The NBA 2K franchise has a storied history of bringing the most authentic hoops gaming experiences to basketball fans and gamers alike. We recently sat down with Gameplay Director Mike Wang to discuss improvements and how gameplay is more accessible for newcomers to NBA 2K24, available September 8 on PS5 and PS4.
PlayStation Blog: To start off, can you tell us about your overall role in NBA 2K24?
mike wang: My role is basically anything that involves the court experience, controls and animation. Playability in the clubs is what my team is in charge of and what I am directly involved in.
Gameplay updates are a big focus for NBA 2K24. What are some of the game changes you’re most excited to highlight for fans?
There are a lot of highlights to the game, but I think one of the main things we wanted to focus on this year was accessibility. That was something we heard loud and clear from our community. That’s where a lot of our design changes come from, directly from the community. And they loved shooting last year, especially the more advanced and expert players. They really loved how it was more skill based, and really allowed the best players to rise to the top. But at the same time, we felt like we could have made it a little bit more accessible for newer players and for players who are little kids or people who are new to 2K. So, that was a big focus for this year, just making the game more accessible. And it really extended to everything from shooting to defense to training. Almost every aspect of the game was made more accessible. So we’re excited about that.
Were there any other community-requested changes that the team wanted to make sure were implemented in the game this year?
One of the biggest things that the community at large really wanted to see improved was paint defense. That’s one that I think we really got into this year thinking about how we can improve it at different levels and different systems in our game. So body up, that’s basically our defense with the ball in the collisions that happen when you lift the body of the ball handler, that system broke down, especially under the basket/around the rim, that contact there, the contact later on paint shots especially – being able to put a body on a shooter in the paint was a great aspect to improve paint defense. The scoring in the paint feels right. And scoring on the perimeter feels right, you get the right results when you hit the right shots. Or if you’re being defended and you’re making bad shots, you get the results you expect. That’s the kind of thing we always try to improve year after year.
What was the underlying inspiration for the gameplay improvements regarding specific player moves implemented in NBA 2K24?
That’s something we started on a journey, I think, around 2K7. And we’ve always considered it a signature style. If you’re a fan of the NBA and basketball in general, I feel like it’s one of those team sports where if you could see a silhouette of the game being played, and you couldn’t really see the players, you’d still be able to knowing who is who, just because people are so different in the way they move, in the way they shoot. There are many repetitive actions in basketball that people develop their muscle memory for, it can be said that KD shoots in a certain way.
So for us, it’s always looking at what the NBA is. What are NBA players doing? What are their moves? What are the shots they’d like to take, and then add them to our game to the best of our ability so they reflect who they are. So it really comes down to a lot of things. It all comes down to the way the AI works, the strategies and just the brain we give our players and what they like to do with it. Do they like to drive on the right or on the left? Do you like to stop on the way? Or do they like to go to the rim and finish strong through traffic? All these different things. It’s the animations they get, whether it’s their layup packs, jump shot packs, or their dribbling moves. It really is a bit of everything. Getting NBA players to play exactly like their real-life counterparts is a never-ending journey for us. It’s something that I think we’ve taken to the next level in NBA 2K24.
Was there a placement pack, or perhaps a signature move that you were most excited to emulate and bring to NBA 2K24?
One that always comes to mind is Nikola Jokić because he is an anomaly. Like LeBron, like Shaq, like Curry, all these guys who break the rules of basketball, Jokić is there. You don’t see a guy with that touch, with that passing vision. So his tray pack is probably the one with the most exclusive content, I think, in the game this year. Sometimes he has really weird floaters or he stumbles into the paint with a weird shot that always goes in. So yeah, Jokić is one of those guys who sticks out in my mind as being very well in sync, especially with his layup. But there are so many that have improved. I can call a lot of guys. De’Aaron Fox is another. His dribbling moves this year are amazing. They are really explosive. Yes, just very tight handling, just like the real life gamer. Curry too. In fact, he’s a guy we came here to mocap. So he’s already made all of his moves for us. But we’ve got even more this year, and they’re pretty impressive. I know all the kids love Curry, so they’re going to like the improvements they’re going to see in him this year too.
Are there any additional gameplay nuances that players might not notice at first that you want to highlight here?
We haven’t really announced much of that yet. But the badge game is very nuanced this year. Let’s put it this way, the way you play on the pitch will reflect how your badges are formed and what your player looks like at the end of the day. So when you do something over and over again, let’s say you like to spin jump, you’ll see your skills as a spin jump player constantly improve over time. And then you’re going to find that just the way you play, what you like to do on the court is going to improve, you’re going to build your player in that aspect. So I’m excited about that.
I’m excited that we have a new feature in the game where you can shape your player on the fly as you play. It’s going to be very interesting to see how that turns out. Another nuanced thing, a very nuanced thing, is probably the issue of plays. Because that’s something very deep in our game. It’s something that intimidates a lot of people, because you’re looking at actual NBA playbooks, and a lot of people just don’t even understand what these coaches are executing, what these actions mean. So we simplified a lot this year. We’ve got a new feature called Favorite Plays, where if you just press the directional button to the left, you’ll see that you can choose up to 16 of the most common plays in basketball, from passes and passes to quick ISOs and floppies. Plus, we’ve got a feature that we brought call 2K SmartPlay. If you enable that feature, basically as you go on the court each time and each possession, a little overlay will appear to basically tell you who the better player is and what is the best action for that player to take at this point in the game.
So it’s a good entry-level way to understand more of the nuances of not just NBA 2K but NBA basketball as well.
What do you think the average gamer who isn’t interested in basketball would find intriguing in NBA 2K24?
Absolutely. That’s something that, again, we started at the top of the call talking about accessibility. We’ve always prided ourselves on this too, because you mentioned it before, what are the subtle things that power users get into? What we pride ourselves on every year is that we always try to make it so that you can be successful by learning to move with the left stick, using the shoot button, the pass button, and also the steal button on defense. , maybe if you need it. But really, you can play the game with two buttons, maybe three buttons, and be successful, especially if you jump into some of the lower difficulty levels.
Rookie really is made for someone who is new to basketball, maybe you watch the game on TV and that’s it, never played the sport. If they jump Rookie, it’s very simple to just pick up the sticks for a little kid, even just to get the ball, run, shoot when they’re open, hopefully. But even if they’re covered, they won’t get as punished as if they’re on higher difficulty levels.
I think just getting your feet wet with some of those lower difficulty levels if you’re new to basketball, and we also have a feature called 2K U that basically outlines every move in the game. We changed it to a tutorial mode where you can go into it, see the move being performed, and then it tells you exactly how to do it.
From seasoned veterans to bright-eyed rookie players, NBA 2K24 has you covered with tons of gameplay enhancements to help you level up this year. NBA 2K24 launches on September 8 on PS5 and PS4.