Hello 2Kers! For those of you that don’t know me already, my name is Erick Boenisch, Senior Producer on NBA 2K18. Some of you may know me by my online handle, SimBaller. It’s my honor to be the first person to welcome you to NBA 2K18! The team here at Visual Concepts has made some HUGE strides with the game this year, which we will be telling you about in the coming weeks.
For today, I feel privileged to kick it all off with a detailed dive into what we have done with MyGM/MyLEAGUE this year. Without any further ado, let’s get to what you came here for!
Innovation. Authenticity. Engagement.
Those are the exact three words I lead off with last year in NBA 2K17’s MyGM/MyLEAGUE blog. We have used those three words to serve the NBA 2K community well for many, many years now. In a space where other developers continually shy away, the team here at Visual Concepts has once again delivered a robust and thoughtful list of franchise features that will keep you coming back for more.
In the franchise landscape, we have been pushing the envelope for the entirety of the current generation of consoles:
Fast forward six years and you find yourself at the outset of MyGM: The Next Chapter. After a number of interviews over the last couple years, you have just landed a job as the GM of an NBA team. Widely respected for your on-court success, you have finally found an owner that believes the very drive that propelled you to the top of the NBA will help you propel his team to an NBA title.
With NBA 2K18, we are introducing an experience you won’t find in any other game; a narrative-driven story-based franchise experience that maintains all of the user control and team building aspects that you have grown to love from MyGM over the years.
While MyCAREER focuses on your life as an NBA player out to achieve superstardom, MyGM: The Next Chapter aims to view the NBA world from the complete opposite perspective. Centered around you, the GM, you will need to navigate backroom scenarios while dealing with expectations from your owner, your staff, the press, other GMs, and of course, your players.
How your MyGM experience turns out is completely up to you. Your path will be determined by the choices you make and the answers you provide at the many key points in the narrative. Understand, I’m intentionally being a little vague regarding the main plot of the story, as I want you to experience it firsthand rather than through thinly veiled spoilers. Just know that the intent is for an engaging experience that steers clear of the typical sports clichés you may be conjuring up in your head.
Over the past many years, we have added feature after feature to our MyGM and MyLEAGUE modes. During that time, the line between the two modes became fairly blurred, in my opinion. NBA 2K18 provides you with two very unique experiences, that couldn’t be more different from each other. MyGM: The Next Chapter will be the story-based narrative described above, while MyLEAGUE will continue to live and grow as our fan-favorite franchise mode that affords the user complete customization and control over their league.
Pioneering is something that I personally enjoy doing. Delivering new experiences creates a certain energy within the development team, and from this energy, I’m confident that our foray into telling a narrative through a franchise mode will resonate with all of you. Enjoy the ride!
With the ratification of the new NBA/NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, there were a large number of considerations for us to ponder. Supporting the new changes was never a question; our continued aim is to be fully authentic. That will never change. The following are some quick hits of changes that we have implemented to show you the breadth of our coverage of the changes, no matter how minute they may be:
– Super Max Contracts: We all read about Steph Curry’s 5yr/$201M contract this summer. And James Harden’s 4yr/$169M extension that will pay him $228M over the next 6 years. Known colloquially as Super Max contracts, NBA 2K18 fully implements Designated Veteran Contracts and Designated Veteran Extensions, as well as Rookie Scale Extensions into the game this year.
– Exception Amounts: The MLE will increase in value by 45% from the amounts in the 2011 CBA.
– Rookie Scale Contracts: The Rookie Scale will be increased by 45%, with existing rookie scale contracts being amended to reflect the 45% increase (phased in over a 3-year period).
– Minimum Annual Salary: The league minimum contract will rise by 45% starting with the 2017-18 NBA season.
– Annual Increases: Players with ‘Bird Rights’ will now be eligible for 8% annual raises. Non-Bird players are eligible for 5% annual raises.
– Maximum Salaries: Players will have new maximum salaries calculated using the actual Salary Cap.
– Over-38 Rule: Formerly the Over-36 Rule (which we did not support in previous NBA 2Ks), teams are now bound to the contract restrictions of signing a player that turns 38 during the contract.
– Stretch Provision: When a player is waived using the Stretch provision (new to NBA 2K), the team will not be able to re-sign or re-acquire the player until July 1 of the season where the contract ends.
– Roster Minimums: Teams are now required to carry 14 players (up from 13) on the roster at all times, unless granted an exception.
– +More: There are many more rule changes/new features supported in NBA 2K18 including New Timeout Rules, New Trading Deadline date, Player ETOs, Moratorium Period (detailed below), Two-Way Contracts (detailed below), (Ted) Stepien Rule, and more.
Authenticity is a very important word here at Visual Concepts. While some of these changes may be small in nature, the sum of their parts makes them critical to an authentic team-building experience.
NBA 2K18 introduces the ability for you to send down and call-up your players using the G-League (formerly known to you as the D-League). While the G-League games themselves aren’t user-playable, the feature allows you the opportunity to provide critical game experience for your young players who aren’t getting any court time with the NBA team. Players who have received limited game time in the NBA can potentially accelerate their development as a player with a properly timed send-down. Additionally, the G-League is an excellent scouting tool for young players who might have gone undrafted in previous drafts (they will help to populate the league), as their statistical performance will be a good indicator of what type of player they can become at the next level.
Taking full advantage of G-League availability are Two-Way Contracts. With the ratification of the new CBA, NBA teams will now have two additional roster spots designated for players on “two-way contracts.” Always aiming for completely authenticity, NBA 2K18 fully supports this new addition to the league. Any player with three or fewer years of NBA service is eligible to sign a two-way contract. A player on a two-way contract can spend a maximum of 45 days with their NBA team (during the G-League season). Once the player has run out of NBA-days, he must spend the remainder of the season in the G-League, unless converted into an NBA minimum contract player. NBA 2K GMs would be wise to utilize this to their advantage as you can more easily keep hold of developing talent, while being able to bring the players up to the NBA team to check in on how they are progressing (and to use them as stop-gaps when injuries hit your roster).
Any NBA fan knows the nearly week-long NBA Moratorium period is one of the most exciting times of the year. Rumors are flying on where free agents are going to land. Players are coming to verbal agreements with teams they intend to sign with once the moratorium is lifted. NBA 2K18 introduces a 3-day Free Agent Moratorium period prior to the start of Free Agency. While players can’t officially be signed during the moratorium, you CAN come to binding (no DeAndre Jordan moments, sorry) verbal agreements with players, whose contract offers will be finalized as soon as proper Free Agency starts. This is a fast-paced, dynamic time period that will quickly weed out teams who, as Isaiah Thomas would say, aren’t willing to bring out the Brinks truck.
The ‘Draft-and-Stash’ is a strategy employed by a number of teams when drafting players, particularly later in the draft. NBA 2K18 introduces this feature for the first time. Select international prospects in draft classes will be flagged with the number of years they will remain ‘overseas’ before they are free from their current professional contract and are eligible to sign with your team. This will create additional intrigue in the draft as there now has to be valuation considerations with respect to how many years the player will be unavailable before he can sign. I’ve really been enjoying this particular addition to the game, as it spices up one of my favorite periods of the NBA season!
This new feature can be summed up by the following explanation: The Ultimate Research/Player Scouting Tool. As you can see from the picture, this tool allows you to plot any two data sets against each other to find outliers. For example, I can plot all of the players in the league by their MPG versus their RPG. The resulting data plot will quickly show me players who are pulling in big rebounds in little minutes, or, conversely, players who play big minutes yet are well behind the league curve in rebounding. When looking for players to fill out your roster, the information is invaluable as it allows you to pinpoint the exact player you need.
During the real NBA Draft, it’s very common for a team to draft a player, only for the rights to that player (as he has not yet signed a contract) to be traded to another team later in the draft. In previous iterations of NBA 2K, you were unable to trade (or trade for) a player that was selected in the current in-progress draft. NBA 2K18 introduces the ability for draft rights to a player to be traded, after the player has already been selected by a team. From personal experience, I can say this feature makes the drafting experience a lot more dynamic and exciting!
New to NBA 2K18 is the concept of Cap Holds and Renouncing Rights to a player. In the NBA, a free agent continues to count as team salary towards your salary cap until they are signed (by your team or elsewhere). This placeholder salary against your salary cap is known officially as a ‘Cap Hold’. Known in some circles as the ‘Michael Redd Rule’, this concept closed a loophole allowing a team to use all their available cap space before re-signing their own free agents. If you know that you are not going to re-sign a given player, you will have the ability to Renounce your rights to that player. Renouncing a player removes the salary hold against your team’s salary cap, but this also forfeits your Bird rights for the player (if applicable). Fortunately, with our free agent setup, we have made it easy for you to renounce the rights to players on a daily basis, as the free agency period progresses. While this may sound a little intimidating at first, I’ve found that it greatly increases your flexibility and the strategy when trying to land free agents. All in the name of authenticity!
We spent a fairly considerable chunk of time early in development this year re-thinking how we generate prospects, particularly with respect to their player types. Looking back on 2K17, we just weren’t satisfied with the breadth of players coming out of the generated draft classes. With NBA 2K18, players now have a more appropriate spread of attributes and tendencies with respect to their given player type. Our new system allows us to more easily update the generation templates outside of the typical monolithic patch release, meaning we can continue to update this logic all season long based on your feedback.
NBA 2K16 introduced our very powerful suite of tools that allow you to create every aspect of a team from the ground up. The designs made by the community have been…stunning (and with NBA 2K17’s addition of team sharing, you now know that as well). One consistent bit of feedback I have received is the desire to create additional uniforms for these teams. NBA 2K18 introduces the idea of an Alternate Uniform into the jersey creation process for your created/rebranded teams. We have also added the ability for you to copy either your Home or Away uniform into the Alternate slot should you do a complete re-design, but want to keep the old design around for ‘throwback’ nights. I’m always reading feedback from our community, so I know how many of you out there are going to enjoy this addition!
When doing a team rebranding, you can now create a new court floor inside your team’s current arena. What this means is you no longer need to build a new arena just because you want a new floor. Example, if you are the Lakers and you want to design a new court, you can put that new court floor right inside the Staples Center. No more generic arenas for rebranded teams (unless you want to create something from the ground up, that is).
We’ve had a lot of different solutions in previous years for how to handle All-Star games. This year, we added a new system that I am really enjoying. After every season, we will pick a new host city for the All-Star game. We built a logic system in the backend that delicately balances things like city prestige, years since it was last hosted in the city, team age (newly created/relocated franchise get a large boost to their chances), and more to boil down which team is appropriate to host the next All-Star game. The announcement of the host city selection is now a formal event in our offseason. As a MyLEAGUE user, you can of course override our selection to anything you want. Additionally, we have modified how we build arenas such that we can put a customized all-star court floor into the host city’s appropriate arena. No more generic arenas for the all-star game. Every all-star game will have its own custom floor with that year’s all-star logo emblazoned on the court.
One of my favorite franchise experiences in the game is our MyLEAGUE Online feature. Allowing you to play in a competitive league with up to 29 of your friends/family/enemies, MyLEAGUE Online allows you the opportunity to demonstrate your team building prowess for others to see. For NBA 2K18, we have added some popular community requests to continue building out the feature set for this experience.
– Team Customization/Relocation: League members will now have the ability to customize their teams including creating news identities, uniforms, arenas/courts, etc. League admins will also have the ability to customize CPU teams should you want to create a custom era league of any type.
Have you ever noticed how it is a toss-up if Rajon Rondo will wear his headband on a given night? Or if Carmelo or CP3 will choose to wear compressions shirts under their jerseys? Over the years, NBA players’ accessories have become part of their signature. They aren’t just tools to help manage the grueling 82-game season, they are also essential elements of their appearance on the court. And either because of need or choice, they decide whether they wear certain accessories on a game-to-game basis.
In NBA 2K18, players will now decide on a per-game basis which of their accessories they will wear on any given night. And because this is MyGM/MyLEAGUE, you can fully customize how much or how little this happens. All 17 accessory slots come with five frequency options (Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, Always) that you can customize to determine if a player will ever not wear an accessory, or if he oscillates on his wear frequency.
This is a feature that extends its wings well beyond MyGM/MyLEAGUE, as in-game players in Play Now and MyCAREER will also make use of the feature. Our roster team here at Visual Concepts will follow real-life accessory trends and update frequencies via our roster updates all season long. For some, it may be viewed as a small thing. We view it as an example of the level of detail will strive for to re-create the NBA experience right in your living room.
We have improved the search logic when searching to find specific created teams/team packages. Your searches will now return hits for Team Name, City Name, or Gamertag. Our experience with this in development is that it makes it much easier to find the content you are looking for, compared to last year, which often omitted results you might have been looking for!
As I noted above, there is a passionate community for creating logos, uniforms, courts, team designs, and more. In previous editions of NBA 2K, every time you would want to search for and find a design from a specific community member, it would be a laborious process of remembering the intricate gamertag and then using the in-game keyboard. In NBA 2K18, we now allow you to Favorite/Bookmark your favorite creators providing quicker and easier access to their content than ever before.
Injuries happen, there is just no way around it. This year we have implemented support for the NBA’s Hardship Exception. This ‘rule’ allows you to sign an additional player to your roster (above the existing limit) in the event that your team has four players who are injured and have missed at least three regular season games (or one week of calendar time, for people playing shorter seasons). Coupled with the above-noted Two-Way Contracts, you will have a lot of options this year on how to triage your roster in the event disaster strikes. All in the name of authenticity!
All of the roster editors and draft class creators out there are going to enjoy this one. When editing any player in the league, you will now have the ability to completely customize that player’s jumpshot. This feature takes the elements seen in 2K17’s Jumpshot Creator in MyCAREER and applies them in such a fashion that they are easily editable for every player in the league!
I’m a huge fan of the classic teams we provide inside the game. One of my favorite uses is to include them as playable teams inside MyLEAGUE in an attempt to create an all-classic league. One issue that arises when doing this are the players that appear on more than one team, leading to duplication in the league. When doing a fantasy draft, you will encounter things like Ray Allen appearing twice (’07-’08 Celtics and ’12-’13 Heat) or Danny Ainge (’85-’86 Celtics and ’90-’91 Blazers) or five different Michael Jordans if you included all of the Bulls teams. To alleviate this in NBA 2K18, we have added the ability for you to choose if you want the duplicate players to appear in your league. You can even choose which version of the player you want to keep in the player pool. It always felt weird to me, and I’m pleased to say we have an elegant solution for it this year.
A long overdue feature, in both MyGM: The Next Chapter and MyLEAGUE, you will now have the ability to Practice Plays with your user controlled teams. Developed by the gameplay team here at Visual Concepts, Practice Plays is a powerful tool that teaches you the proper tactics to succeed on the court. If you consider yourself a true sim player, you will definitely want to practice with your team using this feature.
NBA 2K17 saw the introduction of the Quick Edit feature, which allowed you to quickly perform edits to players without having to go into Edit Player and back out for each player you wanted to edit. In a postrelease 2K17 patch, we added the ability for you to also edit player tendencies. In NBA 2K18, we are taking this a step further by allowing you to easily edit all body part durabilities, and more importantly, all badges and their levels for every single player in the league.
For 2K18, we have added 10 new cities that you can relocate your team to. Those cities are: Fort Worth (Texas), El Paso (Texas), Albuquerque (New Mexico), Tucson (Arizona), Fresno (California), Long Beach (California), Mesa (Arizona), Virginia Beach (Virginia), Colorado Springs (Colorado), and Raleigh (North Carolina). When you consider things like market size, metropolitan income, and television homes in the market, many of these cities can present a great financial challenge when moving your team to one of these cities in MyGM: The Next Chapter. Are you up to the task?
Taking a cue from MyLEAGUE, MyGM: The Next Chapter now features a number of new customization options and sliders that can be used to personalize the experience.
Here at Visual Concepts, we believe strongly in the franchise experience. Our management here provides us full support and believes strongly in our ability to provide innovative experiences that, as I said above, are built to delight and entertain. And in turn, you, our fans, have shown TREMENDOUS support of the work we have been able to provide over the last many years.
As I said in this space last year, it’s important to me that you feel we respect your purchase of our product. Your passion and enthusiasm is what drives us. Don’t ever stop giving us ideas, or telling us what you want to see added to the game.
Until next time folks. Enjoy your time with NBA 2K18!