NBA 2K11 Passing Insight + New Screens
|Zach Timmerman here, Gameplay Producer on NBA 2K11. You may have read my previous insight on The Jordan Challenge . This time around I’m going to get into the nitty-gritty details of one of the less talked about but more important aspects of basketball: The Art of Passing.
When I took over passing this year, I immediately gathered community feedback and combined your issues with ours. Fortunately, your concerns and ideas very closely matched our plans and this resulted in a colossal amount of positive changes and features to help take our game to a new level. While I’d like to tell you everything we did, I’ll save you from the mind-numbing jargon and highlight some of the more enjoyable and most notable changes instead.
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I’ll start with the features and then segue into some of the improvements.
1. Right Stick Passing – The beauty of this mechanic is that you don’t have to use your left stick to aim the pass, which then opens up more opportunities for quick release passes and occasional no looks. While holding the right shoulder button, the user can make use of the right stick as a passing mechanic such that whichever direction the right stick gets moved, the ball will be thrown to the receiver along that line.
2. Total Control Passing – Adding versatility to our game, especially for advanced users, is always a must and passing presents great opportunities for that. In 2K11 we’re adding a passing feature called Total Control Passing, which gives users the ability to take control of a teammate off the ball while also determining when and where he will be thrown the ball. While holding the right button (on the 360; R1 on the PS3), the user will be presented with the passing icon buttons, at which point holding one of those buttons allows for the user to manually control the movement of the corresponding player with the left stick. Releasing that button while keeping the right button held (on the 360; or R1 on the PS3) results in a pass to the user. If the user releases the right button (on the 360; or R1 on the PS3) while keeping the receiver’s button held, the user will temporarily take control of the player until he calls for a pass.
3. Fake Passing – While either standing or on the move, a fake pass can be pulled off by pressing the (B) button on the 360 (circle on PS3). It’s a useful mechanic that we wanted to bring back as it can be very beneficial when trying to keep your defender on his toes. While not engaged in the post, you can aim your fake pass using the left stick. The type of fake pass chosen is based on the logic of regular passing. For example, a situation that would have yielded an overhead pass will also yield an overhead fake. Same goes for bounce, lob and chest passes. Defenders also react appropriately to each type of fake pass. Something new that we’ve never done before is allow the ability to fake a pass while in the post, ala Pau Gasol. This will keep the players engaged and will add another element of versatility to the moves in the post game.
4. Post Passing – While not a new “feature”, passing out of the post is an area of the game that was given some attention. Combined with the “fake passing” feature above, you can now fake pass while engaged in the post. Also new this year is the ability to touch pass from a post position, where you can queue up a pass while it’s being delivered to the post player. Each type of post catch can branch into various types of touch passes. For example, a post player can catch the ball up high with one hand and then immediately dish it back out to the perimeter without ever having to bring the ball down to both hands. It allows for quick ball movement and makes players think twice about doubling down or jumping pass lanes. Another new element of post passing is the ability to toss alleys while posted up. Skilled passers are required to successfully pull this off, but lobbing a ball over your shoulder to the front of the rim for a cutter coming down the middle of the lane can be pretty spectacular. And finally, we put a lot of work into general passing while posted up. This includes passes that keep you engaged for quicker re-entries and post dishes that are great for hitting cutters. The combination of all of these improvements and features really helps to solidify the post passing game and in the end, gives you more reason to use the post game as part of your repertoire.
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Steve Nash, John Stockton, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd. When you read these names one of the first things that should enter your mind is their amazing passing ability. They’ve got the innate gift of hitting players right where the ball needs to be. They not only complete the pass but also put receivers in position to make the next move. With this being said, has a player’s passer rating ever really mattered in a basketball videogame to this extent? Sure, it might have been factored into whether or not a player will be able to throw a good alley-oop or dish off a fancy pass. But in the end, couldn’t you throw a 35 foot chest pass to a covered receiver with the same accuracy using Steve Nash as you could with, say, Joel Przybilla? The answer is a resounding yes, but in 2K11, pass ratings matter in almost every aspect of throwing the ball. Whether you’re trying to thread the needle on a pass to the interior or you’re attempting to pass out of a shot, the passing ability of the ball-handler now matters. It determines whether or not the pass will be clean or will force the receiver to adjust his stance to catch the ball. The receiver might have to lean or the pass might force him to adjust so much that he bobbles the ball (which in turn can be retrieved by anyone). Many factors come into play here other than the pass rating, such as the distance to the receiver and how open the receiver is where he’s supposed to catch the ball. It’s amazing the difference this has made to the passing game and we’re very happy that pass ratings finally matter.
NEW PASS ANIMATIONS
When I decided to take on passing this year, one of the many goals I had was to wipe out some of the pass animations we’ve been using for years to give us a fresh new look. I also wanted to ensure that what we captured contained crisp, clean passes that covered all the appropriate angles and distances. Unexpectedly, and to the ire of our animators, this resulted in over 700 new pass animations for 2K11! But for me, and soon for you, this massive influx is welcoming.
On top of recapturing pass types that we’ve had in years past, we also added a bunch of new types. I’ll break down my favorite three:
1. Drive & Dish Wraps – One of the more frustrating aspects of our passing over the last few years was the inability to create a cool wrap pass in the key off the bounce. They’re the passes CP3 pulls off when he beats his man off the dribble, gets the help man in the air and wraps the ball around the defender to his teammate for the open dunk. Last year you’d continually see overhead throws in this situation as it was the safest pass to throw but it often ruined an opportunity for a highlight play. This year we eliminated the immediate defender as a pass threat along the pass lane and doing so really helped open these types of passes up. When you pull one off, they look incredible, but keep in mind, only good passers have the ability to do this.
2. Kick-out Passes – When you get past your man on the way to the hoop and a defender comes off his man on the perimeter to help out, it creates a great opportunity to kick the ball out to the open player that the help defender just left. In last year’s game you’d often get a pass that stopped your forward motion and turned you to throw the ball. This year we captured a bunch of kick-out passes where the player would simply pick up the ball with his dribble hand and not stop his momentum to toss it out. The result is a very quick pass that helps open up the perimeter game in this situation.
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3. Passing Out of Layups & Dunks – Often times, you’ll find yourself attempting a layup or dunk in traffic only to realize you’ve got an open teammate near you for a better look. The pass that resulted from this in 2K10 was often an ugly one. It was normally intended for a jump shot, so your player would end up unrealistically stopping in mid-air and spinning on a platter to toss the ball out. For 2K11 we captured passes specifically for this situation, and the game now looks at the momentum of the passer to choose the best “pass out of shot” animation as seen above with LeBrons pass as Hedo flies by. Combine this with our drive & dish passes and you’ve got some potentially beautiful looking interior pass results.
PASS LOGIC IMPROVEMENTS
1. Pass Targeting – A lot of people are icon passers (myself included) and a lot of people are left stick + (A) button passers. The benefit of icon passing is that you always get who you aim for because you’re determining it by a single button press. Why can’t left stick passers get the same love? One of the first things we did with passing this year was completely wipe out our pass targeting system. There were too many variables added that only occasionally gave us what we wanted and it became too messy to work with. Pass targeting now relies almost solely on one thing and that is the direction your stick is pressed. Pretty simple. Now, there are a couple of reasons your pass may not have reached the player you intended it for. 99% of the time it’s going to be because you’re not correctly aiming your stick at the right player or there’s a teammate in the same direct line of the player you were hoping to hit. There are a few very important variables added this year that allow for skip passing and the ability to hit the outside guy in a line two players are occupying. But for the most part, you’re going to pass to who you’re aiming the left stick at. The pass targeting topic initiated frequent scream fests in our offices last year, mainly from Gameplay Director Rob Jones. Fortunately, this year, we’ve hardly heard a peep.
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2. Post Feeds – Most of the time you tried to feed the post last year the result was a lob pass. This became very predictable and because of the slow speed of the lob, the defender of the passer could double down by the time the post player was ready to put the ball on the floor. It was frustrating and really hindered the post game. We’ve improved this tremendously by working with our post feed logic, allowing for more bounce wrap passes into the post. This includes wrap passes while standing and while on the move as seen above from Jameer to Dwight. We can now intelligently decide whether to throw a lob or a wrap bounce pass. And even though I knew it would make a big difference, I was really caught off guard by just how much better our game now looks and feels when it comes to entering passes into players who have their defenders sealed in the post. It’s also yet another deceptively large reason to use the post game.
3. Pass Selection – I’ve read comments regarding the overhead passes that were prevalent when the ball was being passed around the perimeter from the Momentus Premiere Trailer. I can a.ssure you that it was an isolated clip that the editor felt worked well for the trailer. We’ve greatly improved the pass lane code for 2K11 to allow for more chest and bounce passes in situations where our safest pass, the overhead, is not necessarily needed. This affects nearly every area of passing but is mostly noticed when passing around the perimeter or passing up the court in a transition situation. Overhead passes are too slow for a lot of the situations where you saw them last year so we put in hard work to ensure that just about the only time you see them is when we truly feel there is a potential threat in the pass lane that could intercept or deflect your pass.
4. Alley-Oops – Oops, we had a bug in our game that unnaturally turned the passer when he threw alley-oops. It didn’t affect the accuracy of the throw or the ability to finish and was often unnoticeable, but when it happened it was pretty ugly. Our off-the-glass alley-oops in 2K10 also contained a bug that really didn’t allow for pleasing results either. Well, now all of this is fixed and my goodness the results are amazing. Combine these bug fixes with the addition of some new fluid looking alley lobs and you’re in store for some startling alley-oop sequences in 2K11.
5. Catching a Pass in Progress to Basket – When a player cuts to the basket and you hit him in stride, your hope is that the receiver gets put into a position where he can easily go up for a shot near the hoop. The last thing you want him to do is end up near the baseline, or even worse, 5-6 feet beyond the hoop. One of our most prized fixes was clamping the catch point on a moving receiver to be right in front of the hoop. Along with a few other tweaks, it’s now undeniably easy to go right up near the basket for the shot (of course, avoiding contact or getting your shot tossed into the 3rd row is on you).
Well then. Good luck 2K gamers on NBA 2K11. Many things addressed to improve Passing and you can look for these and other tweaks when the game is out October 5th. You may also want to check out the various game play videos hitting in the next couple, including one Ronnie is providing to Operation Sports featuring the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets. I’m looking forward to reading your feedback.
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