A producer on NBA 2K13 for Wii U, Rob Jones, says it's important for developers to analyze their games to see how they can be enhanced by new hardware, rather than building their games around the hardware's feature set.
Speaking to Polygon, Jones says that when the development team at Visual Concepts first received Wii U development kits, they asked themselves what they would want on the console's GamePad if they could play NBA 2K13 on the Wii U.
"One of the main things, and it's a philosophy I wish more people would take, is not trying to build your game around what the feature set of the hardware is, but analyze how your customer has interacted with the game up to that point and see if the hardware's feature set can further enhance that," Jones says. "Because you've been successful for a reason, so to go and try and reinvent everything just because you want to use this feature doesn't necessarily mean your customer is going to enjoy the new experience."
Jones says that whenever new hardware is introduced, there are always growing pains, and as much as developers might want to utilize all the features of a new console, it's not always appropriate to do so.
"... you've been successful for a reason, so to go and try and reinvent everything ... doesn't necessarily mean your customer is going to enjoy the new experience."
"For example," Jones continues, "With the Wii you could use the remote as a pointer, but people don't experience basketball games that way, so trying to change the game just to get the Wii pointer to work didn't make a lot of sense.
"PlayStation Move probably had the same kind of effect. We tried to make a game that could be played simply with the peripheral, but the peripheral just didn't match our core customer. So what you'll see with the Wii U title is we only did what we thought would be an extension of what our customers were already experiencing because it makes sense that way."
Features that the Wii U offered NBA 2K13 include biometric scanning, which allows players to raise the GamePad to the television to see the energy levels of all the players on the court.
"I'm not going to be sitting there making faces so that I can get the game to recognize the play I want."
The GamePad also allowed the development team to bring existing features to the surface. Jones explains that on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, if a player wanted to substitute a player, they'd have to hold down the D-Pad, scroll down to find the player's name, then select to sub the player off. On the Wii U, all players' names are already displayed on the GamePad and players can be subbed off with one quick tap. In the case of surfacing court maneuvers, Jones says that many of the advanced plays are not usually accessible to casual players because they require the player to go through menus and select specific functions. On the Wii U, all those functions and plays are laid out on the GamePad.
As much as they embraced the features of the Wii U, the development team of NBA 2K13 also decided to leave a few things alone. One such thing was the GamePad's built-in camera.
"One of the things we always talk about is anything that has to do with video," Jones says. "The feature is there, so a lot of people say, 'I want to be able to call plays by doing gestures', but how do you do that without letting go of the controller? I'm not going to be sitting there making faces so that I can get the game to recognize the play I want.
"So that's a feature that's been talked about a lot, but it doesn't make sense even though there's a camera on the controller."
Use of the touchscreen to make passes is another feature the team left alone. Jones says implementing such a feature doesn't make sense because if the player is already controlling his or her team using the GamePad's thumbsticks, getting them to left go and move their hands to the touchscreen to make a swipe is unintuitive and adds an extra step.
Jones admits that Visual Concepts did not take many risks with the Wii U version of the game, but he puts it down to the development team not having enough time to test how far they could push the console and the game. But now that the console is out and they can see how people are using it, next year will be different.
"We didn't have a lot of time with final hardware, so there are things left on the table and features we wish we could have had more time to delve into," he says. "But now that the machine is out, we know that next year the target will be a lot higher.
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