Recently the guys at 2K revealed all 31 Signature Skills found in NBA 2K13 and their descriptions. There were some who were pessimistic about how these skills would affect gameplay, but after having learned the details, I for one am even more excited about their inclusion in 2K13 than I was prior.
The Signature Skills concept has been done before in other sports games such as All-Pro Football 2K8, but the idea lends itself so seamlessly to the basketball genre that it can be a huge evolutionary step in how we play basketball games going forward.
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Shooters Will Be Shooters
In NBA 2K games, much emphasis is placed on signature style. Unfortunately in many cases, a player is only as good as their set of animations, especially with shooters. In 2K12, some players in the game just had funky timing on their jump shot animations and were innately difficult to perfect. Exacerbating this issue was the inconsistent shot feedback in practice mode, where “excellent” timing would often still send the ball careening of the rim.
During games, it could be a frustrating experience to find a guy like Steve Novak or Ray Allen wide open on the perimeter only to have the ball clang off the rim due to having not mastered his shooting form. Even though in real life these guys might hit that shot seven out of 10 times, it didn’t always translate in 2K12. Sure, the onus should be on the user to master these shooting forms, but if timing is the only factor in consideration, even Ray Allen can cease to be Ray Allen in the hands of certain users and that’s just not fun. The quality of the shot taken and how open/heavily guarded the shot taker is should have also factor into shot success, even moreso than perfecting the release when it comes to elite shooters.
The Spot-Up Shooter Signature Skill in NBA 2K13 looks like it will balance this equation out nicely. The skill decreases the penalty for an early or late release by 30 percent in a spot-up situation, allowing shooters to perform like shooters whether or not you have completely perfected their release. So if you’re feeling adventurous and choose to experiment with a new team, you can expect a guy like Kyle Korver to do what Kyle Korver does, unless you use him out of character.
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Cheesers Won’t Prosper
Initially people seemed to fear that Signature Skills might actually add an arcade-ish element to the game, when in fact it will likely do the opposite and make the game more simulation. Signature Skills are scenario driven. Going along with my previous statement about Korver, if a user is attempting all sorts of dribble moves and step-backs trying to get the guy an open look knowing he’s an elite 3-point shooter, they won’t have the bonus of his Spot-Up Shooter ability in that situation. One has to understand basic basketball principles and play accordingly to receive the situational benefits of Signature Skills.
Take the Pick-Pocket skill for another example, which provides the defender a bonus when the offensive player is in an isomotion move or doing a standing dribble for several seconds in front of you. A more cheese-natured player might see a guy with this attribute and reach continuously all the way up court trying to poke the ball away, not understanding the correct scenario in which the skill is activated or the timing required to take advantage of it. This attribute in a way forces realism on both sides of the ball. In real life, players are cautious when bringing the ball up against a guy like Iman Shumpert, who has quick hands. This will likely be the case in the game as well. The user on offense might now be conscious of protecting the ball and not doing a whole bunch of dribble moves in front of a guy with the Pick Pocket skill and the user on defense will have to pick his spots and utilize timing to take advantage of that skill. Haphazard reaching provides no advantage when using a guy with the Pick Pocket skill.
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One element that has been sorely lacking in basketball video games is the need for strategy. NBA 2K12 was an improvement in the area of play calling, but by and large strategic adjustments in other areas were not necessary. In 2K13, gamers will have to be aware of abilities of their players and their opponent’s players at all times. For instance, if a person is facing Oklahoma City and it’s a close game in the fourth quarter, it would behoove them to place a Lock-Down Defender on Durant to counter his signature Closer ability. Also, an elite point guard will actually provide an advantage to their team this year. Proverbially “cutting off the head of the dragon” might be necessary when facing the Clippers or Celtics and developing a strategy to take a Paul or a Rondo out of the game could be the best path to victory.
The Bruiser Signature Skill is particularly interesting to me in that physicality and strength has never been a tangible gameplay element in NBA 2K. In 2K13 it appears that facing a DeMarcus Cousins or Dwight Howard will be quite a different experience from past games. Never before has the physical toll of defending a big boy like Cousins been simulated, and when facing a player like this it might be necessary to have several bodies available to throw at him, due to the accelerated fatigue he imposes on defenders. This skill could be especially valuable in trying to punish smaller teams such as the Miami Heat in the low post, and adds another layer of strategy to the game on both sides of the ball.
Fantasy Leagues and a.ssociation
Signature Skills may completely change the way gamers approach fantasy leagues and a.ssociation. In the past, a gamer might be hesitant to pick up a player like Rajon Rondo as their first-round draft pick. In NBA 2K12 a point guard with poor scoring ability and a high overall rating rendering him virtually untradeable was probably the worst possible selection one could make in the first round of an online league. In 2K12, the impact of an elite point guard could never truly be simulated. With the addition of Signature Skills however, along with the improvement to floaters, dribbling, momentum and passing, gamers might rethink how they approach draft night.
An elite point guard can possess one of the most powerful Signature Skills in the game in Floor General, and can be a significant piece around which to build your team. I’ve always referred to Chris Paul as “chemistry in a bottle,” a guy who brings continuity to a team and makes guys around him better. In past NBA 2K games, these intangibles could not be simulated. But in 2K13, a player with the Floor General skill can replicate the chemistry an elite PG provides by boosting the attributes of teammates while he is on the floor. A guy like CP3 with Floor General, Dimer and Ankle Breaker as just some of his Signature Skills might be considered a top overall pick depending on how a person wants to build their team. Rondo, a guy who might have Floor General, Interceptor, Scrapper, Pick Pocket and Dimer could actually have the impact in NBA 2K13 as he does in real life. I know I’d definitely consider him as an option for my top pick.
Beyond introducing elite point guards as more viable options early in the draft, Signature Skills can aid a novice virtual GM in the acquisition of role players. Additionally, it can allow a person with more basketball knowledge to customize selections later in the draft around their particular style of play. Say I have a high scoring slasher on my team and I want another piece that can open up the driving lanes for him or serve as a drive-and-dish option. I could specifically target a player with the Corner Specialist skill. And considering that Lockdown Defenders may be limited in NBA 2K13, a guy like Shane Battier who possesses both attributes suddenly looks very appealing. In fact, I bet that players with the Lockdown Defender attribute will be very valuable this year and are likely to go in the early rounds.
Signature Skills is more than a just gimmick, but actually a means of bringing the NBA 2K series and those who play it closer to a simulation brand of basketball. In the most genius way, it can allow for more accessibility and more depth depending on the gamer.
What are your impressions on how Signature Skills will impact NBA 2K13 and different gameplay modes? Sound off below!