With NBA 2K14’s release and positive reception still in our rear-view mirror, Extra Mustard had the opportunity to sit down with Rob Jones from 2K to discuss the finer points of the NBA 2K franchise. Jones has been a part of 2K for over 10 years, and has overseen the franchise undergo countless changes.
EM: Would you say sports games are only recreating an experience, or something more?
Rob Jones: Anyone who is creating a sports game is approaching the highest level of realism. The goal of sports games is to be able to play an entire game in which nothing breaks the illusion of reality, and to provide the feel and emotion of playing that particular sport.
All these other sports have a 2D problem because they’re only really concerned with something that’s happening in a straight line at all times, whereas in basketball, the rim is up in the air, and the person handling that ball can jump. We have a 3D problem that is really tough to solve.
So, with this 3D problem, what’s the toughest thing to nail down?
We want it to look more realistic. We want certain animations that have never really been pushed in sports games. AI is a lesser issue than, say, getting perfect lighting or shadowing on a game and being able to build realistic crowds and players and sweat.
Still, 2K games live and die with the on-court experience. How do you handle controls while enhancing advanced features, like collision detection?
I’ve always thought the simplest games were successful because they were simple. Look at the original Super Mario Bros. I sucked at those games. But the point was that the game, at its base, looks simple, but once you got past that, there was so much more hidden behind it that you could only really figure out if you got really good.
Can we expect to see more central players?
Never say never. Our choice to do something with LeBron and give him his different stories was just something we thought fans really would have loved to see and experience. LeBron is the only player in the league that has that sort of intrigue of "What does the future hold?" I don’t think we’ve really launched ourselves into "How can we take multiple characters and build off of that?"
Persistent online worlds are becoming more popular in gaming; any plans to use that?
That’s something we’re starting to explore in some ways. Things like within the "My Career" -- you can get signed to shoe companies and eventually design your own shoe. But really, it’s about letting players get out there and be able to share all of their content.
How about transferring "My Careers" from game to game? We are probably going to start exploring that sooner rather than later. The problem there is having players burn out because it just feels like one long season where they don’t grow as fast. What’d be interesting to me would be to manage their growth in such a way that they speed immediately into the next version.