One of the primary duties of a sports team's general manager is to make personnel decisions for the club — signing, releasing and trading players, and hiring and firing staff. When you're dealing with people's careers, and the success or failure of the team, you have to know what to say and how to say it.
NBA 2K14 on next-generation consoles will represent that aspect of leading a team with its brand-new MyGM mode.
MyGM is developer Visual Concepts' reimagining of the NBA 2K series' traditional franchise mode, The Association. Players will still handle the usual aspects of team management from the old Association mode, like running the business side of a basketball club. But the studio is putting the focus squarely on cultivating relationships with all the people that a GM deals with every day.
"One of the design paradigms that I came up with this year, that the team worked on here, is this: It's 'make interesting decisions.' I want everything you say and do in this mode to matter. And I want every decision you make to change the world around you," said Erick Boenisch, NBA 2K14 senior producer, in a conference call this afternoon with members of the media.
Instead of casting players as a disembodied team executive, MyGM will put you in the shoes of an actual person — the athlete you create in the MyCareer mode. And just like in MyCareer, you'll build up your GM's attributes as you play through MyGM. In this process, you can do things like make your GM more persuasive, improve his business acumen and give him a better basketball mind. These skills will affect areas like contract negotiations, trades and finances.
But perhaps more important is your own skill at interacting with people.
"We've developed a very complex and very robust conversation engine that is [...] the heart and soul of the mode," said Boenisch.
The conversations will take place in a text message-style interface, but that window will float above 3D renderings of your GM and the people he's speaking with, who could be players, staff, the team's owner or the media. And the choices you make in those conversations, according to Boenisch, will have a material effect on the way your team's season goes.
Boenisch gave the example of raising prices for tickets and concessions, something the press immediately picks up on. If you give the media nothing but a "no comment," it might turn them against you — and you don't want that. Once they're not on your side, they'll ask you lose-lose questions and try to trap you. Boenisch also discussed his interactions as a GM with DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings center. They had been discussing long-term plans and roster changes. But Boenisch wasn't really making the moves Cousins wanted and the team was performing poorly, and in a subsequent meeting, Cousins demanded a trade.
"I realized in that moment that I had failed personally, as the GM of the team," said Boenisch. "He had been putting out feelers over the course of the season; I just failed to pick up on [them]."
If you don't meet the goals your owner sets, it's possible to fail and get fired, so it's important to keep the potential consequences of every decision in mind.
"The whole conversation system, I designed it so there's not always a right answer," Boenisch explained. "You can't always be professional and expect to succeed. You kind of have to give a little bit of honesty, you have to play the field and just ultimately look for decisions that will work with the goals you're trying to hit."
MyGM is a single-player, offline-only mode, although Visual Concepts is bringing back online leagues for the next-generation versions of NBA 2K14. The mode will also support the creation of draft classes, and players will be able to upload and download draft classes. NBA 2K14 will allow users to fully edit players outside MyGM, but the feature will be somewhat restricted within the mode because it's a "controlled experience," said Boenisch. You won't be able to edit the attributes of players on other teams, but you will be able to change elements like accessories.
When asked why MyGM is exclusive to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of NBA 2K14, Boenisch told Polygon that there are a few reasons. For one, the mode takes advantage of next-generation hardware in the quality of its visuals, and even in some of the menu interface screens. And according to Boenisch, MyGM required a significant investment of development resources.
"getting it done in a year is just something that's very difficult to do"
"I don't know if we could've [done] this in a full single development cycle. This is something we've been working on — this mode as a whole — for a good while now," said Boenisch. "That aspect of getting it done in a year is just something that's very difficult to do."
NBA 2K14 will be available at launch on both PS4 and Xbox One. More details on MyGM are available in a developer blog from Boenisch. For more on the next-gen versions of the game itself, read our recent preview and watch this week's trailer for the Eco-Motion Engine.