Yesterday, we had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in London, catching up with NBA 2K Producer, Rob Jones, and testing out the eagerly awaited NBA 2K13 game.
There is a lot of cool new stuff coming out in this game, and from the sounds of things, the production team have really taken the focus of the game, and the concept of what makes NBA 2K such a great game, to a new level. Check out what we thought of the game, and what Rob Jones had to say about the whole thing.
Focusing on Todays Stars
A major factor in this new NBA 2K13 game is that there is a focus on the stars of today's NBA, rather than constantly looking back at NBA stories that have become legendary. Jones felt like this was a big step for the game, and was in-keeping with how the NBA is changing in itself.
Jones: "This year we're doing a couple things, firstly, as you saw from the [game] cover, we are embracing todays stars. I've been a fan of the NBA for a long time and I think they went through a period where Jordan and that era was moving away, and they had some great players, but not necessarily faces and characters that people attach themselves to. Which was why they keep trying to draw back and talk about things like, stories of Iverson's bad-boyishness, or all the feuds between Shaq and Kobe, and those stories weren't necessarily the stories that the NBA wanted to tell.
Now they have a crop of super stars…like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant. Not only great athletes with great skills but also great character to go along with it. They're marketable everywhere around the world, like Blake Griffin. Those are the guys we're bringing to the forefront. We're starting to tell their story this year and we're thinking that we're paralleling with the NBA. They're entering into a new dynasty, and we're finally establishing ourselves, you know, taking our seat as the new dynasty of NBA games. The one that you are actually looking for as the one to beat."
While the game is certainly going to bring about new heroes in the form of current NBA stars that we watch on the TV every week and follow online, the legends of the game haven't been forgotten. For the first time ever in the 2K series, you are going to be able to have legend players playing with current day stars.
So now that we know the game is moving in a new direction, it became apparent that 2K really had to think about how they were going to bring it, and make sure that these newer stories are just as awesome as Jordan's story, or Larry Bird's story.
To make sure that they were going to keep their edge, 2K looked to partner with one of the greatest entertainers and businessmen of our generation, Jay-Z.
Jones: "Everything [Jay-Z's] done has been great, you know, he's been the president of a record label, he's had a successful rapping career, he owns an NBA team, and therefore he's incredibly passionate about this sport. He has a clothing line, he partnered with a Vodka company. Everything he's done, he married a beautiful woman (laughs), everything he's done he's been good at. He's pursued it, and done it well."
I think the question for a lot of people is, 'what did Jay-Z bring to the table?'.
Jones: "The funny thing about it, is everybody asks us, 'well, what did he bring?', or 'what did he say when you went to him?'. What he said was, 'I'm not putting my name near this if I'm not really involved with the direction that this goes in'.
So you've heard publicly from the media that he provided a great soundtrack; a breadth of different artists, all strong, all with a particular vibe of exciting music that really fits with the idea of the NBA. He gave us presentation feedback in terms of menus, and how the music interacts with the game footage. He also had a few choice gameplay comments, and we took those into consideration, but we also told him, you know, we seem to be doing pretty well on our own (laughs).
When you look at it, it was nice to know that [Jay-Z] had played our game enough to actually know the things that we felt we needed to start changing. So it wasn't like he told us what to do, but for him to be able to pin point the same kind of areas that we felt that we need to improve, means it meant more than somebody that's just watched his friend play.
[Jay-Z] had direct impact by finally allowing us to get Charles Barkley into the game, which was in itself one of the funniest stories, and was impressive to me because we've been trying to get Charles since we did Jordan, because we wanted to tell the story with Charles in it. Last year with the legends, we wanted to tell Charles' story as well so every year we've gone to him, asking him if he would be part of our game, and he's been uninterested in our proposal. I don't think he wanted to make another Charles Barkley video game, he didn't want Shut Up and Jam again.
So Jay-Z picks up the phone when he heard that we couldn't get Barkley, and he talks to his assistant and he says I want to talk to [Barkley] in the next hour. Next day [Jay-Z] calls us at the office and says Charles is on the game.
We're also really happy because the Dream Team / Team USA was a big big topic and to be able to offer that as a kind of experience this year was great for us."
So Jay-Z doesn't just bring his super star name to the table to perhaps boost awareness and the legitimacy of the game, he was involved right the way through from how the menus looked and work, all the way to making sure the biggest names and biggest teams are included.
The inclusion of the Dream Team
, from the 1992 Barcelona
Olympics, and the Team USA line up from the London 2012, has been a big talking point with Olympic fever only just starting to die down. There were so many discussions about who would win in a game against these two teams, and now, virtually at least, we can find out!
Lets Get to the Game
The new NBA 2K13 introduction plays in the background, and it's a sweet mix of in-game highlights and video footage of Jay-Z rapping, and Jones explains that;
"One of the things that I think makes the NBA, as a video game, really accessible to players in general is that there are so many exciting plays throughout the game, and it allows this game to be really on the edge of simulation vs an arcade experience, so I think it's something that appeals to hardcore and casual, and I think we've done a really good job of walking that line."
He's got a point, there's definitely game play for those people who just want to switch the game on, pick a team and start hammering the buttons, but then there's this whole world of NBA 2K that hardcore players and fans can really bite into, leaving no stone unturned in the quest to be the greatest (virtual) basketball player of all time.
Customisation Reigns Supreme
A highly anticipated update for the game is that the level to which you can customise everything from your players looks, clothes, shoes playing style and attitude. After all, there's a lot of us out there who are going to be spending some quality time getting our player just right before we release them into the Rookie Showcase and onto the NBA draft.
Jones: "As an ex-youngster that played a lot of basketball, there are three things that really drive basketball culture; music, obviously the sport, and then do you look the part. (laughs) Looking the part is actually almost as important as being the part. So one of the things that we're really providing this year is the ability to customise yourself fully.
There's a store online, it has about 1400 different items available, from casual clothing, NBA approved Adidas clothing (they're the only partner that [the NBA] have this year) and we're representing everything that they're selling. We have game day accessories like knee braces and elbow sleeves, so all of the things that kind of identify you as a basketball player.
Then we also have dress suits, I don't want to call it formal wear, more like interview wear, because when you're playing in MyCareer mode, which last year was called MyPlayer, you talk to press after games or sometimes have to sit down with your general manager, and in those cases you actually want to look a particular different way.
We wanted the user to really make themselves in their own image, so that you could do multiple things: one, participate in the game throughout, looking the way that you want to look, but also when you go online and you take your player online to play with your friends, you're immediately recognisable."
The ability to customise your player looked really sick. There was almost nothing that you couldn't do. The potential to truly create something unique is obviously important to these guys and they've worked hard to get it that way.
What was even more impressive was the work that you could do with shoe customisation. There are actually 3 modes to shoe customisation; a large choice of regular, recognisable basketball shoes that you can choose from, a full NikeID customisation menu, and a brand new shoe builder!
NikeID was awesome in itself, as was the fact that when you create a shoe, you automatically get an email with a link to that shoe in the actual NikeID store, in case you decide you want to buy a real pair for yourself.
But then they take it one step further with a shoe builder. There are 45 different layers that you can edit on the shoe. I bet most people can't even think of 45 attributes that a shoe has, let alone imagine editing them! The scope to create a unique shoe that no one else has ever seen, or even thought of before, is immense. This feature alone will keep gamers entertained for hours.