No rest for the NBA 2K12 team this holiday

The return of the NBA on Christmas Day is welcome news to a lot of people; after all, once the initial excitement of opening presents has evaporated, there’s still an entire day to spend with your family – and it’s politically correct to get some “quality time” in with Aunt Bernice. Luckily, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and a host of top NBA players will be back to work flying through the air and providing a welcome living room diversion from desultory conversation.

One group of people that’s especially thrilled about pro hoops debuting on Christmas is the NBA 2K12 development crew. A season-long work stoppage would have been a depressing asterisk to a standout title; now that it’s “game on”, there’s a boatload of roster changes to be made, a fresh rollout of the nifty NBA Today feature, and a general excitement around the 2K12 office that their game is getting a breath of life at the perfect time of year.

“It’s a nice mix between chaos and excitement,” says Erick Boenisch, producer on NBA 2K12. “We’ve been preparing for the end of the lockout since before our game launched, so for us, it was always a matter of ‘when.’ But things have moved fast since the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) was signed, so it’s been a race to make sure we get everything done.”

We imagined that when the news came down that the crippling lockout was finally over, there was a feeling of elation around the office; coupled with that, however, came a daunting list of things to do and a very short time to make them happen.

“Our first reaction was obviously one of great excitement,” Mr. Boenisch continues. “One of our first priorities was making sure we did everything in our power to get the game up to speed in terms of roster updates. People have been clamoring to see this year’s rookies in our game, so we’ve been working tirelessly to feed them in. The player movement in this small timeframe has been chaotic, so a lot of resources have been devoted to making sure we stay on top of free agency and trades. NBA Today (a feature that provides that day’s real-world matchups with up-to-the-minute stats, commentary, and player injuries) is even more important this year since so many updates have to be made. We’re also using it to roll out updated player appearances (like a slimmed down Kendrick Perkins) as well as new alternate uniforms.”

The logistics of handling a frenzy of real-world moves in a 3-week timeframe are numerous, to say the least. To date, there have been 5 roster updates and a gameplay patch pushed since the announcement that the league was getting back to business. More are on the way.

“The most important thing during this process is making sure the moves are official before placing them in-game,” Mr. Boenisch describes. “Our producers have been the go-to source for this process. They have been on top of updating rosters and adding rookies, but also updating each team’s rotation to re-allocate each player’s minutes. It requires tremendous attention to detail, but that’s what our fans expect from us and that’s what we’re dedicated to delivering.”

“Dedicated” is the operative word here. While most of us will be kicking back with family and friends, a healthy portion of the NBA 2K12 development team will be hard at work on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, Mr. Boenisch wouldn’t give up the goods about any special surprises for the legions of fans who’ll boot up the game that day.

“We have some things cooking,” he says coyly. “But you’ll just have to wait to see for yourself! We’ll be enjoying Christmas, but if NBA basketball is being played then we’re working.”

We’ll be watching and playing too, because Aunt Bernice can’t stay up all night. Once the real games are over, the virtual ones begin.