With 2K13 just around the corner the information well is starting to flow. The 2kSports team talked about having 4000 new animations in the game and this video shows all the hard work they put in.
The shot, dribble and contact information were what really impressed me with this one. I can’t wait for this to drop next month!
I have two vices: videogames and basketball, I’ve probably played every iteration of the digital version that you can think of. From Double Dribble to Slam-N-Jam 95′ the sport has seen numerous changes. With each technological advance we’ve seen a huge improvement in graphics, commentary, AI and physics. All this brings me to today’s topic: The Digital Dunk Contest.
To show you where I would love to end up, let’s start at the beginning: in 1988 Jordan Vs. Bird had the first videogame dunk contest. The funny thing about it was the fact that you could only play as Jordan, so I’m not sure how it was really a contest. (But did you really want to play as Bird?) You were given a selection of ten dunks to choose from and relied on a timing meter to execute the dunk you wanted to perform. The game captured the likeness and signature moves of Jordan plus gave you a challenge while trying to pull off his dunks. I think I might have played this one aspect of the game more than anything else.
Here is your throwback video to illustrate:
Fast forward to 2005 and Electronic Arts is holding court with the NBA Live series. EA decided to go all-in with both the use of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend and Sprite branding. They also added specific commentary from Ernie Johnson and Kenny “bring out the the gospel choir” Smith. What made this version of the contest special was that for the first time you could bounce the ball off of multiple structures around the court, use different gathers and throw down some pretty awesome dunks. With minimal effort, it was still really challenging to the player. The multiple button layout of the Xbox made it easier to map specific controls to different moves, and it gave the player the ability to modify a standard dunk into a more spectacular one.
We move ahead to the time between 2008-2011 where 2kSports adds their version to the mix. They decided to run with a street motif having the contest in a mocked-up urban playground and snagged Hip-Hop and streetball legend Bobbito, aka DJ Cucumber Slice, for commentary. This quickly became the most annoying addition to a sports game since the concept of first-person football. Grating voice-overs aside, this looked to be the pinnacle of what mo-capped dunks, physics and graphical fidelity could be in our generation. Then you picked up the controller and had to fight through a mess of uncoordinated inputs, Street Fighter-esque quarter circles and nonsensical tutorials. I believe that 2k had a great idea in theory but botched some of the execution. Check out the example below:
NBA 2k13 recently showcased a small snippet of what the new dunk contest will look like:
And to say it looks a bit disappointing is an understatement. I will admit no one has seen the final product and I will hold final judgement until I get my hands on it, BUT the move to make it less interactive and more casual really is off-putting. A guitar hero-esque highway that requires nothing but follow-the-number button pushes is the last thing most basketball fans would want. So let me run down a couple of things that are needed for a fun, engaging and challenging dunk contest.
- ATMOSPHERE: The venue, having the dunk contest in an actual stadium with all branding helps a great deal with this and I’m happy that 2k finally has this in the new game.
- SOUND: Kenny Smith can be your ace in the hole and also the land mine that blows up the whole shebang. If you listen to the hype that he brings in the clip below, you see how much it adds to the experience. It has just the right amount of energy and is very contextual. It makes you feel like you are watching a live event and not a bunch of stitched lines of dialogue. Also most importantly the crowd needs to sound excited or disappointed about whatever dunk is done or awful judge score is given. If you’ve watched the past couple of years’ contests you can tell just how a dead crowd kills both the dunker and your personal viewing pleasure.
- INTANGIBLES: This is the part of the article where I play “All of the Lights“. The smoke, flash, player intros, full motion video, overlays, and even music should be blown out. Make it flashy but realistic, make props cool and fun, stop making the court look like they are fixing potholes for your local utility company by giving them construction obstacles to jump over. Introduce a human prop, maybe try to incorporate tandem dunks or wearable items.
- CONTROLS: Here is where the I think 2k can make their mark by taking a page from an old NBA Live book. The controls in the Live 95′ version could be tweaked and updated. Put in a couple more modifiers and make navigation easy with a decent video tutorial and you could absolutely have a winner. Making the player feel like they are an active participant is the key to making any dunk contest viable and should be the first things developers prioritize.
Check out these last two videos that pretty much sum up what I am hoping for in a new dunk contest — pay close attention to the audio and presentation and imagine what an NBA2k13 or next-gen engine would bring to the table.
With the basketball season now underway after the proposed lockout, NBA fans find themselves in the throes of the season. I love basketball and also love playing its digital counterpart. 2K Sports have held the championship belt in the b-ball gaming space for the past couple of years and have now embarked on a really ambitious endeavor: the mobile gaming market.
After playing with the game for a couple of weeks now I can say a couple of things. I appreciate the attention to detail that 2K places in all of its sports games. They pay attention to a painstaking amount of “little things” that many gaming companies leave on the cutting room floor. You can see it in their graphics, sound and gameplay, but when porting from a PC/Console version to a handheld device you also expect some degradation in all those things. This is the case with NBA 2k12 for mobile.
I wondered how their award winning game would translate to both a smaller screen and to the touch controls that iOS devices employ. I would say that for as much game as they put into this version it is hampered by the usual touch-control schemes that plague most action-based, touch-based games. There are two versions of control that you can use, “Classic” and “One Touch” controls.
The classic controls use a virtual stick and virtual buttons for both movement, passing and shooting. Using this option gives you the most control over your players but on a smaller device takes up way too much screen real estate to let you see what you are doing half the time. I would assume that this is lessened on the iPad or any compatible tablets, but unless you have one of those devices you are going to have a rough time playing the game with these controls. They just aren’t responsive and make you feel like the game isn’t able to keep up with what you want to do. Player movement seemed sluggish, the offenses didn’t move realistically and the ability to play on ball defense seemed to be lacking in many areas.
Your other option is actually a lot better but you then lose manual control of your players all together. The “one-touch” controls basically let the AI control all movement but lets you pass and shoot. Although this sounds terrible it actually makes the game more playable, but also takes a bunch of the fun out of the game. The ability to switch on defense goes away and the AI doesn’t move the offense intelligently, so although you can now see your players better you now have a team full of NBA zombies who can’t figure out how to move when they have the ball and don’t know how to get open for a shot. Nor can they defend in any way that makes sense or is helpful.
With all that said, I think that they do put a lot of things into the game that I didn’t expect. The presentation is still very good with very cool camera cuts and replays. Player faces are pretty true to life and they do have several play modes that include full season, playoffs (with playoff-specific commentary) and auto-updated rosters. I also think that this is a great stepping stone for what could be an amazing handheld experience but they have lots of work to do. There are overlapping audio glitches, graphical glitches and their roster updates could be more timely. I think if they get these things handled it could be awesome for next year.
What I would really love 2K to work on would be a PS Vita version. I think that could seriously be great — you would have the fidelity, processing power and dedicated buttons to really have the control you want from a sports game.
For those who are wondering if they should pick this up, I would say to pass on it, or at least download the lite version of the game on the iTunes store. Although there is potential there, I would suggest you keep your wallet in your pocket.
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