Balancing gameplay with Jay-Z: NBA 2K13 [Interview]
When you’ve got a formula that works as well as that of the NBA 2K series, you could argue that it would make sense to just leave it alone – keep the gameplay the same, just update the players, teams and game modes.
By changing or adding anything to that winning setup, you run the risk of altering the balance and diluting what has made it so fun in the first place. 2K Sports, however, don’t do that with the NBA 2K franchise. NBA 2K11 was amazing, people said it wouldn’t be better. Then NBA 2K12 came out and it was better.
With NBA 2K13 2K Sports seem to be doing the same thing; adding new content in a bid to improve the name, at the risk of altering the delicate balance they’ve found in recent years.
We speak to 2K Sports’ Chris Snyder about this, as well as just how some guy named Jay-Z (executive producer on NBA 2K13) is involved.
IncGamers: It’s commendable really, how much emphasis you guys put on trying to improve the gameplay with each successive year – especially given how excellent the past few games have been. How difficult is it to add new ideas, without tipping the balance and ruining what you already had?
Chris Snyder: I don’t think we ever take it so far that we’re going to tip the balance. It’s a very fair question, to be sure, you certainly don’t want to do anything so drastic that it’s going to turn people off. When we start playing around with new ideas it might not be years until that stuff actually sees the light of day and makes it into the game. That’s mean we’ve tested it a lot and we’re sure it works.
Also, we’re famous and notorious for going on forums and into chatrooms in a bid to listen to our fans and get their thoughts about the current game. If people are really clambering to be heard then we owe it to them to listen and that helps us not to get ahead of ourselves.
IG: Do you think that with the new additions to each game, such as the new way you’re using both analogue sticks in NBA 2K13, it becomes increasingly difficult for new players to get to grips with the game each passing year?
CS: No, I don’t think so. I think any player is going to have to go through the learning curve and we offer plenty of ways to change the control system to exactly how you want it. Also, we have introduced things like the Kinect voice functionality which is a really easy way to engage with the game.
Calling for people to come on and off and the bench, calling for screens and double teams and any other kind of offensive and defensive plays. You say it and watch it happen. I think that kind of thing will break down the barrier of entry and bring in a lot more new users.
IG: Explain how the two analogue sticks now work for movement and dribbling…
CS: The left stick is basically your movement and the right stick is your dribbling. So, the left stick is your feet and the right stick is your hands.
Rocking the right stick side to side will dribble the ball between both hands, swing the stick around and you’ll take the ball behind your back, swing it full 360 and you’ll do a spin move. Meanwhile you’re still controlling your basic direction with the left stick.
IG: Have you made any changes to the way player stat updating works during the season?
CS: We have Living Rosters, which aims to replicate the way players in the D-League are brought into the NBA to fill in for injured players or because they’ve proved themselves as a great player. That’s something that was already in the game and we’ve worked hard to improve that.
As for brand new features, you’re going to have to what until September before we talk about those. There’s a lot to talk about in September, believe me, it’s going to be a crazy month.
IG: You’ve got the USA Dream Team from 1992 and the 2012 USA Olympic Team, are other nation’s teams included?
CS: Unfortunately not, no. That’s something that we’re working on bringing into future games, but we can’t right now.
IG: Flopping/diving/whatever you want to call it, we saw it a lot during the Olympics (especially with Jose Calderon), is there a way to simulate that in the game?
CS: Well… I would be hesitant to call it flopping, but there is a healthy amount of asking the ref if they saw the contact and complaining if decisions don’t go a team’s way.
That’s something that’s part of our dynamic shot generation mechanism, which allows us to blend animations into one seamless whole. For example, during an animation blend in which you’re driving to the basket and you’ve taken contact from a defender you might fall to the ground and shout to the ref to call a foul.
You see that kind of thing all the time in the real NBA and that’s something brand new we’ve added this year.
IG: Jay-Z is acting as executive producer. How long has he been involved?
CS: We’ve been talking with their camp for a very long time… I can’t even remember when the first meeting was but it was months and months ago.
Jay is a massive fan of the game which has made it a really fun ride. He’s had a direct impact on how we’ve put the USA Dream Team into the game. Plus, we’ve got something that we’re not revealing until September but when we do that’ll show just how important Jay has been to the game and how far he has been integrated into it.
IG: As a fan, does he give his two cents on the state of the gameplay?
CS: [Laughs] Yeah, he likes what we’ve done with the control stick. Like any other fan he wants more control of the players, and every year we try to find a way to do that. But, like you said earlier, it’s a fine line to do that without revolutionising things too much and freaking everybody out.
It’s just nice to see how big a fan he is. Not only because of how famous he is, but because how relevant he is in the basketball world as the part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets. The guy is just such a visionary and everything he touches does amazingly well.