NBA 2K13 Preview: An Audience With Rob Jones - Part II September 14, 2012 22:13

Mind our mug shot, Rob Jones is front and centre.

Ok, so there was so much cool stuff for the new NBA 2K13 game, that Part II of our NBA 2K13 Preview: An Audience With Rob Jones, is even longer than Part I. If you didn't catch Part I, read about it here

So now that we know more about what the aims of the game are, how Jay-Z got hands on and just how far you can take customisation, let's find out more from our interview with one of the lead developers of NBA 2K13, Rob Jones. 

Popularity Matters

A brand new feature that has been added to MyCareer mode (that was MyPlayer mode in NBA 2K12) is an in-game social media feature. Anyone that rocks a Twitter account in real life, might enjoy this aspect of the game, check it out:

Jones: "New to MyCareer this year, we have a social media feature, where you're gaining followers as you go, and there's about 4,000 lines available on guys who'll tweet or send [your player] messages after you either say stuff in the press, or talk to your GM, or have a great performance, and you can gauge your popularity by how many people are following you. We've also engaged a number of journalists, who are known in the US, and they'll start following you and sending you messages. Then you have celebrities like Justin Bieber and Snoop Dog, just to name a couple of guys, that are just available there to beef up your ego as you go along. As you get these people, as you max out the list of NBA legends, and celebrities and NBA players, and just general fans that are out there, you'll start realising how popular you are."

Why Popularity Matters

You might love the idea of the social media factor in your popularity ratings in the game, or you might hate it. Either way, why does it matter how popular you are? Well, another new feature this year in MyCareer, is that you can sit down with your club's GM, and how popular you are, can go some way to swaying the outcome of these meetings. 

As Jones explains, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic can pretty much be credited with this game update:

Jones: "Popularity means power, and one of the new features this year is the ability to sit down with your GM. We kind of patterned that after the whole Dwight Howard saga from last year (laughs). You have up to 40 different topics that you can go in and discuss with your GM. It can start with, 'I don't like this player and he needs to go', or 'I like the way that that coach is handling things', or you can say that you don't like the coach and you can ask for a trade. You can ask them to bring in some players because we're not strong enough, and then depending on your popularity and how much your GM likes you, he will either affect those changes, or just brush you off." 

Making You the Centre of Attention

While you might enjoy the game extras like customisation, and getting your GM to ditch your least favourite player, what your experience of the game will come down to is the actual game play. We're pleased to say that just as much love and attention has gone into making things as perfect as possible with how you play the game, but more importantly, how the game plays with you. 

In the past, the AI of the game didn't really have a clue about what you were trying to do on the court, which could be frustrating when you're trying to do something and one of the AI players steps in and messes it up for you, or just doesn't play along with you. This year, that will all change.

Jones: "From a gameplay side, we really spent a lot of time making sure that the AI knew how to play alongside a human, because when you're locked to that particular guy, you don't always have the ball. In the regular game, you always have the ball, so when you move it, it doesn't matter because you effect the game anyway. 

When you're playing MyPlayer sometimes you don't have [the ball] so [the AI] is not aware that you're setting the screen for someone and that it should use it to get open. It didn't know that when you have the ball it should come up and do pick and roll, or if you went down and posted up for a shot, and you're as big as Shaq and the guy you're posing up is 5'2", but the AI was thinking it was going isolation. All of those things led to a very frustrating experience. … So we spent the first 3 months tracking how people play, and make sure that the AI in the new MyCareer played alongside it as if you were an actual teammate, not just a pylon that happened to be stuck there." 

Dunk and Then Celebrate!

We've already talked about customisation, from a looks point of view, but there has also been a lot of work put into the game to make sure that your gameplay is customisable as well.

In the last game, if you got the Vince Carter dunk package you got about 30 dunks, and that was all great until you saw a Dwight Howard dunk that you really wanted. Then you would have to get rid of the Vince Carter package, and get the whole Dwight Howard package. 

Well not any more, the dunk packages have been split into smaller chunks so that you can customise your dunk repertoire by picking from a few different players. The freedom to combine dunk packages means you can really get what you want out of the game. 

Another really cool thing that you can customise, is how your player enters a game, or how he celebrates. Previously all of these things were pre-programmed a certain way, like with LeBron and his chalk thing, and that was to make sure that your player didn't look like a robot on court. Now you can make your own, and implement it the way that you want to. 

Let Blake Griffin Get His Dunk On

Have you ever been playing with your buddies, and you've ran up the basket to do a dunk and your player just does the most lame lay-up ever, and you shout at the screen because you know in real life that that player would near enough tear the rim off if they were in that position? Well worry about that no more!

Jones: "Signature skills is this brand new thing that we're doing, where you can have 5 different signature skills per player. In MyCareer, they're by tiers so when you get a signature skill, you get a level one. Then you can only get a level two signature skill once your attributes match that ability. You're trying to build your signature skills, and upgrading your guy at the same time. 

Even with our regular player rating system, it has been difficult in the past to really bring out what different players are noted for, so this year, Signature Skills really helps bring that out." 

The guys at 2K reassure us that they take a long time, and put a lot of detail into, the factors that make up the individual player ratings. They look to include just about every aspect of the player involved, almost to the point of including how many times they go to use the bathroom in a day. 

Jones: "We created 33 Signature Skills available in MyCareer, and what they are is rule breakers. By that, I mean they affect the game differently to how attributes do. They have this ability to bend the rules. For example, there's one called Posterizer, which was created for guys like Blake Griffin, who have, I guess, no care for their body and will try to dunk over 4 people if they're standing there. 

In the game, there's this constraint, because we pride ourselves on being a simulation. A user can select to attempt to dunk anytime he wants to and if you remember back to 2K7, by the end of it everybody loved it, but they said ' ah man, you can dunk on somebody every time'. So we started creating these restraints that said 'hey, you need to have this lane, or you need to have this ability to go in there and dunk'. 

Then as you constrain everybody, you have guys like Blake, who don't care, but we couldn't showcase that. So Posterize, is Blake Griffin. Finisher is a guy who is going to have a boost to finish a shot, even if he's getting hit. Dead Eye is a guy who's going to be able to shoot at his normal shooting percentage, even if there's chaos, you know, guys like Ray Allen. So we created these Signature Skills to really bring out the personalities of these players."  

Take Control with Manager Mode

MyAssociation lets you take control of a team in a more managerial position, and play through the NBA season making all of the calls necessary to get your team to the top. This year, a few tweaks have been made to MyAssociation to make sure that it's more realistic than ever before. 

For example, the game has been updated so that the AI teams in MyAssociation will play by the new collective bargaining rules set between players and the NBA in real life. The trade side of things has also been worked on extensively, so that, for example, if an awesome point guard comes on to the market, the Clippers aren't going to jump in and buy him, because they have the ability to recognise that they already have a great point guard in Chris Paul. Last year, the Clippers would have bought a second star point guard and not know what to do with him, while your team missed out on that opportunity. 

As far as actual game play features are concerned: 

Jones: "From a features stand point, we really did two things, one is a feature called Start Today, which is the ability to start at any part of the NBA season if you're online. Choosing Start Today will download all of the current stats from the NBA and allow you to start and play right alongside the NBA season. 

The other thing is Total Sim Control, which is the ability to dictate strategies when you choose to simulate a game. Last year, if you didn't want to play a game you would just simulate with 'x' and you'd get some sort of result. Now, based on the matchup, you can actually choose to make your team play a specific way; run an offence, double team a particular player, choose who the primarily scoring options are. You wouldn't have this choice last year, but you can set all of this up now and the simulation will run that way, and yield that type of result." 

Build the Best Team Possible

A lot of people have been asking about this sort of thing, and 2K have added in a new feature which they're calling MyTeam, which is a mashup between a collectable game, and a fantasy basketball game. 

Jones: "When you first go into it, you're presented with this packet of players that will form a team - you have one of every position plus backups, and you also have a selection of Signature Skills that you can apply to those players.  Once you get your team set, your object is to obviously improve that team, either by purchasing new players and adding them on, purchasing player packs, or just trading. 

We kinda have a market, which is cool, where you can speculate. We track the performances of players in the league and their value obviously fluctuates. Out example is Jeremy Lin from last year. If you'd purchased him at the beginning of the season, he'd of been worth nothing, then he runs through that whole series of games with the Knicks where he just explodes and suddenly his value jumps up. So you bought him for 500vc (which is our virtual currency that's earned throughout the game) and now you can sell him back and you might have enough money to buy Dwight Howard, you know, just by speculating on these performance changes.

So you're trying to move up the ranks, and play against other users who are doing the same thing, so you're pitting yourself against these guys. As you move up, you earn prizes, so if you move up in the play-off ranks, the prizes can be NBA legends, for example. The great thing about that is that the NBA has never before let us mix legends with current players, so it's great that you can now have that. 

It'll be pretty cool because people have different ideas of what makes a great team, so you'll see people really explore that." 

What's notable this year, is the increasing number of legend players that are available, so no only will you be able to grab the likes of Jordan, Bird, Magic, etc, but you can also look forward to collecting the likes of Shaq, Iverson and Pippen to add to your ranks. 

A Change of Control

Don't freak out, but NBA 2K13 will be the first time in a long time, that the developers have changed the controls in a radical way. 

Jones:  "One of the questions that people have always asked us is 'why we didn't dribble with the right stick?' In a lot of ways, the problem was that we didn't feel like dribbling with the right stick made a lot of sense, because if I want to do a spin, I also know that I want to move in a particular direction coming out of it, and so dribbling with the right stick can cause a lot of problems."

However, after some seroius thought, and a hell of a lot of testing, 2K will have dribbling moves on the right stick.

Jones: "We spent most of our time ensuring that anytime you did a dribble move, you did it relation to where you were moving, in a way that made sense. What annoys me though, about some competitors games, is that you can be dribbling and do a cross over move that puts the ball right where the defender can take it off you. In this game, that doesn't happen. We made sure that if you do a cross over, the ball will move to your opposite hand, but you'll turn and face the guy so you're in a different attacking position. So now you have really tight control with the ball."

Finally, Help Defence! 

It's pretty awesome in a basketball game when you can run the length of the court and dunk on a load of players, or pull off an awesome spin move that gets you open for a jumper that ends in a swish, but it gets pretty frustrating when you're on the defensive side of things, and you just can't seem to get a stop. Well this year, we're looking at a much more balanced game, where the AI actually understands how they can help you in putting up better defence. 

Jones: "We have actually struck a really good balance between individual defence and team defence. The truth is, if LeBron James has the ball, it doesn't matter how good of a defender I am, I am not going to stop him. The only way we're going to stop him is if the team really knows how to affect that. We really spent a lot of time working on letting the AI know how to help you as a player."

To be honest, if it's LeBron, I'm not even sure 4 other guys on the court is going to be able to help any of us on defence!

Kinect Integration - Swear, and You'll Get a T

The fact that NBA 2K13 will be the first game in the series to integrate with the Xbox 360 Kinect is no secret, and we posted a video and wrote about some of the ways that the Kinect integrates with the game a few weeks back. 

But one hilarious thing that we learned from meeting up with Rob, is that the Kinect integration will only be available to work in 1 player mode, for a particular reason.

Jones: "With the Kinect, it's available in one player only, because for example, there was one time I was testing it out, I'd be sitting there and some guy next door would shout Time Out or yell curse words because you'll actually get a technical foul if you're caught saying something inappropriate. So guys would just yell from the side, and I'd be like, thanks, you're really funny." 

So be thankful that you're the only one that can interrupt game play for a quick chat with the team, and you can only be reprimanded for your own language mishaps. 

Play Time

After going through a lot of the games new features and content, we had a short amout of time to actually play the game, and see how it felt. It definitely felt more fluid, although a few slight button changes had us at a disadvantage to begin with. (So Alley-oop isn't left trigger and B anymore, but you press A and X together, like pass and shoot at the same time.) Overall it looks smoother and the fact that you can really play as yourself with all of the customisation factors in place means that you have a much deeper connection with what's going on. When the commentator rakes up some of your past, or you're arguing with your GM, you can be sure that you'll be as in to it as your on screen player is. 

Newcomers and hardcore fans alike should really enjoy this new edition of the game, and it looks as though things are going in a really interesting direction as far as how the developers are thinking about their game in relation to the NBA, and the lengths that they're willing to go to keep improving the game, and bringing new elements to the experience every year. 

A demo of the game is likely to be released around the 25th September (official press release pending) and the full game will be released in the EU on the 5th October 2012. 

We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!