The NBA 2K series is celebrating its 10th year and with Kobe Bryant as the cover athlete, they’re looking to provide one of the best basketball experiences around on the console and PC. I sat in a conference call with Erick Boenisch, Lead Feature Designer, and Rob Jones, Gameplay Director, on what this year’s version is all about.
One of the big things Erick touted was the enhancements in presentation and commentary system. If you play a lot of sports games, you know he commentary can sometimes get pretty monotonous. Commentary is actually generated from real live stats taken from the current NBA season. If you’re connected online, you’ll hear items such as what teams did the night before, how they are doing on road trips, trades, and other happenings around the league. This helps you feel more immersed into the game and helps provide some fresh audio each day you turn on the game.
Along with the presentation, the crowd in the game reacts better as well. They will stand up or sit down at appropriate times as well as react audibly with what’s happening on the court. That’s one thing I’m going to be anxious to see in the game as I’ve always harped on games with dead crowds. I know it’s not a key part of the gameplay itself but it’s one of those little things that help you get into the game.
The team has done its part in improving every aspect of the game though. AI, for example, always gets tweaked and improve and the team’s tried to do that this year as well. With the help of tendencies and signature plays, you’ll see the players react how they should with or without the ball. Bruce Bowen was given as an example as you know exactly where is going to be on the court when on offense. Other players will set picks, go for alley oops, and drive as you would expect the player to do.
Defensively, the team's gone and tried to create a true defensive scheme around the team as team defense is a product of the coach. Depending on who they are playing, the defensive scheme is then generated and the team at 2K Sports has tried to model this as well. Whereas previous year’s version based it on a general strategy, there’s now more refinement and more of an identity in this year’s version.
Speaking of defensive, there’s been a change in this year’s version to make it not like it’s on auto pilot. The new defensive controls should make it more fun and give you more control over the player. Holding the left trigger will cause you to play your man tighter but you are taking a chance of him blowing by you if you’re not careful. You can use this to try and push a player towards a sideline or towards another defender to help out.
Some other things improved on last year’s version included removing the ease of point guards to get the ball into the paint. Work has been done on the steal system and the speed at which the passes get into the paint as well as what’s being called inaccurate passing. Better reaction and better positions by defenders will also help curb this.
The act of crowding around the ball has also been addressed where by you’ll most likely get burned when the ball gets passed to an open person. The player will most likely hit the shot so you’re forced to guard your person more and use more defensive movement. Also, a change in how a player gets to a spot has been made so unrealistic coverage of space is addressed.
For those like me who love to delve into the franchise side of things, improvements have been made in the salary cap situation for this year’s version. Player requests for salary are now more realistic so they don’t cause havoc on the salary cap. I asked a question about how the game simulated the free agent class of 2010 and was told with the hundreds of simulations they ran, players like Lebron James resigned with the Cavs 7 out of 10 times while Dwyane Wade resigned with the Heat 9 times out of 10. They didn’t have anything weird happen like Lebron going to Minnesota but he did jump to the Knicks as the destination of choice when he did leave the Cavs. There was one scenario where both Wade and James went to the Knicks, which I’m sure every NY fan is dreaming of for next year. It was a great way to test their free agent logic in the game.
Those wondering about how rookies are rated, the team employs a group of scouts to watch the players as well as looking at every possible avenue of resources out there. So, they take as much information they can get on rookies and produce a ranking of stats based on multiple sources.
With that said, the team will constantly provide updates to rosters as usual so if a rookie just takes off, you’ll probably see and adjustment in their ratings. As trades, releases, and pickups happen, expect a roster update pretty quickly. An example they gave is that the team had a roster update for the Allen Iversion, Chauncey Billups trade the day it happened.
Nintendo went to 2K Games and actually requested a good solid basketball game be developed on the Wii which is what Wii folks will be getting. It’s a full port of the game minus the graphics quality of course but the full feature set is there along with online play. There are also some motion controls as well and it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out as this is the first year of the Wii version.
For the 10th year of the game, NBA 2K10
sounds like it’s going to have some good features to set it apart from the competition. Being a fan of the series, I’m excited to see the improvements for this year as we head into what is going to be my most anticipated NBA season of my life as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan of 25+ years.