Featuring an interview with NBA 2K Gameplay Director Mike Wang dishing the latest improvements to the game.
The NBA 2K franchise has a storied history of bringing the most authentic hoop gaming experiences to basketball fanatics and gamers alike. We recently sat down with Gameplay Director Mike Wang to discuss improvements and how the gameplay is more accessible for newcomers in NBA 2K24, available September 8 on PS5 and PS4.
PlayStation Blog: For starters, can you tell us about your overall role on NBA 2K24?
Mike Wang: My role is basically anything that involves the on-court experience, controls, and animation. The gameplay on the sticks is what my team is in charge of and what I’m directly involved with.
Gameplay upgrades are a big focus for NBA 2K24. What are some of the changes to gameplay that you’re most excited to highlight for the fans?
There’s a ton of highlights for gameplay, but I think one of the main things we wanted to focus on this year was accessibility. That was something we heard loud and clear from our community. That’s where a lot of our design changes come from, directly from the community. And they loved shooting last year, especially the more advanced and hardcore players really loved how it was more skill-based, and really let the best players rise to the top. But at the same time, we felt that we could have made it a little more accessible for the newer players and for the players who are young kids or people who are new to 2K. So, that was a big focus for this year, in just making the game more accessible. And it really extended to everything from shooting to defense, coaching. Pretty much every aspect of gameplay was made more accessible. So we’re excited about that.
Were there any other community-requested changes that the team wanted to make sure were implemented in the game this year?
One of the biggest things that the community at large really wanted to see improved was paint defense. That’s one that I think we really stepped into this year thinking, how can we improve it on different levels and different systems in our game. So the body up, that’s basically our on-ball defense in the collisions that happen when you body up the ball-handler, that system got blown out, especially under the basket/around the rim, that contact there, the post-contact in the paint shots especially–being able to put a body on a shooter in the paint was a big aspect of improving paint defense. Scoring in the paint feels correct. And scoring in the perimeter feels correct, you get the right results when you take the right shots. Or if you’re getting guarded, and you’re taking bad shots, you get the results you expect. So those are the kinds of things we’re always trying to improve on year after year.
What was the underlying inspiration for the gameplay improvements regarding specific players’ movements implemented in NBA 2K24?
That’s something that we started on a journey of, I think, around 2K7. And we’ve always deemed it a signature style. If you’re a fan of the NBA and basketball in general, I feel like it’s one of those team sports where, if you were able to see a silhouette of the game being played, and you couldn’t really see the players, you would still be able to know who’s who, just because people are so distinct in the way they move, the way they shoot. There’s a lot of repetitive actions in basketball that people build up their muscle memory for, you can tell KD shoots a certain way.
So for us it’s always looking at what is the NBA. What are the NBA players doing? What are their moves? What are the shots they’d like to take, and then adding those into our game the best we can to make them reflect who they are. So really it comes down to a lot of things. It comes down to the way that AI works, the strategies, and just the brains that we give our players and what they like to do with it. Do they like to drive right or left, do they like to pull up off the drive, or do they like to go to the rim and finish strong through traffic, all these different things. It’s the animations they get, whether it’s their layup packages, jump shot packages, or their dribble moves. It really is a little bit of everything. Making the NBA players play exactly like their real-life counterparts is a never-ending journey for us. It’s something I think we’ve taken to the next level on NBA 2K24.
Was there a layup package, or maybe a signature move that you were most excited to emulate and bring to NBA 2K24?
One that always sticks out in my mind is Nikola Jokić because he’s an anomaly. Like LeBron is, like Shaq was, like Curry is, all these guys who kind of break the rules of basketball, Jokić is right there. You don’t see a guy with that touch, with that pass vision. So his layup package is probably the one that has the most unique content, I think, in the game this year. Sometimes he has really awkward-looking floaters or he’s stumbling into the paint with a kind of awkward looking shot that will always go in. So yeah, Jokić is one of those guys who sticks out in my mind as being synced up really well, especially with his layup package. But there’s so many that have improved. I can call out a ton of guys. De’Aaron Fox is another one. His dribble moves this year are amazing. They’re really explosive. Yeah, just a really tight handle, just like the real-life player. Curry, too. He’s actually a guy we had come and do mocap. So he did all his moves for us already. But we got even more this year, and they’re pretty impressive. I know all the kids love Curry, so they’re going to like the improvements that they’re going to see in him this year too.
Are there any additional gameplay nuances that players might not notice at first that you want to highlight here?
We haven’t really announced much of it yet. But the badge game is very nuanced this year. Let’s put it this way, the way you play on the court is going to reflect how your badges get shaped, and how your player looks at the end of the day. So when you do something over and over again, let’s say you like to do spin jumpers, you’re going to see your abilities as a spin jumper player improve steadily over time. And so you’re going to find that just the way you play the game, what you like to do on the court is going to improve, you’re going to kind of build your player in that aspect. So I’m excited about that.
I’m excited that we have a new feature in the game where you can mold your player on the fly as you play games. Going to be really interesting to see how that turns out. Another nuanced thing, a very nuanced thing, is probably the play-calling stuff. Because that’s something that is really deep in our game. It’s something that a lot of people are kind of intimidated by, because you’re seeing real NBA playbooks, and a lot of people just don’t even understand what these coaches are running, what these actions even mean. So we simplified a lot of it this year. We have a new feature called Favorite Plays, where if you just press left on the d-pad, you’ll see you can choose from up to 16 of the most common plays in basketball, from give-and-gos to quick ISOs and floppies. Also, we have a feature that we brought back called 2K SmartPlay. If you enable that feature, basically, as you come up the court every single time and every possession, a little overlay is going to pop up to tell you basically who the best player is and what the best action is to run for that player at this point in the game. So it’s a nice entry level way to kind of understand more nuances of not just NBA 2K but of NBA basketball.
What do you think the average gamer who’s not interested in basketball would find intriguing in NBA 2K24?
Oh, absolutely. That’s something that’s, again, we started at the top of the call talking about accessibility. We’ve always prided ourselves on this, too, because you mentioned this earlier, what are the nuanced things that advanced users get into? What we’ve prided ourselves on every year is that we always try to make it so that you can be successful by learning how to move around with the left stick, using the shoot button, the pass button, and also the steal button on defense, maybe if you need that. But really, you can play the game with like two buttons, maybe three buttons, and be successful, especially if you jump into some of the lower difficulty levels.
Rookie is really made for someone who’s brand new to basketball, maybe you see the game on TV and that’s it, never played the sport. If they jump into Rookie, very simple just to pick up the sticks for a little kid, even just to get the ball, run around, shoot when they’re open, hopefully. But even if they’re covered, they’re not going to be as punished as they are if they’re in higher difficulty levels. I think just getting your feet wet with some of those lower difficulty levels if you’re new to basketball, and we have a feature called 2K U also that basically describes all the moves in the game. We changed it to where it’s a tutorial mode where you can go in there, you see the move being done, and then it tells you exactly how to do it.
From seasoned vets to bright-eyed rookie hoopers, NBA 2K24 has you covered with tons of gameplay improvements to help level up your game this year. NBA 2K24 releases September 8 on PS5 and PS4.