NBA 2K13 is out in the wild. Our review copies arrived a little late, but we'll be posting our verdict by the end of the week. In the meantime, we sat down with gameplay director Rob Jones to find out more about what makes Visual Concepts' newest title tick. From community feedback to how the team strives to capture the essence of the sport, there's plenty to discover from our chat with Mr. Jones.
GamesRadar: What is the secret to creating a great basketball game?
Rob Jones: I think the trend in games is capturing the true emotion. Not only the mechanic of playing the sport, but the emotion and the feeling of actually being involved and being involved in everything that’s going on. I think we need to embrace that the media has really brought basketball lifestyle to the forefront. You have to sell that fantasy. I think that adventures games have done it, and I think sport games have started scratching that surface. Sure, the heart of the game is a simulation of basketball that feels real, and feels fun. As long as we do that, all the other stuff will come along with it.
GR: How do you get the sport so right?
Rob Jones: I spend my time working on basketball; I try to teach basketball through the videogame, while making it fun. I get to go to NBA games all the time as part of what I do, and so basketball has given me a lot--I’m passionate about the sport. I run my own basketball program back home; I teach kids how to play. When they find out I make the videogame on top of that, it’s like "Oh my God, that’s the full thing." Nothing is as exciting as seeing the smile on somebody that’s playing your game and really feels like you’ve hit the nail on the head.
GR: How much do you listen to the community?
Rob Jones: The community’s ideas are usually the same that we have, internally, about what does and doesn’t feel right. From the first videos of 2K13 most people realised, even watching guys that weren’t very good on the sticks, that a lot of the things they were upset with the year before were gone. That’s good--it carries because those are the guys who are going out evangelizing things for us. As much as press does as well, word of mouth is so strong for NBA 2K.
GR: How far are you taking NBA 2K beyond traditional consoles?
Rob Jones: I think this is really our beginning in terms of where we’re at with this stuff. I think that as we see the success of our apps that are out there we’ll be able to judge. I’m a huge Football Manager fan. I spend my time playing it, and I have a friend who posts about Football Manager all the time. I see a value in an Association app. When and how we’ll get there… that I don’t know. It’s the only thing I can say honestly, I don’t know. But I see a huge value there.
GR: Who really owns games – the developers or the players?
Rob Jones: I think the game still belongs to us. Because as developers we are the end user you know? You would never hire somebody that wasn’t also the target user on to your team. One of the big discussions that we have is this: so, I’m a guy that focuses on gameplay and talks about gameplay--my opinion and your opinion about 2K13 may differ completely, but the only way for a game to truly be right is if we’re somewhere in the middle, appeasing both sides. Maybe both sides aren’t completely happy, but I can’t make this side happy and leave this other guy upset. It belongs more to us than it does to the players, especially because of the features that we introduce to them that we want them to gravitate to.
GR: What’s the future of the NBA 2K series?
Rob Jones: One of the things I’ve always said is "when we reach a point where I think we’re mimicking the sport, will be the day I go and do something else... maybe another title or another type of game." When I started on 2K we were really far from what playing basketball in real life felt like. We’re getting a lot closer, but we’re still not as close as I’d like to be. I know people say it’s the best simulation, but it’s still not quite the experience you have when you’re on the basketball court. Trying to mimic that is really important to me, and that’s what drives me every day.
GR: Finally, who will win the 2012/13 season…?
Rob Jones: The Heat will probably be able to repeat, but if the Lakers can stay healthy, that team is pretty hard to beat…
Hit the court
That about does it for this, but be sure to check back soon for GamesRadar's review of NBA 2K13 if you're interested in seeing how the game turns out.
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