Polygon’s Samit Sarkar recently sat down with the senior producer of NBA 2K17 developer Visual Concepts, Rob Jones. Jones’ remarks to Sarkar and Sarkar’s own impressions of 2K17’s gameplay have shed some light on what we can expect in the upcoming basketball title.
Visual Concepts is working on making gameplay more realistic. Sarkar said, “NBA 2K17 is focused on giving players more control than ever on the court–while simultaneously asking more of them.”
One particular feature Visual Concepts is working to make more life-like is the play of elite point guard Steph Curry. Sarkar said that Curry’s high percentage shooting (51 percent of 3-point shots between 28 feet from the basket and the half-court line in 2015-2016) could not be accounted for initially. 2K16 was designed with a drop-off in shot accuracy past a certain distance from the 3-point line. This design feature did not take into account Curry’s abilities.
“Steph and [the Warriors] started doing all that crazy stuff, and we weren’t really ready for it,” Jones said to Sarkar. “So we didn’t want people to be able to shoot those shots. That’s obviously something that [we] thought about and fixed for this year.”
For 2K17, Visual Concepts wanted to ensure that other players couldn’t match Curry’s ability to hit 3s from really far out.
“He’s the only guy that’s actually doing it,” Jones explained to Sarkar. “Nobody else is coming down, getting to the hash mark, or getting to the circle, and going, ‘Well, I’m shooting from here, forget you.’ And so we didn’t want to make that change without being able to individualize that to the one person currently who’s doing it.”
For those concerned about Curry’s beefed up abilities and a Warriors team improved by Kevin Durant, Visual Concepts is providing ways to contend with the star-studded team.
Artificial intelligence for coaches and players is much improved. This means that computer controlled coaches make smarter decisions about who is on the court–so you don’t need to worry about the wrong guy covering Curry. Improved AI also means that players “move with intent” as Sarkar put it. “They go to a spot on the floor for a particular reason, such as to help out with defense in the paint or to set a screen,” Sarkar said.
NBA 2K17 will have freelance offenses for every team, a feature brought into 2K17 for only a few clubs. These are offensive systems based on the strategies of real life NBA coaches, and they compel players to behave according to real life coaching strategies and styles.
Improved intelligence for the players not under your control should make it easier to defend against high powered offenses, but some situations or games will call for going into the strategy screen and setting up the defense yourself.
There are positioning improvements in 2K17. Jones explained that blocks are more realistic because they are mainly generated from help-side defense—a defensive philosophy based on players coordinating with one another.
Steals have been improved in 2K17 as well. “If I can expect you to make a move and show the ball unprotected, I can time my button press and knock the ball away,” Jones said. “Passes in the key also get intercepted a lot more in 2K17.
Sarkar said that generally when was playing he found that “The ball just felt more live, whether on passes, steals or rebounds.”
Gamers have more control over dribbling in 2K17. Signature size-ups are dribble moves that only certain superstars can pull off, and these have been updated. In past games, these moves had branch points that allowed players to break out of the move’s animation, but misjudged timing or not knowing where the branch point was would result in the player being stuck. In 2K17 players can control these moves using one-to-one responsiveness on the analog sticks.
Shooting requires more control in this year’s game. Layups now need to be aimed and timed properly.
Gamers can also control how they drive the basket, choosing to either push through a player or go around them.
“There’s a level of physicality near the rim [in NBA 2K17] that’s never been part of 2K, in the sense that 2K, for me, has always felt like if I got hit going to the basket, the defender was always the initiator,” Jones said.
The fatigue system is being revamped to ensure that Gamers can’t just sprint up and down the court and run circles around defenders. Gamers will be punished for abusing the sprint button, and it will be necessary to bring in backups to give starters a rest.
While the level of control in 2K17 may seem daunting to beginners, Visual Concept is hoping that new gamers will be eased into the game with a new tutorial mode called 2KU–a mode narrated by USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Jones didn’t provide specifics on 2KU, but he did say, “I think we’re taking [a] kind of introductory-adventure approach.”
Sarkar believes that victory in 2K17 will come down to skill, ultimately being the equalizer between online teams with similar ranks and players.
Sarkar said the following in respect to this: “At some point, everyone who plays NBA 2K online seriously is going to have a high-rated player, just from having put in the time to upgrade their character’s attributes. So the way Visual Concepts sees it, giving players more control on the court is the only way to determine who has more skills on the sticks.”
Jones reiterated these sentiments: “They’re all trying to max their guy out, anyway. So just saying, ‘Hey, I’m [rated] 95, so I’m good’ — you want to be able to separate that field, and really start bringing out the guys who really know what they’re doing versus the others.”
Most of the changes made to 2K17 that give gamers more control are a response to the kind of game modes that were played the most in NBA 2K16. Solo career mode, MyCareer, MyPark, and 2K Pro-Am, were very popular in last year’s game. These are game modes where gamers control one player exclusively. Therefore, Visual Concepts is trying to make gameplay as intuitive and realistic possible for those who prefer to experience the game from a single vantage point.
“We can argue that the way people are consuming basketball is changing,” Jones said. “And therefore, the whole idea of more control — especially if I’m going to spend most of my time [locked to one player on the court] — is really, really important to me.”
NBA 2K17 is coming on September 20, and SGO is your one stop source for all things 2K17.