Interview with Rob Jones, Producer of NBA 2K13
Given the more organic nature of the dribble mechanic (Control Stick), will we see more signature dribble packages and moves? And what has been done to ensure a distinction between elite ball-handlers, average and poor ones?
While Signature movement and animations are still part of the very fabric of the NBA 2K experience, our ball handlers are differentiated less by the actual signature animation, but more by the animations they get, the speed of the moves, the effectiveness of the moves, and the ability to retain control of the ball when doing the moves.
Adding manual bounce passing is huge this year. We’re happy to hear it has been included. Will passing between players be different based on player ratings? Will it be pressure sensitive or can you control whether a pass should be lobbed or zipped? What about touch-passing on the fast break?
Passing is differentiated by the accuracy of passes in different situations. It is also differentiated by access to different types of passes. It isn’t a pressure sensitive system. We have talked about that, but it has been a fine balance between adding that type of control and introducing the lag time necessary to figure out which pass you really want. In the past, players have complained about the passing feeling sluggish, so we wanted to give immediate response to the pass button, wherever possible.
Will we see the AI utilize all these new dribble moves?
Yes, as the moves were put in, we paid attention to ensuring that the AI used the same moves that the user would. The AI may not be as good at inventing new combinations, though. That’s just the nature of users adapting to controls better than a computer can.
Will Signature Skills icons be visible (on the court) while playing or will they be hidden?
Signature Skills start off hidden, but are accessible via an in-game HUD that can be accessed by pressing up on the d-pad.
Are there any new sliders, tendencies and ratings this year?
There is a new tendency for post shooting, but otherwise the work done on sliders and tendencies was meant to yield more predictable results from the way the AI plays the game. We spent a lot of time tuning the tendencies in the roster to really perform the way we expected each player to play and, more importantly, revisiting how those tendencies are used within the game in the AI’s decision making. We also worked on each slider to make sure that it provided a desired and consistent effect when adjusted in game. Seems like a minor revision, but as this game has grown over the past few years, some of the innards of the game needed to be readjusted to achieve expected results.
Can you talk more about the mini-package dunks that will change throughout the season?
When creating Signature dunk packages in the past, we’d assign a player anywhere from 5 to 30 signature dunks. Whenever a player stopped doing a dunk or stopped being able to do a specific one, the system wasn’t flexible enough to allow us to remove it without forcing that player to a completely different package.
Now, our packages per player can be adjusted by removing a mini-pack and adding another, or removing multiple ones. A player’s arsenal can therefore be modified much more easily than we ever could before.
Will we see more off the ball/loose ball fouls with this new collision system?
There are definitely more off the ball fouls, but I wouldn’t say they are due to any new collision system. We do pay attention to your speed and direction when colliding with stationary players, be it defenders in a boxout or offensive players setting screens. In some of those cases, we will call fouls.
Will the AI read and look for back door cuts on offense and defense? What about flares and curls off screens?
Yes. Let me give you an example. I play against a colleague that truly loves his Celtics. Ever since they got Jason Terry, he loves to run these double screens to get him and Pierce open for three point shots. One thing the new AI does quite well is deciding where to square up based on how I navigate the screen. So, for example, I usually attempt to follow him around the baseline screen, and Terry will generally pop out to the wing for his shot. Every once in a while, I will try to cheat and go over the screen. In these cases, Terry pops out to the corner, effectively negating my cheat. This is definitely new behavior in the play system, whereas instead of just running through a script, the AI can adjust its movements based on how the defender chooses to approach the play development.
The hop step button has made its return, will collision and physics play a role to combat the cheese many complain about?
Yes, while we wanted the hop step button back for control purposes, we paid close attention to the effect of it. Multiple resolutions will let you know that you did the move in the wrong situation, from lost balls due to collision to heavy contact shots when shooting into a defender’s body.
Are there any collisions between players if the ball handler is under the rim?
Yes, players under the rim collide. We’ve made the ball handler pretty sensitive to contact under there in order to balance the game out.
How have charge/blocking fouls been improved?
Well, for once they work reliably! Getting a charge actually feels good in the game this year. You can control the defender’s position while holding the charge button too. Mostly, getting the rule right was made a priority by the AI team.
Can you talk about signature gathers and how they will work?
Signature Gathers have now become quick escape dribble/hop shots. They are performed by holding LT and double tapping the Control Stick left/right/back. Alternatively they can be accessed by hitting B + LS left/right/back.
How do floaters work and is the Left Trigger still used for Triple-Threat?
Floaters definitely work. Using players like Parker, Paul and Nash just wouldn’t be the same if you couldn’t shoot that shot while driving the key. We’ve not only made them more efficient, but sped them up too. You can also shoot standing floaters this year, which is something we never had control over.
With the Control Stick, Triple Threat is done just flicking the RS. If you want to pump fake you will need LT, but jabs, stepovers and holds are done with the RS only.
How has fast break logic been addressed? Will we see players filling lanes, continuation(s) to the hoop by the AI, trailers, defense committing to dribbler to stop the ball and force a pass, etc.?
Offensively, we started with the concept of a five-lane break. Previously we ran on a three lane system with trailer behaviors. The AI fills the lanes more reliably (less 3pt spot ups in wrong situations).
Are alley-oops off the backboard to a teammate and self-alley-oops in open court situations performed by all players regardless if they actually do it in real life?
No, the AI won’t perform them if they aren’t high skilled. A user can attempt them as much as they want, but the success rate will be based on the abilities of the two (or one) players involved.
What role will shading ball handlers play regarding help defense, double teams & pick & rolls? Does the AI adjust and shade to a dribblers weak hand? Front a dominant big after too many scores? Sag on the weak side after they decide to front?
Well, shading a ballhandler to the correct area automatically forces that player to attack an area that has the type of help defense you want to play (the rotation). Shading a player on a pick and roll can either mean getting over the pick easier or getting caught out of position if the screen comes from the opposite side. We like the concept of forcing a player to his weak(er) hand, but it is something that is very hard to convey to users, so we have been limiting our focus to forcing the ball handler towards a better help situation.
How well does the new physics integration effect screens and players moving without the ball, through traffic? When running plays, will players still get hung up or will they take more realistic angles to come free?
The offball player interaction has been improved dramatically. We really lightened up on those collisions, relying more on single player collision avoidance animations and/or collision reactions. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience, especially in player lock situations and in play timing.
It seemed the layups and the ability to get a proper layup animation, took a step back this year, when comparing it to NBA 2K11. Will we see a more natural flow to these animations this year?
Yes, the layup animation selection is much improved in 2K13 over 2K12. For one, we have a new way of determining how to avoid defenders and we also adjust your shots based on contact, all as part of the new collision resolution system.
What is the biggest improvement you see from the AI, both offensively and defensively?
I see two things on offense: a better understanding of how to attack you within plays, and a more consistent way of knowing what scoring option to take when they do decide to attack you.
Defensively, I think the AI is much stronger due to better defensive rotations and a more disciplined way of playing onball defense - forcing harder shots by the user.
In general, we are happy with feeling like that the AI is successful because of basketball smarts, and not just because they react to things better, faster than us or are more accurate with their shooting.
We’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, is there anything else you’d like to add?
The dev team is grateful for you guys’ support. All of your praises and criticisms just help drive us to create a better basketball experience. We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to deliver this year, and look forward to your suggestions as to how to improve going forward! Thanks again to all.