No matter how great graphics, modes and features a video game has, it will be emptiness if it is without great gameplay. On last Thursday, Mike Wang, the gameplay producer for NBA 2K, unleashed a dev diary of NBA 2K18.
As we have mentioned in the previous article, Brian Mazique had an opportunity to play some of the new game in early August, after reading through Wang’s blog, he meshed the concepts in the diary with his own hands-on experience with the game.
In order to break down the new information from Wang and to add some perspectives, Brian Mazique captured a variety of quotes and references and used them as jump-off points, hoping to shed some light on the game’s crucial aspect.
New Movement Engine
Movement has been a positive and negative for the NBA 2K. Compared with any other sports video game, NBA 2K’s animations flow more smoothly, but sometimes, it almost appears as though your players are on auto-pilot as they are held captive by a canned animation. In this year, movement is no longer driven by animations, the stick input and a player’s attributes are the sole components that drive how your character moves around the court.
This enable fans to control exactly how quickly a given player can accelerate, decelerate, cut, and turn, as well as his speeds for different states (walking, running, shuffling, sprinting, etc.) simply based on his attributes. The new motion engine takes this data and dynamically finds and stitches together the animations it needs, in real time, to animate the character. There will be nothing to be canned or pre-determined, everything is done on the fly.
During the 8 hours with NBA 2K18, Brian found that the controls for NBA 2K18 were as intuitive and less one-command-animation driven as they've ever been in the previous editions. He felt more in control of his player with the ball than ever before.
The new game allows gamers to create a faster or slower-paced experience, fans can customize acceleration and speed of the ball handler and off-ball players. Some moments like "the gamer felt out of control or his player was doing something he didn’t ask for," is going to be eliminated.
In last year’s game, shot aiming was introduced, and shot timing decides makes and misses in a great extent. But the side effects were that it became difficult for us to balance the “stick skill gap” between new users and pro gamers, as well as across the various archetypes. In many ways, it led to de-valuing player attributes, defensive impact, and all of the other factors that go into shot success. In NBA 2K18, shot aiming was removed, and there will be a new shot meter with feedback that shows your release timing and the coverage of your shot (Smothered, Heavily Contested, Lightly Contested, Open, Wide Open).
Green release will be still in the game, but they are no longer based on release timing only. Excellent releases are easier to get with better shots, and harder to get with tougher shots. You can also customize the fill colour of you shot meter.
There will also be new pull-up jump shots. These shots are especially lethal with great dribblers, who also excel at off-the-dribble jump-shot shooting. To perform the moves, you hold sprint and move the Pro Stick in the same direction of your movement when driving laterally. With this command, you’ll get explosive hop jumpers. Holding in the opposite direction of your drive will trigger snatch-back jumpers. You can find a couple of the moves in the trailer above.
You can also do both of these shots by tapping the Shot Button and holding your Left Stick in the proper direction.
New Lay-up System
Thanks to under-the-rim superstars like Irving, Curry and Isaiah Thomas, fancy layups are coming back into vogue for young hoops fans. This year, you can cradle the ball like Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and others do when they drive to the basket. To control cradle layups, you drive to the basket and hold the Pro Stick back and away toward your ball hand (or double tap the Shot Button while holding the Left Stick back and away toward your ball hand.)
There are also new lay-up packages.
- Circus: Kyrie Irving type “jelly” layups.
- Crafty: Steph Curry scoop layups, around the back finish, etc.
- Euro Specialist: The perfect package for Dwyane Wade.
- Explosive: Designed for long jumpers who can explode off of a Launchpad like Russell Westbrook.
- Floater Specialist: Lots of nice quick teardrops a la Tony Parker or D-Rose.
- Long Athlete: Great for long swings like the Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo.
- Tank: Modeled after strong athletic finishers like LeBron.
- Unathletic Small: We don’t need to name names, you know which guys deserve this package.
There are many classifications. The new additions will also help the create-a-player process. Gamers will be able to further differentiate the style of play for their creations.
Strength and Weight Matter, Especially in Post Play
One of the main physics-related improvements that Brian noticed is the impact of size, strength, and weight.
There are many new post moves. You can chain multiple fakes together to perform up-and-unders and step-through shots. This was in the game before, but only now you feel more in control of the moves.
By tapping or double tapping the Post Up button, gamers can ignite triple threat, dribble, and post moves. This is put in to prevent mistaken shots especially for novice dribblers.
For advanced dribblers, 2K brought back the more explosive rhythm dribble sequences (including a number of street ones) that they had a couple years back, including dozens of new animations for many of the top ball handlers in the league. You’ll see some really sick dribble combos and tons of new content by simply tapping the Right Stick toward the hoop.
The dribble combinations are both rewarding and slick, and in this year’s game, they are much more intentional.
This perspective matters a lot in NBA 2K18, after playing the early build, Brian Mazique felt that this area needs the most attention. According to Wang’s blog, there will be a new receiver control option. The Receiver Control lets you take full control over one of your receivers with a single button press, letting you manually work to get them open before passing them the rock. Just point to a teammate with the Left Stick and press and hold the Bounce Pass button. While the button is held, you can use the Left Stick to move him around, then release the Bounce Pass button to pass. If you prefer to use last year’s handoff/pitch pass option instead, that’s available as an option too. You can also quickly choose a short pass vs. a long skip pass with a simple tap or hold of the Pass Button.
It is helpful to set up isolation or to break off from the natural motion of a play. This style of passing will make feeding the post much easier.
People used to complain that “stonewalling” defenders tend to be able to clamp down ball handlers regardless of their ratings and unrealistically stifle the dribble drive game. In NBA 2K18, there will be a newfound balance between the offensive and defensive impact in the game. The interactions and logic for ball handler/on-ball defender collisions were reworked and it feels much better.
Steals and blocks also saw significant improvements. For steals, the much better logic for ball vulnerability will reward you for reaching at the right times and punish you with reaching fouls when you don’t. For blocks, there will be a new limb collision system which makes a dunker going up with one hand more vulnerable to get blocked than a stronger dunker going up with two.
As for the loose ball scrambles, 2K has captured an insane number of animations to support a wide variety of outcomes based on the ratings of the players involved. The outcomes consist of contested pickups, loose ball dives, tie ups, and loose ball fouls. You are going to see some of the coolest sequences that can happen in this year’s game, especially when they chain together.
Brian found the fouls a little too sensitive in the hands-on session, but according to Wang, 2K has made significant changes to this area, so if you’re in a good position when attempting a shot block and you have a good shot blocker, you’ll have a much lower chance at being called for a shooting foul. But on the other hand, if you’re in bad position (trailing the play) or have a bad shot blocking rating, expect to see a lot of fouls.
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