NBA 2K9 Updated Hands-On: Living Rosters and Association 2.0

The 2K Insider, Living Rosters, and Association 2.0. We tackle them all in our latest look at 2K's hoops game.

NBA 2K series fans, prepare yourselves for the 2K Insider because he's going to have a big effect on the future of your favorite basketball series. The mystery blogger/statistician/arbiter of all things NBA 2K will make his first appearance in the upcoming NBA 2K9 as the centerpiece of a new online feature the developers behind the game are calling Living Rosters. We had a chance to get a sneak peek at the Living Rosters feature, chat about the 2K Insider, and get a feel for the new franchise mode in NBA 2K9 during a visit by 2K Sports developers earlier this week.

The new Living Roster feature will ensure your NBA 2K9 roster is up-to-date based on real-world information.

First of all, the developers at 2K are entirely aware of the competition. As any hoops gaming fan knows, EA Sports' NBA Live 09 announced its player DNA feature a few months back, whereby in-game player attributes will be updated based on real-life results. 2K understands that Living Rosters might sound like a similar feature, and they're quick to point out its essential differences. The crucial distinction, as they put it, is the "human touch" of the 2K Insider, a hired employee whose job it will be to not just act as the face of the 2K Sports community, but to also have a real impact on the rosters in the game.

As with the competition, you can expect to see roster and attribute changes when you download a new 2K roster in NBA 2K9, all based around what's happening in the real world. However, rather than update things on a daily basis, 2K devs told us that the plan was to change a roster when it was warranted. Naturally big-time injuries or huge trades will be reflected in the game on a timely basis. What seems to set 2K9 apart, however, is how those changes are made and how much they can add to the gameplay experience.

The 2K Insider will be able to communicate important news via a blog on the company's Web site, as well as through calling out specific players via an in-game 2K Insider screen that will highlight the latest news and biggest movers in the NBA. In addition, the 2K Insider will be able to affect the stats of players on a regular basis. If Derrick Rose has had a consistent streak of missing from beyond the 3-point line, you can expect to see his 3-point percentage take a hit in the game, courtesy of the Insider.

But while the 2K Insider can take away, he can also give. If Deron Williams continues his success of last season or O.J. Mayo begins to dominate during his maiden campaign in the NBA, you can expect to see not just attribute bonuses but actual new animations available to that player as the season progresses. These new animation packages will be mo-capped, produced, and added during the course of the season by 2K devs and added to deserving players who have excelled during the season (or perhaps even developed a new signature move). In other words, this is new content developed during and relevant to the 2008/09 NBA season, not merely unlockable animation packages that are already in the game.

So, this 2K Insider seems like he will have a lot of power over how 2K9 plays after the game is released in October. While developers say that a lot of his judgment calls will be based on his opinion (and thus open to argument from 2K fans), none of the really important decisions (such as for attribute changes or animation package additions) will be made in a vacuum. The dev team and the Insider will all be discussing big changes in the game, whether new animations that make their way into a specific player's arsenal of moves, right down to the smallest attribute change. In other words, don't blame the 2K Insider if your favorite player takes a huge ratings hit; blame the entire development team. Or better yet, blame the real-life player who blows it on the court in the first place.

Think of the 2K Insider as Stephen A. Smith, if Stephen A. Smith was better-informed and less annoying.

While the Living Rosters approach to game updates seems like a gamble of sorts, the improvements to NBA 2K9's franchise mode--dubbed Association 2.0--seem like a sure bet. Franchise mode has always been one of the series' strengths and for NBA 2K9, the team seems to be building on those strengths. One of the biggest changes is the look of franchise mode, now redesigned with an NBA.com flair, with lots of dynamically generated news stories filling up the "front page" of Association mode. These news stories can include everything from key roster changes to big-game performances and career milestones, as well as juicier news such as players going public with their team grievances, and a rumor mill that will feature a mix of realistic and unrealistic stories based on what's happening in the league.

NBA 2K9 introduced player roles and personalities into the franchise mode, essentially a way to gauge how quickly a particular player might express (or repress) his displeasure. For 2K9, a new player attribute--ambition--will work into the franchise mix. Ambition will be measured across three factors: play for winner, financial security, and loyalty. Every player in the league will weigh these three factors slightly differently, and how each of these factors is considered by a player will determine what he or she is looking for from your team. For example, a young player might be looking to make as much money as possible, while an experienced player or veteran staring at the end of his career might want to focus on getting an NBA Championship.

These player ambitions seem to go a long way toward improving the authenticity of the player signing and trade logic in the game. In the past, it was far too easy to build a dream team of players in the NBA 2K series, because you had first rights toward re-signing any player. With 2K9, a player will field multiple offers and decide on what's best for him based on his ambition logic. Another aspect of authenticity in 2K9: Bird rights, where a team over the salary cap can re-sign its own free agents if those players have played three or more seasons without changing teams in free agency. Essentially, this gives your team the right to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player, while other teams will have to use salary-cap space to sign him.

While authenticity is clearly a big priority for the developers at 2K Sports, it's heartening to see that approachability has gotten a nod in Association 2.0 as well. User interface has always been one of the biggest weaknesses of 2K Sports games in general and the menus in the game look to be improved this time around. For instance, player ratings have been consolidated from the numerical ratings across tons of attributes into simple, easy-to-understand grade ratings for a smaller number of attributes (though the numerical ratings are still being used, and can be viewed if you like). In addition, if you want to try franchise but aren't necessarily the next Daryl Morey, you'll be able to automate a ton of different options for your franchise, including lineup management, simulation strategy, prospect scouting, player trading, NBA Draft, training camps, and more. There's also an improved trading screen that makes three-way trades easier to understand, if not pull off.

Player ambitions will play a big role in how a player reacts to your team's success or failure, especially when it's time to talk contract renewal.

While the 2K Insider, Living Rosters, and Association 2.0 are big, it's certainly not the entire story with NBA 2K9. The game will also include five-on-five online play for the first time (we hope to get hands-on with this in the near future) as well as little touches like the correct Oklahoma City Thunder uniform and logo (sorry about that, Seattle Sonics fans), improved crowd animations, and more. We'll have more information on NBA 2K9 in the near future; for now, check out an in-depth interview on NBA 2K9's new features with 2K Sports developers Rob Jones and Erick Boenisch on GameSpot's weekly sports gaming podcast, From the Bleachers.

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Discussion

119 comments
W_H_21
W_H_21

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

W_H_21
W_H_21

Here's the bottomline. 2K basketball lays the smackdown on NBA Live every year, and they will continue there reign at the top of basketball simulations. This is a great game

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

I will probably rent it tomorrow.

Dexs31
Dexs31

Sweet I'm going to get it today.

gamenerd4211
gamenerd4211

I can't wait to get this game comes out the first thing im going to do is play the association

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

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

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

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

jeijei13
jeijei13

Yea sly is right. Live is ALL SHOW NO GO. They can present good teasers and demos. You dont need to play a demo to know who is better. Want a demo play 2k8 i bet it's still better than live 09

jeijei13
jeijei13

Yea sly is right. Live is ALL SHOW NO GO. They can present good teasers and demos. You dont need to play a demo to know who is better. Want a demo play 2k8 i bet it's still better than live 09

sly1983
sly1983

man ima kick u dead in ur chin!! this aint no tough one!! the best thing about the live demo was being able to practice on the courts during loading time! thats it..i couldnt even finish a whole quarter...thats how bad it was!! Garbage!! If you love basketball, the best experience you're gonna have is nba 2k series!! Live gameplay sucks!! all show no go! even during da game, i couldnt even tell who da hell was kobe or odom! look like a bunch of skinny black guys runnin around! nba 2k...there's no problem!! you can see the numbers, da face, da way da guy dribble and be like, oh thats kobe...bottom line! 2k got this...live...go ahead and spend all ur time improvin madden...fact of the matter is, the only way you beat nfl 2k series was to buy the liscense!! sorry

banban22
banban22

This is going to be a tough one. The Live demo was good. I'm gunna have to play the 2k9 demo before i make up my mind.

catalyst14
catalyst14

pretty much the live demo sucked. We dont need two shoot buttons EA. Its also extremely cumbersome to pull off ball handling with the right stick. And the players still feel like they are sliding all over the court, i thought that would at least be changed by now. It seems to me like everything that is improved by EA is all cosmetic. That doesnt change the fact that your game is broken and inferior to the 2k series. Maybe they should try a new game engine over at EA. This one has just never hit the spot

docwoo
docwoo

As big a fan of the 2K series as I've been on the Dreamcast and PS2/XBox, It hasn't lived up to its potential on the PS3 and 360. The list of new features haven't convinced me it will be worth my money. I recently played the demo for NBA Live 09. It's good.....REAL good! 2K better step up the gameplay or I think Live is gonna steal some of its thunder this year.

cadahnic1
cadahnic1

Been a fan of the 2K series since the Dreamcast. They just keep getting better.

IIJuggaNottII
IIJuggaNottII

NBA live does give a great game (visually), but NBA 2K brings the whole 9yards.

LostSoul1974
LostSoul1974

I used to be an NBA Live fan, but I may have to crossover for this one!

twashington9737
twashington9737

DawgcityClev - FTR, I used to rock with 2K ONLY for a few years, from inception, but I see what EA has done with Live 08 and, now, Live 09. Like I said, basically, I am seeing this with an unbiased eye and a ton of animations don't mean a better game. For me, 2K's controls were a bit out of control. I didn't feel like I was doing a lot of the moves and Live 08, I felt truly in control although, I will admit, for some reason, I feel less in control with Live 09's demo. They seem to have gone the 2K route with the "I didn't wanna do that move!" deal, probably cuz of the added animations to "livin'" the players up but even still, it is still better than 2K's controls, to me, yet I am eager for a 2K9 demo, this week...hopefully. I'll report back after that ;P

Mickael
Mickael

I hope they have 3 on 3 this year. It's more fun. Like NBA Jam.

nupe954
nupe954

As I tell all my boys, i was die hard live from genesis up until 06....when i played people who could beat me only because of the "superheroes" on there team I knew it was time for a change...2k8 was my first one..took a bit getting used but I still play it to this day! cant wait for 12am 10/7/08..CHea!

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

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

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

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

DawgcityClev
DawgcityClev

twashington9737 - Dude lying could never sound better. NBA Live is pathetic. When people bring up Live t ome it's clear they either don't have the money to expand their gaming archive, or are too boneheaded to change to something better. 2K has been making the best Sports games for almost 4 years now. Case closed. NBA 2K8 was kinda boring to me, but they seem like they've spiced it up finally. I can't wait.

twashington9737
twashington9737

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

twashington9737
twashington9737

tdevore - Wow, what Live 09 demo did YOU play?? See, that's the thing about people who are biased - they don't see anything but what they are championing. The Live 09 demo is HOT. Been playing the demo like crazy and I think 2K9 is in trouble, based on what I'm reading in this article. Doesn't sound like they're doing much to the game to push it. The biggest thing that 2K has are animations. The controls are unwieldy, as well. Now, don't get me wrong. I purchased Live 08 AND 2K8 cuz I like both games for diff. reasons but I have to give it to Live for continuing to step up it's game. EA is putting in work for their football, hockey AND basketball franchises and the results are pretty obvious. Watch the rave reviews Live 09 gets this year. Now, if they would just release the damn 2K9 demo, this week. Lol.

VIDIOT247
VIDIOT247

I've been playing 2k Basketball since dreamcast and I'm a diehard association fan and man....this sounds like it's gonna be sick. Can Not Wait!

met7
met7

I have played both franchise i curently own 2k7 and 2k8 and they better than live especially the mo cap signature moves are awsome and the game play while not perfect its better.

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

I've been 2k since the dawn, but feature-wise live is is sounding more robust (To Be a Pro being my favorite), and it looks like its gameplay is finally catching up to 2k. This year it will be a tough choice, or both.

D_Abhi
D_Abhi

I also agree Blackace, there were problems with 2k and I hope they make it better.

D_Abhi
D_Abhi

I pick 2k over Live is simply because of their rosters. Last year I owned 2k8 for PS2 I just recently bought a Ps3 and will be pre ordering 2k9. Every year i was amazed by the amount of depth. Even the players that get rarely any play time were accurate. Where as in Live even the starters for teams that don't so well were off. For instance- Anthony Parker or Carlos Delfino of the raptors in the live version could never make a 3 which is rediculous. I didn't play live much to tell you more but that just made me want to drop the controllers. I played live 08 for PS3 so yah.. it was ridiculous. The court/to player size ratio is a lot more sim for 2k. Unless live has a complete from ground build up, they will be horrible once again.

docwoo
docwoo

I agree 100% with blackace. I hope 2K9 is better than 2K7 and 2K8. They both had problems that made gameplay unrealistic at times, especially when playing online. Players with good outside-shooting ratings would often average 30 points per-game and shoot 65% even if they were benchwarmers in real life. The NBA 2K franchise didn't make the jump to the 360 and PS3 very well. I'm still waiting for a great b-ball game. So far, 2K6 on the Xbox was my favorite.

blackace
blackace

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

blackace
blackace

There were a lot of things I didn't like about 2K7 and 2K8, but both were superior to NBA Live version. There still was a LOT of bugs in both version. Ball still passes through players hands,chest, head, torso, etc.. You can still shoot and dunk through the back of the backboard. Sigh... Players still get pushed out of bounds with no fouls called. Ball still rubberbands to computer players on steals and rebounds. Defense sometimes has ZERO effect on computer players, especially when they are in a HOT streak. G/SG will get reounds from behind over a PF/C who are in from of them, with no over the back calls. G/SG getting 2-3 blocks in a game over bigger players. I could go on and on, as I have a huge list of problems for 2K. 2K Sports should hire me to test their sports games for bugs. Let's hope this crap gets fixed. I've been waiting since 2K6.

taj7575
taj7575

Looks great. 2k sports is great at making a great basketball game.

Tisfree
Tisfree

I'm pretty much biased against live at this point because I never like it, if 2k sucks then its like see you next year basketball games. I played lives demo and I hated it, it doesn't feel realistice to me. 2k last year was a step backward from 2k7, but it was still a superior game.

blackace
blackace

I love all the new stuff they are bringing this year. Please, please, please add quarterly stats this year and fix the damn bug that omits a full quarter of stats at the end of the game. In 2K8 if you view the shot chart stats, you'll notice that either quarter 1 or 2 stats for both teams are missing. This bug was in 2K7 as well. There never are any quarterly stats at the end of the game, which NBA Live always has. If they fix this, I'll be the happiest NBA 2K9 fan in the world. This is a day one purchase for me. I don't mind paying $60 for quality. I haven't tried NBA Live 09 yet. If it's anything like last years game, I'll pass. I didn't even finish a season of NBA Live 08 or March Madness 08. Going to sell all those games on Ebay this holiday. I'm on my 4th (82 game) season of NBA 2K8 already. lol!!

itwiz90
itwiz90

Looks like a rental to me. 8)

ballerbf23
ballerbf23

Live > NBA2K Love the gameplay and the more realistic looking players. NBA2K players look like something off of an old NES game.....

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

man...i thought Live stepped their game up and was considering checking them out this year. but after this...2k just $#!tted on their whole strategy for this year. looks like 2k will be a day one pick up again.

tdevore
tdevore

i played the live 09 demo and was shocked. the gameplay, animations, character models and play by play are just awful. I really thought ea would bring it this year. 2k8 is close to perfection and an amazing title. glad to see they have redesigned the menu system as it is overly complicated and hard to use. I really don't know what to suggest for 09 - 8 is that good. I did hear there will be replay highlights after each quarter - a welcome addition. If you are on the fence - don't even think about live. You won't be disappointed. Hell, you would be better off picking up 2k8 than any live product.

Amir29
Amir29

That's a lot of "New" for the best B-Ball game of yester-year. I like what I'm reading and I appreciate 2K sports' obvious commitment to stay number one.

VIRGIN_ISLANDER
VIRGIN_ISLANDER

B4 i saw this preview i was sold on live 09,now i dont know which one to get.

thekey
thekey

I'm not even thinking about live.(It's a laughing joke) NBA 2K9 rocks! I can't wait for it.

CDudu
CDudu

Totally agree jay_rock_.Is this true about a PC release btw?

jay_rock_
jay_rock_

I want this game and fallout 3.....

patrickphan2
patrickphan2

The gameplay is good enough imo, changing it would be a mistake. go 2k!

twashington9737
twashington9737

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

twashington9737
twashington9737

Uhh, I like the animation update deally. Umm, the one man Living Rosters updater when they feel it is "warranted", is just a tacked on "try to compete with Live's DNA feature" but whatever. I liked 2K8 but how bout fixing the damn controls, eh?? That's what sold me on Live 08. I felt like I was really balling since I do, uhh, play basketball. Yea, it may have lacked the two tons of animations and AI of 2K8 but it was definitely likeable, to me, enough to the point that I chose it over 2K8, initially. I do have both, well, one, now - 2K8 - but that's only cuz I ran roughshod over the AI and played it to death and didn't give 2K8 that much time. Oh, I liked the sounds of the arena and graphics much better than 2K8's but that's whatever now. I most likely will go with Live, initially, then pickup 2K9 down the line, again...maybe. Lol.