2K Sports Hosts NBA 2K13 Developer Call
Yesterday, 2K Sports was nice enough to invite me to participate in a conference call for their upcoming title, NBA 2K13. Participating in the call were several media outlets, Producers Erick Boenisch and Mike Wang were on hand to answer questions that were generated by the media and moderated by our always great host Travis Moses. The call went on for about an hour and as you will read, covered a lot information on this next installment in the NBA 2K series.
Jay-Z and Popularity of the Brand
Looking at NBA 2K13, it was interesting to hear about the developers and what they found to be the biggest new addition to the franchise in this year’s entry into the series. It could have been the Dream Team, or the idea of the expanded MyCareer mode, but it came down to the as yet little discussed MyTeam mode. They looked at MyTeam mode, as a feature that will surprise many fans when the game is released.
Erick also talked about the challenges of putting together a full-fledged title in the span of 12 months. There are a lot of things that they would like to work on like a new engine for each new entry in the series, but it is just not feasible. Instead, the team looked at working in new mechanics into the current engine. With the new mechanics, they feel that players will see and hear things that will make the game look newer, but it is just the expansion of the current engine, maximizing it to the fullest.
Of course, one of the more curious items that happened during the NBA 2K13 press cycles was the announcement of Jay-Z as an executive producer for the title. Now, in a lot of industries, when a famous person signs on to be an executive producer, it is more of a celebratory role than anything else. Was this the same for Jay-Z? We were greeted with an emphatic no, as it seems Jay-Z is a huge fan of the series and a big time basketball fan as well. That last point should be a given since he is part owner of the Brooklyn Nets. But Jay-Z handpicked all the songs for the soundtrack, helped with input on design and more importantly, he was described as having a pulse on what the mainstream is interested in. Jay-Z also helped cut together music videos for all the songs, using in-game footage to expand on this vignettes. And no, just because Jay-Z is an owner of the Brooklyn Nets, he is also a realist, and did not ask for a ratings boost for the team.
Legends and Legendary Teams
If anyone reading this is a huge basketball fan and is old enough to remember the 1992 Olympics, you remember the greatest collection of players ever to step onto a basketball court that year. It was the first year that the USA decided to use professional players in the Olympics (coming off of a disappointing loss in the 1988 Olympics), and it was awe inspiring to say the least. Jordan, Pippen, Bird, Stockton, Barkley, Robinson and more, coming together as a unified team. Who wouldn’t want to command that squad on the court in NBA 2K13, and with that the developers made it happen.
It was from the developers that they wanted both the original Dream Team and the 2012 Olympic team in the game, if only because of the current high surrounding both teams this year, but it was a bigger challenge than they thought at first. While the current team was perfectly fine with having their likeness in the game, there were two big holdouts on the 1992 team – Barkley and Pippen. Barkley had not been in a game in almost 20 years, and the same went for Pippen. Barkley’s inclusion was amusing, as we were told the tale by Boernisch that when it was mentioned to Jay-Z that Barkley was not in the game, he made some calls and the deal was done in about a day, adding to his legacy as an executive producer on 2K13. Pippen ended up agreeing to be in the game, after he was met with a number of requests on Twitter and Facebook, proving that social media can still be a powerful tool.
Moving forward, we also talked about the legendary teams that were in the past game, and all of those teams are available for play in this year’s version. Better still was the news that they are all unlocked from the start, with no codes or fancy items needed to unlock them for use in play. On top of the two Olympic teams, the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers are included this year as well, marking the first time that Allen Iverson has been included in the NBA 2K franchise.
Making Waves as a Player in MyCareer
MyCareer, formerly MyPlayer mode has been expanded on quite a bit, with a lot of new focus put on the very popular mode. When asked to peg down some of the updates, there were too many to list, but one that was singled out was the Team Sitdown feature. Now, a player can come in and meet with a GM to discuss the team. Here you can call for a coach to be fired, or for more playing time and even the idea of trading a player that is starting in front of you. There are about 50 or so of these topics and they can branch out in multiple directions. There is also a meter that the GM will use to control how it handles these interactions. The better a player you are, the more likely you can get these changes made.
The grading systems, as a whole will work similarly to last year, but there have been some weird quirks that have been fixed, so things that happen somewhat rarely in the game will not translate to a knock against your overall grade.
More importantly is the idea of how the mode has become a full embodiment of being a player. You now have more commercials, more trailers and more advertisements. Things you say at a press conference might come up in a news segment or via commentary in the next game. There is a new social following element that shows how you trend with the public. You can even buy clothing, jewelry and more that can be equipped for those off the court items. It is all about weaving you into a full experience.
Of course, on the court action in MyCareer was tweaked as well, so players on your team are more aware of what you do and how you play on the court. If you are a guy that likes to be on the perimeter, the team will adjust to that. As you play better, the team will work in sync with you, setting better screens or pick and roll plays. Coaches are also more aware when you are doing things that are not normal in a game, like taking excessive half court shots or goofing around in general. Those things will possibly land you on the bench now.
We also took a stroll down into the Association mode, where there were some changes made. First and foremost was the fact that the mode is now compliant with the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). So all the new salary cap rules, mid cap exceptions and more are present here. You can also start a new association at any time, using the current live rosters, stats and games played to fill out the season and then pick things up from there. It allows those that might get the game later in the cycle to pick up and play from the current point without having to go through the early points in the season.
A new mode for NBA 2K13 is the Road to the Playoffs, where you are presented with a challenge of 12 games. As you win more games, you get a better ranking for the playoffs. So if you win three games, you become an eighth seed. Get more wins and move up that ranking ladder. It is a fun way to challenge a player to see how well they can perform when under pressure.
Taking on the Public and Being Mobile
When going to play online in NBA 2K13, there are new options for others to look at when playing against all others. First off is that every team can be used in the online mode. You want to use the Olympic teams – yep. Maybe want to play one of the classic or legendary teams – that is all good as well. About the only think you cannot play in online mode is your player from the MyCareer mode, but even here you have options.
Your MyCareer player has a 3 vs. 3 blacktop mode for online, where you can let your character customization shine. All of your bling is on display here for others to see when playing against an opponent, and you are playing in a less structured environment, so you can have a little more fun. Besides, you want everyone to see that rock that you just put in your ear, right?
You can also play NBA 2K13 when you are on the go with a new app that links into the main game. The app has some mini-games like an autograph signing and other things that when completed will allow for perks to be added to your next game that you play. The mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.
Flopping and Other Nuances
A new feature that was added to the game was the ability to play the flop card. Yes, you can have someone spill onto the floor when you have a player charging at you for the score. While it will not always work, it does occasionally pick up the foul when used properly. Some will complain that flopping, the scourge of NBA fans was added but it is a part of the game and 2K Sports is looking to capture the whole game and not just parts.
Passing has also been improved, so you can use bounce passes and lob passes when you are looking to set up a play. While the new stick dribbling will allow for you to use this at will, those that are not as fluent with this, these passes will still happen, when the situation calls for it. Passing is also a little more intelligent, so less passes will be sent across the court to the player you were absolutely not trying to pass to in a critical moment, leading to a game changing turnover.
You can now also branch out of animations when the situation calls for it. This is very critical when you maybe are riding someone out of bounds, or in the midst of a shot that might not work due to defensive movements. The team has built in many more branching points for these changes.
While last year’s version of the game included Move support, it will not be in NBA 2K13. Instead, they opted to use the Kinect voice control tech to allow Xbox 360 owners to use vocal commands to control situations on the floor. Now you can call for a pick or a play for a player, or even get a player off the bench. While some may not use the feature, it is invaluable to the hardcore player that might not want to stop the game to look up a specific play. Instead they can call for a switch or a pick and roll and be done with it, and never leave the game.
There were some questions about the Wii U, but we did not get much on this version of the game, beyond the fact that it is a feature for feature match of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. There will be some functionality mapped to the controller screen, and the developers state that it will be cool, but they were not ready to mention any of it yet. Look for more on that here in the near future.
And to just crush a few people out there, there are a few celebrities that are included in the game that can be played as a team, including one Justin Bieber. With this mode, they asked the celebs who they wanted to be modeled after and Bieber wanted to be a mesh of Allen Iverson and Nate Robinson, which means that we could see Mr. Bieber sailing high above the rim for some dunks. All I know is that I plan to flagrant that kid if he comes up the middle on my player.
And with all of that, our conference came to a close. I know this is long, but I, and the folks at 2K Sports thank for your being a trooper and reading through all of this, as the game does have a number of items that are going to make NBA 2K13 really stand out from the last entry in the series, as hard as that is to believe. Look for NBA 2K13 on October 2nd, 2012 for Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3, Wii and PSP, with a Wii U version coming sometime around or after its launch in November 2012.