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NBA 2K17 MyCAREER Blog with Senior Producer Ben Bishop

NBA 2K17

NBA 2K17 MyCAREER Blog with Senior Producer Ben Bishop

Hi everyone! My name is Ben Bishop, and I’m a Senior Producer here at Visual Concepts. I spend most of my time working on all things MyCAREER, so I’m here to fill you in on the new and exciting changes we made for the mode in NBA 2K17.

You’ve probably heard about The Prelude by now, but if you haven’t, check out the trailer, or just try it out. It’ll be available on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network on September 9, and it’s completely free! The Prelude covers the college portion of MyCAREER, and has a ton of great content. If you want a head start on your career, or even just to get a taste of what the game is like this year, I promise it’ll be worth your time. But the intent of this blog is to cover everything ELSE you’ll find in MyCAREER, so let’s get started.

Player Creation
Before we get into any of the main feature details, we should start at the beginning – Player Creation. We completely revamped the way you create your player this year, because in NBA 2K17, it’s more important than ever.

First off is the concept of archetypes. You’re not just choosing a position anymore. Now you also choose what type of a player you want to be, and this, in turn, dictates your starting attributes, your ratings cap in each of our 10 attribute categories (up from 6 in 2K16), plus which badges you can upgrade.

From choosing an archetype, you move on to many of the typical creation decisions, like height, weight, and wingspan. The key to remember in 2K17 is that THESE THINGS MATTER. How you shape yourself from the very beginning has a huge impact on what type of a player you will become. Throughout the creation process, we do our best to illustrate exactly what your various physical changes will do to your player’s attributes. For example, you can see here when adjusting height, a taller point guard will lose a little bit in things like speed and shooting ability, but gain in things like dunking and rebounding.

It’s all up to you. Our main intention with this is to create a wider variety of player types than ever before, each offering a different style of gameplay and a completely unique experience in the mode. Playing in the NBA as a Sharpshooting PG is totally different than playing as a Paint Protecting C, and this holds true in NBA 2K17 in a big way. My favorite part about this is the amount of replayability it adds, not just for the way the story unfolds around you, but in how much extra it can offer you in related modes like MyPARK and 2K Pro-Am.

The Story
Speaking of the story, we might as well dig in. In NBA 2K16, we took a rather different approach. Spike Lee’s Livin’ Da Dream narrative was very linear, focused almost exclusively on the off-the-court trials and tribulations of a young, up-and-coming NBA star. This year, we wanted to bring the emphasis back on the court to the game of basketball, and with a much more dynamic and interactive story element.

In our early brainstorming meetings, one of the ideas that resonated most with us was the concept of a dynamic duo. Seeing what two young stars can do as they rise up together is very intriguing, whether it’s Steph and Klay, Durant and Westbrook, or even going back a bit to pairs like Kobe and Shaq, Stockton and Malone, or Jordan and Pippen.

And so Justice Young was born. He’s a second round pick on your team that comes in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, having been passed over and second-guessed for most of his basketball career. But Justice is a hard-worker and a great athlete, and if you show the same devotion to practice and working on your game that he does, he soon becomes an important figure in the fast-moving NBA world that’s opening up in front of your eyes.

Denver Levins is another noteworthy addition to the team in your rookie year. He’s an undrafted player that spent time in Europe and the D-League, and since he doesn’t have the pedigree of someone like MyPLAYER, he’s mostly just happy to be there. More than anything, Denver brings fun to the team. His sense of humor is evident from the very beginning, and he helps give MyPLAYER an outlet and someone to relax with when the pressures are mounting.

I won’t spend too much time getting into the rest of the characters here. It’ll be more exciting for you to discover them on your own. But rest assured, we’ve got some of the expected ones – your agent, the assistant coach, the team’s trainer – and some potentially unexpected ones too – a beat reporter, your girlfriend, your barber. As MyPLAYER deals with yet another transition – new teammates, a new city, new coaches – for the third year in a row (high school, college, and now the NBA), all of these characters play important roles in helping him finding his way.

One other important goal for us this year was to continue to improve the quality of the actors. As you can see in the screenshots, Justice is played by Michael B. Jordan. Having an actor of his caliber was amazing, and he set the tone from the very beginning for the rest of the cast. In NBA 2K17, we made it a point to cast seasoned actors in every role, and I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the other names too, from Hannibal Buress as Ice the Barber, to Matt Walsh as your college coach, Hemsley Adson.

The other piece to that puzzle was finding someone who could act as the driving force behind the story, which led us to bring on Aaron Covington as writer/director. Aaron was a writer for the movie Creed, so teaming him up with Michael B. Jordan was a natural fit. And beyond that, he’s a hardcore NBA fan and a longtime NBA 2K gamer, and that made a huge difference in what we were able to capture this year.

Those details aside, probably the biggest difference from NBA 2K16 is the way this year’s story unfolds. The way you play the game and the decisions you make off-the-court will change the way you experience the narrative. If you’re a gym rat like Justice, the two of you will form a strong bond right away. If you’re more outspoken in press conferences and when talking with the media, it will have ramifications down the line. Even our new text messaging system (more on that below) plays an important role, as how and when you choose to do things, as well as the way you respond in personal conversations, will help to dictate what is going on around you over the course of the season.

Orange Juice
Orange Juice? Really? I’m sure that’s what you’re all wondering. And as strange as it sounds, Orange Juice is an important part of MyCAREER this year. Orange Juice represents the chemistry between MyPLAYER and Justice Young. As their relationship develops, Orange Juice becomes a nickname for the two of them, and a key element in the story. Think of the Splash Brothers, or Showtime. There’s a little more to it, but I’ll let you discover that as you play the game.

Perhaps even more exciting though, is what it signifies on the court. As MyPLAYER and Justice continue to work together off the court, it has a real impact in what happens during games. When the two of you are locked in, you have the opportunity to utilize dual player controls for the first time ever in MyCAREER. Not only can you tell Justice to do things like cut to the basket, take a shot, or isolate, you can also switch over and control him entirely.

Again, this is a totally different way to play the game in MyCAREER. It really adds an exciting twist to what is already a greatly enhanced gameplay experience. We have had so much fun around the office finding ways to work the two-man game within the offense, and then hearing the characters react and interact after the game to a great (or not-so-great) performance only adds to the immersion. And of course, if that doesn’t seem to be your thing and you just want to focus on MyPLAYER, that’s certainly still something you can do. But I really think you’ll enjoy the new perspective it brings to MyCAREER gameplay, and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to try it.

Off-Court AI
One of the biggest changes in MyCAREER this year is our new Off-Court AI system. In NBA 2K16, we introduced the ability to choose between practice, connections, and endorsements on your off-days. This year we took it to a whole new level. Now many different things will be scheduled throughout a given off-day, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to do during each period of time.

The practice gym is always open, so putting in work is never a bad idea. Maybe you want to take up some of your time earning extra VC making an appearance for a local endorsement company. Or maybe you’ve connected with Karl-Anthony Towns recently, and he’s in town and wants to do something. Cultivating that relationship could be very beneficial, both in terms of earning fans and other rewards, and in connecting with other players around the league. But time is a valuable commodity, and you can’t do everything. It’s up to you to decide what’s most important for your MyPLAYER. And our Off-Court AI system will be constantly evaluating your play and your relationships with players, endorsement companies, and other people around the league to determine what opportunities will become available to you next.

Text Messages
The main form of communication in MyCAREER with the various people you interact with is text messaging. In past years, this type of communication was very primitive, and usually one-way. This year, the conversations are completely interactive. You decide what to say and how each conversation will unfold. As you build relationships with players around the league, they’ll be in regular communication with you, setting up events, commenting on your play, and even occasionally stopping by to hang out when they’re around.

Endorsements
Endorsements are a crucial part of what you do off the court, and this year we put a ton of effort into creating a more realistic system that will give you at least a little bit of a taste of what it’s like for an NBA star to decide who he wants to associate himself with.

First off, and one of the changes we’re most excited about, is the way that shoe deals work. Instead of waiting weeks and weeks for shoe companies to come around, in NBA 2K17, you make the decision right at the beginning of your career, just like a real NBA rookie would. But it’s not an easy choice to make. Each company offers different benefits. Some will give you more swag right away, while others will require you to work harder to move up the ladder. Your draft position plays a big role in this, so the better you do in college, the more likely you’ll be able to jump right into a cash deal or even a custom colorway deal, rather than just a simple merch deal.

As your star continues to rise, more companies will come calling. And this is completely dynamic in that it’s all based on the way you play. A company like Mountain Dew might be looking for a flashier player, while a company like Spalding is more interested in players that exhibit strong ball handling abilities. If you fit either of those criteria, expect those companies to reach out sooner rather than later. And this concept extends to players too, by the way. Steph Curry will connect with you sooner if you make a lot of deep threes (or sign with Under Armour). Kobe Bryant will take an interest if you put in a lot of extra work in your MyCOURT or at the Practice Gym. And so on, and so on.

Below is an example of what an endorsement contract offer might look like. You can see that sometimes you will have the opportunity to earn additional incentives based on your play, along with your regular appearance rewards. In some cases, the deal you sign will be exclusive, locking you in with that company, but preventing you from signing on with a competing company. You also have the ability to negotiate for things like more VC or fewer appearances, and it really becomes a game within the game as you work with your agent to navigate the waters and fit all of your commitments into your busy schedule.


Live Practice and Doin’ Work
Obviously your play on the court is the core of MyCAREER mode. Always has been, and always will be. And a big part of that is putting in work in your down time to make yourself a better player. With that in mind, we decided to expand our Live Practice system from last year to include what we call the Doin’ Work meter. Filling up the Doin’ Work meter will earn you progress towards additional upgrade slots, which will allow you to fully maximize your MyPLAYER’s abilities. If you want to be a 99 overall, and truly one of the best of the best, you’re gonna have to put in the time and earn your way there.

On that note, one of the things we wanted to make sure of was that the time you spend on the court working on your game always counts for something. So now whether you’re in the middle of a Team Practice, working on your shot in the Practice Gym with Justice, or even just shooting around solo in your MyCOURT, the Doin’ Work meter is always there tracking your progress and letting you know that your time and effort is not going to waste.


Besides Doin’ Work, the suite of drills available in Live Practice has greatly expanded. You’ll see many of the favorites from 2K16 returning, but we added quite a few more to go with them. One of the main themes with these was finding ways to create drills that are not just fun, but that also help teach you how to be more successful in games. That means you’ll see new drills centered on things like ball movement, setting screens, and the pick-and-roll, to name a few.

We’ve also expanded the alcove just off the practice court that last year housed the Gatorade Reaction drills. Now you can also do things like a ladder agility drill, bench press, squats, and free weights, along with some carryovers from last year in the box and vertical jumps. Again, everything matters here. You gotta put in the work if you want to become a star!


MyCOURT
MyCOURT is back, and bigger and better than ever. Like in 2K16, it once again acts as the hub of the mode. This is your home base, the place you come back to between games to upgrade your player, check stats and standings, hang out with your friends, display your awards and accolades, and so much more.

In NBA 2K17, you can now earn 3 different courts, unlocked as rewards as you progress through the mode. All 3 are fully customizable, with a wide range of court floors, wall murals, and other accessories available to allow you to create something that suits the personality of you and your MyPLAYER best.

Additionally, your MyCOURT is now fully connected to the rest of the mode. We have a wide variety of story scenes that take place there to help bring the story, your off-court events, and the ability to work on your game all together in one place.

And perhaps one of the coolest features in the entire mode this year is that you can now get MyCOURT visitors. Not just your online friends from the real world (although, yes, that’s still very much an option), but players you’ve built relationships with in your career. Early on, Denver and Justice will stop by to hang out and get some work in (Protip: Spending time Doin’ Work with other players is more valuable and will move that meter up more quickly), and eventually that will expand to your teammates and other connections you’ve made around the league.

In one of my very favorite experiences so far in 2K17, I had just come back from a Team Practice, and the Timberwolves were up on the schedule the next day. I had connected with Karl-Anthony Towns previously, and since he was in town for the game, he sent me a text letting me know he was free that afternoon and wanted to stop by. I agreed, and after shooting around for a bit, he challenged me to a game of 1-on-1.

Now, with me being a 6’3” PG, and Towns being a 7’ C, it was already shaping up to be an interesting match-up. But KAT is no typical big man. The guy can move his feet, and he’s a great defender. So I wasn’t going to jet past him for easy lay-ups the way I envisioned. He actually started off by backing me down in true post-scorer fashion, and I simply couldn’t stop him. I finally got him to miss after 3 straight baskets, and then got 3 of my own to tie it up. On the next possession, I used some dribble moves to leave him in the dust, but he recovered much more quickly than I expected, and caught up and blocked what was supposed to be my flashy dunk to rub it in his face. And then he got the ball back and scored the next 2 baskets to win the game. Ouch.

It was really a unique experience though, and the kind I’ve never had in our game before. Just seeing an NBA star like Karl-Anthony Towns showing up at your own private, customized court is cool in itself, but being able to shoot around with him and get some valuable work in, as well, is a whole extra level of fun.

Additional Notes
There’s so much to talk about here, and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface, so let me just throw out a few more notes on things I didn’t get a chance to cover in-depth before I finish up:

  • Remember, how you play on the court and what you do off the court MATTER. In fact, one of the very first big story branches occurs in the Prelude. Play well enough there, and you’ll get story elements less successful players won’t.
  • You have already, and will continue to hear from our gameplay team on all the changes they made to gameplay, but I have to say they really outdid themselves this time. The changes to shooting and physicality make such a big difference, and playing as a big man in MyCAREER has never been more fun.
  • On that note, listen to your Coach! Team Practices, in particular, are important not just for making your MyPLAYER better, but also in keeping your standing in the rotation. And our new Smart Coach system is constantly watching and evaluating both you and your team, so use the nuggets of information it’s dropping, and work hard on those drills in practice to make your play on the court that much stronger.
  • We did our best to make every system in the mode as intelligent and relevant as possible. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, and think carefully about the decisions you make. Occasionally, they will have long-term ramifications that you won’t realize until later on down the road.
  • Context is important too. While certain players or endorsement companies might be more interested in a specific style of play, where and when you do things makes a difference. For example, a posterizing dunk on LeBron James in the 4th quarter of a tied game that’s on national TV (yes, those are concepts we track) will count a lot more in your favor than a posterizing dunk on a player from the end of the bench on a small market team in a game that’s a total blowout. So if you have a penchant for coming up clutch in key moments, that’ll put you on the fast track to bigger and better things.
  • Don’t ignore your text messages! Not only will they offer you opportunities to build relationships with other NBA players, but they are your direct avenue to endorsement contracts, and some of the conversations you have will directly impact the story unfolding around you.
  • I can’t say enough how cool it is the way you get immersed in the story. As mentioned, having scenes that take place in your MyCOURT makes a big difference, but you’ll also find a lot of content in the Practice Gym (go to practice!), as well as regular post-game reactions from MyPLAYER and Justice as you follow them seamlessly off the court, down the tunnel, and into the locker room. From sideline interviews with David Aldridge, to remote interviews post-game with Shaq and Kenny back in the studio, there’s always something going on to keep the world around you feeling alive and aware. Hats off to both our presentation team and our MyCAREER engineers and designers. They did an unbelievable job making all of this happen.
  • Lastly, I know I used this word a lot here, but one of the biggest themes in MyCAREER is that we want you to have fun. 2K16’s story was definitely slanted towards the more dramatic and emotional moments a young NBA player might face, so for NBA 2K17, we wanted to be closer to the other end of the spectrum. And hopefully we’re able to give you a little bit of an idea of what being on the path to stardom in the NBA might be like.

There really is an unbelievable amount of content in MyCAREER this year – certainly more than we’ve ever done before. While you will generally always have the opportunity to do things like team up with Justice, learn how to survive and adjust to the long NBA season, and sign endorsement deals, the how, when, and why will be different, and there will be plenty of other things you won’t experience at all in just a single playthrough.

One of our favorite things here at the office is to see all the YouTube videos and reactions from people on social media and message boards as they play through the mode, and this year should offer the widest variety of experiences yet. Everything from the overarching story, to choosing different archetypes, to dual player controls and all the huge changes to gameplay, to forging your own path via the multitude of off-court decisions and finding out which endorsement deals best suit your MyPLAYER, will make for completely unique stories from each person who plays the game. And we can’t wait for you all to try it out and let us know what you think. Thanks for reading!

– Ben Bishop

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