Competition is good. It holds game developers accountable, inspires new ideas and forces companies to push the envelope year after year. NBA 2K has long been one of my favorite franchises due to my love for basketball, and by extension simulation basketball videogames. As good as it has been however, the series can get a lot better. Though NBA 2K lacks significant competition in its own niche at the time, there is plenty of competition in the genre of sports gaming as a whole.
Borrowing ideas from other sports games (some of their own), and implementing them in the context of NBA 2K, produced the popular My Career mode (via MLB the Show) and the exciting addition of Signature Skills (via All Pro Football). What are some other aspects NBA 2K can borrow to create a better experience? I have a few ideas.
You hear that fellas at 2K Sports? You have our explicit permission to 'borrow' these great ideas.
Layup Lines/Open Gym Shoot-Around (College Hoops 2K8 and NBA Live 10)
One of the several “little things” that College Hoops 2K possessed was a pre-game layup line. It was a simple and fun introduction to games. And though I only played the demo for NBA Live 10, I always found the introductory “open practice” to be a nice touch and pretty fun. There’s just something about having several AI players on the court at once shooting around and doing their own thing while I practice my own moves. So I thought to myself, what if NBA 2K married these two concepts and created a pre-game open shoot-around?
Imagine as the commentating team do their introduction and pre-game analysis, you see your 12 players on the court in warm-ups and have the ability to actually practice with them before the game. I’m talking pre-game warm-ups here, music blaring, crowd looking on and oohs and ahhs cascading as guys show off their highlight dunks at random. I can imagine borrowing from the NBA Live 10 setup, where you can switch between the several players on the court at the touch of a button. I can picture some guys stretching, some guys practicing one on one moves and others just shooting around. Not only would this be a very cool addition to NBA 2K it would also be practical in that it provides maybe 2 or 3 minutes to get into rhythm with players on your team. Perhaps if you are extra hot in warm-ups, it can even carry over into the game. I love the possibilities.
Imagine watching a Blake Griffin dunk highlight reel at halftime!
Pre-Game, Halftime and Season Opening Shows (NFL 2K5, College Hoops 2K8 and Madden 13)
NFL 2K5 and College Hoops 2K8 shared some very nice presentation elements that I would love to see in an NBA 2K game. From the virtual Chris Berman in NFL 2K5 to the halftime shows and season opening breakdowns by Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg in College Hoops 2K8, both games had a way of drawing you in deeper in that they reminisced of an actual TV broadcast.
As rough as the polygons looked on Berman, Gumbel and Kellogg, their inclusion in that manner added a certain depth to the game, especially in Season modes. Fans of NBA 2K for years have been clamoring for the TNT license. Imagine having a virtual Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaq and Sir Charles with their patented humor breaking down the action at halftime and even doing pre-game analysis in bigger games within association. I thought Madden 13 did a good job with their virtual Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, even down to the voice syncing. If NBA 2K were to similarly implement this idea in a quality manner, it would add so much to the overall experience.
The faces in CAP need work. Lots of work.
Face Creating Technology/Create a Player System (NBA Street Homecourt, MLB 12 The Show)
NBA Street Homecourt took an innovative approach to player creation with their face-blending technology. Basically you could take the face of say Dwayne Wade, blend it with Tracy McGrady’s face and modify the finer details to construct a new appearance that looked realistic and consistent with the games authentic players. This was a pretty cool system in my opinion and short of EA’s "game-face" was one of the better methods by which to achieve realistic looking faces in create a player mode.
A significant and consistent issue in recent NBA 2K games has been the generic look that created players have in the game. Created players stand out in a bad way and in many cases are simply unable to reflect the natural features of most human beings. MLB 12 The Show possesses a less sophisticated face creation system than NBA Street Homecourt but is still solid and allows for fairly accurate results in the hands of skilled CAP creators. The array of options, including the ability to model head shapes, can actually produce some created players that look just as good as the authentic players in the game and blend in seamlessly. It’s about time for a complete overhaul of NBA 2K’s create a player system.
Imagine an editor friendly version of NBA 2K. Oh the possibilities.
Editor Friendly Architecture (MLB 12 The Show)
One area where MLB 12 The Show really excels is in how accessible they have made their game to roster creators and CAP makers over the years. There is even a music editor in-game that makes adding walk-up music and in-game music much easier. Each year I look forward to the Operation Sports Full Minors roster for The Show and thanks to intentional changes by the SCEA development team, the makers of that roster were able to complete and release it just in time for opening day this year. In past years it would take months into the season to complete. There was a similar effort for NBA 2K12 called The OS Mega Roster Project and hopefully we will see efforts like this continue for future iterations.
One issue with NBA 2K has been that once you start editing a roster, you are essentially committed to that roster. If new players are added to the game and ratings/tendency updates or sneakers are implemented via Living Rosters, there is no way to take advantage of the updates other than allowing the living roster to overwrite all your hard work. What if the 2K development team separated different aspects of player editing into different file systems?
For example, what if there were separate save files for rosters, player appearance edits (such as accessories and sneakers) and player ratings? This way if a Living roster became available, a user could choose to only overwrite ratings and tendencies, while maintaining all of the edits to player appearance, or vice versa. Additionally, what if the NBA 2K developers created a specific pool in 2K Share that stores all the players added by living rosters updates? This way, instead of simply missing out on players that could be added months into the season, roster editors can import players from that pool into their already edited roster. The ultimate of course, would be to also make 2K share available within an association or season. For years gamers have asked for living rosters in association and season mode, and allowing 2K share access in season might be an easier and better alternative.
What basketball game isn't fully complete without the Alan Parsons Project?
Official Song Licensing (Madden ‘11-‘13)
Madden NFL 11 was one of the first games to license songs one would expect to hear in a stadium on game day. Even though it wasn’t implemented perfectly and the songs played too repetitively, the inclusion of licensed tracks is definitely a step in a positive direction and I wish NBA 2K would follow that example. The in-stadium experience has been one of the weaker areas of NBA 2K games and music played during timeouts is a part of that equation. How cool would it be to hear the crowd singing along to the “Hey” song, or “Zombie Nation” by Kernkraft during a timeout? Licensed tracks can really add life to that aspect of the game.
Honorable Mentions: Crib Mode (NFL 2K5), Dunk Contest Controls (NBA Live ’06) and Player Introductions (NBA 2K2).
These are a few ideas that NBA 2K can borrow to enhance its experience. I am sure I’m forgetting or overlooking more than a few. What are some good ideas from other sports games you hope to see implemented in future NBA 2K games?