Gameplay director Mike Wang has two major goals for NBA 2K18 – to make the game look more like real basketball and to make it feel better in players hands. “I really want the game to be about what the user does on the sticks and making sure that the better users always come out on top instead of having things come out more randomly or just based on the players attributes,” he says.
Visual Concepts worked on offensive A.I. to improve the way sharpshooters find openings. Last year they realized through simulations that great three-point shooters like Steph Curry didn’t really hunt for threes. This year, they will perform step backs to get behind the three-point line and better identify long-range shooting opportunities.
The dribbling system seems to be under a constant state of construction, and Visual Concepts is making changes yet again to give players more control. The drawn out signature animations are being broken up; now you need to string multiple moves together to make these signature plays happen.
Expect to see more physical rebounding animations. In our play session, we noticed more collisions in the paint both on the way up to retrieve an errant shot and while landing. Players wrestle the ball from one another, perform back taps, and work more aggressively toward tip-ins and put-backs.
Not many modern NBA stars play with their backs to the basket, but Visual Concepts is still working to make the post play feel more nuanced and streamlined. The changes to movement this year include new backdown animations and resolutions when you drive or spin off a defender.
Situational Motion is getting another layer of polish, as defensive players now have more contextual awareness of where they are on the court. 2K says they now move in a more believable way thanks to improved foot planting and a new off-ball collision system.
Visual Concepts also added an aiming mechanic for those who shoot with the right analog stick. You can directly affect whether the shot is online or a bit to the left or right. This is a feature that 2K can continue to tune after the game release.
On defense, more responsive movement helps you better keep your defender between the dribbler and the hoop. Wang says you can better bottle up guys online this year.
To aid pickpockets, Visual Concepts overhauled the stealing system. The new approach better rewards good timing and aiming of steal attempts. If the ball is exposed there is a higher chance of coming away with the steal, and those protecting the ball have a higher chance of getting fouled. You can make left- or right-handed steals and strip the ball away as well.
The overhauled playcalling system is all accessible by tapping the left bumper. When the play call wheel comes up, you can choose between quick plays, smart plays, and new dynamic plays that analyze the personnel on the court and make a recommendation that fits your team’s attacking style. You can still choose an individual player and cycle through all his plays as well.
During timeouts, the reworked coaches clipboard should allow you to make lineup and strategy adjustments more quickly than in the past.
Player on boarding has always been a weak spot for the series, and Visual Concepts hopes to address this shortcoming with the new 2KU. This new tutorial, which is narrated by Team USA/Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, extends beyond basic controls and into basketball education so new players can better understand rudimentary concepts like who to defend on the pick and roll.
Fatigue plays a big role in the minute-to-minute play. Gone are the days of spamming turbo up and down the court – doing so once will drain your stamina, adversely affect your shooting accuracy, and potentially increase your odds of picking up an injury The new system makes you better discern when to slam on the accelerator.