Hello 2K fam! For those that don’t know me, I’m Dave Zdyrko, Senior Producer on NBA 2K21. I have been working with Visual Concepts on 2K titles for nearly 14 years, split up into two different stints. The first run lasted 6+ years and saw me working as a Gameplay Producer & Designer on the football titles from NFL 2K3 through All-Pro Football 2K8 plus one year working on NHL.
Part two of my journey started as we were making our first foray onto the then “next-gen” consoles with NBA 2K14 for PlayStation®4 and Xbox One. During this time was when we debuted MyGM, an all-new franchise mode experience that put you in control of a team’s general manager and had you deal face-to-face with the team’s governor, staff, and players as you tried to balance your relationships with everyone while trying to field a competitive team and successful franchise.
Over the next six versions of the game, we built upon what we started with MyGM and continued to iterate and evolve the MyGM experience, while also adding MyLEAGUE, which focused on multi-team control and complete user-customization, and MyLEAGUE Online, which eventually brought everything from MyLEAGUE playable online with friends.
I’m going to be blatantly honest when I say that as a longtime diehard fan of franchise sports games who was playing them well before they were even a thing - I had to track everything from box score stats to season standings and schedules by hand - I’m extremely gratified with what our team has been able to accomplish over the years in developing what I truly consider one of the most complete and enjoyable franchise experiences. While I’ve worked a great deal on other modes like MyCAREER (check out what’s new in next-gen NBA 2K21 here), and am proud of the gameplay from the football days, what we’ve accomplished with the franchise modes in NBA is what I’m personally most proud of in my videogame career.
Franchise modes often have incredibly invested and ardent fans. At Visual Concepts, we have a team composed of a plethora of dedicated producers and engineers (who are basically co-designers because they’re all also hardcore franchise nuts) working to deliver the best franchise mode in the business. In our core franchise group we have Jeff Schrader, Tim Schroeder, John Walker, and Eleftherios “Leftos” Aslanoglou who have spent the last half-decade plus trying to add in every feature we’ve each always wanted to see in an ideal sports franchise mode.
All this brings us to the next-gen version of NBA 2K21, as we begin our journey with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. Early on, when discussions started about what we wanted to do with franchise on the new consoles, there was some initial talk about rethinking and rebuilding, kind of like we did with MyGM way back on NBA 2K14. However, we decided this might be a disservice to our franchise fans if we began a new generation by taking away anything that we’ve worked on over the years.
Instead, we decided that we would take everything that we’ve learned and built with MyGM, MyLEAGUE, and MyLEAGUE Online and put it all together in the all-new and all-encompassing MyNBA.
Starting with NBA 2K21 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, our franchise mode has been re-branded and will now be called MyNBA. At its core, the name pretty much says it all – it’s your NBA, it’s your franchise mode, however you want to set it up. The mode has every single feature that you know and love from the previous modes, all rolled up into one where you have full control over which ones you want to turn on and off.
Let’s start things off by going through all the things that you can set up going into the mode.
The first box you’ll see when you start a new MyNBA save will be the MyNBA Setup Options. Each of these, when enabled, will add new steps to the setup flow that will allow you to further customize the mode on a much deeper level. These options include: Fantasy Draft, Customize League Rules, Custom Roster, Customize League, Customize Salary Cap, Customize Simple Settings, and Customize Advanced Settings.
Fantasy Draft is pretty straightforward. You can turn this on if you want to start the mode with a fantasy draft of all the players instead of having all the players start on the teams they’ve been assigned to in the roster. It has all the customizable settings that we’ve had in the game in previous years.
Customize League Rules is the completely new feature in this batch and lets you go through and pick all the rules that the mode will start with without having to wait for the League Meetings in the offseason where you are limited to five rule changes per year. Now, you can go through and set all of the rules in each of the categories – Lottery, Standings, All-Star, Shot Clock, Foul Out, Lane Violation, Eight-Second Violation, Backcourt Violation, Playoffs, Possession Arrow, Bonus, Goaltending, Back to the Basket, Sudden Death Overtime, Free Throws, Salary Cap, Trades, Draft, Contracts, and Fixed Score Ending – however you want them from the jump.
Custom Roster lets you pick between the official 2K Sports roster, 2K Sports Injury-Free rosters, or one of the countless custom rosters designed by members of the 2K community.
Customize League is where you can re-align teams, replace existing teams, or add new classic, all-time, or custom teams to the league, and – new to NBA 2K21 – remove teams from the league. Yes, that’s right – for the first time, we’re allowing you to reduce the league size from the current 30 and now you can bring it down to as low as 12. This means that instead of the 30 to 36 range of league sizes we’ve supported in the past, this year you can now have leagues that range from 12 to 36 teams. This makes it possible for users to try and recreate past seasons where the NBA didn’t have 30 teams or just have a smaller league to support a more concise MyNBA Online experience.
The last three – Customize Salary Cap, Customize Simple Settings, and Customize Advanced Settings – will add more setup option menus to the flow that will allow you to dig deeper into the intricacies of how you’d like to start the mode.
This next box is something that we decided to include because we felt it was something that could be turned on or off as a group that would greatly change the overall franchise experience. Over the years, we’ve added a slew of some of the CBA’s more complex rules to the game to try and create a completely authentic NBA user experience.
While these new features have all been asked for by hardcore members of our community and have greatly-enhanced the mode, we decided that it would make sense to give users an easy way to turn all or some of these off if they felt that it made the game too difficult, as many of these rules make signing players, completing trades, and just dealing with team management a lot more complex.
When you come into the setup options for the first time, these will all be defaulted to ON because that’s the way we want most users to experience the mode, but if you want an easier time, you can quickly turn off these options as a group or individually – Dead Cap (released players counting against your salary cap if not picked up on waivers), Stepien Rule (limit on trading away 1st round picks in consecutive years), 30/60/90 Day Rules (limits on trading away recently-signed players), Restricted Free Agents (ability for teams to match offers on RFAs), Trade Finances (requirements to match salaries on trades), and Waiver Rules (requirement for 48-hour waiver period).
The next setup group could also have been called “MyGM Options,” but we opted to refer to it as Role-Playing Elements. This is actually an area of the game that really took a lot of the work in developing MyNBA as a whole because getting the MyGM options to play nicely with the fully-customizable and multi-team MyLEAGUE stuff took a tremendous amount of development and design work (or else we would’ve just never made MyLEAGUE and just added all the customization and up to 30-team control to MyGM back in year 2 for NBA 2K15).
Here is where you can choose to turn on or off the following – Conversations, Scoring, Skills, Tasks, and Morale & Chemistry. The conversations will determine whether or not you have the face-to-face conversations with the governor, staff, and players. This year, you can have these on or off no matter whether you’re controlling just one team or up to 36 teams – and you can even have 36 team control with conversations on for only a subset of the teams you’re controlling.
Scoring, Skills, Tasks, and Morale and Chemistry are all core components of the previous MyGM experience that can be turned on or off as a group or separately. For instance, if you didn’t like all the reading you had to do in the conversations but did like getting Tasks from the governor, staff, and players and liked being able to upgrade your GM’s skill tree, in NBA 2K21’s MyNBA, you can just turn off Conversations and turn on Skills and Tasks to get that experience. It’s all up to however you want to play!
In Budget and Finances, we have some simple options like whether or not the Salary Cap, Hard Cap, and Luxury Tax options are turned on or off, plus Price Changes and User-Controlled Budgets, which for the last generation were features that we had kept exclusive to the MyGM experience and didn’t allow for MyLEAGUE or MyLEAGUE Online.
As MyNBA is all about giving you complete control over what features are available, this year you will be able to set a team’s prices for tickets and concessions, or a team’s budgets, whether or not you’re playing the game with any GM features on.
This option is pretty straightforward. When you enable this option, it means you’ll be making a MyNBA Online league, and it will have all of your customization options available to you. So, if you don’t think you can find 29 other players to fill out a 30-team league and would rather not have any teams under the management of the CPU, you can cut the league size down to as low as 12, so it’ll take less friends to fill out the league. I’ll go a little deeper into what’s new for former MyLEAGUE Online players a little later in this blog.
The next box is for Automate Offseason Time Periods. This is really just an easy way to turn off the offseason (and have it be simulated) for users that want to keep playing regular seasons and playoffs without having to deal with the offseason. And while it can be turned on or off as a group, we also let you pick and choose to automate the periods – Retirements, League Business, Staff Signing, Drafting, Free Agency, and Player Progression – each individually.
This next one lets you determine whether the league starts from the beginning of the Regular Season or the previous Offseason. It works pretty much like it has in the past. It’s worth noting that Start from Today won’t be available at launch, as there isn’t an official start date yet for the next NBA season.
A subset of our franchise fan base has been clamoring for this for years and with MyNBA in NBA 2K21, we’re finally able to bring back playable G League games! If you want to include the G League in your mode, you can leave this option turned on. Otherwise, if you don’t care for the G League games, you can turn it off.
When turned on, the G League teams will play a schedule of games, and if you look at the Daily View, you’ll see the G League games interspersed with the NBA games. Or you can check out the Daily View (G League) to just see that day’s scheduled G League games that you can play or simulate with regular sim, SimCast, or SimCast Live.
Last up is Ranked, which got us some critical feedback in the early going. This is the one option that will limit what can be customized because we’re still trying to create an experience that allows us to compare players worldwide on a level playing field.
While it’s still limited, we have expanded on the things that can be customized compared to last year, so you can tailor it to your liking more than you could before. For instance, we decided to take Actions out of the mandatory part of the Ranked experience, based on the strong response from some users. We welcome all feedback and would love to hear more about what the community would like to see out of the Ranked mode in future years.
One of the challenges of going down this path of merging MyGM, MyLEAGUE, and MyLEAGUE Online into a single, fully-customizable MyNBA is that it took a tremendous amount of work to get all the MyGM features working with more than one team, getting things like Tasks to work without Conversations, and getting all of it to work Online.
Nevertheless, here are some of the completely brand-new features coming to NBA 2K21.
I’ve already talked about this one as part of the setup options. You can now play a full schedule of G League games in MyNBA in NBA 2K21. All the games are fully playable, but can also be simulated via quick sim, SimCast, or the interactive SimCast Live, and with all the jump-in and jump-out capabilities that you get with NBA games.
We introduced a simple Boom/Bust system to the game last year that added a little randomness to the potential of the prospects, but have given it a major facelift this year and completely revamped it.
Younger players in the league will now have a more dynamic growth path using the Boom/Bust system. Players can have low and high-potential floors, low and high-potential ceilings, and a probability to boom, bust, or hit somewhere in between.
In addition, until age 23, we will continue to determine the player’s potential based on multiple factors to make it so that every player will still be exciting during the developmental years. The same player could have wildly different growth paths in each save, so keeping up with scouting prospects after they’re in the league will be critical to building a dynasty.
We’ve also revamped player generation to better leverage the Boom/Bust system to make for more “interesting” players to scout and further enhanced draft storylines, but as always, all of this can be edited if you want to sculpt your ideal prospects.
We’ve added an additional Assistant Coach that you can hire and fire that has an impact on how your players perform – and will also be seen on the bench if you’re one of those franchise players that actually goes in and plays games.
If you picked up the current-gen version of NBA 2K21, you’ll at least have some idea of what the latter is all about, but since we haven’t publicly spoken about them, I’ll do so now. The 2K Share Setups is a way for the community to share mode setup options. With all the customization we’re adding, we know it can be overwhelming for some, and those users will most likely just roll with the default options out of the box and play the mode in the way we feel it is best experienced.
However, this would be missing out on some potentially cool things that more ambitious community members have set up, and this is where 2K Share Setups comes in. All it takes is for one member of the community to set up the league rules, teams, rosters, etc. to put together the best possible representation of some classic past seasons – whether it be the early years of the Magic vs. Bird era, or some year in Jordan’s dominant Bulls’ reign – and if they share it here, then the rest of the community can relive these past seasons with tuning and rules that closely represent the era.
With 2K Share Scenarios, we wanted to give the community members a way to upload save progress in their MyNBAs, where they’ve set up different scenarios and challenges for other community members to try and overcome. For instance, maybe you’ve setup a scenario where you’re in control of the Clippers and down 3 games to 0 in the Western Conference Finals against the rival Los Angeles Lakers. And you want to see if other members of the community will take on the challenge of coming back from a 3-0 deficit against LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Playoff Rondo, and the rest of the Lakers crew. Scenarios like this, and whatever else the most imaginative minds within the community can create, can now be easily shared for others to play.
All right, this is one of those new features that isn’t exactly a new feature. Regrettably, this is something we had to remove from the game during the last generation of consoles, for the greater good of the game. With that said, I’m very pleased to announce the following: We’re finally getting tattoos back on generated players and prospects in NBA 2K21!
The tattoo system is a LOT more advanced than the one from many moons ago, and it has a base in the aforementioned MyPLAYER tattoo system. So with that, we can proudly say generated player tattoos are now officially back and better than ever!
This isn’t really a new franchise feature, per se, but it was something that was pushed hard for by Jeff Schrader and Leftos for years as something important to the franchise modes, so it’s getting included here. We’ve added a new slide nav that you can bring up while anywhere in the mode by simply flipping up on the Right Stick, so you can quick jump from one menu to the next no matter where you are in the game. And since MyNBA is such a menu-driven mode, we think this greatly enhances the user experience – at least once you get used to pressing up on the Right Stick when you want to go to a new menu instead of pressing the back button (B or Circle depending on your console of choice).
Because of how we melded the old modes together, I wanted you to see what you’re getting as new features based on what mode you played the most in the past. For instance, if you considered yourself a MyGM player, you’ll now have more customizable options than we’ve ever given you previously.
For starters, you are no longer limited to being the general manager of a single team. You can now choose to GM every single NBA team if that’s what your heart desires – and that’s up to 36 teams if you expand the league to its maximum, or 12 teams if you bring the league size down to its minimum.
What’s more, for the teams you control, it’s completely up to you what features are on or off on a per team level, such as – Actions, Conversations, Facilities, Prices, Budgets, Morale, Trust, Score, Skills, and Tasks. So, if you want to GM all the teams and deal with getting Tasks from the team’s governor, staff, and players from only a smaller subset of teams and actually have to load into conversations with an even smaller subset of teams, then you have full control over how you want to handle it.
And as I touched on earlier, we’ve relaxed a lot of the customization restrictions on Ranked play, so you can participate in the online leaderboards while still being able to use custom rosters and start the league with a Fantasy Draft and a few other things.
Since MyLEAGUE Online was already MyLEAGUE but online, the big addition for former players is that MyNBA Online will now be playable with the entire gambit of the GM features that weren’t available in the past.
You will now be able to play in an online league as the GM of the team, and have the ability to get tasks that you must complete from the governor, the staff, and the players. And if you don’t keep your governor happy, you can even get fired from the team you’re controlling in this MyNBA Online league, giving yourself another challenge other than competing against your friends in online games.
The new features include the following – Conversations, Scoring, Leaderboards (where you can compare how you rank against other League Members in a local leaderboard), Skills, and Tasks. And just like in the previous sections, the league can be played where each individual user can choose to play with any or all of these features on or off, so some can have the GM experience, while others don’t have to.
MyLEAGUE was always the fully-customizable mode, but the two things that we didn’t allow MyLEAGUE users to do in the past was use any of the GM features or partake in the budgets and finances, as we always wanted to keep those exclusive to MyGM.
However, with MyNBA, the former MyLEAGUE players can now pick and choose whether or not they wish to play with these features. If all they really wanted was the ability to get Tasks from the governor, staff, and players but not have to deal with loading into the text-based conversations, they can do that now. And if all they wanted was the ability to deal with setting ticket and vendor prices and set the team’s budgets, while not dealing with things like tasks and conversations, that’s also available. Any and all of it can be turned on or off either individually, or as groups.
One of the main things we wanted to do with our first entry on these new consoles was to not take anything away from our franchise players. All too often, a new console generation means starting from scratch for franchise fans and having to start getting features back with each subsequent release of the game. We didn’t want to take that approach this year and with MyNBA, we have given our players everything that we had on the last console generation, plus a whole lot more.
The second main thing we wanted to do with MyNBA is lay the groundwork for the next 6+ years. We feel that by combining the previous modes into the all-encompassing MyNBA, it’ll make it easier to add features down the road. Rather than trying to split time with three different modes that have varied requirements, everything we do will be for the MyNBA brand.
To wrap things up, I want to send out a thank you to our great online community. Over the years, you have given us a tremendous amount of support, which has allowed us to continue to use development resources to keep improving our franchise modes and create best-in-class experiences. And you have continuously given us feedback – both positive and critical – that helps us try and make a better game. We on the franchise team at 2K appreciate what you have done for us, and we really hope you enjoy MyNBA… not only in NBA 2K21, but in each year after that as well!