Monday Tip-Off: Absolute Controls Are Absolutely Best

James Harden dribbles the basketball in NBA 2K18

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on the Absolute controls setting in NBA 2K games, and why I feel they are the best approach.

It took me a while to get used to the controls in NBA 2K. Having spent years playing NBA Live, it was difficult getting used to dribbling moves being performed with left stick movement and the Isomotion trigger. Even after the series adopted right stick dribbling controls in NBA 2K13, I wasn’t quite as proficient in pulling off slick moves and breaking ankles as I had been in NBA Live. Eventually, I discovered the root of my clumsiness on the sticks: the default Camera Relative controller setting, which makes stick movement dependant on your player’s position relative to the camera.

The Absolute setting, which standardises stick movements no matter where you are on the court and which camera angle you’re using, made NBA 2K’s controls far more accessible to me. It helps that it’s the same approach that NBA Live has always used for its right stick controls, but aside from familiarity, I’ve always felt it simply made more sense. There’s a legacy issue in NBA 2K where the Camera Relative/Absolute setting randomly resets, which means I’m always checking to make sure that it’s still set to Absolute before I start a session. After all, when it comes to dribbling controls, I strongly feel that Absolute controls are absolutely best.

It’s why I feel that it should be the default setting, rather than Camera Relative. I’d hazard a guess and say that it would likely be an unpopular change, but I have to admit, I’m not sure why people prefer the Camera Relative setting. For me, it’s usually caused confusion and disorientation. I remember playing through the Training Camp in NBA 2K12 – an underrated feature, as I’ve mentioned before – and experiencing frustration when the moves I was practising didn’t seem to work in the games. Of course, this was because Training Camp was played from the baseline-oriented 2K cam, whereas I was playing games on a broadcast angle.

Absolute Controls in NBA 2K18

To me, it just makes more sense to bind stick movement to the player’s body than the angle of the camera. In other words, left is always towards their left hand, and right towards their right. Up is forward, down is backward. Having these consistent starting points makes it much easier to master basic moves and advanced combinations alike, especially moves that require rotations and half-rotations of the stick. Changing those starting points by relating them to where you are on the floor and the camera you’ve chosen strikes me as being too contrived, almost the point of artificial difficulty, since you have to adjust the direction of the stick movement accordingly.

I suppose in that sense, the Camera Relative setting is more difficult than Absolute, and that’s something that some people may take pride in. Unfortunately, we gamers can be stubbornly elitist when it comes to such matters. The camera angle, the control settings, the difficulty level, even the game mode; we all have our preferences, and for some people, that also means that there’s only one “correct” way to play. Now, while it would be presumptuous to declare yourself the best player in the world if you only play on Rookie or Pro difficulty, if you’re talking about the camera angles, controller settings, or mode of choice, whatever you like best is what’s right…for you, anyway.

With that in mind, it might seem a bit hypocritical that I’m advocating for Absolute controls, and boldly declaring them to be the best. I’ll certainly admit to my own bias here, and that my position comes from simply not seeing any advantage to Camera Relative controls, except to make the game more challenging. That’s certainly fine if that’s what you want, or if it’s simply the approach you’re used to. However, I do feel that Absolute controls are the more straightforward approach, which if nothing else, makes them a more appealing option for novices, as well as gamers who are making the switch from NBA Live (or jumping back and forth between the two games).

There’s a lot to be said for consistency, as well as a lack of ambiguity. As I said, this was a problem with Training Camp in NBA 2K12, since moves were taught from a baseline-oriented angle that anyone who prefers broadcast angles wouldn’t normally use. It was simply assumed that all gamers would be aware that they’d need to make adjustments based on the camera and their positioning, or know that they’re able to change a setting for a more consistent and straightforward approach. Not offering the most consistent and straightforward control option by default potentially alienates newer gamers, which as discussed here on Reddit, is becoming an issue for NBA 2K.

Damian Lillard with the layup in NBA 2K18

In fact, I’d even go so far as to suggest that the two controller configurations should be briefly explained and offered as our default setting upon starting up a new NBA 2K game for the first time, either before or after we’re prompted to create a MyPLAYER. That would reduce ambiguity and confusion, as well as make it clear that the option does exist. Not everyone is willing to go digging through all the options, or read the manual, especially since you now have to go and download it from the official site. I’d actually be in favour of the game prompting us to choose a few more default settings during that initial boot, with quick explanations for gamers who may need them.

Getting back to the Absolute vs Camera Relative debate, another reason I favour the Absolute setting is that I feel conceptually, it’s the most logical. Under Absolute, the roles of the left and right analog sticks are clearly defined. The left stick controls a player’s movement, or in other words their feet, while the right stick controls their hands. No matter which way they’re moving, or which angle you’re looking at the player from, their hands are obviously always on the same side of their body Whether it’s performing a dribbling move, or choosing which hand to finish with, consistent left, right, forward, and backwards movements make the most sense to me.

At the end of the day, it’s important to pick the setting that feels right for you. If you do find that you’re not pulling off the moves that you want to with the default Camera Relative setting, I would definitely suggest giving Absolute controls a shot. Also, if you do prefer Camera Relative controls, I’d be interested in hearing why you feel that they’re superior, or indeed, provide more of an advantage. I don’t think I’ll ever find them to be preferable, but the important thing is that both options are available to us, and that we all find the setting that works best in providing us with the most enjoyable experience on the virtual hardwood. For me at least, that’s absolutely Absolute.

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April 3, 2018 5:42 pm

Great writeup !! Do you feel this has a effect on making shots? or it has nothing to do with that?

April 5, 2018 2:52 am
Reply to  Andrew

I tried it and you are correct. It seems easier to shoot now, and I can make more dedicated moves towards the rim. Now if they could fix the defense we might be on to something !!

April 6, 2018 1:45 am
Reply to  Andrew

We can only hope. The defense is what’s holding this game back. It’s too easy to get to the hoop with no resistance or help side defense.