Mike Wang returns to 2K Sports

GameSpot talks with 2K Sports' top gameplay designer about leaving EA Sports to work on NBA 2K11, plus what to expect from this year's hoops game.

by

The comings and goings of sports game developers doesn't usually receive much fanfare--in fact, it's a fair bet to say that most sports game fans don't know a lot about who is behind their favorite games. Just a few years ago, I was caught by surprise when I ran into Mike Wang at an EA Sports event in Vancouver. Previously with 2K Sports' NBA 2K series, Mike was one of the instrumental figures in establishing the 2K series' basketball success. That he had jumped ship to go work on the NBA Live turned out to be a good thing for EA's basketball series, but I vividly remember being completely surprised to see him in an entirely new setting.

My, how things change. In a press release today, 2K Sports has announced that Wang has returned to the fold and will be contributing to this fall's NBA 2K11. It's not exactly Lane Kiffin bolting Tennessee for USC, but--at least on my beat--it's big news. And even though Wang might not be a household name to all the NBA 2K series fans, it's good to know that his stamp will be all over NBA 2K11. Recently, I got a chance to ask the NBA 2K11 team some questions to get a feel for where this year's hoops game is heading and, specifically, to Mike to learn about more about his decision to come back to 2K Sports.

GameSpot: Mike, the most obvious question first: Why did you decide to return to the NBA 2K franchise?

Mike Wang: I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had to work on the Live series. I met a lot of great people (both inside and outside of work) and learned a lot from the experience. But my heart is, and always has been, with the 2K franchise. I guess leaving in the first place was what it took for me to realize just how much. For me, it all boils down to the fact that I just love making basketball games, and, obviously, I want to work on the best title out there and work with people who have that same vision. And that place is here at Visual Concepts.

GS: What did you learn from your time at EA Sports that you hope to bring back to 2K?

MW: What EA gave me was exposure to new ways of thinking about basketball games. I can’t say that I agree with how everything is done over there or with some of the ideas that people wanted to try, but you can always learn something from being in a different environment with different people. It also gave me some time to experiment with ideas that I hadn’t yet tried in 2K basketball. The 2K dev team is already incredibly talented and everyone here loves the game of basketball. I’m just doing my best to contribute to an already strong product to make it that much more enjoyable for basketball fans. And my experience with EA will just serve to make the 2K franchise stronger in the long run.

GS: Last year, you were an outsider looking in at NBA 2K10. What were your thoughts on the game as a competing developer?

MW: It was exciting actually. Even though I’m a developer, I’m really just a big basketball gamer first and foremost. And while I was a competing developer when NBA 2K10 was released, I was secretly rooting for 2K basketball because I wanted something new to play this season. 2K’s product was incredibly strong this year, and I think that was reflected in the sales numbers. I’m a harsh critic, though, so as much as I loved NBA 2K10, I still created my wish list for NBA 2K11. I’m just glad that I’m back here now so that I can act on those items and help the team create the ultimate hoops sim that I know millions of consumers are craving. I don’t want to give anything away yet, but even in early stages of development, we look to be heading in that direction.

GS: Erick, what's got you excited about NBA 2K11 so far?

[2K Sports lead feature designer] Erick Boenisch: While we’re not here today to talk about the specifics of NBA 2K11, I can say that morale on the team is at an all-time high. You can tell something special is happening when you see guys walking around the office with a lot more swagger than what you’re accustomed to seeing. The entire team has really bought into what we’re trying to deliver our fans with NBA 2K11. One goal, one focus--and that’s the best playing basketball the video game market has ever seen.

GS: The My Player feature was generally well received and has now spread to MLB 2K10. What can you tell us about My Player for NBA 2K11?

EB: Ours fans have really latched on to the My Player concept. The ability to play a singular role out on the court (as opposed to controlling every player with the ball) has really resonated with our fans for a number of reasons that we had previously anticipated. We intend to take those reasons and continue to expand on the mode in the direction that our fans want us to go with it. We rely so much on the feedback from our fans. This mode is really all about their careers and what they want to do within their careers. My Player 2K11 will grant users a little more depth in freedom in just how they define their careers.

GS: What were the major issues with NBA 2K10 that will be addressed this year?

EB: NBA 2K10 was very, very successful for us. With over 2 million units sold worldwide, we continued to lead the basketball market in both sales and ratings--a tough feat to accomplish. If anything, the online issues we saw with NBA 2K10 arose from our trying to do too much--trying to deliver too much to our fans. Visual Concepts pioneered online gameplay back in the Dreamcast days, and technology has changed so much since that time. Our infrastructure was in need of updating, and it took the success of NBA 2K10 before that became clear. With some of our top talent eager to make the necessary changes, we placed a major focus on laying the groundwork for a completely lag-free online experience. It doesn’t stop with online play either. Online was just a small piece in the efforts we are taking to ensure that NBA 2K11 is the best playing and most complete basketball product on the market.

GS: Last year saw the 10th anniversary of the NBA 2K series. Prediction time: How do you think the NBA 2K series will change in 10 years?

EB: That is such a tough question to even approach. Looking back at NBA 2K, you had a very fundamental game where every player ran the same, shot the same, and played the same. In hindsight, it all just seems very primitive. Flash forward 10 years to NBA 2K10, and you have every player modeled down to the last minutiae of their tattoos, mannerisms, various shot types, facial expressions. It’s really quite mind boggling when you take a step back and assess how accurately we have re-created the basketball culture. Where will we be in 10 years? We have so many things that we want to do with this game…things to take the 2K experience to the next level. The real question becomes: Can technology keep up with everything we want to do?

GS: Thanks for your time, guys.

Discussion

52 comments
docwoo
docwoo

Given NBA Elite's recent cancellation (aka FAILURE), I bet Mike Wang is glad he jumped-ship back to 2K!

maaly81
maaly81

I like how he left and came back...I also like the talk of fixing online issues. If Jordan fully signs on with jordan brand and as a playable character and as the cover, itll be hard for live to get with that.

Smoke_Dizzel
Smoke_Dizzel

I like what 2k has done over the past 5 years espically with their game.I just hope that they Fix some of the glitches such as computer players court awareness. There are just some small things that if they can fix them you will have the best B-ball ever made. 2k10 was a very solid game but just had its little flaws. One thing I know as a former NBA live fan, 2k has crushed them in game devolpment over the past 5 years for sure. Live is garbage and anyone that says the opposite is a noob who cannot handle the realism of 2k. 2k brings you the best basketball product by far.

reinventurexit
reinventurexit

I really do hope they put more texture in the player's skin.

reinventurexit
reinventurexit

NBA 2k10's major flaws were glitches,bugs and frame rate issues. Despite those things, it's really a very fun basketball simulation.

cookie051
cookie051

I hope da game engine will b a hell of alot better than 2k10 b/c 2k10 was horrible. I'm glad I only played 2k10's demo n didn't waste my money on the game itself. I just hope that it won't b $h*tty again like 2k10.

ivanex
ivanex

why ea sports and 2k sports joins and make NBA live 2k11......lol.

oneligas
oneligas

i always felt the 2k games played too much like nba jam + street balling and not enough like a basket ball simulator that you can play so i stopped getting 2k games and have enjoyed Live for years

sta697
sta697

yeah the 2k10 didnt had the addictive gameplay that made love these series

lilturk
lilturk

Live is done Mike Wang was there only chance for greatness which sucks because I'm all for great basketball games

JayMezzy
JayMezzy

Mike Wang + 2K10 gameplay - framerate issue = 2K basketball greatness once again!

prioritymail
prioritymail

Hopefully he can set NBA 2k back in the right direction. 2K10 was booty.

ken_archer17
ken_archer17

wow... it really is a dumb move by EA. Just when it's looking like NBA Live is righting its ship, they let Mike Wang get away.

hbrule
hbrule

All of the answers he gave were so PR driven. Online was sooo terrible. if you were trying to bring us gamers too much than maybe don't include it so i can actually play the game. Framerate was a constant issue in that game. I can't imagine anyone being happy with 2K after the buggy game they gave us last year. And it took them 1 month to release a patch which means they didnt even know how to fix it in the Month leading up to the release date when the game went to cert.

Kubilius
Kubilius

I was a LIVE fan since the very beginning, then got a PS3 in 2009 and started looking for a basketball game. From multiple comments and scores I understood that 2K was the way to go these days, I got it, i like it, but there's a huge list of things I sincerely don't like. Graphics, player movement glitches, play calling, general menu, I have no idea what is the difference between "season" and "association" modes, I have no clue why they have different comments and in stats when you play "quick game" and when you have a "quick game" from NBA today panel a bit more right. In first case comments and stats are "static", but if you have "Nba today quick game", then suddenly all the live stats and comments appear... If 2K is so good for the last 10 years, I have no clue why they allow themselves so many crucial mistakes ?

CTR360
CTR360

2k10= dissapoing arcade game

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

NBA2k just destroys NBA LIVE these days. I was a DIE hard Live fan from the very first one until 1999. But from 2000 to 2009 NBA live has just been garbage, while NBA2k gets better every year. If you want realistic basketball game then 2k series is the way to go. I loved nba2k10!

xGlenn11x
xGlenn11x

I want lobbies back in online so that you don't get matched up with outrageous opponents. Their can be more even games and none where you have LeBron and Kobe cheesers. Also, menu system needs to be completely redone.

Dancing-Bear
Dancing-Bear

They need to build this game on both the PS3 and 360 so us Sony users don't get stuck with a bad port again. The online frame-rate was a joke in 2k10 on the PS3.

StromileSwiftee
StromileSwiftee

LOL@BulletsnOctane... I was wondering wassup with that too. Scott Brooks (OKC coach) looks like he got trapped in a tanning pod or he was auditioning for Soul Man 2!

InherentGamer
InherentGamer

I have to say I agree with 1blackone on a certain level. The interview left me with a taste of corporate espionage in my mouth. Also as far as conspiracy theories are concerned, isn't it the mystery of the unknown that drives so many of us to seek the truth...

Lostboy1224
Lostboy1224

Since the patches the game seems to be more of what they had intended from the start. I am very addicted to the My Player mode and hope they keep improving it. The major problem I hope isn't around next time is the frame rate studdering, and hopefully making it so not everyone and their grandma can drive into the lane for a layup.

monnyb
monnyb

i still nba 2k as well as nfl 2k on my dreamcast. i really hope they step they shoe game up!what the hell they puttin a code option in every year for?damn aba basketball? CHILD PLEASE! FreeNFL2K NOW!

BulletsnOctane
BulletsnOctane

Listen, if they don't fix the robotic movements of the players and actually improve on the create-a-player for 'My Player' last year - and the menu layout/design - I'll pass. Completely ridiculous. Also, I don't want to come off as a racist, because I love the game of basketball and appreciate and understand everyone's cultural differences, but when I create my player, I want to look white. Period. What's up with the hair colors too? Sad. The lag and lack of fluidity, function, and characterization completely turned me off to this series. Utter garbage last year.

jonzilla_basic
jonzilla_basic

I am a huge 2K basketball fan but WHOLEY CRAP Come on...2K10 was plagued with bugs. I loved MyPlayer but again lagued with bugs. We were all caught up in the hype of the 10th anniversary that we didn't realize that 2K bent us over to jam a buggy game up our butt. The duplicate player in MyPlayer was extremely annoying....But I am a sap and will most likely get 2K11....*Holds goblet up in the air* Here's to 2K for finaly getting things right for NBA 2K15

1blackone
1blackone

I can already sense EA's legal office firing up the suing machine and fueling it with product-tampering unleaded. Its as if a Coca-Cola executive jumped ship, went to Pepsi, made them release Crystal Pepsi, and watched the whole thing collapse...only to go right back to Coca-Cola It woulda been more covert if Wang just applied as a janitor and brought in a degaussing coil on his first day ...But that's only if you are into conspiracy theories...

StromileSwiftee
StromileSwiftee

Well... I guess from a sales standpoint 2K10 could be considered successful, but the game had plenty of bugs and needed patches to fix issues, some of which still exist. My Player could be great if they fix the defensive AI issues. They released an unfinished product, I very seriously doubt if I'll be back for 2K11.

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

I just want lag free 5 on 5 online modes. And solid gameplay with limited exploitations, and I buy NBA 2k11.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Hey Beavis... Mike WANG is going to erect the NBA 2K franchise back to the top! Live 10 was actually a pretty fun game finally! Dumb move if this was EA's decision.

rafaelp11
rafaelp11

mike wang did a good job improving live 10 specially the gameplay.

philipemanie
philipemanie

they should make it to where if the team isnt as good there wont be a full crowd. you could also see people heading for their cars if their team is gettin blown out.

NinoSwaG
NinoSwaG

Sports games just keep getting better.....to bad i dont play them. I think I might actually buy this one though.

jimmyzeke13
jimmyzeke13

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

stefanslavkovic
stefanslavkovic

fix my player mod. Putt some new things make it more interesting like medden still some ideas like hiring manager and those stuff :D its to empty 2k10 my player mode :(

jazztrumpet5
jazztrumpet5

Awesome! I'm loving 2K10 and it'll be interesting to see if 2K11 makes a big leap. REALLY hoping the exclusivity to NCAA basketball leaves soon. Still playing 2K8 after buying NCAA 10 this year...

thaflu
thaflu

Please fix the AI (especially on defense and in My Player mode)! It's embarassing and ridiculous. Its impossible to enjoy a basketball game when you have to make up for the AI's mistakes EVERY single possession. Or when they don't shoot when they're under the basket or wide open.

jadefury27
jadefury27

Just what the 2k series was missing....it's wang.

jmartin2k4
jmartin2k4

This sucks for the NBA Live series...especially since it was actually really, really good this year (first time I bought Live over 2K in many years....) Gonna be interesting to see how the 2011 version of both games turn out...

mechberg
mechberg

@VIRGIN_ISLANDER -- From what I've read in the various interviews with Wang, it sounds like the direction of last year's Live wasn't a big success internally. Sounds like they might be going in a different direction this year.

theslimdavylp
theslimdavylp

Can we haz Jordan in the game pleeeeeease???

VIRGIN_ISLANDER
VIRGIN_ISLANDER

Oh crapp!!! Live was actually good this year does this mehn that live 11 is gonna suck worst that 09?

VIRGIN_ISLANDER
VIRGIN_ISLANDER

Mike, noooo!!!!!! what are you doing!!!!!...Hmm, i guess 2k just showed him the money, i aint mad at him though. I'm a live man at heart, but if he takes a little from what he did with live to 2k i can definately see myself rooting for 2k in the future.

kz1den
kz1den

Considering the poor offerings of the last two bball outings, this is a great move for 2K Sports.