NBA 2K14: A History of the Right Analog Stick Control
Now that most of us have had some time with NBA 2K14, the consensus seems to be this: It's a very good game, though perhaps the smallest improvement over a predecessor in the series' history.
One area of the game that got upgraded significantly, however, was the gameplay on offense. 2K Sports revamped the right analog stick controls by assigning both shooting and dribbling techniques to the stick (differentiated by varying degrees of pressure).
For example: a slight tap of the right analog stick makes the digital baller jab in one direction, while multiple taps initiates crossovers or other dribbling juke moves. A full-on press of the stick begins a shooting motion, with the various degrees and angles to which the stick is pressed determines the type of shot.
After playing these new controls for a while, I believe that the 2K series has finally taken full advantage the right analog stick.
The analog stick, after all, is an input device that offers a much larger range of motion than traditional directional pads. While the left analog stick already utilizes this superior sensitivity (players will walk, jog, or sprint depending on the pressure placed on the stick), the right stick has been relegated to simple tasks in the 2K series until 2K14.
Let's examine the history of the right analog usage in the 2K series.
2K and 2K1 for Sega Dreamcast
When NBA 2K first makes its debut as a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast on September 9, 1999, gamers don't have to worry about a right analog stick, because the Dreamcast controller doesn't have one.
It isn't until 2001, when Sega sadly pulls out of the hardware game and starts developing 2K for other consoles (Playstation 2 and XBox), that the right analog stick comes into play. The first game to be released outside of the Dreamcast, NBA 2K2, doesn't do much to take advantage of the added input -- the right stick merely brings up the play-calling menu, a simple task that could have been relegated to, say, the select button.
NBA 2K3 gives gamers the option to use the right analog stick to pass by pressing down in the direction of the intended teammate. This functionality, though, doesn't really take advantage of the stick's analog nature.
That same year, EA Sports' NBA Live 2003 introduces "Freestyle controls" (along with a very stylish series of marketing campaign), which gives gamers the ability to use the right analog stick to trigger dribbling juke moves. This is, perhaps, the last time the Live series steals any of 2K's thunder.
2K promptly steals NBA Live's idea for the 2004 edition of the game, titled ESPN NBA Basketball (the only game in the series to not have "2K" in its title). Calling it "Isomotion", the right analog stick becomes a way to trigger dribbling moves. Much like Live's "Freestyle" scheme, the analog stick's sensitivity is mostly dumbed down. Pulling off dribbling moves merely requires players to tap and roll the stick, as if they were pulling off Shoryukens in Street Fighter 2.
After two years, the series abandons "Isomotion" in 2K6, instead using the right analog stick for shooting controls. Dubbed the "shot stick", the right stick finally takes advantage of the sensitivity inherent to an analog stick, as different pressures and angles result in different types of shots.
Though the right analog stick allowed gamers unprecedented control over their shot attempts, gamers missed breaking ankles with crossovers and other juke moves. In 2K11, 2K tries to resolve the problem by re-assigning the ability to dribble moves back to the right stick. Gamers, however, have to hold down a button to activate that control scheme, since, by default, the right stick is still used to shoot.
2K13 flips the shooting/dribbling priority, meaning the right stick's normal function became controlling juke moves, while gamers needed to hold down a button to use the right stick to shoot.
As someone who's played every edition of the game, the need to hold down a button, while jiggling around with a right stick, just to alternate between shooting and passing felt unnatural. 2K14's new scheme, which effectively combines both shooting and passing into one connected control scheme makes all the sense in the world, since the analog stick was invented for this exact reason: to give gamers far more precision from controls.
When Nintendo first unveiled the analog stick for consoles in 1996 with the N64, the gaming world marveled at the unprecedented precision control we were given over a video game character. It took until 2013, 17 years after the analog stick's debut and 13 years into the series, but 2K14 may have finally figured it out.