With the NBA 2K23 gameplay blog coming out this week (and NBA 2K developer Mike Wang answering questions on Twitter), OS has come through with its usual flurry of reactions. Overall, I would say the atmosphere is one of guarded optimism, and that’s probably where I would plant myself as of today. With that said, I want to go through what some folks are saying on the forums (and by all means join the conversation), and dish on NBA 2K23 gameplay a bit. In other words, I’m abusing my power and taking you guys to react court.
NBA 2K23 Gameplay Improvements
Can ACE Be Trusted?
I feel like we should all collectively say “no” to this question. However, I do think ACE gets a little bit of a bad reputation because not everyone hates the idea of ACE, it’s that 2K does not allow us to properly turn it off, and we struggle to do the things that ACE is trying to do when it is theoretically off. In other words, if ACE simply included all the things the user could do — rather than the secret things it can only do — we could then more easily mimic the parts ACE is not quite getting right. Instead, we get stuck in this weird middle ground where we try to work with ACE because it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
OS user alabamarob hits on a base-level concern here that sums up some of the issue in the past:
Make the defensive settings work. If I can make guys help, and sag off of non shooters then every single other thing on defense can be corrected to a playable level. If you want to run 5 out with Clint Capela at center, then I should be able to keep the person guarding him around the rim to help on everyone else.
Beyond the more “simplistic” stuff mentioned above that in theory matters more for head-to-head online play, OS user vannwolfhawk talks more about longstanding AI concerns for offline play.
I’m not a fan of anything controlled behind the scenes and by ACE only! Been there done that & it’s a mess. Ace has overridden player tendencies and play calling for years. It’s ruined the game offline along with the daily gameplay updates & patches. Some might not notice it, some might not care, but it negatively effects teams from playing like themselves. We have to rely on 2K to adjust it behind the scenes. What made 2K great in years past was that they gave us options to edit everything to cater to the experience each user wanted. By not giving us that access to how the cpu calls plays, the cpu teams AI play styles, who the cpu calls plays for, player tendencies not being over ridden, and reliant on how the cpu adjusts defensively throughout a game realistically is still going to be an issue as long as we can’t fix or control it and it’s reliant on ACE & 2K to adjust it for us.
I do think part of what vannwolfhawk is talking about is unavoidable even if ACE worked perfectly. When gameplay updates happen, they are sometimes inevitably going to mess up your sliders and such. 2K can try to gate the changes to certain modes etc., but the bleed over always happens — and it happens in pretty much every sports game. That said, 2K does make too many changes and is way too aggressive making those changes early in the game’s life.
Wait, Defense Was A Major Focus Last Year?
The most “offensive” thing I read in the 2K gameplay blog was one of the first lines in the entire blog: “The defense was a point of emphasis in last year’s game…” OS user nuttyrich speaks for me by saying:
What stands out to me the most is they said on 2K22 they mainly focused on defense, yet they couldn’t even get the pick and roll correct — something basic as pick and roll.
Spacing of the pick and roll was mentioned in the blog, which is great. The AI does need to know how to space out better to utilize the pick and roll to beat humans. However, I would have liked to have seen more about defending the pick and roll by the AI because that’s what’s been a true struggle. A user hedge defender is just so much better than an AI one that it means you can consistently pick on the AI because the quality decision making is not there. The AI struggles to play that 2-on-1 defense, and the other defenders do not not provide enough support on the backline to make up for these issues.
OS user vannwolfhawk sort of touches on some of my other general concerns on defense after reading the blog:
Also, no word on the scramble logic, closeouts, and rotation logic after the last two years is concerning to say the least. I saw a quick mention of cutter help. But is help going to still come from the wrong places? Are rotations not going to make sense? I’m a bit shocked all of this wasn’t discussed in great detail after the huge thread & debacle of 2K21 & 2K22 on help D logic and cutter help!
Some of this goes back to ACE, and some of this goes back to help defense in a video game versus help defense in real life. I’ve listened to Da Czar talk passionately about the topic of help defense in a video game versus the real NBA, and I understand the general issues game developers have to work with trying to mimic the real sport where it can. The problem is it ultimately feels easy to know where the help will come from in 2K because it’s not dynamic enough, and it’s erratic at best when you try to turn off ACE and sort of do it your own (as alabamarob mentioned earlier).
Some of those concerns were touched on in the blog while discussing how defenses will game plan for your great players, and how they will not just auto-double if they get off to a hot start. Instead, there is more nuance around game plans on defense and offense to try and create something that feels more unique game to game. There is also an element of “prove it” the AI will put on you to beat a certain defense before adjusting.
I think this could be cool, but OS user scottyp180 does bring up one point that I think will be interesting to track as well.
One thing I’m wondering about the defensive AI, specifically how defenders won’t help as much early in games, will team tendencies and strategies effect this? For a team like the Celtics, helping and switching is a staple of their defense. Helping less to start a game would be based on strategy and matchup, not something they would automatically do every game.
It sounds like offensive dynamic game plans will be in the game, which would be the equivalent of this, but 2K didn’t explicitly mention the same thing for defenses — at least not that I read.
Will Fastbreaks Be Good?
There were a couple mentions about transition defense in terms of promises that the AI will be better at knowing when to get out to the 3-point line and that “No Threes” will now work right. However, a lot of the ways 2K would “fix” defense in the past just came down to what we call “cheats” as fans. There’s an unrealistic amount of space covered by defenders, lots of on-ball bumping, and the speed of defenders magically gets boosted in certain situations. The “magical” boost comes up the most on OS as it relates to defenders magically stopping transition opportunities they have no right stopping.
Multiple OS users brought this up, so I’ll just use alabamarob as the example since he was the most concise:
Make the speed ratings matter with the ball and without the ball. De’Aaron Fox should be able to blow by, and outrun Danilo Gallinari. The speed mute on 2K22 is the main reason I stopped playing the game. When speed doesn’t matter, then the game is unrealistic.
2K did talk around this speed issue by mentioning the “adrenaline boosts” that are new to this year and chase-down blocks now being reserved more for the “correct” players, but I do think we have to read between the lines a bit and assume that 2K focusing on transition defense means they toned down the “cheats” for stopping transition buckets.
Can We Get More Fouls?
Similar to the speed issue, fouls are always a topic on the forum as well. OS users want more fouls, but really we just want proper interactions and decisions to matter. Body bumping is another “cheat” 2K leans on to fix the defense so it can slow down offenses — and this happens on the ball and off the ball. 2K did mention new closeout block animations to try and avoid hitting the shooter, but that could be both good and bad. It’s not clear in the write up if this means when you turbo and close out from far away you would get these animations, or it’s when you do a regular jump from further away that you would get these.
Again, alabamarob mentions the concerns listed by a couple other folks in the thread:
Call fouls on careless closeouts on jump shots. If they called fouls on jump shots you wouldn’t need to mess with what is and isn’t a good contest. People would have to leave space to keep from fouling.
Call fouls on careless block attempts around the rim. You wouldn’t need to change the blocking system every year if non shot blockers fouled when trying to block layups and dunks. If Trae Young tries to block a layup or dunk, then 99 percent of the time it should be a foul.
There is a middle ground here because in the past contests were so all-important that I do get why players would be a bit insane about trying to turbo and jump at every shot. Still, there does need to be proper balance here because even if some people got mad online about fouling jump shooters when they didn’t feel they did anything wrong, you can still do very unrealistic things like completely get in the shooter’s landing area a lot of the time and face no consequences.
I’m somewhat optimistic about this component of things considering how much time 2K spent discussing new block animations and tweaking the contest system so the length of the contest matters now.
Shooting Will Be A Big TBD
Speaking of the contest system, shooting got a lot of changes this year in 2K. I’m not going to cover every discussion that was had on the forums, but I will sort of sum up a chunk of them by using OS user VictorMG’s thoughts:
I wish there was a badge that just minimized the defensive impact of all contested jumpers for a player (maybe separate it by mid and three-point). For example, if I want to torch someone with Dirk or Durant from the triple-threat because they’re good enough to just shoot over a contest, I can’t, because there’s no badge or rating for that.
There’s a lot of competing viewpoints with shooting because it does change a lot from offline to Park to competitive head-to-head settings. I’m part of the no-meter crew who plays more head-to-head online games than anything else, so I have my own set of biases, and everyone else has their own desires here. I don’t think there is a true way to please everyone here, but I think 2K is making some smart choices to try and make sure no one is too unhappy with the final product.
For example, I don’t think Victor’s idea would necessarily go over that well with the Park crowd, but the offline crowd probably would be cool with it. 2K has removed real shooting percentages from online games, which the Park crowd loves, but it’s not quite as popular for competitive head-to-head games where you play on HOF with spotty connections. Generally speaking though, I’m in favor of removing the real percentages from online games, and I think the badges that were removed were for the best.
But as an online head-to-head guy, it goes underappreciated that timing alone on wide open shots means if you’re good enough, most shooters feel similar. It’s not weird to shoot over 50% from deep as a team on HOF simply because you learn the jumpers. This is the curse of the green release being solely about timing rather than how good a shooter is, but I do think 2K is trying to find new ways to improve the experience while not removing greens from the game.
The varying shot meters, the give and take of a larger green window for certain shot animations coming at the expense of penalties for missing that window and so on were discussed in the blog. I don’t think all of these changes together will fix the issue of open shots still coming down to “greening” the shot or not, but outside of that wide-open jumper conundrum, there’s a lot of positives here it seems.
Plus, I absolutely love that the shot feedback is now delayed until after the shot hits the rim. We can finally get back to guessing whether a shot will go in or not.
Relax About The Dunking Controls
The very first reaction to the new blog was from OS user AIRJ23, so he’s the one I will pick on for a moment:
My god. You have to do actual joystick combos to execute dunks now. They found a way to make dunking even more confusing. Just give us the 2K21 dunk buttons back please.
A couple other people mentioned concerns about the “gimmick” of the new controls, but it really doesn’t seem that complex. The dunk meter relates to a couple of the inputs, otherwise these new controls are just there to give you control over what sorts of dunks you do. This is more aimed at the Park crowd, but not knowing what sort of “flashy” dunk you would do was a concern for everyone in part because of the tomfoolery of chase-down blocks and all that.
Along those same lines, it was great to read about the layup tweaks for the reasons OS user Pokes404 points out:
Liking the sound of the “quick scoop layups for smaller guards.” There’s nothing more frustrating than having an open layup get swatted into the 3rd row because of a super-slow layup animation triggering. I want to be able to get the ball up on the glass quickly and make life tougher on shot blockers.
OS user LeBlonde James did eventually come in with the correct take:
The rim hanging could be toxic lol. I like more control over dunk and layup types but not sure rim hanging was needed. That said, could be fun and I’ll probably be annoying with the rim hanging.
Speaking of controls though, The 24th Letter did mention something where we now need some clarity:
Actually love the idea of the spot up pass. But if holding B is now a quick cut “spot up pass” button, then I wonder where the dribble handoff is now mapped. Between that and the lead pass option coming back, the off ball defense has to be on point.
I would be stunned if DHOs (dribble handoffs) were gone now, but we need to hear how you call for them now.
2K is great at hyping up their product in these long gameplay blogs (FIFA devs might be the only ones better at the hype game in text form), but we all want NBA 2K23 gameplay to be on point. With that in mind, the most common refrain in the discussion has been “it sounds good until they patch it.” 2K has unfortunately given in to pressure from vocal groups online and generally made the game “easier” soon after launch multiple times. They frame these changes as looking through their metrics and analytics that they’re seeing in-game, and I’m sure that’s part of it, but it still usually comes off as weak. It basically ends up feeling like a bunch of people didn’t like not being able to spam dribble moves or green all their shots, and thus we all suffer because 2K didn’t want to deal with the complaints anymore.
The other layer to that issue goes back to things like ACE. The “cutter patch” for NBA 2K22 unquestionably screwed up the game to fix an exploit people were using online. There is more nuance to ACE now (it seems), and we’re getting more control over how we can set our defenses, but will a patch to fix one issue still lead to many other issues downstream like the cutter patch did to ACE last year?
In short, it seems like the community just hopes that 2K shows some backbone after launch. If the game really is “harder” to play, give your vision a chance to play out. A lot of people on OS loved 2K out of the box last year in a way I had not seen in a couple years. The amount of negativity that bubbled up as 2K made change after change was unique as well — probably because folks were having so much fun and felt like it was ripped away.
So if certain people don’t like the adrenaline boosts, or certain badges being gone, or not being able to make tons of leaning shots without real shooting percentages on and all that, stick up for your game seems to be the message to the 2K devs from this community.