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NBA 2K11 : NBA Today 2.0

  POSTED September 28 |   VIEWS 12027

Joel Simmons talks about  the new audio and dialogue features for NBA 2K11. It's been a big year for starting fresh with many new areas of audio, so let's get right to it. "Off the top of the intro, we'll announce your My Player arriving to the stadium, and Clark Kellogg will call out big matchups when you have to guard against the superstars of the league opposite your position."  Check out this video, screenshots and developer diary. 

  NBA 2K11 : NBA Today 2.0
 Screenshots Gallery

Following up on the introduction of NBA Today in NBA2K10, we wanted to expand the feature this year and add more detail. For starters, a new halftime show featuring highlights and analysis of your current game and an NBA Today segment with “Around the League” updates, where we show and discuss completed games, games in-progress, or upcoming games on any given day of the NBA Season. Damon Bruce is the host, and he brings a lot of unbiased enthusiasm to the discussion of key players' performances, and the breakdown of how various aspects of a team’s strategy is being executed. For Around the League analysis, you'll find out about the leading scorers, team winning and losing streaks, division and conference rankings, and their context within the season- all the way to the playoff race. You can see some examples of Around the League dialogue and presentation in the Audio Trailer here above.

Another area of expansion was the context we wanted to bring to our Leaderboards and Standings analysis, since it's such a big part of the NBA Today experience as well as in Association. The relevance of having your team in the top 5 in a certain stat category in November versus late in March has different implications, and we wanted to bring that perspective to our analysis. As we all know, those teams that can turn it up for the last half of the season have the momentum advantage, so we added a "Since All-Star Break" timeframe. You'll also hear contextual breakdowns across the "Last 10 Games" and "Over the Last Month", as well as the standard timeframes of "This Season" and "Last Season". Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg are able to provide a more granular and insightful perspective with this added level of detail. Throughout the year, you also will see a larger variety of teams and players being recognized on the leaderboards, when they turn it up a notch during various periods of the NBA season. 

We've also added to our last-game analysis, by calling out how a player performed in the previous contest. This year you'll hear Kevin Harlan call out how many points a player scored, along with the team they played against and the location. 
 
Another NBA Today feature you'll notice is the addition of a broadcast-quality commercial break that promotes actual NBA games coming up on the schedule. We'll highlight featured upcoming match-ups and call out the date and time of the game including recent stats of the biggest stars on the respective teams. This single game promo happens either between the first and second quarter or third and fourth, and sometimes both. It's something we've always wanted to do; bringing the realism of NBA Today together with the experience of watching a broadcast. 
 

1000+ New Arena Specific Sounds
One of the major focuses of the sound design this year was recreating each of the 30 NBA Arena's unique sounds; the organs, beats, chants, horns, buzzers, and special arena-specific SFX that play over the loud-speakers. If you're a Hornets fan, you’ll get a kick out of hearing the familiar orchestra-stab SFX as Chris Paul nails an outside jumper. Drain a bucket with Andre Igoudala at Wells Fargo Center, and you’ll hear the PA Announcer call out Iggy’s signature PA response. Bring down the house in Charlotte with a ferocious dunk by Gerald Wallace and you’ll be rewarded with the customary “Boooom!” from the loudspeakers, echoing through the stands. At Staples Center, the cool synthy-organ sounds that pound out defense music, or the Pepsi Center's bass shaking PA beats as your Nuggets bring the ball up court to score, are such an integral part of the NBA fan experience. We wanted to make sure we brought as many of these unique elements into our game as possible. For those of you who loved watching Michael Jordan in the glory days in Chicago, you’ll notice we've also brought back to life many of the arena specific vintage organ and arena sounds from that era. All in all, we created over 1000 arena specific sounds, custom organs and beats, and special SFX. The depth and quantity of detail really helps differentiate the experience as you take your team on road trips and play in different arenas, letting you become more immersed in the atmosphere. 

New Sideline Reporter, Doris Burke
In NBA 2K11 you'll hear a fresh voice from the sideline, and that voice belongs to the insightful and ever-professional Doris Burke. You'll recognize her from the 2010 NBA Finals broadcasts, and for 2K11, Doris comments on everything from coach strategies at tip-off to late-game timeouts and the details of each Jordan Challenge game. She'll mention how Phil Jackson relishes the challenge of taking on the offensive firepower of the Heat, and if Yao gets injured (again) in your game, she'll have reports from the trainers. At the top of the 4th quarter, if Deron Williams is the Sprite Spark of the Game, she'll breakdown his play with Kevin and Clark, and if the crowd doesn't think your My Player is fitting in with the team, she'll comment on a potential trade and the accompanying "encouragement" of the fans. Recording with Doris was a fantastic experience, and the depth of her knowledge and her personality really shine through in the game. 
 

Jordan Challenge
One of the most enjoyable features to work on this year was the Jordan Challenge. Recreating a live broadcast experience of the most defining moments of MJ's career was an interesting challenge. Kevin, Clark, Doris, and the audio team had an amazing time, as we recorded for over a week to capture Michael's greatest performances. Commentators react to all of Michael's achievements- like when he hits 4 threes in a half to tie the Finals record, or when he hits 6 in the game as you "earn" the Shrug. In the Double-Nickel against the Knicks on March 28th, 1995, you'll hear about how 8 players on the Bulls had never played with Jordan before that epic night just days after MJ made his return to the NBA. The historical rules are an interesting twist during that period in the NBA, as Michael re-enters a league where defenders aren’t allowed to hand check, making him that much more dangerous. In the Father's Day game, Doris reports on details like Ron Harper's struggles with his back and Shawn Kemp's bruise sustained in Game 1 of the series. You'll hear hundreds of unique moments real-time, as Kevin and Clark note when Jordan scores 26 points to match his game 5 total, or when he hits 37 to match his game 3 high of the series. We also covered background stories and notable achievements of many other star players from Karl Malone, John Stockton, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, and many more.

PS3 Custom Music
I know this has been something everyone in our PS3 community has been waiting to hear, and I'm happy to confirm that PS3 now supports Custom Music. NBA2K11 on PS3 has the latest version of the custom music system. This year of course, the addition of over 1000 arena-specific sounds combined with the ability to bring your own custom music into the game, makes a new level of customizability and authenticity possible.

Broadcast Sound
One of the requests we’ve received from our fans has been to recreate a more accurate overall "broadcast representation" in regards to how the entire soundscape interacts. A common critique has been that the crowd wasn’t “big enough” when it should be and was often too “small” at lower intensity moments. Basically, the interaction between ambient sounds and dialogue needed to have its own system to better handle the high and low intensity moments of games. The commentary should still be heard when the crowd is going crazy in a 4th quarter comeback, and conversely- can't be too loud in the first minutes of the 1st quarter while fans are still finding their seats. Because this entailed rethinking and looking at the mix of all of the elements (from on-court SFX, chatter, the crowd response system, arena-music and the dialogue) we had to take a broad perspective on how these elements interact in an actual broadcast. It was apparent that we needed to design a specialized system from the ground up to accomplish this. What we came up with is an entirely different approach, to ensure the playoff crowd can be louder than ever before while still allowing you to hear the commentators. Likewise, during mellower moments in the game, the dialogue doesn't overpower the ambience. It's a dynamic system that reacts and adjusts to the intensity of each individual element in the broadcast… sort of a "glue" that keeps all elements working interactively to construct the overall sound. We actually hope you don’t notice the system at all- just that the game sounds more like you're watching a game on TV. 

10,000+ New Play by Play calls
As you’ve probably seen in some of the game-play videos, 2K11 features a new presentation and commentary system to call out who’s on the floor. One of the issues with NBA videogame dialogue is that player identification was not happening frequently enough in regards to whom is doing what on court, in addition to simply what players are even ON the floor. Yeah, you can figure it out if you look around at the guys, but in a television broadcast we're all used to hearing the players being called out, in addition to having the info displayed on screen; "D-Wade comes in for Chalmers" or "Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki are the 3 and the 4. . ". When you're playing the game and focused on the action, it feels much more natural to hear each player called out in addition to the set the floor overlay (below), or when players are coming on and off the court during substitutions.  

This was really just the beginning of our goal of figuring out ways to better match the dialogue on a real broadcast. Our next challenge was how to be more succinct in calling out who's doing what on the court. It's been common to hear lots of name-stitching in sports videogames, and we wanted to systematically remove as much as possible this year. By using "zero-stitch" dialogue to call out screens, defensive switches, double-teams, player movement and locations, the commentary stays much tighter to the action and the tone and cadence is more natural. Some of the single play-by-play lines you'll hear, while straight-forward in terms of content, go a long ways to provide a more accurate and organic play-by-play system; "Right side LeBron", "they double up Jordan. . .", or "there's Chandler for 3!". We've also added an entire set of lines for dual-name calls using 2-player structures to help stay on top of the action; "Fisher with a screen on Rose", "aaand that's GOOD by Stoudemire on the assist by Felton". Even basic passing calls have been improved with single calls such as, "Johnson kicks it to Evans", or "Billups, the pass to Smith". This year's advancements are a major improvement over 2K10, and it's exciting to see where these new systems will take us in the future.

You can check out more examples of the new play-by-play systems in the audio trailer above.

1000+ Return to Topic Conversations
Analysis and conversations about players, teams, coaches, and the real-life stories that make the NBA experience so dynamic, are always an important area of dialogue for sports games. The challenge is to provide enough depth and variety to ensure that for months of gameplay, new dialogue is heard as you make your way through the season. It's also critical that the content is delivered naturally. In an actual network broadcast, stories and analysis intertwine between play-by-play and analysis of the action in the game, and that's the feel we set out to achieve. For those of you familiar with the Return to Topic feature from the MLB 2K Series, we’ve introduced this conversational feature to NBA2K11, and in a big way. We’ve gone far deeper than ever before, with over 1,000 conversations that weave in and out of the action. You’ll hear Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg start a topic on a player or team, and after calling the action for a bit, they’ll return to expand the conversation. It seems like an obvious feature for replicating the flow and content of a sports-broadcast, but it requires a huge amount of files to provide enough variety and depth to stay relevant and avoid repetition. It's especially important when playing a season in your Association, and we're excited about how it helps the flow of the commentary too.

New Crowd and Player Chatter
We’ve also done a complete overhaul to our crowd chatter system, and doubled the amount of player chatter as well. When we set out to record over 20,000 new chatter calls for 2K11, we wanted to take a new approach by rethinking how we recorded the actors to improve the realism of each performance. We’ve all heard the occasional sports game chatter line that just didn’t quite match the situation; either the energy of the performance or the ambience. For NBA2K11, we restructured our recording flow, processing, and prompting methods to yield much more realistic calls. In the process we discovered some very compelling areas to expand. The quantity and depth of player specific chatter along with the new ambience mix makes each offensive and defensive set feel much more alive.

My Player
Over the course of the year we added a variety of elements to My Player. Off the top of the intro, we'll announce your My Player arriving to the stadium, and Clark Kellogg will call out big matchups when you have to guard against the superstars of the league opposite your position. During various achievements like improving your moral or becoming your team's floor general, and even when you start to gain popularity in your market and earn the respect of your fans, Doris will provide insight from the sidelines. After the game, during the new Press Conference feature, hundreds of options are possible on how you shape your career. From an audio development standpoint, we were focused on making the interaction between the various reporters and your My Player as realistic as possible. Be careful how you answer the questions, as the fan support of the crowd will undoubtedly let you know what THEY think about your attitude. They will lavish you with cheers or bombard you with boos, and may even go to the extent to greet you with a ‘trade him’ chant. Kevin and Clark will also take note of major developments in your My Player, from when you step into your first NBA game to when you land your first shoe deal.

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