The NBA 2K series is arguably the pinnacle of sports games. Year in and year out, the team at Visual Concepts takes more steps forward than backwards in implementing changes to the series to keep it fresh. This will look to continue with NBA 2K20. We were invited out to the NBA 2K20 Community Day in Los Angeles and sat down with Senior Producer Erick Boenisch to discuss the welcome additions and some of his personal tastes involving the game and basketball, in general.
While Anthony Davis and Dwayne Wade may be on the cover, 2K did sign number one pick Zion Williamson to an exclusive deal for promotions going forward. We asked Boenisch what it meant to have Zion on-board with 2K and if his playstyle will affect gameplay in 2K20. “Obviously, it’s a very big thing for us,” said Boenisch. “He needs no introduction. He could be the next big thing in the NBA and it’s exciting to watch. When you have a young, exciting player, people just tend to gravitate towards that. For us having him in NBA 2K, huge win.” As for Zion’s playstyle, it isn’t as simple as one would think to implement. Boenisch stated, “With any player in NBA 2K, it’s all about signature shots which directly influences playstyle. For us, it’s guessing how he’s going to evolve his game to the NBA because all he had was Duke and it’s tough to go on. This is where player’s playstyles change every day throughout the year so we have to have eyes on them.”
The two big additions to NBA 2K20 are the implementation of the WNBA and the big changes to MyCareer. The WNBA will feature all the teams and players with separate motion capture animations from the players themselves. We asked Boenisch about how WNBA will factor into NBA 2K20. He stated, “Players will be able to do Play Now games and there is a WNBA season to play through. Take a team and progress through the season and do trades.”
MyCareer will feature a new cinematic narrative that includes actors Idris Elba and Rosario Dawson along with your actual player. Thanks to Springhill Entertainment and visionary Sheldon Candis, players may be more interested in the movie involved. However, there is a new way to create the player and its quite addicting. We asked Boenisch to go into detail about the MyPlayer Builder. “There’s so much there,” he said. “The MyPlayer Builder is the key addition as you can create a build and test them out. You can set your potential for every single attribute which means you can look at what your max rating is going to be for everything. The days of ‘I’m a Sharpshooter’ are gone. You can customize yourself to anything you want. You can look at your badges and practice and max him out at a 99 to see how he would play someday when I get there. That was a lot of the feedback we got from the community. People would play and say they spent 150 hours on this guy and in the end, he’s not really what I thought he was going to be. That’s a thing of the past. For me, that’s the biggest feedback we received from the community and implemented. Even if you’re a casual player, your players ratings will go quickly from 60-95. You will earn your way based on skill to max level once hitting 95. Even in the office, I made like 200 guys just testing different attributes and it’s just fun to play and build them. The flow in the MyPlayer builder is very user friendly.”
The NBA 2K series is the only sports game to implement classic teams and players and does it perfectly. 2K and Visual Concepts continues to add classic teams and for NBA 2K20 will add All-Decade teams that will ignite that nostalgia bone. We questioned how the series continues to do this when other franchises can’t. Boenisch went on to say, “We’ve been doing it for almost ten years now. It’s research and passion and we all grew up watching these guys. The ’92-’93 Suns were a team we added and people asked why. The early ’90s is the golden era. We continue to push new teams out and I don’t know why other games don’t do it. Maybe it’s a rights issue or a lack of interest but it’s a lot of work due to the research. You have to see how they’re rated and what their play styles are to accurately represent them. It’s a ton of work but it’s worth it for us.”
As of now, only four All-Decade teams have been announced. This includes only starters. We asked about the details, other mode options and which team would be the highest rated. “Yes, there will be full rosters,” Boenisch said. “I don’t know which one will be rated the highest but I love playing the ’90s team. Done deal, my favorite decade. The depth of the ’80s team is a little weak in comparison. The starting five of the ’80s team is great but the depth of the ’90s and ’00s is pretty unstoppable. You can use them in Play Now, Season Mode, Playoffs and MyLeague mode. You can actually customize the mode in MyLeague to have all 30 teams in it. You can even do expansion and include 36 teams. One of my favorite things to do is to simulate a season with the classic teams. The ’92-’93 Bulls come out on top so much. Cheesy Jordan is hard to beat, he’s incredible.”
With all the offseason transactions in the NBA and the current state of the league, a lot of teams now have two superstars. This conjured the idea of an old school game, NBA JAM. We asked if any thought had gone into implementing a mode similar to it. “We’re always looking for new ways to engage customers. It’s tough. This year was really focused on MyCareer and on the WNBA inclusion. We do have Black Top mode, which does have 2-on-2. We are always looking for ideas to invest in for the future.”
It was recently announced that 2K’s sister sports series WWE 2K was relieving developer Yukes of its duties. It brought to our attention that since both games are under Visual Concepts, if the two shared resources or other work. Boenisch had this to say, “That’s a complicated answer. They just changed developers and dropped Yukes and now Visual Concepts is doing it in-house fully for the first year. So, I don’t want to speak for their game, but a lot of it was shared resource and kind of taking on what NBA 2K has built over the years. I think once their team is fully up to speed, there will be a lot more synergy between the teams. I’m very excited for the new WWE title.”
On a personal note, Boenisch made it clear that he’s all Los Angeles, all the time when it comes to basketball. He’s all about the Lakers but is also a Clippers fan. We asked about his NBA Finals prediction this year. “I’m a super Lakers homer. It’s the homer answer. I want to say the Clippers, but I don’t buy it. If Paul George comes back healthy and they can make it to the playoffs, anything can happen. The Warriors I’m iffy on. The East is the East. This is really tough because for the last five years it’s been the Warriors. This is the most excited I’ve been for the NBA in years. I’m going to go with the Lakers over the Bucks in six games.”
For more on NBA 2K20, be sure to read our hands-on preview.