NBA 2K8 Updated Hands-On: Association Mode Details
Here's how it works: All the players in the game can be divided into one of five role types. The roles are starter (for guys who get the majority of the minutes); 6th man (for those who come off the bench on a regular basis); role player (players that are on a team for a specific reason, such as a great perimeter shooter); prospect (a player who isn't quite starting material, but has lots of potential); and bench warmer (the guys who are more or less only hit the floor to give your starters a breather). In addition, each role has a handful of "sub-roles", which are essentially variations on the main role type. For example, the starter role has three sub-roles which more or less determines a starter's more specific role on the team--from the team starter to a guy who is replaceable if a better upgrade comes along.
As general manager, you can set roles and sub-roles, changing up the responsibilities and expectations for any player on your team. How that player reacts to those changes is the final piece of what makes the new franchise system in NBA 2K8 so compelling. That's because every player in the game has his own personality, divided along four types: unpredictable (the guys who can lash out at management; think Ron Artest), laid back (the Tim Duncan's and Grant Hill's of the NBA); neutral (the most common personality type in the game); and expressive (the loudmouths of the league; think Rasheed Wallace and Stephon Marbury). A player's personality will determine not just how he reacts to any role changes you make, but practically everything else that has to do with the team; from play-time to renegotiating a contract. As a result, any change you make as a GM will need to be weighed against not just what you want to accomplish with your team, but also what the players you pay are looking for.
Back to Carmelo. In NBA 2K8, Anthony's got an "unpredictable" personality, which means it won't take much of a change to get him talking mess about your management style. In the game, you'll be able to pinpoint exactly how many minutes you want every player on your team to player, thanks to an easy-to-use slider system that will divide playing time from an available pool of 240 minutes against your starters and bench players. Reduce a guy like Carmelo Anthony's role from the face of the Nuggets to pine rider, and he's going to be ticked off in a hurry. Indeed, simming just a few weeks into a fictional season in NBA 2K8, and you can see that Anthony's morale has dropped to zero his statistics have taken a dive and, perhaps more importantly, his ratings have taken a significant hit too. In other words, if a guy isn't happy on your team, it's going to show in every aspect of the game. As producers put it, if you go ahead and play out a game with a low morale player (as opposed to just simming through the game), you'll actually see him physically take plays off, merely jogging up and down the court, instead of getting after it.
Keeping your players happy, then, will be a key component in maintaining a healthy team. To do so, you'll need to not just give your starters plenty of minutes, you'll need to make sure that you're helping them live up to the roles you promised them. LeBron's the face of the Cavs, and he's not going to take kindly to accepting any other position on the team. That isn't to say that player roles can't change at all, however. Your up-and-coming prospect that has spent a few years improving his skills might be ready for a sixth man role--as a result the game allows you four free role changes per year to use on your team.
Player roles and personalities don't just come into play during the regular season; they'll play a big role at the negotiating table when it comes time to sign or re-sign players to your roster. In addition to standard contract terms such as length, yearly salary, and type of contract (front-loaded or back-loaded), you'll also be able to add a player or team option clause, a no trade no-trade clause, and role and sub-role as negotiating tactics when it comes time to set up a contract for a player. So while a player might not be amenable at a certain salary range as a bench warmer, kick his role up to starter, and he just might listen to your offer with more interest. As producers put it, no-trade clauses and player options aren't merely window dressing, players will be quick to take advantage of these kinds of perks if available.