Monday Tip-Off: The Reddit Post That Tried to Warn Us

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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How Recent Should Retro Teams Be?

Postby Andrew on Mon Aug 31, 2020 10:15 pm

Monday Tip-Off: How Recent Should Retro Teams Be?

As we speed towards the release of NBA 2K21 Current Gen, we're receiving the final tidbits about this year's game. On that note, the official NBA 2K Twitter announced the inclusion of two new classic teams - the 2017 Toronto Raptors and 2019 Golden State Warriors - in NBA 2K21. As I noted in my bulletin, this follows on from the addition of six retro teams in NBA 2K20, along with the return of the All-Decade squads. While we haven't had a dedicated retro challenge mode outside of MyTEAM since NBA's Greatest in NBA 2K12, the games continue to add throwback content.

And yet, there's something a tad unsatisfying about the announcement of those two teams. As former champions with some big names in their lineups, they're obvious choices to join the ranks of classic squads. At the same time, they are very recent teams. Given the odd situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the NBA in, the 2019 Raptors are being added as a classic team before they've even been officially dethroned as the reigning champs. It isn't the first time that a new retro team in NBA 2K has felt a bit too recent to truly be considered "retro" or "classic", which therefore raises the question: how recent is too recent when it comes to retro teams?
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How Recent Should Retro Teams Be?

Postby [Q] on Tue Sep 01, 2020 8:48 am

I don't mind recent historical teams if they are memorable or fun to play with. Plus all players on the tram should be in the game still
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How Recent Should Retro Teams Be?

Postby Andrew on Tue Sep 01, 2020 12:34 pm

Well as I said, sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. Sometimes those teams end up being thinner after a year or two because they're made up of players who aren't on Legends deals, so once they're out of the league, they're out of the game.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Imperfections Don't Need Imperfect Solutions

Postby Andrew on Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:26 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Imperfections Don't Need Imperfect Solutions

There's a running gag when it comes to Bethesda's Fallout games: "it just works". This sarcastic jab at bugs and other imperfections in the series is a reference to Executive Producer Todd Howard's declaration that Fallout 4's "dynamic game engine" would ensure that everything about it "just works". And, to be fair, while I didn't enjoy Fallout 4 as much as I did Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, the game does indeed work. Does everything work as well as it should? Not exactly, and that's why Todd Howard's utterance of those words has become a meme.

In all fairness to Todd Howard and Bethesda though, they're not alone in that regard. To be completely fair to the Triple-A gaming industry at large, achieving perfection is easier said than done, and the scope of their products is going to result in issues such as bugs and oversights. As gamers, consumers, whatever we want to call ourselves, we do understand that. However, some things are just poorly planned, designed, and implemented. Although we do criticise these issues and suggest solutions, I've also seen many gamers defend these imperfections. Not because of the difficulty of game design, mind you, but the notion that imperfect solutions cancel out valid complaints.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Do We Need Those Stinking Badges?

Postby Andrew on Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:12 am

Monday Tip-Off: Do We Need Those Stinking Badges?

Sim games have long sought to properly differentiate between players, beginning with detailed ratings. Those base attributes alone haven't always been sufficient though, and so developers have experimented with mechanics such as Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live, and Signature Skills in NBA 2K. Signature Skills have given way to Badges, which like their predecessors, grant boosts and represent special abilities that the standard ratings can't account for. As with Signature Skills, or the similar Traits system in NBA Live, they're available to real players and career mode avatars alike.

These days, Badges are probably more important than ratings/attributes. You can max out a player's ratings in a certain area, but it takes the effects of a Badge to ensure that they're sufficiently levelled up. On one hand, this does make the exceptionally skilled stand out from the very good, much as Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live once aimed to achieve. On the other hand, it also means that high ratings - which are theoretically only given to the best real players, and take a long time to grind for our MyPLAYERs - are far less powerful than they should be, if they aren't paired with the various boosts afforded by Badges. Given these issues, do we need those stinking Badges?
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: The State of Official Rosters

Postby Andrew on Mon Sep 21, 2020 5:17 pm

Monday Tip-Off: The State of Official Rosters

No matter whether you're a developer working on the official rosters or a gamer who's making unofficial updates for the community, it can often be a thankless job. There's no chance of pleasing everyone when it comes to player ratings, especially given the overinflated importance that Overall Ratings are often ascribed. With over 400 active players along with historical content, it's very easy to overlook a detail here and there, no matter how meticulous you are. I'm not sure that I've ever released a roster for NBA Live PC that didn't have at least one small oversight.

The feedback that you'll receive as a roster maker in the community, or indeed as the developer in charge of handling the official rosters, isn't always constructive or very pleasant. We're quick to sneer at a perceived bias or lack of knowledge, forgetting that we're all prone to the same biases and knowledge gaps, to say nothing of human error. At the same time, we're slow to give credit where it's due. With that being said, there are some troubling trends when it comes to the official rosters in modern games, in particular NBA 2K. Without meaning to be insulting or self-righteous, it doesn't feel like the rosters in recent titles have the same level of authenticity as they once did.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?

Postby Andrew on Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:52 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?

Yes, discussing VC, microtransactions, and recurrent revenue mechanics in NBA 2K might seem like I'm beating a dead horse. However, it remains a persistent issue as of NBA 2K21, one that threatens the overall quality of the game. That might seem like I'm stating the obvious and preaching to the choir, but there are gamers who will still defend grindy mechanics and microtransactions. In all fairness, they admittedly aren't mandatory, and the savvy NBA 2K gamer can find ways of enjoying the game's most popular modes without buying VC, or even opting for the special edition.

Based on some remarks I've seen on basketball gaming Twitter though, I fear that we've grown somewhat complacent and dismissive of the problems that recurrent revenue mechanics cause. People, including prominent content creators, have declared that modes like MyTEAM and MyCAREER are no longer pay-to-win, owing to the amount of content that can be earned even if you staunchly refuse to buy VC. I do see their point of course, but I also believe that it's missing the forest for the trees. There's nuance and other problems that are being overlooked. First things first, though. Let's address the question: is it fair to call NBA 2K, in its current state, pay-to-win?
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?

Postby [Q] on Mon Sep 28, 2020 7:10 pm

"Pay to enjoy" seems like the best way to describe this game. I think it's funny that the game is called NBA 2k but it should be called 2k Neighborhood, or as someone famously put it Barbie Dress Up because that's where the focus of the game is. These online modes have become such a big revenue driver and focus for the team that other simple parts of the game get neglected or are left unchanged from year to year.

When we had something to compare it to, in NBA Live 18 and 19, how did everyone enjoy the game modes compared to 2k?

I for one found it more fun to level up characters more quickly and easily and I wound up creating multiple characters to play with.

Despite the huge regression in Ultimate Team between the games, I did appreciate the removal of contract cards as that made the mode more difficult and grindy unnecessarily.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?

Postby Andrew on Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:10 pm

I didn't spend as much time with The One in NBA Live, mostly because it felt like doubling up with playing MyCAREER in NBA 2K, but they hit on some good ideas by not being pay-to-upgrade/enjoy, and having the player's athletic attributes be much higher at the start. Conceptually it makes more sense as well, since a young rookie is going to be closer to their physical peak, but needs to hone their skills. I felt like the Icon Path system had its positives and negatives, but I appreciated what they were going for. Separate currencies for cosmetic items, and no microtransactions there either, was also a huge advantage.

Removal of contracts was definitely a good move in Ultimate Team. I feel like MyTEAM has too many variables and consumables with the contracts, shoes, and now Badges once again. It also means there's only one player in most packs, and with the way it's easy to get doubles even with a small collection, it really drives down the value of the packs.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Postby Andrew on Mon Oct 05, 2020 3:13 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Did you know that the concept of skill-based matchmaking, commonly abbreviated to SBMM, is controversial? I'll admit that I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; especially given my experiences playing NBA 2K online. As the name implies, skill-based matchmaking is a system for matching both teammates and opponents in online play according to their abilities. The criteria and algorithms for this vary from game to game, but are generally based on winning percentage, ranking or reputation systems, and other statistics relevant to the genre.

Sounds like a good idea, right; the kind of proper matchmaking that we'd expect to see in a basketball game like NBA 2K, with all of its connected experiences? Well, you would think so, but not everyone is a fan of skill-based matchmaking. This disdain stretches beyond NBA 2K and the basketball gaming community, but the basic reasoning behind gamers' objections to the concept remains the same. Frankly, this is unfortunate. SBMM is indeed a good idea, and would undoubtedly clean up the online scene in NBA 2K by reducing the toxicity and sense of gatekeeping. I'd like to explore why it's necessary, and also examine the controversy surrounding SBMM.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Postby [Q] on Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:35 pm

Skill based matchmaking in a game with different modes like this is an interesting topic. It's definitely needed if you play online against another player with regular teams.

In the Neighborhood, they need more varied ways to separate competition. I feel like I am a better player than some but when you are starting out it's hard to show that with a 68 overall player against 90s. You could be the best player but you could never overcome the advantages they would have over you. Also as a SF, I'd get treated up with 2 PGs more often than not and then would have to guard an opposing 7 foot 90 overall paint beast. The Got Next system is cool but the novelty wears off when no one will team up with you your the only game available is against a team of 99s who have won 15 games in a row.

Personally I liked the lobby system used in NBA Live over the Neighborhood
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Postby Andrew on Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:27 pm

Lobbies are definitely fairer. It's difficult to see NBA 2K abandoning the whole concept of The Neighborhood, unfortunately.

Something I've been thinking about is the possibility of record/rank/rep carrying over from year to year. Not to the extent where you're immediately the same rank and unlock all the perks, but being able to see someone's record from previous games; or at the very least, the previous year. That way, an online veteran doesn't have to look like a noob if they delay getting into the online scene in the next game, and anyone looking at their 2K Card would be able to see that although they're 78 Overall and Pro 1 in the current game, they maxed out a player last year and played hundreds of games on route to All-Star/Superstar level. So much is lost every year with annual releases, and it'd be a good way to have some continuity.

If nothing else, they need better, deeper matchmaking across the board. At the moment the online modes really only cater to elite players, and they don't do that particularly well either.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Postby [Q] on Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:59 pm

I felt like over time I started to recognize some of the usernames in the neighborhood and felt like we were being lumped in based on location. Location should be a big factor but everyone in the same neighborhood lobby should be around the same overall rating to allow more even matchups
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking

Postby Andrew on Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:11 pm

Location will always be a factor because it minimises lag, and that's fine. As you said, grouping players of similar ratings/records/rep/ranking on top of that would be ideal. Of course, once you throw in the ability to join friends in their Neighborhoods, that kind of goes right out the window. That's a difficult problem to solve, as you do want to be able to join your friends and you shouldn't all have to be rated/ranked the same to play together, but then it breaks any kind of matchmaking and intended balance. It's tough, so I don't begrudge them for not being perfect; that wouldn't be a reasonable expectation. It could be better though, and I feel like the current system caters to the elitists sneering "get good" rather than being welcoming to everyone.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Cynicism as a New Generation Looms

Postby Andrew on Mon Oct 12, 2020 10:38 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Cynicism as a New Generation Looms

When the NBA 2K21 Next Gen trailer dropped, I was compelled to post a few Tweets outlining my initial impressions. As you can probably gather from that thread, as well as comments I've made in our Forum and on the NLSC Podcast, I wasn't blown away by the trailer, or pumped up about the game. If you follow me on Twitter, take part in our Forum, read my articles, or listen to our Podcast, you'll probably also know that I'm not the biggest fan of NBA 2K21 Current Gen, either. My disappointment with NBA 2K21 and other recent releases has set the table for some Next Gen cynicism.

Thinking back to the release of NBA 2K14 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I don't remember feeling quite as cynical. It's unfortunate, as I'd prefer not to feel that way. I don't want my content to come across as jaded and overwhelmingly negative, but beyond that, as an avid basketball gamer, I want to enjoy my hobby and look forward to new games when they're on the horizon. As NBA 2K21 Next Gen looms and we get our first glimpses and insights into the forthcoming game, my cynicism definitely outpaces my optimism in a way that it didn't seven years ago. Today, I'm reflecting upon that, and how things have changed over the course of a generation.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Virtual Hooping With Non-Fans

Postby Andrew on Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:07 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Virtual Hooping With Non-Fans

As our community is obviously made up of people who are big fans of both real and virtual basketball, we don't really look at hoops gaming from the point of view of people who aren't into the sport. After all, basketball and sports games in general are - to some extent - aimed at a very specific crowd. Sim titles in particular are intended for the avid fans that are more likely to want a realistic depiction of the sport. That's not to say they can't be for everyone - I'm not a fan of gatekeeping - but their focus on authenticity and minute details generally appeals to the more hardcore hoop-heads.

That means despite their success and popularity, basketball games and other sports titles are still somewhat niche. To put it another way, many of us basketball gamers will also play games like Fallout, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Mario, Zelda, Mass Effect, and so on, but a majority of the gamers who play those titles aren't necessarily interested in virtual hooping, or fans of real basketball for that matter. If anything, they're more likely to enjoy an arcade title like NBA Jam as it's easier to pick up and play, and has a broader appeal. Some non-fans will dabble with the sim titles as well though, and virtual hooping with them is often an interesting experience.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Do We Take Basketball Gaming Too Seriously?

Postby Andrew on Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:49 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Do We Take Basketball Gaming Too Seriously?

The Dark Knight may be twelve years old at this point, but Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker still resonates with many avid fans of Batman movies and comics. A number of lines from that film have penetrated pop culture, from Alfred's speech about some men just wanting to watch the world burn - a favourite of so many edgelord trolls who fancy themselves Machiavellian puppet masters - to the Joker's wry and sinister quips. One that comes up a lot, especially out of context when someone happens to utter the words, is "Why so serious?"

As such, even all these years later, it's difficult to pose a question about taking something too seriously without that scene coming to mind, or someone quoting it in response. It's also admittedly an odd question to pose on a fansite that's dedicated to a hobby. After all, we're all about basketball gaming, so we obviously approach the matter with a certain amount of dedication and emphasis on its significance. "It's only basketball gaming" feels like an out of place rationale and reprimand in a community of virtual hoops enthusiasts. Of course, it always pays to keep matters in perspective. To that point though, have we lost that perspective over the years?
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Ending Online Sessions on a High Note

Postby Andrew on Mon Nov 02, 2020 8:37 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Ending Online Sessions on a High Note

It's now several months too late to pay tribute to the late Kenny Rogers, as well as somewhat out of place in content about basketball gaming. However, his signature song, "The Gambler", provides an apt metaphor for this week's topic. As the song tells us, in life - as in playing poker - there's wisdom in knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em; when to walk away, when to run. The metaphor resonates because it's important to know when to call it quits, when to persevere, and how to play the hand you've been dealt, literally and figuratively speaking.

Not everything has the same stakes, of course, but the metaphor works for a variety of scenarios. On this occasion, I'm applying it to online sessions in NBA 2K. Getting into the online scene over the past few years has been an interesting experience. It's been frustrating at times, but also a lot of fun at others. Something that I and the rest of the NLSC Pro-Am squad have learned is that it's very easy to play one game too many, and thus end the night on a sour note. It's disappointing to end an evening of online hoops that way, and unfortunately, it isn't always easy to avoid. Even when you know you ought to fold 'em, you can end up sticking around for a few more hands.?
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby Andrew on Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:44 pm

Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

IBack in October, I posted a poll on Twitter and in the NLSC Forum, asking a two-part question about Virtual Currency. The question I posed to my fellow basketball gamers was whether they had ever bought VC, and if so, did they buy it regularly and readily. I was interested to see the results, because the community's thoughts on VC aren't always as obvious as you might think. While it would likely be a very small minority that would argue that NBA 2K needs to have microtransactions, not all basketball gamers are completely against them.

As such, the matter of how we feel about VC isn't open and shut. When you look at the poll numbers and opinions that people have offered up on the subject, it's fair to say that the consensus is that we're not fans of microtransactions and NBA 2K's general approach with its freemium-like in-game economy. At the same time, being against the practice doesn't mean that people don't partake in it. Likewise, partaking in buying VC - at least somewhat willingly - doesn't mean that someone necessarily disagrees with the criticism. Throw in staunch opposition and general apathy, and the question of how we feel about VC doesn't always have an obvious answer.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby [Q] on Mon Nov 09, 2020 5:30 pm

When progression is something we can happily take a shortcut on, it’s a sign that the experience isn’t actually all that fun. When the ability to enjoy a game and not feel disadvantaged in online play hinges on that choice between grinding and paying, our enjoyment is not being prioritised. I’d suggest that most of us are aware of this, as evidenced by our feelings towards VC, but we also know that it’s an uphill battle. Whether we like it or not, this is gaming in 2020.


You know, you made a really good point in the article. I have heard friends say that they play mobile games where there is an option for autoplay. I remember my initial thought was that if some players think that the best way or their favorite way of playing the game is not playing it then that can't be a good game.

I feel the same thought applies here. If leveling up your player in career mode and neighborhood was such a fun and great experience as they make it out to be, there wouldn't be as much of an incentive to skip it or hell, there wouldn't even be an option to do that.

If you can't even have fair or fun matches when you play, that's a sign they've prioritized profits over everything else.

For most games and series of games that I have played or still play to this day, I couldn't imagine wanting to skip any of it. I would want to explore every inch of it, every possibility, and in some cases replay it over and over happily. The fact that NBA 2k does not do that for me and many people who love basketball video games and who are just dying for a great game shows that it isn't as great as they say it is.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby Andrew on Mon Nov 09, 2020 8:55 pm

Exactly. If the journey doesn't feel fun or rewarding, then that's by design. Imagine paying to skip to the final Ganon fight in a Zelda game, or the final storyline quest in Fallout. It wouldn't say much for the rest of the game.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby sticky-fingers on Mon Nov 09, 2020 9:42 pm

I think at this point we as customers need to contact and inform our MPs and child protection association.
Not sure they're really aware right now but they should because gambling is -at least here- highly supervised.
there will be a moment where the governements will stop this shit, because this is clearly implemented as a core of the game to make psychological pression on gamers, and imagine EU commission says stop to these manners ; a publisher would not be able to do without such a large market.
Belgium did it, but its not enough.

If we dont, publishers will not stop by themselves, they'll continue and go deeper.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby Andrew on Mon Nov 09, 2020 10:09 pm

I agree. At this point, the only way it'll change industry-wide is if the laws change accordingly.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby [Q] on Sat Nov 14, 2020 2:43 pm

On te topic of microtransactions, EA has been sued over the use of its "dynamic difficulty" making games artificially more difficult to implore players to buy more packs to improve their teams.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: How We Really Feel About VC

Postby Andrew on Sat Nov 14, 2020 2:58 pm

That's why I'll always push back on the "it's optional" defense of microtransactions. Technically they are, but developers are trying all kinds of tricks to encourage them as much as possible, which has a negative effect on the experience if you decide to go No Money Spent. It's doable, but it often means playing the games in a way that feels more like work than recreation, and games are supposed to be fun, after all.
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