With the basketball season only a month away, we sat down with Visual Concepts to talk about the new features coming to its hit basketball series.
In addition to getting my hands on the current-generation version of NBA 2K14, we chatted with Visual Concepts executive vice president Jeff Thomas and producer Rob Jones about the changes coming to presentation, gameplay, online, and Association mode. Here is what we found out:
- The best-in-class commentary isn't resting on its laurels. Visual Concepts says it has a huge amount of new lines that provide analysis and backstory in much more detail. "We have also made a lot of improvements to track dialogue and ensure that repetition of stories and common lines are limited, and it makes room for fresh angles of play-by-play and analysis," says executive vice president Jeff Thomas.
- NBA 2K14 has two new stat overlays called "Scoring Breakdown" and "Hustle Stats" that track points off penetration, points off mid-range jumpers, points off fast break, points off assists, points off post plays, and second chance points.
- To freshen up the arena experience, Visual Concepts has added more than 500 customized arena beats and music.
- You should also notice major enhancements to the crowd reactions and the dynamic range of the ambience in the arenas," Thomas says."We've added more detailed event controls and reactions, which allowed us to provide a much more immersive and realistic crowd that keeps up with the action on the court."
- Last year the studio overhauled its right analog stick control by migrating the dribbling moves to the stick and hiding the shot stick options behind a left trigger modifier. In the quest to make the controls as intuitive as possible, NBA 2K14 removes the need of holding a modifier button to take a shot.
- With this newly dubbed Pro Stick controls, the full suite of dribbling moves are still at your disposal just like last year, but if you hold the thumbstick in a particular direction it activates the shot stick. It takes a few games to learn the boundaries between shooting and dribbling, but after fooling around with a player in practice mode I grew more comfortable with this approach. I'm curious to see if this leads to accidental shots in the heat of the moment, however.
- Holding down the left trigger now activates a suite of flashy no-look and bounce passes for skilled point guards like Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio. Simply push the direction of the player you want to pass to on the right analog stick while holding down the trigger and your skilled point guard will deliver a stylish dish worthy of a highlight reel. If you try using the Pass Stick with a less-talented passer don't expect the same results.
- On the defensive side of the ball Visual Concepts added a deny system that improves player positioning as well as ride and holding. If you really want to stay between a player and the ball as he moves through the key you can hold the left trigger, which makes your defender really get up on top of him.
- The "call for pick and roll" button has moved from the left bumper back to the B/circle button, where it started a long time ago.
- While researching player data, Visual Concepts discovered many of its users aren't using the play system. Since plays allow you to be more successful, the developers wanted to expose them in a new way. In NBA 2K14, pressing the left bumper automatically selects a new play for you to run. If you want to page through play options, you can still do this with the d-pad.
- In previous NBA 2K games, plays were normally run off of scripts. Veteran users could often see the play unfold early, anticipate what a player is trying to do, and take it away before it developed. The AI within the play system now has options and picks the right one based off what the user is doing. For example, if Ray Allen is supposed to curl off a double screen and you go over the top of that screen to try and intercept the pass, he'll either flare lower to get open or cut back door on you.
- NBA 2K games never previously had a good system for rotating off pick and rolls. This year the dev team met with an unnamed coach to create a rotation system that reacts differently if a player is driving either strong side or weak side and pays more attention to the roller. Now defense helps to the guy that's rolling, not to the ball. This should open up the drive and kick game.
- NBA 2K14 features a reworked blocking system that allows defenders to choose where to swat the ball instead of just going for the first place the defender's hand could intercept the ball. This allows players who perfectly time their blocks to deny dunks.
- The defending animations feature a renewed sense of urgency, and overall the game feels much faster than NBA 2K13.
- The team re-wrote the logic behind how the AI attacks the rim. If you're playing against aggressive players like Heat stars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, you should notice how determined they are to get to the basket.
- This year's big push with the Association mode centers on re-tuning free agency. Visual Concepts reworked the player logic so they have a keener understanding of the market when deciding whether to re-up with their current franchise or test the waters in free agency. As a result, you should see many more players hitting the open market.
- Because more players are available during the free agency period, teams more actively plan by trying to clear cap space.
- The player rotations have been rebuilt to take into account recent performances. Shooters with hot hands see their minutes increase, and slumping players spend more time on the bench.
- Don't expect star players to start posting big numbers on the road to recovery after experiencing a significant injury. Players coming back from serious physical setbacks are now eased back into the lineup while they recover their stamina and durability.
- As Visual Concepts previously revealed, Crews are coming back in a big way for the current-generation version of NBA 2K14. Using your My Player, you can compete in five-on-five pick-up games with nine other humans online.
- Crews features season and playoff modes with full leaderboards and stat tracking. You earn VC for participating in these online match-ups just like you do with offline games.
- My Team mode returns with new player modes, plus multi- and single-player tournaments. You can also play with friends this year.
- In My Player mode you can play through NBA team schedules for prizes that increase in value the further into the season you play.
- To spice up the action, Visual Concepts added a fourth tier of special reward players (sapphire) to go along with the bronze, silver, and gold levels.
- Players can name their city and abbreviation for their My Teams, and Visual Concepts is also including logo cards.
NBA 2K14 is coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 1. A next-gen version touting additional features is expected to launch day and date with both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.