Work doesn’t stop once the new game launches, as the development team makes daily updates to players and teams throughout the season, and gameplay producer Scott O’Gallagher says developers face much more work should Simmons start nailing jump-shots.
“The only thing holding him back is his shot,” O’Gallagher says.
“If he had a good jumper from 15 feet he would break our game. How would you guard him? I’m excited to see where his game goes.”
We had to make specific adjustments just for Ben in the way people get back to pick him up in transition.
Developers have made noticeable improvements to the defensive transition of teams this year, with each team’s strategies appearing more authentic, and there are a slew of new animations for both dribbling and driving skills.
Many 2K players don’t look beyond noticing if the shoes, haircuts and animations match their real-life counterparts, but the developers strive to make things as close to real as possible.
“We had to make specific adjustments just for Ben in the way people get back to pick him up in transition. They get back to the free throw line instead of at the three-point line. Some of the things Toronto did to him to limit his success is the same things we did,” O’Gallagher says.
“Same with the adjustments Toronto made for Stephen Curry to not let him come off down screens in the NBA Finals. So it goes really deep. Some of it goes right over people’s heads and we are OK with that, the hardcore guys will appreciate it and it’s a new immersive experience for our players.”
The NBA 2K games have grown into a diverse offering over 20 years, letting gamers take their own player through a career in MyCareer, collect player cards and play with their players in MyTeam, and allowing fans to manage a whole NBA franchise in MyGM.
The game also features an online meeting place called “The Neighbourhood”, where players take their MyCareer player to play with and against others. This year’s game also sees the Women’s National Basketball Association [WNBA] teams added for the first time, including Australian stars like Liz Cambage and Leilani Mitchell.
“It feels like this game has grown to be bigger than any of us thought it could be,” says gameplay director Mike Wang, a 14-year veteran of the series.
“There are so many different things now that it’s sometimes overwhelming but every year when we go into development we are like ‘how can we try to out-do ourselves?'”
Another area the game builds authenticity is with NBA players themselves. Director of sports business operations Ronnie Singh, known as Ronnie2K, is the face of these campaigns including the “ratings reveal” in the months leading up to release.
This involves Singh sharing different player’s rating (99 overall is highest) with them over social media and having them offer their reaction.
Sometimes they are happy, many times they are not and their reactions help spark debate.
For a series which has sold almost 90 million copies in its lifetime, that influx of fresh chatter is welcome.
“The NBA players are a big part of this thing from start to finish,” Singh says.
“Everyone is talking about the ratings, where they stand versus each other in the ratings. That’s become a whole phenomenon in itself. I don’t know if it surprised me as ultimately NBA guys are really competitive, and this is just another thing to hold their hat on, but that many people carrying or getting into the conversation and making it what it is is cool.”
The MyCareer mode has a story attached to it each year showing how the fictitious NBA starlet rose into the NBA.
Last year’s player was shown playing in the NBA G-League and in the Chinese Basketball Association before earning his NBA call-up. To those who follow basketball closely, the way the story played out wasn’t very realistic.
This year production company SpringHill Entertainment, which is owned by LeBron James, has taken charge of the story and its has a number of NBA superstars making cameos and actors like Idris Elba and Rosario Dawson playing key characters.
“LeBron and SpringHill’s partnership really helps with the story telling as they are in the business of productions of that type,” Singh says.
“LeBron’s spin and understanding of basketball and the narrative around basketball is only benefiting our game.”
The author travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of 2K.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.