NBA 2K10 or NBA Live 2010?

October 30, 2009 in Basketball, Game Reviews by pacejmiller


Do you notice much of a difference?

NBA 2K10 or NBA Live 2010?

The choice to buy NBA 2K10 was not easy.

I had been a life-long player of EA Sports’ NBA Live series (though I missed NBA Live 09) and it was comfortable to stick to what I already knew.  Though my friends have been telling me for years that the real king of NBA games is 2K, I just never made the switch.  I just kept buying it year after year, even though the braniacs at EA were always more focused on pointless things such as authentic tattoos and shoes rather than what really matters – the gameplay.

Is NBA Live back?

nbalive10coverHowever, leading up to the release of the game all I had been hearing was that Live was back.  This year, Mike Wang (formerly the lead developer at 2K) jumped ship and headed to work for EA, and the rumblings from the rumour mill were that NBA Live series was making a huge comeback to reclaim the throne from 2K.  Moreover, I played the demo for NBA Live 2010 on PS3 and it was very nice.  The graphics were superb as always, and the arena noises took it the atmosphere to another level.  Most of all, I noticed the distinct improvement in gameplay, the one thing that the Live series has been criticised for more than anything else over the last few years.

I needed to up the difficulty level a few notches, but gone are the days of being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  In the old days, as soon as you figure out how the AI works, it was all over for the computer, even on ‘Superstar’ level.  Well, now it’s a lot harder to complete a series of humanly impossible moves before spinning past four defenders then dunking on all of them.  Your teammates are now smarter and act more like players in real life.  Fast breaks are smooth(er).  Defense has been revamped.  Freestyle passing is a cool addition.  It was significantly better than any Live game I had played before.

On the other hand, 2K’s sample offering, a demo of its Draft Combine mini-game (I was too cheap to buy the full version) didn’t impress me all that much.  Sure, it was not in a proper arena so it was difficult to make a direct comparison to Live, but whether it was the player movement, sound, or graphics, it felt like Live was the better package.  Nevertheless, I did a fair bit of reading on the games and checked out the publicly available videos.  Even though there was the odd dissenter, the overwhelming consensus from gamers was that Live has indeed upped its game, but 2K still reigned supreme.

Further, while the Live promo videos looked good, 2K’s videos were mind-blowing.  I was shocked to find out that it was actual in-game footage.

The decision and verdict

2k10coverAnd so I had a dilemma on my hands.  Do I go for the game I’ve known for years and looked like a safe bet from the demo, or do I take the plunge and spend my hard-earned cash on the series everyone has been raving about but I had never tasted?  In the end, I made a rational choice and went with 2K10.  Having now played full versions of both games, I can say that this year there is no massive winner.  Both games are incredibly fun and look amazing, but the fact of the matter is, 2K is a more realistic basketball experience than Live.  If you want to go be able to dominate your opponents, perform sick cross-overs and streetball moves, go with Live.  But if you want a more realistic basketball simulation based on strategy, movement and tactics, then 2K is the answer.  This is not to say one game is clearly better than the other.  It’s a matter of what you’re looking for in a basketball game.  I was looking for realism.

Another factor that influenced my decision was my familiarity with the NBA Live series.  It was actually a lot more difficult to overcome than I thought it would be.  I had spent years with the Live presentations style, graphics, menus and in particular its control system.  When I initially tried to 2K demo, everything was different.  People tell me that the 2K graphics are better, but because I was so used to seeing Live’s player graphics, I couldn’t tell.  I still can’t.  Further, the 2K menus were initially confusing to use.  Worst of all, the controls were driving me crazy.  I was so used to using the right stick do perform dribble and spin moves (which is used for shooting in 2K) that I kept tossing up unwanted half-court shots.

Accordingly, I completely understand those who plan to continue sticking with the Live series, especially this year, when the gap between the two franchises is not very big.  However, if you are willing to spend a bit more time to learn the controls and get acquainted with the 2K series, I believe it will be a more rewarding experience.  Having played 2K10 for a few weeks now, I do notice the difference in gameplay.  The players’ movements are just that little more realistic and the game is more about learning how to break down the defence using smart, technical playmaking as opposed to using ankle-breaking highlight moves and exploiting deficiencies in the AI.

The biggest advantage that NBA 2K10 has over NBA Live 2010 is the new My Player mode.  It’s not even close to perfect, but it’s quite advanced for a brand new game mode and will likely eat up hours upon hours of your time.  For gamers tired of just winning championships year after year, My Player is a refreshing change that is unusually satisfying.  I’m sure Live will come up with something similar next year, but for now, 2K is the only game that has this excellent feature.

Anyway, it’s so far so good with NBA 2K10.  I don’t rule out hiring NBA Live 2010 from the video store to try the full game, but I certainly don’t regret the decision I made.

To see for yourself, check out some gameplay videos for both 2K10 and Live 2010 below.


Pulse Smartpen: write, record and convert to editable text!

October 30, 2009 in On Writing, Technology by pacejmiller


The Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe and the special 'dot' paper notepad

I feel almost obligated to share this nugget with my readers.

Recently, following a technology session at work, my wife went and bought me this thing called the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen.  This slightly fatter than normal, but still relatively lightweight pen, blew my world.

I once posted an article on this blog in which pondered whether I was more effective as a writer writing (ie pen on paper) or typing.  I concluded that I was more creative and came up with better material when writing on paper (at least for my novel), but the speed with which I could pump out words on the keyboard shifted the balance in favour of typing.

Well, the Pulse Smartpen may shift that balance once more.

Using some sort of hi-tech infra-red camera technology, state of the art recording capabilities and special ‘dot paper’ (virtually invisible to the naked eye), the pen allows the user to record sounds while you write, and effortlessly links the audio to the written material.  And more importantly for writers, you can transfer the handwritten notes into editable text on the computer (with a special program).

In other words, I can utilise the pen to take advantage of my improved creativity when writing with pen on paper, while being able to simultaneously save time by converting the writing to editable text in my novel writing program without having to type it up all over again!  What it also means is that I can carry my Livescribe notepad (containing the special paper) wherever I go and write whenever I want, and not feel like I am wasting time because I’d have to type it all up when I get home.

As GOB Bluth (from Arrested Development) once blurted out loud in response to a talking magazine: “I didn’t even know this kind of technology existed!”

Recording function

This is actually quite simple.  For instance, if I’m taking verbal instructions from a client or attending a lecture, I just have to turn on the pen, tap the ‘record’ button at the bottom of the paper and write away.  If I miss something, never fear.  All I have to do later is tap my pen on the page at the spot where I struggled to keep up, and the audio recording will start playing from the exact point in time I wrote those words (or drew those pictures).

And if you download a program called Livescribe Desktop from the website, you can load the written pages and the audio onto your computer for long-term storage (using a USB dock which you place the pen in, and which also acts as a battery recharger).  If you register the pen, you’ll even get some free web storage so you can upload your notes and audio for access on other computers.

This function has already come in very handy at work, especially during long conference calls and when receiving instructions from a busy superior who might not have the patience to keep repeating him/herself.  Gold!


This gives you a fair idea of the size of the pen

Converting to editable text

Note this is actually not a part of the Pulse Smartpen’s package.  The program which converts handwriting to editable text is an additional add-on program which you can download for free as a 30-day trial, but costs around US$30 to buy.  However, for me it was well worth it.

The way it works is this: after uploading the written pages (which don’t have to be accompanied by audio) to Livescribe Desktop, if you have the relevant program installed, you can click on a little button that converts the handwriting to editable text automatically.  This text can then be moved to your preferred word processing program.  And voila, it’s as though you typed it all up in the first place.

So far I’ve written about 8 or 9 pages of my novel on the train on my way to and from work, and it has been converted into text and cut and paste straight into NewNovelist.  No more excuses for not being able to progress it every day!


As with most things that sound too good to be true, the Pulse Smartpen is too, to a certain extent.

First of all, it’s not cheap, so if you don’t utilise it fully it’s not really worth it.  Depending on the storage size of the pen (1G, 2G or 4G), you’re looking at around US$150-200+, and most likely substantially more if you are buying it from retailers outside the US (eg A$329 for a 2G pen according to the Australian website).

Secondly, you need that special ‘dot paper’ to get the pen to work.  My pen came with a 200-page notepad (100 pages, double-sided), and once that runs out you have to buy new ones.  However, you can, if you have access to a colour laser printer, print out your own paper in small amounts at a time.  I do have access to one at work, but the multiple firewalls are preventing me from printing them at the moment (mental note to find a way around it).

A connected issue is the special ink cartridge that the pen requires.  I am quite certain that you’ll need to buy those too when the ink runs out, and the cartridges themselves are rather small, so I imagine that would happen relatively often, adding a further expense.

Thirdly, the conversion to editable text is nowhere near perfect.  The conversion process can be slow (one page at a time) and if you have unruly handwriting, the conversions can lead to some crazy results.  You can try to mitigate that to some extent by inserting special words in the custom dictionary and specify auto-conversions for certain words that keep getting converted wrong.  While it does save you a lot of time, it doesn’t save you as much time as you wish it could.  Put it this way – I would be very surprised if there isn’t a solid handful of manual edits and format changes required for each page of writing I convert.


I’m usually pretty retarded when it comes to technological advancements, so I’m clueless as to whether there are similar products or products that achieve the same results out there on the market.  With that in mind, I personally think the Pulse Smartpen is awesome, for both work and writing purposes.

As I have an extraordinarily short attention span, the ability to record important conversations (especially surreptitiously) is invaluable at work.  I guess it allows me to be that little bit lazier but it’s a safety net I’d much rather have than not.

Equally important to me is the pen’s potential to convert hand-written pages to typed font.  While the conversion is far from seamless, it allows me to write in places and circumstances I wouldn’t usually be able to.  For a person that can’t seem to find any time to write, this makes the Pulse Smartpen a worthwhile investment.