We chat with the 2K Spain communication team so they can tell us what we can expect from one of the great sports bets of 2020.
Basketball and the world of video games have a relationship particularly linked to simulation. For more than a decade, the battle for the court has been dominated with authority by NBA 2K, whose levels of fidelity both visual and playable have made that name a true phenomenon in the West; not only in the United States.
Reminiscence of 2013, this season we are facing an intergenerational scenario, where a multitude of titles see the light both in the machines that we now dismiss as those that still smell new in our homes, PS5 and Xbox Series X | S. And that smell of new is also transmitted in NBA 2K21, which dispels any hint of doubt about whether it is a port or a version made from scratch as soon as we put our feet on the track.
Visual Concepts ambition transferred to the field: Ba-lon-ces-to
Carlos Villasante, Senior Product Manager at 2K Spain, explains to FreeGameTips the keys to this version and why they trust that the next gen editions represent a change in the simulation of basketball in video games as we understood it until now.
“The first change is the one that jumps out,” he begins by saying. “It’s a game made for the next generation, built to harness the power of both the Xbox Series X and Series S and the PS5. Movement, lighting, the players have been scanned again ”. One of the aspects that stand out the most resides in the positioning and fighting of the ball by the players, with a more realistic behavior that is no longer hindered when confronting several models at the same time. “You are going to see how they put their elbow in and how their arms, their body interact, in such a realistic way that it was not possible before.”
Visual Concepts, despite being very proud of the work done, does not want to forget that it is the first game of a new generation, and that leaves room for a great improvement over the seasons. The Impact Engine, which debuts in NBA 2K21 for the new Sony and Microsoft domestic solutions, favors not only in realism, but also in improving the behavior of each player, their impacts, their reactions.
“If a player jumps to the basket and another player comes to stop him, the Impact Engine calculates the time of each player’s movement and generates a result in real time” so that everything is synchronized. “The sensation of movement and graphics has undergone a spectacular improvement,” he adds, where the new perspective called Grada Baja is also located, where artificial intelligence and each viewer have been individualized. “They have designed 150 unique viewers who are constantly interacting with each other and behaving independently. You will see that there are people who get up to go to the bathroom, who look at their cell phones, who cheer, who boo, who talk to the one next door … This applies to all staff, including security members or cheerleaders, not only to the public ”, exemplifies Villasante.
“It’s not that there are just more people on the court doing different things, but that all that simulation is in real time. When the animator or journalist finish their homework, they will go back to their place and, when they have another function, they will get up again, ”he explains. Another aspect that changes is the presentation of the matches, supported by intros that change with each encounter, added to the almost instantaneous loading times.
Gameplay and AI, polished to-dos for the occasion
In terms of gameplay, NBA 2K21 has been rethought in its mechanics thanks to the capabilities of the new generation. “The new aiming shooting system now allows you to choose the shooting arc, if you shoot directly at the board, it is more intuitive … Dribbling, depending on the speed at which you move the stick, will decide the speed of movement of the player with the ball; the passing physics is rethought so that the friction of the ball with the ground is more realistic ”, argues Villasante, who is also a devotee of the video game and also knows it as a user who has dedicated tens of hours to each delivery.
“We have much more fluidity when it comes to getting in and out of the basket; all the gameplay is completely new ”, he adds in this regard, making it clear that Artificial Intelligence now adapts to each situation so that the coach can change the game plan in real time depending on the situation.
The City, a neighborhood of another dimension
“Since 2K14 with El Parque and 2K18 with El Barrio, we have long wanted to create a virtual basketball space where we can meet and express ourselves. The City is an open environment with a size many times multiplied with respect to El Barrio; it has four districts and a central square where there is a skyscraper for events; there are NPCs for the first time in the franchise who will give you specific missions, ”he explains. We will also see baskets in the middle of the city where we can play alone or with others without prior planning. “When you arrive, they give you a skateboard so you can move faster,” says Villasante, who added to the ball we have available, it looks more like a dynamic and unpredictable MMO where everything is connected.
Once we start playing in The City we will place ourselves in an environment for rookies, a testing ground so that, as soon as we increase our reputation (approximately one hour of play), we will enter the Real City, in which we will be assigned a specific affiliation that, if we don’t like it, we can change it for a reputational cost. It’s like a massive RPG designed for us to play not just for weeks, but for months. “There are always things to do; there are always reasons to return. There will be new NPCs, new events, and four affiliations. Each affiliation has a mayor who makes decisions ”, he explains. Every six weeks there will be elections where it is decided who is the new mayor of each affiliation. The votes are added based on the users, a mechanic that they describe as “dynamic” and “fun” because it includes an almost procedural lore where, through a prescribed base, a unique story is developed for each user that lasts all year.
The WNBA, a necessary novelty for the saga
The WNBA is one of the big changes for this installment. If last year we had women’s basketball for the first time, now we have 12 teams and 140 scanned players and a specific gameplay that recreates the style of women’s basketball, with its rhythm and strategy system, more strategic. “We didn’t want it to be just a skin,” he insists. This year the franchise mode has been expanded, which once allowed you to play only one season.
Now he has made his own mode, My WNBA, with role-playing options and the option to play multiple seasons. On the other hand, a career mode dedicated to women’s basketball in which we are allowed to create a player just as we saw before in the men’s. Progression system, wealth, league popularity, decisions in our spare time … A personalized career mode with roles for women’s basketball. The differences are shortened.
Finally, the online 3v3 mode on a court customizes where to compete. “The game is made from scratch,” he stresses again.
“There is an NBA 2K experience for any type of player”
Visual Concepts wanted to provide the title with more accessibility options by expanding the range of options. “There is an NBA 2K experience for any type of player.” It does not matter if it is someone who has been playing all his life or has just arrived. “He has experiences for so many types of players that, accompanied by this new technical deployment, he is one of the best options to start the generation.”
As for the franchise mode (the equivalent of a manager mode) it is a mixture of manager modes from previous installments. “They’ve taken the good stuff in all of those ways and put it all together in a customizable way.” We can choose if we want to play only offline, in an online league, with changed rules such as the salary limit … From the most basic to the transfer system. The NBA 2K team wanted users to tailor the experience to their liking in every possible way.
“Since the gameplay is so customizable, you can tailor a league however you want; you can upload it online and people can download it ”, explains Villasante. The motto of play, create and share carried over to the NBA 2K saga. All in all, the studio hopes to satisfy the wishes of all basketball lovers and those who until now had not dared to enjoy it.
NBA 2K21 is out now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who purchase the Mamba Forever edition – both physical and digital – will also receive the copy of the PS5 or Xbox Series X | S.