Monday Tip-Off: In The Shadow Of Their Predecessors

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Re: Monday Tip-Off: A Ticking Clock on Current Gen

Postby Andrew on Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:38 pm

Monday Tip-Off: A Ticking Clock on Current Gen

Last Thursday, I managed to secure a pre-order for a PlayStation 5, specifically the run that will be released in Australia circa December 8th. This means although I've missed out on the launch, it won't be nearly as long a wait as I'd anticipated. It also means that I'm starting to get more excited about and interested in NBA 2K21 Next Gen. When it appeared as though I might not be able to actually play it until 2021, it was naturally difficult to get hyped. Now I can actually look forward to checking it out - and producing content for it - in the not too distant future.

Of course, this places the Current Gen version in limbo, a situation that most gamers predicted would happen. The PC version has the benefit of the modding community, but generally speaking, any excitement that surrounded the Current Gen release has given way to hype for Next Gen. Now that I'll be able to play that version as well, I'm left wondering what to do with NBA 2K21 Current Gen for the next few weeks. I've also been wondering about the future of basketball gaming on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I'm optimistic that the PC will receive a Next Gen port as early as NBA 2K22, but the clock has to be ticking on the current generation of consoles.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Unplayable Is A Strong Word

Postby Andrew on Fri Nov 27, 2020 2:08 pm

Forgot to post about this week's Monday Tip-Off earlier in the week. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is!

Monday Tip-Off: Unplayable Is A Strong Word

In last week’s Friday Five, I talked about the tell-tale signs that allow us to spot a shill in the basketball gaming community, and by extension, why shills are such a pain. I stand by that, but it’s important that we look at both sides of the coin, so to speak. Shills and fanboys pollute the discourse, but so do haters. Even if we aren’t being outright haters, we can make ourselves look bad through exaggerated criticism, especially when we allow our frustration with an issue to get the better of us. This is when we’ll opt for clichéd buzzwords (usually snarky ones).

When we’re disgusted with a game, we want to express ourselves in the strongest possible manner. Words like “dreadful” pack so much more of a punch than just plain “bad”; at least until they’re overused. A good example of a popular word that lost its critical value through overuse is “cartoonish“, though it was often poorly defined to begin with. A word that I’ve seen used a lot lately is “unplayable”. It’s a strong word, in this context implying a complete lack of quality and enjoyment. There are times when it’s appropriate to describe a game as unplayable, but it’s a word we need to be careful about using. After all, used indiscriminately, it’ll lose impact and credibility.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Annual Rituals & Goals in NBA 2K

Postby Andrew on Mon Nov 30, 2020 8:17 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Annual Rituals & Goals in NBA 2K

I buy NBA 2K every year. In fact, throughout this past generation, I've double-dipped with copies for PC (for mods) and PlayStation 4 (for online play). I suppose that makes me a part of the problem as far as supporting the game despite having gripes with it, but in my defense, I'm both a collector and a content creator. Without at least one copy of the game, it's difficult to provide coverage post-release. I know this all too well, having covered NCAA Basketball 10 throughout its preview season, and then not at all afterwards because I couldn't import the game (I since have for PS3).

It's also my aim to enjoy the game every year, and with the NBA Live series being rather underwhelming or completely absent from the basketball gaming space for much of the past decade, I've been getting my virtual hoops fix from NBA 2K. As such, there are a few rituals I engage in, and goals that I strive for, in each new NBA 2K title. In some respects, it's probably made it difficult to break some of the habits I've formed, especially in MyCAREER. On the other hand, it always provides me with some baseline goals from which I can derive a sense of accomplishment, as well as completion. If I manage to attain these goals, I feel like I've got my money's worth.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Three Months, Three Skins, No Fixes

Postby Andrew on Mon Dec 07, 2020 10:47 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Three Months, Three Skins, No Fixes

I'm sorry everyone, but I'm going to have to go back to being a grumpy old man to tip off this week. I've honestly been trying to look on the bright side after some critical pieces in recent weeks, and as I explained in Episode #352 of the NLSC Podcast, I'm actually feeling quite positive about NBA 2K21 Next Gen. I do still have concerns about the Current Gen version though, and since I believe in advocating for my fellow basketball gamers, it's an issue I feel compelled to bring up again. Besides, sooner or later a similar issue will no doubt affect Next Gen, and 2K's approach is troubling.

As I discussed in the aforementioned podcast, since NBA 2K21 Current Gen was released, it has received five patches and three skin/presentation updates for this year's revamped Neighborhood, which goes by the name of 2K Beach. The latest patch was little more than a skin update, but previous patches have been more substantial. As with the previous title updates however, Patch 1.06 failed to fix the issue of the Daily Bonus not awarding the requisite amount of Virtual Currency upon completion. It speaks volumes about the level of care that's going into the Current Gen version, and underscores a recurring (and shoddy) aspect of 2K's approach to much-needed fixes.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: The Rec Is Garbage, But Who's To Blame?

Postby Andrew on Mon Dec 14, 2020 2:07 pm

Monday Tip-Off: The Rec Is Garbage, But Who's To Blame?

I have to blunt: The Rec is absolutely woeful this year. Walk-On play has always been a hit-and-miss alternative to team Pro-Am, owing to the all the issues that arise when you play with randoms. It's been particularly toxic and unenjoyable in NBA 2K21, though. Admittedly, I can only speak to my experiences playing on the Australasian server, and I've yet to create a MyPLAYER on Next Gen and jump online. The scene may be a lot better on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, at least in North America. It'd be a low bar to clear, as the mode seems to have hit rock bottom.

While the issues are familiar, the continued decline of The Rec - and it's felt like it's grown even worse since NBA 2K21 Current Gen's launch - raises a few questions. The two most pertinent are "who's to blame", and "how can it be fixed". As you might imagine, the first issue has a significant impact on the second. The answer is quite complicated, and that naturally means the solution isn't easy either. Still, I've been thinking about this a lot in recent weeks. While I am taking a moment to grumble here, I want to turn that into something constructive. If we as a community can identify these issues and suggest solutions, perhaps we can help improve the scene.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K18 Legend Edition Gold Still Available

Postby Andrew on Mon Dec 21, 2020 3:36 pm

Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K18 Legend Edition Gold Still Available

I have to say that thus far, I've been impressed with the PlayStation 5. I've generally been enjoying my time with NBA 2K21 Next Gen, and I love the faster loading times. In particular though, I've been impressed with its backwards compatibility with PS4, especially when it comes to my games library and saved content. As I noted in a Wayback Wednesday article, copying saved data across for PS4 games is a snap. I was also very pleased to be able to get a free upgrade for Mortal Kombat 11, complete with all of the DLC I'd purchased, just by inserting the PlayStation 4 disc.

The access to the PS4 library - on top of various media apps being readily compatible with PS5 - has made the console feel like a worthwhile upgrade, even if there aren't a lot of new games that I'm interested in right now. While browsing the PlayStation Store, however, I came across another point of interest, albeit a far less positive one. During a search to see if the NBA League Pass app was available on PS5 (it's not; at least, not in my region), I noticed that the Legend Edition and Legend Edition Gold versions of NBA 2K18 are still available to purchase. There are some major issues with that, and the digital availability of older NBA 2K titles in general.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: 2020 Year in Review

Postby Andrew on Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:15 pm

Monday Tip-Off: 2020 Year in Review

I think it's fair to say that 2020 has been one of the most unusual years that many of us have ever experienced. For me, it's both flown by - as the years seem to do as you get older - yet it's also dragged. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously disrupted life as we know it in so many ways, and contributed to 2020 being somewhat miserable. On top of that, we've lost some beloved athletes and celebrities, including Kobe Bryant. Although the hardships of the pandemic are not over yet, it's safe to say that a lot of people are looking forward to a fresh start in 2021.

At the same time, there have been bright spots. The Next Gen consoles launched, and while it hasn't been easy getting hold of one, people who do own them generally seem to be happy with them. Here at the NLSC, we were able to keep doing our thing for another year as far as producing content and supporting the modding community, and we also officially added a new member to our team. 2020 is a year that I'm sure a lot of people would rather be done with and soon forget, but since this is the last Monday Tip-Off of the year - there will be a Wayback Wednesday this week, and then The Friday Five will open 2021 - I'm taking the opportunity to look back at 2020.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: I've Got To Use My Imagination

Postby Andrew on Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:47 pm

Monday Tip-Off: I've Got To Use My Imagination

Yes, the title of this week's column is indeed a reference to a song by Gladys Knight & the Pips. That's about as far as the reference goes, however. Truth be told, I only know the song because Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favourite movies, and it's on its soundtrack. In any case, imagination is a core component of gaming, no matter the genre. Whether we're playing single player or multiplayer, we immerse ourselves in a virtual world. We share the goal of the player character, whether it's saving the world, winning a championship, or causing mayhem as a goose.

Imagination has always been - and to some extent still is - a big part of basketball gaming. Whether we're assuming the role of a general manager or coach, taking control of a star player, or stepping onto the hardwood or blacktop with our own avatar, there's an element of fantasy at play. Of course, many years ago, we had to be far more imaginative as far as scenarios and stories. In franchise and career play, we filled in the gaps, created our own back stories, and would even role-play in our story section. These days, we don't have to use our imagination so much, especially in the story-driven MyCAREER. Needless to say, there are benefits and drawbacks to this.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Playing The Long Game

Postby Andrew on Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:08 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Playing The Long Game

I have to say that as far as Trophies and Achievements are concerned, The Long Game is aptly named. Spending four years in college at the start of a MyCAREER game is definitely a lengthy slog! There's no simulating - not that you'd really want to, when you're grinding for VC and Badges - and with only nine other teams, it can be repetitive. At the same time, the idea appealed to me. Less than 1% of PlayStation 5 gamers have attained the Trophy for completing The Long Game, so it's obviously a rare feat. I figured it would be interesting to take the road less travelled.

It's also the first time we've had this opportunity in MyCAREER. Every other game that's included a college career has seen our MyPLAYER declare for the Draft after their freshman year. Now we actually have a choice, and it's a decision that we have to weigh up as a real player might. Is it worth taking the extra time to develop before entering the league - especially as it's grinding against easier competition - or do you go after the big bucks (or in this case, VC) as soon as you can? To me, the choice was easy. I've been a one-and-done player before; now that I have the opportunity, I'm playing The Long Game! Please be advised that there are some story spoilers ahead.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Ain’t No Love in the Heart of The City

Postby Andrew on Mon Jan 18, 2021 6:11 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Ain’t No Love in the Heart of The City

Adding an open world environment to MyCAREER has, unsurprisingly, been a rather divisive decision since The Neighborhood debuted in NBA 2K18. Some gamers loved the idea, and were wowed from the very first reveal trailers. Others aren’t so keen on the concept, seeing it as a waste of time. Now that The City has taken its place in NBA 2K21 Next Gen, gamers who loved The Neighborhood have been delighted by an even larger hub world. Those who disliked The Neighborhood have no love for The City for many of the same reasons as before, only now on a much grander scale.

Of course, even if you love The City, the feeling isn’t mutual. There’s an aspect of The City that is, to quote a salient Reddit post, “downright contemptuous of players and hostile towards newer players”. Unlike The Neighborhood, The City isn’t welcoming to everyone; well, not immediately, anyway. This year, we have to prove that we’re worthy of taking part in the main hub world of MyCAREER, making use of all the familiar facilities that we’ve had at our disposal these past few years. To me, the title of Bobby Bland’s song – or for that matter, the Jay-Z song from the NBA 2K17 soundtrack, which sampled it – aptly describes The City’s cold, elitist heartlessness.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Ain’t No Love in the Heart of The City

Postby [Q] on Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:47 am

I can't wait to buy Pointless Busywork 2k22! This year's version was so much fun lol

You are right, it's pointless busywork intended to incentivize casual players or offline players to play more online games. They are the kings of making players jump through hoops and it's very unwelcoming to new and casual players. I remember trying to get a friend to play 2k16 with me after it was released for free and he had a hard time understanding how to play the game because they don't even explain that very well. Almost every game has some sort of tutorial mode even if you have played every game in the series but not 2k. There is no matchmaking system to make sure new players don't play against 99s like we were forced to do. It's almost like they want you to fail and struggle so you give up and buy VC or at least play more. These problems were compounded by the fact that my friend's player wasn't very good when we tried to play online together so it feels very exclusive, like you have to be "cool" to be a part of the 2k club
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Ain’t No Love in the Heart of The City

Postby Andrew on Wed Jan 20, 2021 4:44 pm

Pointless Busywork 2K22 is prime Photoshop fodder. (Y)

The lack of onboarding is a big issue for sure. Way back in April 2019 I made some comparisons with Mortal Kombat 11, as it features the kind of tutorials you're talking about. 2KU is there of course, but if nothing else it doesn't cover the meta game of MyCAREER and the connected modes, which is what trips people up (and understandably so). The elitisim and the gatekeeping is getting ridiculous, and despite what the developer blogs say, fun isn't being prioritised.

What's unfortunate, though, is that so many people buy into it. They embrace and defend it, because like I said, it makes people feel superior when they can look down on their fellow gamers and say "well, you just suck" or "you don't know how to work the meta to your advantage". They'll support practices that are against their own interests, if they can get that rush from a feeling of superiority.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: The Reddit Post That Tried to Warn Us

Postby Andrew on Mon Jan 25, 2021 4:27 pm

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

There's a Reddit post that I've mentioned and linked to in quite a few articles since it was made in the official NBA 2K subreddit back in 2018. That post was titled "The 'MMO-ification' of NBA2K and the perils of ignoring player retention: Thoughts from a former MMO developer", and it was very well-received. After all, this wasn't just a random gamer speaking out in frustration, or even a prominent content creator or pundit. This was someone who worked in video game development, and saw first-hand how certain approaches affected both gamer enjoyment, and a game's success.

The criticisms this former EVE Online developer made were astute, and they were on the money about it only being the beginning. Their post touched on matters that many reviewers, and even content creators and community leaders, tend to ignore. It spoke about design philosophies - matters beyond tech and specific game features - that were responsible for problems in the games, and painted a worrying picture for the future. Today, I'm revisiting that Reddit post, and picking out some relevant quotes that identify problems that were troubling in NBA 2K18, and have remained so in its successors. As you'll see, the insights of that Reddit post were almost prophetic.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: "It's Business" Is Not An Excuse

Postby Andrew on Mon Feb 01, 2021 2:42 pm

Monday Tip-Off: "It's Business" Is Not An Excuse

Video game development is a business. There is a business side to the creation of video games that, to the companies developing and publishing them, is just as crucial as the artistic side. There, I admitted it. In fact, I never denied it. If a business doesn't turn a profit, it doesn't keep operating for very long. If a product isn't profitable, it's going to have a very short shelf life. This is basic economics, so even when we're grumbling about questionable practices regarding design and recurrent revenue mechanics, we understand that video game developers need to make money. But...

But, there are good ways and bad ways to do business, even when it comes to the often downright predatory and exploitative practice of microtransactions. The goal of turning a profit does not excuse issues with the product itself. There is nothing wrong with expecting value for money and satisfaction with your purchase, and speaking out when you feel that a product has failed to deliver in that regard. When the pursuit of profits - especially through recurrent revenue mechanics - actively interferes with the quality of a product, it's fair to criticise developers for compromising the experience. Saying "it's business" is no excuse for design choices that are anti-consumer.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Who Wants NBA Live To Return?

Postby Andrew on Mon Feb 08, 2021 2:14 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Who Wants NBA Live To Return?

The announcement that EA Sports will be reviving its college football franchise at some point in the future drew a lot of interest last week. There was scepticism too, of course. Madden doesn't have the best reputation these days, and so the prospect of getting a virtually identical game, except with college teams, is one that many gamers are leery of. Nevertheless, there's also excitement and optimism, and those feelings have spread to the basketball gaming community. If EA's college football series can return, then maybe we can look forward to NBA Live making a comeback, too.

Not everyone is excited by or supportive of that prospect, though. The idea that gamers want to see NBA Live return was met by some with mocking scorn and derision. Prominent voices in the community, and their followers alike, ridiculed the idea that anyone is interested in - or should be interested in - a return for NBA Live. Now, I understand being sceptical about the NBA Live series, and feeling burned by it. I understand being satisfied enough with NBA 2K to not be personally interested in an alternative. However, anyone sneeringly denying there being any interest in NBA Live returning is being profoundly myopic at best and a blatant shill at worst.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Who Wants NBA Live To Return?

Postby [Q] on Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:35 am

EA just purchased a big company for mobile gaming. Perhaps they'll push the mobile version of NBA Live?
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Who Wants NBA Live To Return?

Postby Andrew on Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:47 am

They're definitely doing that, especially with Giannis being the new face of that game. It seems they haven't given up on a console/PC/AAA version as yet, though.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: Less Online, And I Feel Fine

Postby Andrew on Mon Feb 15, 2021 11:07 pm

Monday Tip-Off: Less Online, And I Feel Fine

Don't get me wrong; NBA 2K21 has its issues on Current Gen and Next Gen, though especially the former. It has its frustrating moments, and that's when I usually end up putting it aside. However, I have honestly been enjoying the Next Gen version enough to want to play it regularly. Beyond a handful of improvements and appealing content, the main reason I'm having a better time on the virtual hardwood as of late is that for the most part, I'm not playing online. That means no more organising online sessions, or jumping into The Rec to play with randoms.

That's not to say that I'm completely eschewing the online scene. MyTEAM's Agenda does steer me in that direction in the quest to gain XP and level up, but other than that, I don't go out of my way to play online. Again, there are some frustrations that you will encounter because of the legacy issues in NBA 2K21, but by avoiding online play, I'm at least dodging the ones that are user-driven and self-inflicted. It's felt so refreshing to dive into other experiences, especially ones that I haven't had enough time for in previous games thanks to MyCAREER and its connected modes. Of course, while I do feel fine about my recent gaming habits, it's also unfortunate.
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Re: Monday Tip-Off: In The Shadow Of Their Predecessors

Postby Andrew on Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:18 pm

Monday Tip-Off: In The Shadow Of Their Predecessors

Not everyone has been entirely happy with NBA 2K21, but what else is new? While the NBA 2K series continues to be very successful, opinions of recent releases have been much less favourable than their predecessors. Legacy issues, practices that are lacking in goodwill, and product fatigue, have all led to an increasingly dissatisfied userbase. In turn, this dissatisfaction has inspired gamers to reminisce about titles from just a few years ago. To that end, the last few games have been unfavourably compared to the likes of NBA 2K15, NBA 2K16, and NBA 2K17.

A recent Twitter thread criticising NBA 2K21 drew an interesting reply about these comparisons. In response to the assertion that NBA 2K21 is the worst game in the series, the Tweet pointed out that it's a title bestowed on just about every NBA 2K game when it's new. It specifically noted similar remarks about NBA 2K17, a game that's now being held up as a benchmark that newer games have failed to reach. While it's a generalisation that deflects some valid criticism of NBA 2K21 and its immediate predecessors, it also raises a pertinent question: do we forget our own criticism, with revisionist history and nostalgia unfairly casting a shadow over every new game?
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