NBA 2K21 next-gen gameplay Courtside Report – MyPlayer & AI

Hi again 2K fans! Welcome to my final Courtside Report. We’ve discussed a lot already from scoring to our revolutionary new movement and impact technology and the great enhancements they’ve brought to gameplay. But I know a lot of you are chomping at the bit to find out what’s new with your MyPlayer, while others are curious how we’re pushing Simulation into the future. Well, this blog is for you! There’s going to be a lot of info to digest, so I’ll try to keep the points as concise as I can.

Player Builds, Badges, & Takeover

The next-gen MyPlayer Builder is all about customization. We’ve taken in a lot of feedback from the community over the past few years as we’ve evolved the MyPlayer building experience. One thing that we hear loud and clear from you is that you want more options. Here’s our response:

No More Pies: You no longer choose from preset skill breakdown pie charts for next-gen. Instead, we’ve given you control over setting each individual rating to the cap that you prefer. Obviously, there are restrictions based on your vitals and you can’t max out everything, but there’s much more control to make the exact type of player you want to be.

Badges

A lot of thought and re-design went into badges for next-gen. Many favorites return, but most have undergone some significant functionality changes. There are also some new ones, some revived ones, and some removed ones. The badge point system and equipping process is similar to what you’ve grown accustomed to: perform well in the various categories (Finishing, Shooting, Playmaking, Defense/Rebounding) in any mode to earn badge points, and then apply those points to whatever badges you want within those related categories. But my advice when you get next-gen is to experiment with different badges that you may have overlooked in the past because you might find some new favorites that compliment your playstyle in ways you may not expect. Here are some of the new/returning badges and what they do:

  • Fearless Finisher – Boosts contact layups and decreases fatigue
  • Heat Seeker – Boosts takeover progress on inside shots
  • Highlight Film – Boosts teammate takeover progress on flashy dunks
  • Hook Specialist – Boosts hook shot ability
  • Revived Posterizer – Contact dunks!
  • Rise Up – Boosts ability to do standing dunks in traffic
  • Anti-Freeze – Harder to get cold and lose takeover meter progress
  • Blinders – Less affected by peripheral defenders when shooting jumpers
  • Circus Threes – Improved ability to hit pull-up and stepback 3’s
  • Fade Ace – Boosts all post fadeaways
  • Hot Shot – Increases takeover meter faster when knocking down jumpers
  • Deep Threes – Dame and Curry range 3 balls
  • Rhythm Shooter – Boosts shot %’s out of size-ups as well as 1-step pull-ups
  • Set Shooter – Shooting ability gets better the longer you set and wait before pulling
  • Sniper – Boosts the ability to hit shots when using Pro Stick aiming
  • Stop & Pop Three – for the JJ Redicks who want to pull-up for threes in transition
  • Bullet Passer – Gives you the ability to throw laser dots like LeBron
  • Relay Passer – Boosts the shooter on pass to assist situations
  • Special Delivery – Boosts takeover progress for the passer and receiver off a flashy pass assist
  • Ankle Braces – Makes it tougher for ball handlers to break your ankles
  • Clutch Defender – Boosts your defensive ratings in clutch moments
  • Hot Stopper – Boosts takeover meter for good defensive plays like steals, blocks, and good contests

And here are the badges that we retired because they were either redundant, didn’t fit in the new design, or the community just didn’t like them: Consistent Finisher, Contact Finisher, Cross-Key Scorer, Fancy Footwork, Fastbreak Finisher, Deep Hooks, Pick & Roller, Relentless Finisher, Showtime, Deep Fades, Flexible Release, Hot Start, Pick & Popper, Pump Fake Maestro, Range Extender, Quick Draw, Steady Shooter, Pass Fake Maestro, Flashy Passer, Lob City Passer, Lightning Reflexes, Moving Truck.

Takeover

In case you’re new to 2K, Takeover is the ability to get hot and take over games. It’s been a popular feature for the past couple years and we wanted to take it to the next level for next-gen.

Instead of limiting players to eight general archetype-based takeovers, we’ve broken those eight into 24 more specific takeover abilities. In a way, you can think of them as unique badges that you can fire off when you get hot.

  • Advanced Gathers – Unlocks more effective spin, euro, hop step, cradle gathers
  • Finishing Moves – Able to absorb contact and finish at the rim
  • Easy Blowbys – Enhances ability for slashers to beat defenders off the dribble
  • Pull-Up Precision – Boosts well timed/aimed shots off the dribble
  • Anklebreaking Shots – More anklebreakers off of spin and stepback jumpers
  • Negative Impact – Reduces defensive impact against pull-ups and other skill shots
  • Limitless Range – Extends your shooting range out to the logos
  • Spot-Up Precision – Boosts well timed/aimed stationary jump shots
  • Team Ratings Boost – Playmakers boost their teammates’ offensive ratings
  • Team Takeover Boost – Boost your teammates’ takeover meter progress
  • Team Badge Boost – Boosts your teammates’ badges up a tier
  • Extreme Clamps – More stone wall and lost dribble body-up resolutions for locks
  • Perimeter Badge Drop – Knocks shooting badges down a tier when you get close
  • Enhanced Jump Shot Contests – Boosts your ability to contest jumpers
  • Stuff Blocks – Unlocks more swat, backboard pins, and grab blocks
  • Paint Intimidation – Boosts your ability to affect shots around the rim
  • Interior Badge Drop – Drops opposition’s scoring badges down a tier in the paint
  • Boxout Wall – Improves ability to seal off opponents for easy boards
  • See the Future – Shows where missed shots are going to end up
  • Glass Clearing Dimes – After rebounds, kick out passes boost your teammate’s shooting
  • Power Backdowns – Easier to push defenders around when posting up
  • Post Playmaking – Boost your teammates’ offensive abilities when passing out of post
  • Advanced Post Moves – Easier to beat defenders with post moves
  • Post Shot Daggers – Increased scoring ability with hooks, fades, shimmy shots, etc.

We’ve also changed Takeover to be a multi-tier system! Once you set up your ratings caps and vitals, you’ll be presented with a subset of the list above based on the type of build you made. Then you choose one ability for your primary and another for your secondary, or if you want, you can put the same ability in both slots if you want to “double up” on it. When you’re in-game, your takeover meter will fill up your primary takeover slot first. Once filled, you can choose to activate it right away or wait to try and fill up your secondary slot. You must be careful because you take the risk of losing all your progress if you turn the ball over or miss a bad shot. But if you can fill in your secondary slot, you can activate both the primary and secondary takeovers together and keep them active for a longer period of time. Finally, if you want to devastate your opponent even further, you can wait even longer and try to fill up the Team Takeover meter. If you can fill all three, activating will enable your entire teams’ takeovers and it’s pretty much over for the competition. And just like in current-gen, activating Team Takeover also allows you to have user-control over your teammates in MyCareer games. We know our MyCareer fans love that ability!

Last thing I wanted to mention about Takeover. We wanted to honor our late friend, Kobe Bryant, who we tragically lost way too early this year. When you’ve earned all your badge points, you will receive the Mamba Mentality badge which allows you to change your takeovers whenever you want. So just like Kobe, you can vary up how you choose to take over from one game to the next!

Next-Gen AI

Next-gen was an opportunity to reset on a lot of areas of gameplay. This was especially true when it came to artificial intelligence. Some of these items are immediately noticeable and some are more nuanced for the hardcore X’s and O’s hoop heads. But one thing’s for certain, NBA 2K21 continues to lead the way in accurately modeling its respective sport better than anyone else out there. That’s something we pride ourselves in and know that the true students of the game appreciate about the franchise.

Defense

  • New switching logic update: Both on-ball and off-ball screen logic has been rewritten and the auto-switching logic was refined to reduce bad switching instances. So expect to see fewer cases of the AI calling for a switch without a screen and leaving a player open.
  • Adaptive Coaching Engine (ACE) now has the ability to recognize and adapt to different types of off-ball actions including: Flare screens, Down screens, Back screens, and Handoffs.
  • Improved logic for CPU defenders to get in position to take charges.
  • Several improvements to transition defense.
  • Overhauled the Hedge defensive system for better screen positioning and angle targeting.
  • The player can now call for help defense by holding L1 instead of just calling for a double team. This is a great mechanic that you can use when guarding the ball; instead of hoping the AI selects the right time to send help, it’s now under your control with a simple press and hold of the button.
  • Improved logic for defenders in avoiding each other when moving around obstacles. This works hand-in-hand with the off-ball movement changes I detailed in last week’s blog.

Offense

  • Next-Gen Game Planning: This is a great new feature that allows players and AI to have more specific game plans for their teams. In the past, you could choose to run pick & rolls with LeBron, but the new system allows the AI to target a team’s best players. So for the Lakers, not only will they run pick & rolls, but you can have them run exclusively with LeBron and Anthony Davis. There’s a new game plan option in the pause menu. Here, players can select between 8 pre-selected game plans that they can access in game through the On-The-Fly-Coaching panel (OTFC). Each game plan has default options already set up for them, so the player can pick a single option and have all the important details for that game plan ready to go. Here are two examples of game plans you can choose:
    • Play Through Star: This game plan will have ACE automatically select the best scorer on the team and only run scoring actions for them, both via plays and freelance actions. It also sets the tempo and rebounding choices automatically to accommodate your star’s playing style.
    • Pound the Ball Inside: ACE auto selects the best post scorer on the team and will exclusively run post scoring actions and plays for them.
  • Double team counter intelligence: You’ll see the AI using less movement and create more spacing for shooters spotting up behind the three point line to punish excessive double teaming.
  • End of game logic: Improved the AI’s ability to time plays with the shot clock for buzzer beater situations.
  • Starters and Bench Favorite Plays: This year we expanded the favorite plays to allow players to set up one group of plays for their starting unit and another group of plays for the bench units.
  • Moved player-specific plays and player-specific ball screens back to the L1 button. This was something many people were requesting so they could get quick access to icon pick control again. Favorite plays are now mapped to the DPAD.
  • Play and freelance flow: As we have done every year, the play and freelance offensive flow has been greatly improved moving to next-gen. There are several actions that we just had a hard time getting to run smoothly in past 2K games, but thanks to the logic upgrades and vastly improved motion engine, everything flows extremely well in NBA 2K21 for next-gen.
  • Fixed AI players accidentally positioning themselves out of bounds.
  • New pick & roll spacing: New spacing code gives some of our pick & roll and isolation sets that extra adjustment on dribble penetration. It’s much more solid now but expect continued expansion on this module as the year goes along with our in-season play and AI updates.

PS5 MyTeam Challenge Activities

Finally, we can’t end the Courtside Report without talking about one more exciting PS5 feature we’re creating new experiences for. Like how we took advantage of the DualSense and its Adaptive Triggers and Haptic Feedback features, we took a look at PS5’s Activities and asked ourselves, “How can we bring fresh and meaningful content to our MyTeam gamers?” The answer was MyTeam Challenge Activities.

Each new MyTeam Season, through the Activities feature, will bring about a unique Challenge Activity that’s akin to our Moments and Spotlight Challenges: complete special objectives within set game scenarios and get rewards for hitting them. Each Season’s Challenge Activity will yield a different reward, and there will be a new Challenge Activity for every new MyTeam Season up for NBA 2K21 for PS5. Best of all, all participants will be ranked amongst each other through the Activities leaderboard.

First up, starting with Season 3, will be the Challenge of scoring 72 points against the 1996 Chicago Bulls. As most NBA fans know, the Michael Jordan-led Bulls achieved an unthinkable regular season record of 72 wins and 10 losses – the best record in NBA history until the 2016 Golden State Warriors one-upped them with a 73-9 record. Build your own dream team, score the iconic number of points (or more), earn yourself a nice little reward, and get ranked based on the final number of points you’ve tallied up. See you on the leaderboard!

Closing Thoughts

As I stated previously in the NBA 2K21 current-gen blog, this has been a rollercoaster year for 2K. With the changes to our work from home culture in addition to having to roll out both current and next-gen versions of NBA 2K21, I’m amazed at the talent and grit that the entire Visual Concepts team has shown over this wild year. Again, a HUGE thanks to all the gameplay engineers and producers (as well as their families) for coming together to create, without question, the best basketball game ever to grace a console. I’ve been working and testing on this title non-stop everyday, and I still get excited to play every time I boot the game up. I hope these Courtside Reports give you a small glimpse of some of the awesome things the gameplay team has created for you and we look forward to hearing your feedback to help us continue to refine 2K basketball and take it to even greater heights as we move forward into this next generation. And if these gameplay blogs even have you a little excited about NBA 2K21 for next-gen… just wait. We have A LOT of jaw-dropping news coming soon about all the amazing stuff happening off the court that’s going to blow you away!

Credit: NBA 2K21 next-gen gameplay Courtside Report – MyPlayer & AI

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