The Friday Five: 5 Tips for Patchers

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.

Earlier in the week, JaoSming spent some time updating and spotlighting our many patching resources. Given an opportunity to keep a theme running through our features this week – the latest Top 10 Plays and Podcast also exhibit and discuss patching respectively – I thought that for this week’s Friday Five, I’d offer a few general tips on patching, mostly for people who are looking to get started.

For as long as the NLSC has been around, our community has been making patches for NBA Live and in more recent years, NBA 2K as well. We have a talented and resourceful patching community that helps one another through detailed tutorials and general advice, but for those just getting into patching, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Hopefully, these five tips will give you an idea of what’s required and how to start out on the right foot.

1. Brush up your computer skills

NBA Street 2K13 by JaoSming

Patching certainly doesn’t require a degree in computer science, nor does it require any programming knowledge (unless of course, you’re trying to develop a patching tool). However, it does require a fair amount of computer literacy. If you’re reasonably proficient at using office software, browsing the Internet, managing your saved files and other such tasks, you should be able to learn how to use the appropriate patching tools and follow the steps laid out in tutorials fairly easily.

However, if the process of finding files and folders on your hard drive seems daunting, if you’re confused by the process of installing software, or if anything beyond the most basic computer tasks is confusing, then patching isn’t for you. Not yet, at any rate. Simply put, if locating and opening a file that needs to be edited proves to be a confusing step in a tutorial, then you need to develop a little more computer savvy before you start patching.

2. Read (or watch) the tutorials…carefully

JaoSming's NBA 2K Court & Arena Video Tutorial

As JaoSming mentioned earlier this week, over the years we’ve amassed some handy tutorials and resources that explain how to update and modify various aspects of NBA Live and NBA 2K. As a community, we create and preserve these resources so that patching information is easier to find, while also avoiding the need to type up detailed explanations every time someone new wants to try their hand at patching.

When using a tutorial, make sure that you follow every step. When a new patcher complains that a tutorial isn’t helpful or doesn’t work, quite often they’ve skimmed it and thus missed an important step or detail that is vital to the process. Of course, sometimes tutorials are missing key information or could stand to be clearer on certain points, in which case you should absolutely ask follow up questions about the steps you’re having trouble with. Just make sure you’ve taken in all the information in the tutorial first, in case there’s a crucial point that you’re neglecting.

3. Ask the right people for help (and be polite!)

JaoSming's Midnight Ballers for NBA 2K13 PC

As a general rule of thumb, if someone has never released the type of patch you’re interested in creating, they’re probably not the person to teach you how to make it. In other words, if you want to create your own jersey, ask someone who’s actually making and releasing jersey updates. Don’t ask for tips, tricks and tutorials from someone who doesn’t make them, just because they happen to be online…or the webmaster/administrator. Sorry, but if it’s outside my area of knowledge and expertise, all I can do is advise you to browse the tutorials or ask someone else.

The tutorials are naturally a good place to start, but if you do need some extra help and you’re not sure who to ask, I’d advise replying in a relevant tutorial thread or simply posting a new thread with an open appeal to anyone in the community that can help. No matter how (or whom) you ask for help though, be polite and respectful towards your fellow community members. If you pester someone, flood their inbox because they don’t get back to you right away, or are flat out rude or insulting to someone who has tried to be helpful, you’ll find that people are less inclined to offer their assistance.

4. Explore and experiment

Chicago Bulls Practice Court for NBA Live 08

A good tutorial will help you create patches, but some self-education and an understanding of the files that you’re editing also goes a long way. Intuition is a helpful trait when it comes to patching, as is a willingness to experiment. After all, that’s how the processes and techniques for patching came about in the first place; someone had to discover how it was all done.

For example…when I decided to try my hand at something a little different and make some practice courts for NBA Live, I not only referred to JaoSming’s excellent tutorial, but also explored the court files and noted which textures were what, and how they were used in the game. That gave me an idea of what to change and manipulate, to get the results I wanted. Likewise, I compiled the NBA Live DBF Editing Guides after I had familiarised myself with the databases and the different values for the fields, experimenting where necessary to see the in-game effects. As long as you’ve got a backup of the file handy, you can tinker as much as you’d like.

5. Learn the process, then refine the technique

New NBA 2K13 Gym by JaoSming

Everyone wants to make quality patches, especially if they’re sharing them with the community. After all, great work is inspiring, and our community produces some truly fantastic updates for NBA Live and NBA 2K. When you’re starting out however, it’s more important that you learn the basics and master the steps for creating a patch, then improve your technique once you know what you’re doing. To draw comparisons to basketball itself, you first learn how to dribble and keep the ball under control before you develop an ankle-breaking crossover.

Be patient and persevere. Some types of patches are more complicated to create than others, but all benefit from practice and experience. Once you know the basic steps to successfully change what you want to change, you can focus on the quality. Whether it’s a deeper understanding of ratings and attributes, better cropping or some other manipulation of a texture, practice and experience will hone your knowledge and technique. And when you’re finished and satisfied with the outcome, why not share your work with the community in our Downloads section?

That’s all for this week. Patchers, what other advice would you give to people starting out? If you’re new to patching, what kind of advice would be helpful to you? Sound off in the comments below and feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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So all Blacktop/Street next week?