NBA 2K11 Expanded Playcall System

2K Sports just posted another NBA 2K11 Developer Insight. Rob Jones, NBA 2K11 Gameplay Producer, talks about the Expanded Playcall System. In NBA 2K11 you will be able to enjoy actual plays call by real NBA teams. Over 30 specific plays per team !. So what play are you gonna call when the game's on the line?

 Screenshots Gallery

One of the things that we heavily discussed at the beginning of the year was how to individualize teams in such a way that the experience playing each one felt different. Last year, the focus was on the individual’s Player Tendencies. We wanted to recreate each player in their own likeness when they had control of the ball (and where they liked to move and receive it). 

The part of the plan we failed to properly execute was to have enough plays created for each team/player that would really bring these tendencies to light. We had about eighty plays across all of the NBA’s thirty teams. While we tried to create play sets and styles that reflected each team, we really didn’t have the bandwidth or scouting that would allow us to really mimic what each coach did.

I am proud to say that this is NOT the case in NBA 2K11. Each team in our game runs their own plays, for their own signature players, in a way that truly reflects the most amazing sport out there.

All Teams Are Not Created Equal - Each team has a base playbook of at least thirty plays that reflect their coach's philosophy and style of play. The marquis teams also have additional plays available to them that they can run for additional flavor. We created individual sets for teams as well. What this means is that even though two coaches may use a floppy set, their personnel and style may dictate that their floppy set starts differently than that of another team that runs a floppy. Now even if teams run plays that have the same end goal, the look you get from team to team will differ based on how they run it and who they run it with.

If you consider that we have well over 1000 plays across all the current and the old school NBA teams, you will see that, as a User, you have a plethora of options to vary your offense.

Individualized Plays - Even more exciting is the fact that starters and subs have their own plays. In some cases, like for a Manu Ginobili, that means having a complete set of four new plays, while for a lesser known or skilled sub there may be only one or two available. The nicest part about it is that each play that was created really reflects how the teams try to create for a particular player’s abilities. So, you have sets where Lebron runs point, or where Rip Hamilton is coming off double screens, etc. Portland will utilize plays that have B-Roy running the point, while the Jazz will isolate Deron Williams in the post. Lamar Odom has plays for him to run the offense when he is on the court. Each player is put in the perfect light to do what we all know they do best. 

Positional Play-Calling - When Sr. Gameplay Designer Mike Wang and I first started discussing adding all the plays, one of my major concerns was addressing the way we called them. The use of the Directional Pad to call plays was so cumbersome that I couldn’t see why anyone would want to do this in game, unless they were the most hardcore of users. So, we came up with concept of Positional Play-calling. Hit the LB, select the player you want to call a play for (icons come up over their heads). The play options for that player are displayed. Select the play you want and execute it. Once you know the play sets for each player, it’s as simple as tapping two buttons without even waiting for the dialogue. It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the offense and surely doesn’t force you to take your fingers off the LS in order to choose a play.

In recent years, I spent very little time using plays/playbooks, concentrating instead on trying to make a more freeform AI that would recognize game situations and react accordingly (almost like playing a pickup game with your teammates. You know what they want to do, so you do something on the court to help facilitate that). That was the birth of the Freelance system. It also served for cases where a play set would break down giving the AI options. This year, I’ve played games where I run plays on every possession, knowing that I will be able to get the exact situation that I want.

Play Naming - Originally, we wanted to opt for a simple naming scheme that would allow even the most casual user to know what the play was designed for. Now, each play has a Number and Naming scheme. Example, “51 Roll” would mean that there is going to be a Pick and Roll play run between Center and Point Guard. Once you get the naming scheme down, moving from team to team isn’t daunting because you can immediately recognize the type of play that you have available.

System Improvements - The play system also needed some upgrades:

Contextual Movement- A lot has been said about having players move around the perimeter in the context of where they are and where they are going to. This is closely integrated into the movement during plays, such that you will see players moving around the three point line with the correct movement style and speed that is relative to the situation.

Added the ability to have a player change his target location on a cut- What that means is that just because a play seemingly has the player coming off the screen for a shot on the wing, doesn’t mean he will always go to that point. We wanted the player to be more intelligent about where he got open and not as predictable as in the past.

Start a play early, before everyone is set- This works great for teams like Phoenix, where Steve Nash isn’t really waiting to for people to be in their set location. Once the needed players are in position, the play starts. This keeps the tempo up for teams that really want to get shots up quickly.

Flipped Plays- This, again, was done to speed up how quickly you could start running your play. Last year, the criterion for flipping plays was pretty stringent, and limited to AI teams only. This year, we made it more intelligent and easier for the AI to determine when they should run a play from the flipped formation. 

Stronger Defensive AI Needed - Believe it or not, the addition of all these plays helped us find glaring holes in the defensive AI logic that we thought was pretty good. As we added more and more scenarios that the offense could exploit, we quickly had to shut those holes down. The end result was a game that forces you, as a user, to choose your offensive and defensive options carefully. Playing against the AI is no longer a case of relying on your superstar to create some incredible one on one situation, but rather a conscious decision to run a scheme or play to generate a clean open look.

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