Originally Posted by IGN
NBA 2K8: Join The Association
This year, the key to a successful franchise is all about chemistry. Prepare for a science lesson.
by Hilary Goldstein
September 6, 2007 - The franchise mode in almost every sports game has suffered from the same problem: unrealistic and downright bad trade and player logic. Trades are just a matter of matching up ratings, signing free agents comes down to having enough to spend (since you're always first in line), and player morale is simplistic and often broken. NBA 2K8 may have the solution, with a revamped Association Mode that puts personality into every single NBA player and future draft pick.
Every player is assigned one of four personality types:
* Neutral: This covers the majority of NBA players. They don't suffer from many of the issues associated with the other three types. Examples: Michael Redd, Chris Paul, Shawn Marion
* Laid Back: This player doesn't often show emotion and usually ignores what others may perceive as an insult. At the same time, they aren't know for inspiring a team with their energy. Examples: Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Ray Allen
* Expressive: When this player's not happy, you, the team, and the media know about it. But this player can also have a positive effect on a team so long as they are kept happy. These guys wear their emotions on their sleeves. Examples: Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter, Sam Cassell
* Unpredictable: You just don't know what you are going to get with these types of players. They may suddenly lash out at a coach or just sit quietly and say everything is okay, even if it's not. Examples: Allen Iverson, Zach Randolph, Ron Artest
One personality isn't necessarily better than another. In fact, NBA 2K8 is designed so that, like a real hoops team, it's best to have a mix of personalities. A team full of Laid Back players will be just that -- laid back. Team chemistry and morale, while less likely to go sour, will also build far slower without some energetic personalities. On the other hand, two big stars that are both Expressive may clash. But a Batman & Robin tandem of an Expressive point guard and a Laid Back small forward may be able to work some real magic over their careers together. Managing the personas of your players and creating the right blend for your team will be crucial to succeeding in The Association.
Player personalities are only one half of the mix that makes The Association look so promising this year. For the first time, users can define every player's role on the team. Depending on a player's persona, their overall rating, and career, they will have specific expectations of the role they should play on a team. That includes number of minutes played, but also factors in how they are being utilized on the court.
There are five roles that can be set for players. Each role includes several potential sub-roles that further define player expectations. In this way, you can have five starters that each have an understanding of their place on the team (that doesn't mean they have to be happy about it):
Starter: This player expects to be in the starting five of every game and play a significant amount of minutes.
* I want you to be the star of the team.
* Your position as a starter is guaranteed.
* You're replaceable if an upgrade comes along.
6th Man: Usually the first man off the bench, these guys are often good enough to be starters and are the leaders on the court when substitutions are made. And yes, you can have more than one 6th Man on a team.
* We need you to bring some energy off the bench.
* You might not be a starter, but playing time will be ample.
* You will have plenty of opportunities to prove yourself.
Role Player: This might be a defensive specialist or perimeter shooter -- someone who is on the team to perform a very specific function.
* We need some energy and depth off the bench.
* Your minutes will be limited, but you will get a chance.
* We need your versatility off the bench; playing time will be sporadic.
* Our young players need a mentor; playing time will be limited.
Prospect: This is someone who has a great deal of potential, but isn't quite ready for a full-time job in the NBA. They expect to play a few minutes each night, but won't carry much of the load.
* You will have a solid career, but you're not ready yet.
* We believe in you, but you need more time to develop.
Bench Warmer: These scrubs are the Jack Haleys of the NBA, there to fill out the 12-man roster and clap a lot on the pine.
* Playing time will be very limited.
* You will only see playing time if we get hit with injuries.
* We need you to fill out the roster.
Personality and player roles factor into almost every aspect of The Association. Let's say you are playing as the Celtics and, just to be a jerk, you decide to make KG a Role Player. Because of his rating, KG knows he should be a starter. If KG were an explosive personality, this could become trouble instantly. But since KG is Laid Back, he may bite his lip and just take it. But his morale will slowly tumble. And if the team begins to lose with KG riding pine (even in sims, you can designate the number of minutes players are on the court), the team chemistry will start to sour. And if team chemistry drops, some of the more hot-headed players on the team may start having an adverse reaction. All of this as a result of your benching a player who expects (and deserves) to be a starter.
This also factors into signing and trading players. Let's say you decide to bench Paul Pierce for a few games. He may become so upset that he demands a trade. In fact, you can damage the relationship so much that it will be very difficult to regain Pierce's trust. What can you do but trade him? Problem is, the AI knows Paul Pierce is demanding a trade. So, with your hand forced, Pierce's trade value plummets. And should you keep Pierce, it will cost you quite a lot of cash to convince him to resign.
When signing free agents or even re-signing players currently on your team, you'll have to do more than just offer cash. You can also include a no trade clause, player and team options, and define the role/sub-role. You can try and over-promise a player a role to get them at a lower value, but you may end up screwing yourself later if they don't get the minutes. In this way, players are called on their BS signing tactics that allowed them to easily overload a team with talent.
Age and a player's history also play a part in contract negotiations. Younger players are usually more interested in getting a big pay day, even if it means playing on a sub-par team.But an older player who hasn't won a ring may take less money and a reduced role to be on a good team. And yes, you team's winning percentage does factor into player decisions. So Golden State will have a tougher time attracting a superstar than Phoenix.
Free agency is going to be a bit tougher on GMs this year. In the past, you had first dibs on every player out there. Now there are days and weeks of negotiations where a player weighs a variety of offers. Your Lakers may be able to offer Gilbert Arenas more cash than the Pistons, but will you risk promising Agent Zero a role equal or greater than Kobe's? Doing so could create a major disaster by mid-season.
Once the signing process is over and you've drafted your rookies (each with their own personalities and expectations), it's time for training camp. There are more than a dozen different training regiments to increase the aspects of a player's game. Throughout the previous season, you've earned Reward Points for completing specific tasks (win the Championship, be named Coach of the Year, etc.). These points are then spent to train your players. Put some extra weight on Shaq just for laughs or try and improve D-Wade's perimeter defense. It's up to you.
In theory, all of these elements should make for a dynamic and realistic franchise mode. How well all of this works over the course of several seasons remains to be seen. But, from our time fooling around with The Association, it appears 2K is going to give gamers something special this October.