NBA Ballers is set to hit shelves next week on April 21st as the real NBA season is about to begin (Don’t look for any objectivity on 2Op about that either, hence the title photo and gamerpic). In time for it’s release and because we are here at 2Op are really hyped for Ballers, we go 1 on 1 with Lead Designer John Vignocchi. All sorts of great info from this interview about ballers. Find out about the online modes, the tweaks to the gameplay since the last videos, and John includes almost an entire design doc on the gameplay mechanic when pulling off offensive and defensive moves. Plus, find out how NBA Ballers: Chosen One inspired a dunk for Dwight Howard at this year’s dunk contest.
2Op: How is the story mode going to differ in Chose One from the previous NBA Ballers?
John Vignocchi: This time around we’ve used all live action footage of various people/players to tell the story. You’ll regularly check in with Chuck D who is coming live from the set of NBA All Access, and with other NBA stars that make guest appearances. It actually goes a long way to making the gamer feel that he really is a part of the story.
2Op: The game will feature a fully customizable entrance for your created baller. Will you be able to specify music from a custom soundtrack or will you be able to choose from the set track list of the game?
John: We provide a set track list. The original design docs call for the ability to have a user define his own custom music using his console’s HD, but since the 360 supports custom soundtracks and the PS3 does not, it would have required us to create derivative feature sets. Since we didn’t want to split ship the game (that is totally unfair to gamers) we decided to allow the user to select from the songs that we have as opposed to using his own.
2Op: There hasn’t been much discussion of the online modes. What online modes can a player expect to be able to play? Will all the modes offered offline for multiplayer be online such 1 v 1 v 1 and the shooting mini games?
John: We focused a majority of our online development time on 1v1. Our #1 priority was to get the 1v1 online experience feeling as close to offline as possible. Doing this took a lot longer than we anticipated, but we we’re happy with how our core game play mode feels online.
2Op: For what is a traditional an offensive game, previews seem to suggest a lot of tweaks to add to the D. What can you say to that? What sort of defensive improvements have been made? Is the focus still solely on the O and pulling off sick moves on the court?
John: You must be confusing us with the competition, because NBA Ballers has never solely been out playing offense – We’ve always provided a pretty well balanced experience for both offense and defense. This time around though, we did decide that we wanted to make defense a bit more “fun” so we added some additional weapons for defenders and tweaked some of the blocking %s to make defense feel a bit more powerful. Every single offensive move in NBA Ballers has a defensive counter move. Don’t forget that!
2Op: What will the framerate be locked to in the final product of the game? What will the native resolution of the game be?
John: 60 FPS in 720p. We aren’t doing any of that 540×2 “Oh wow the game runs at 60, but only in 1080p!” trickery.
2Op: Will there be any type of demo released onto Xbox live and PSN? Will this be prior to release or post release?
John: Nope, no type of early preview demos on Xbox Live or PSN. We did design some pretty cool gamer themes and pics that will be available though…
2Op: There seem to have some complaints regarding animations and getting stuck in some animations. Have these been smoothed out in any way since the last preview build was displayed?
John: Absolutely. All animation bugs were addressed during our polish phase and were fixed prior to shipping the game.
2Op: In some game play videos it appears in the middle of a game the game shifts to a cutscene event where the defensive player is humiliated pretty badly and a decrease in stats appear. If you are made a fool of on the court can you lose some of the stats you have gained for a superstar or for your created player?
John: No, and also we ended up removing “debuffing” your opponent after a super move was executed. Instead your attributes are now buffed for a small amount of time, which makes pulling off a super move and the ensuring effects on your player feel very similar to “fire” in old games like NBA Jam…We also ended up giving each super move its own specific set of “buffs.” What makes this fun is that now you aren’t just choosing which super moves you want your character to have strictly based on the cosmetics of the move, you actually end up making a conscious decision to chose one over another because it’s buffs are better for your character than another move’s buffs.
2Op: Dwight Howard is the featured cover athlete. It’s no secret at the slam dunk contest he pulled off one of the most amazing dunks in contest history. Will the cape make a debut in NBA Ballers as Dwight’s special move?
John: The cape dunk? Nope. But the even more spectacular double tap dunk is in the game! Little known fact: We actually designed the double tip dunk for Dwight back in August of ’07. By December we had it in the game and showed it to him at our TV commercial shoot down in Florida. After he saw it, he said “I’m going to try that dunk in the dunk contest in February!” History was made!
2Op: Music is a huge part of a game like this, what artists have been brought on to provide tracks for the game?
John:Rather than do a licensed soundtrack like every other sports game out there, we set out to create the first “score” to a sports video game. To do this we brought in super producer Just Blaze who got into the trenches with the team and created over 40 pieces of custom music exclusively for the game. Just spent a bunch of time reviewing the early game design documents and concept art and also contributed to a unique time/score based adaptive music system that made it into the game.
In the end we are very happy with the way that the soundtrack to NBA Ballers: Chosen One turned out. It is very unique and cool and I hope gamers appreciate us trying something different with a sports game rather than licensing the typical ‘flavor of the month’ artists to appear on the soundtrack.
2Op: How does a player pull off moves in NBA Ballers? How will the counter system work?
John: Either by pressing the “X” button (360) which forces your character to do a simple juke from his player specific juke table, OR by pressing any direction on the right analog stick. The “X” button is intended for the casual player that wants to pickup the controller and just spam buttons to do something cool, while the right analog stick functions as the position specific juke selector which is more tuned for the “hardcores” that want absolute control over what they are doing at all times.Also, the user can press any combination of the shoulder buttons along with either the “X” or the Right Analog stick to cause your character to perform specific juke moves.
Countering a move in NBA Ballers: Chosen One is all timing and the button that you must press varies based on the type of move that is being done.
For example any type of juke, bounce off the head or standard act-a-fool move is countered using the “A” button, but the window to counter each of these varies from move to move.
The offensive Shut ‘Em Down super moves can be countered by executing a defensive Shut ‘Em Down super move during a small window at the start of each of the moves.
2Op: Previews seem to suggest a button prompt battle between offensive and defensive player. Can you describe how that will work? Does it give advantage to one side over the other? For example, the offensive player knows they are about to try to pull off a move, does this leave the defensive player at a disadvantage?”
John: If an offensive player attempts and act-a-fool combo, a button prompt appears in the middle of the screen along with what we call a “combo timer ring.” During this situation a variety of things can happen…
1) The offensive player can press the correct button. This causes the combo to continue.
2) The offensive player can press the wrong button. This causes him to fumble up the combo and create a lose ball situation.
3) The offensive player can press and hold the shoot button. This will cause him to pull out of the combo at the end of the move and shoot the ball.
4) The offensive player can do nothing and let the “combo timer ring” expire, and return to an idle dribble.
5) If the defensive player can press the correct button prior to the offensive player pressing it, the defense will “counter” the combo.
a. During this situation, two outcomes can happen:
i. If the defensive counter-er has a low steal attribute, it will cause the offensive player to lose the ball a
ii. If the defensive counter-er has a high steal attribute, he’ll actually steal the ball from the offensive player, causing a turn-over.
6) If the defensive player presses the wrong button, he is penalized a small amount of turbo.
Internally we call the mechanic “fastest finger” as the person with the best mastery of the control scheme and the fastest reflexes is the one that will win in the end. Your question implies that the advantage may be on the offensive player, but now that I’ve explained it in detail you can see that the exact opposite is true as there are more opportunities for an offensive player to mess up a combo (Since each combo consists of a 3-5 move string) and the penalties (losing the ball vs. losing some turbo) are harsher for offense than they are for defense. That being said, we added the “bonus points” feature that rewards your player with extra points if he can complete a combo and then score within a certain time frame at the end of it. In the end that seemed to even out any risk/reward issues that may have been encountered.
2Op:Q: Of all the courts in the game, which is your favorite and why?
John: (Ohh a softball!) Personally I love the Dubai Court. I love the color palette and the scenery around the venue. Reminds me of how much I need a vacation!
2Op: Besides Magic Johnson, what other legends are slated to be included in the game?
John: Clyde Drexler, Larry Bird, Walt Frazier… There are 15 different legends in the game. Oh, and we made sure that they play good as hell – Just the way we all remember them.
2Op: When someone first busts open their copy. What do you as a developer want them to experience first? What do you feel is the most solid aspect of the game?
John: I hope the average guy that opens this game is sitting in a room with two of his best friends and a cold case of beer, and just starts playing 1v1 against his buddies. The game is a total blast to play multiplayer, and I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve spent with my friends talking trash over and over again…
This has got to be one of my favorite game interviews I have ever done. It’s too bad there will be no pre-release demo on either Xbox live or PSN. However, the game will be in true HD and not fake 540 x 2. All the animations bugs that were reported have been cleaned out and legends like Magic and Bird that play like their real life top 50 of all time counterparts. Keep it here to 2Op for a full review of NBA Ballers: Chosen One. Also, a very large thank you to John Vignocchi for running suicides with 2Op. See you suckas on the court next week!