Shut Down D
In recent years, one of the underlying features in our game has been Lock-On Defense. The idea was originally spawned from a user’s failure to always know how to defend the ball handler, and it gave a player an assist in staying with a dribbler as he moved around the court. It also allowed the defender to shade a player to a particular direction, albeit sometimes with dubious results.
With Shut Down D, we aimed at doing two things. The first and foremost goal was to allow the defender to be more physical with the ball handler than ever before. So, when holding the LT on XBOX 360 or L2 on PlayStation 3, you will see your defender crowd a stationary ball handler and apply pressure in a way that we’ve not allowed before. The trigger also gives the defender a greater ability to change a dribbler’s drive direction. So, as an example, a great on-ball defender like Derek Fisher will be able to push a driving dribbler more to the sideline when employing the Shut Down D mechanic. You will notice the outer ring of your player indicator turn Red when Shut Down D is activated.
The counterbalance to this is that changes of direction to players who are too aggressive are more likely to throw the defender out of position. However, if you know your matchup and you can anticipate where the dribbler is trying to drive, using Shut Down D can help you maintain the ball handler on the perimeter, instead of getting past you for an easy drive to the basket. It isn’t a silver bullet, as no defender can really impede progress of a good ballhandler for very long, but being able to delay penetration can be the difference between allowing an easy score or a hard jumper at the end of the shot clock. The key is to read and react to your opponent’s every move. Using the Left Stick (while Shut Down D is active), apply pressure to the ballhandler by cutting him off and cutting off the angle he wants to attack. This might take some time to perfect when you first pick up NBA 2K10, so stick with it. But like everything else, once you have learned the system through practice, you can easily shut down a predictable opponent.
Defensive Rotations are new in NBA 2K10. Last year, our Help Defense system relied on assessing the best defender to help based on distance from ball and closeness to basket. However, it failed to truly represent the fact that rotations in basketball are part of an underlying strategy by the coaches to cater to their defensive strengths. In NBA 2K10, we spent a ton of time trying to balance these rotations correctly based on defensive awareness and ball position.
The rotation of the defense usually creates an opening that the offense will have. Think of it as pulling a short blanket to cover your body. As you pull it one way, another extremity will be exposed. The game is to expose the least important extremity, and hope that the offense doesn’t realize where that extremity is.
The new fun element on defense now is a security that help comes in a timely fashion, but if the offensive player recognizes where the rotation leaves the open man, you will need to recover as quickly to him as possible, and that isn’t always feasible.
Rotations also factor in the double team logic, now. What that means to the user is that the rest of the team will rotate to cover in case of a double team. Again, all of this because playing team defense is a preset strategy and not just an awareness check.
In doing all this, we created a new dynamic in playing team offense and defense and added a dimension to our game that was previously lacking.
Double teams also received a complete re-write from last year. The mechanic itself has improved in order to give the user a more interactive approach. As you remember in 2K9, once the double team was initiated, it seemed like a full feature movie played out until a particular resolution was achieved. This year, we re-worked the mechanic to have completely independent and controllable actors within the double team animations, so that each controlled player can request a particular action independently of what the other player is doing. Last year, this was just a timing issue; but now, a steal attempt happens when you request it and not just when the code decides to resolve to one. All in all, the game now provides a much better experience in terms of response to being in a double team. As an offensive player, you can counter by dribbling out, splitting, passing and shooting. Some of these resolutions were available before, but never with the involvement we’ve added to it this year. Double teams can also be canceled, so you can fake the call and then send the defender back to his man by just hitting the DT button again (LB on Xbox 360, L1 on PS3).
In previous versions of the game, the user would be in perfect position to block a shot, but would sometimes get a block animation that picked the incorrect blocking hand, or worse, would take them further from the shooter. There’s nothing more frustrating than playing great defense and not being rewarded for it. With your defender in front of or close to the shooter, you would expect some contact to play out. In 2K10 we’ve ensured that this happens when a block is timed correctly. New animations were added that cover all possible blocking angles. 2K10’s two-player block system allows us to perfectly blend from any shooting animation; whether it is a jump shot, under basket layup/dunk, or running layup. I also wanted to point out that these are not canned block animations. We do not determine ahead of time that a shooter will be blocked or not even before reading in the defender’s position and controller input. Everything is done on the fly where we will blend to the block animations if the requirements are met to warrant such a block.
We have improved the timing window for blocking shots. Just like in real life, blocking is all about guessing when the shooter will go up with the rock. The idea is to time the Block button with the shot attempt. From when the shot is initiated, you have a small window up until close to the actual shot release from which to press Block. If timed correctly, along with a formula for the player’s Block rating and height differential between shooter and defender, you will likely get a two-player block animation.
Once you have mastered the timing and get to know your opponent’s habits on shooting, you can really dominate defensively. With this new system, it also allows you to run down an opponent on a fastbreak and get one of those highlight blocks from behind that can get the crowd off their seats. One memorable game-ending sequence we had in the office was a fastbreak block from behind by Lebron with seconds left in the 4th quarter.
Defending Under Basket Shots
In last year’s game, it was very easy to get in the paint and get that high percentage shot close to the basket. This was an exploit because of the following: defensive logic with passes to the paint was lacking, poor block selection, and the absence of contact shots.
Let’s start with the pass defense. Part of the problem last year was that it was too easy to thread the needle with passes to teammates in the paint. Defenders were either not reacting at all or too late to attempt to swat the ball away, leading to an easy penetration and bucket. Passes like these should be very risky since the receiver is usually in heavy traffic. Defenders are now smarter in tipping or stealing this type of pass.
When defending shots from underneath or close to the basket, there was a lack of physicality or shot contention in last year’s game. It even felt like defenders were not affecting the shots at all. Shooters will jump for an under basket layup, ghosting through defenders. To address this issue, you will now see more physical contact shots. In 2K10, if there’s a defender nearby, you will most certainly get bodied up and draw contact underneath the basket. This in turn, has a lower shot % than a regular uncontested shot. Overall, shot percentages underneath the basket have been tuned when defenders are around to contest.
As I have touched upon earlier, with the two-player block system, you will also see more of these underneath the basket when the defender times their block correctly, allowing them to have more presence in the paint. The combination of these three changes will enhance your overall ability to be a presence in the paint.
Defensive movement has been completely updated for 2k10. We brought players of different sizes into our mo-cap studio and captured their movements. Our goal has always been about feel and realism, and part of that is really capturing the style of movement of varying player sizes. Another reason is that these unique movement models give the game a more realistic look. We don’t want the game to have that robotic feel where all 5 players move in the same manner. Guards usually tend to get lower when guarding their match-ups, while the bigs are more upright. On top of each model, they also have different versions of stances, which really give each player a sense of individuality. You will not see synchronized defensive movements in a 2K basketball game.
Defensive sliding was a problem in last year’s game in part because of Lock-On D and issues with the movement model itself. We have added new steps and turns into the model that improves upon the movement so that players actually plant and turn before jetting off in another direction.
We also wanted the game to realistically represent players of different sizes and speed when it comes to running and sprinting. A big player like Yao will not move as quickly or as fast as a guard. Tuning an animation based on the player’s Speed rating is one way of achieving this, but this alone is not enough. We can slow down or speed up the same animation, but it will not feel right seeing it play for big and small guys. If you compare their runs, big men generally take longer and slower strides, while smaller players perform shorter but quicker strides. That was really a challenge in years past because of the tremendous variety of athletic ability in the big men of the NBA. We have given many big men their own styles, more conducive to their skill set and tendencies. Specific players we targeted were Yao (may his career be resurrected next year), Nene , Pau Gasol, Shaq, and many others. The idea was to ensure that big men performed like big men and not like athletic forwards. In that, we made a huge step forward. The game uses varying kinds of run and sprint animations that accurately reflect players of all sizes. You will really see and feel the difference.
In previous versions of the game, fans complained that the defenders were too casual on the floor, almost looking like they are not paying attention to what’s going on around them. In 2K10, players will now appear more intense off the ball, especially when their match-up is only one pass away from the ball handler. You will see players position themselves to defend a pass, stick their arms out in the passing lane, reach out and feel their man when looking at the ball, and many other little nuances that makes defender more active and gives the game that realistic feel.
There are many more improvements to defense than what is mentioned here. Turbo, for instance is intricately tied to playing physical defense and double team. For those of you who have already downloaded and played the NBA 2K10: Draft Combine game, you already know about the new Turbo system and how it heavily changes the way you play the game, both offensively and defensively. This will be touched upon in another upcoming Insight which will delve into how we’ve integrated the Turbo system into the game. But until then, thanks for reading, we look forward to your feedback.
- Rob Jones and Jerson Sapida