools
Speaking of which, the same goes for custom art assets. Now, in terms of preparing custom textures, modding the art files is still going to require some external manipulation. You’ll still have to re-size and crop images, place logos on transparent backgrounds, and so on. However, how much easier would it be if those assets could be imported into the game from within the game, rather than having to mess around with the art packages? With no need for an external tool, Day One modding would be a snap.
I feel that this could really work, because the infrastructure is already kind of in place. The tools we have for re-branding teams in MyLEAGUE and MyGM, as well as creating our 2K Pro-Am teams, are fairly comprehensive. In creating and uploading the appropriate art assets, we can make some very professional-looking custom courts, logos, and jerseys. Just take a closer look at the jerseys that Arcane created for the NLSC 2K Pro-Am team. Once the assets are created and uploaded outside of the game, the rest is all done in-game. Imagine being able to use that functionality to customise the entire game, any way that we like.
3. No Create-a-Player Limits
There are probably some technical limitations here, but all the same, I feel it’s worth throwing out there on behalf of all the retro and international league modding projects. Generally speaking, NBA 2K’s current Create-a-Player limit of 150 custom players is probably more than most users need. If you’re just using it to create a couple of missing players in the current official roster, or creating yourself and your friends, you’re probably never going to hit that limit. However, if you’re creating a mod for the 1997 season, you’re going to need a lot more than 150 Create-a-Player slots.
On the subject of created players, this one might be a long shot, but it would be fantastic if Create-a-Player could also benefit from the aforementioned in-game art editing tools. A more sophisticated version of EA Sports’ old “Face in The Game” feature from NBA Live 2000 and NBA Live 2001 would be very useful here, and would be one method of giving created players a proper face texture. As far as putting yourself and your friends into the game as created players, both NBA Live and NBA 2K already have face scanning functionality. Why not expand its usage?
4. Ability to Share Roster Files
We do already have this function in NBA 2K, but I’m referring to the ability to share rosters outside of the game. While it’s very handy to be able to search for rosters and download them from within the game, it’s also limiting. There may be times when you need to distribute a custom roster with additional assets, or the servers may be unavailable due to maintenance. The servers are also going to be shut down at some point, so for gamers who like to stick with a title for a few years, it would be nice to have the ability to continue to share custom rosters after that happens. Just look at the College Hoops 2K8 community.
Incidentally, the reason this is no longer possible is because the roster saves are tied to your Steam, PlayStation Network, or Xbox Live profile. It’s a side effect of the online content (and microtransactions) in the current generation of basketball video games. If there’s a way to get past that issue, then it would definitely help out with modding. When it comes to sharing rosters in-game however, how awesome would it be if we could also do that cross-platform? That’s something I’d like to see added to the current sharing functionality. And of course, when roster editing finally does return to NBA Live, we’ll definitely need to have in-game roster sharing functionality in some form.
5. Official External Modding Tools
It’s possible that some of the in-game modding and customisation functionality that I’ve outlined above wouldn’t be feasible, for one reason or another. If that’s the case, then my alternative suggestion would be a set of official external modding tools that allow us to customise both the rosters and art assets. I’m sure that you can name several games that have their own official tools, but the one that springs immediately to mind for me is the Fallout series and the G.E.C.K., which of course takes its name from the in-universe item, the Garden of Eden Creation Kit. The Fallout modding community has been able to put that tool to fantastic use.
As with expanded in-game customisation functions, official modding tools and add-ons would help bring the hobby to the console versions of the game. Taking cues from the Fallout series once again, and continuing on from an idea that I mentioned above, cross-platform compatibility with mods would also be huge. I have a feeling that official modding toolkits are less likely than expanded in-game customisation, but nevertheless, it’s always an idea that’s worth pitching to Visual Concepts and EA Sports. It would certainly save us a lot of time, and make modding a whole lot easier.
Those are just the ideas that spring immediately to mind for me, as far as addressing the issues that make modding more difficult than we’d like. Do you have any other ideas that would help modding moving forward? Join in the conversation 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.