Interview

Catching up with NBA 2K producer Rob Jones

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Rob Jones, senior producer of visual concepts at 2K sat down with HoopsHype to talk about NBA 2K17, what it represents in the 2K series, virtual reality and more.

You recently told Polygon that it’s been a pretty tough development cycle because your date came in a week earlier… How stressful was that?

Rob Jones: Well, it was stressful. When we develop games as long as we have, you work hard the entire year but there is a period of time where you have to work extremely hard. And that period had to move up by three weeks this year. So usually the last two months of development are really… Everybody is there every day, working really long hours. It started a little bit earlier than the year before, especially because we supported NBA 2K16 for a really long time. So we’re doing two games at once. But I think the success of the game and what you see out there is just a testament of the passion that we actually have for the NBA.

Every 2K edition is special, but Ronnie 2K told me the other day that 2K17 is very improved compared to 2K16. What is the feature you’re the most proud of in 2k17?

RJ: There’s things I’m really excited about this year. I play the MyCareer mode every single year… But the experience and how it makes me feel part of the league and part of a team this year is really really good. So I feel completely invested in the player that I’ve created and I want him to succeed, and I want Justice Young to succeed too because he’s my teammate.

Also, gameplay is everything. And the gameplay is better this year. I’m a guy that’s been around and I can count the years where I felt that the gameplay made a change that was big enough and exciting enough for me to play it. I can tell you the years that were special video game years, and NBA 2K17 is one of those special years.

What one are your favorite editions?

RJ: For me the one that started it all was the 2K7 edition. Also, 2K11 with [Michael] Jordan, 2K15 was really really balanced and good, but 2K17 is just here and now.

How did you deal with Steph Curry’s game while developing this video game?

RJ: I’m sure you’ve seen Kevin Durant at summer pickup games, and he’s shooting just from the same spots Curry is shooting from, but he would never do it in the NBA. So a guy using Kevin Durant should do the same thing. But we don’t want people to use Durant differently. Curry has his own criteria and it took us some work to get Steph to where he is. And if somebody else starts shooting like Curry, we can quickly change his criteria as well.

How long have you been involved with NBA 2K?

RJ: Since 2K2, with [Allen] Iverson on the cover.

Did you ever imagine how much the 2K series would evolve over the years?

RJ: Well, we didn’t know we would become what we are in terms of popularity. We just knew we wanted to make a better basketball game. I know that when I got to 2K… The reason I took the challenge was because I felt like all the other games that were out there had created a representation of their sport, and I felt that all the basketball games were a step behind: football, hockey, soccer… All those other games were doing a better job at representing the sport than we were. Our game was very robotic, it wasn’t fluid… And then suddenly NBA Street came out and we thought, ‘How can we be fun like NBA Street but be also simulation?’ So 15 years later you can say we’re doing our job.

Thinking about the future, I wanted to ask you if virtual reality has come up in discussions or if it’s still too early to talk about a VR NBA 2K game.

RJ: We talk about new technology always. New technology needs an application, you can’t just use it because it’s there. As we explore it, we’re really trying to think, ‘Does it fit our game?’ Right now virtual reality is all up in the air. When you look at it, there’s no consistent medium, there’s no consistent platform.

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