This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the Pressbook that appeared in only a few NBA 2K games.
As much as I enjoy looking back at games and their major features in my Wayback Wednesday articles, it’s also nice to appreciate the little things. While the appeal of basketball video games lies in enjoyable gameplay and engaging modes, the little things can be that extra touch that really makes the experience. Sometimes they add convenience, or simply enhance the overall atmosphere of a game. They may be something that a lot of people overlook or never really use, but if it’s a feature that you do enjoy or find useful, you’ll miss it if it’s removed.
Case in point: the Pressbook in NBA 2K. It’s a very small feature in the grand scheme of things, and it probably isn’t something that most of us would use after every single game we played. Nevertheless, it was a good idea, yet one that only appeared in a few NBA 2K releases. Let’s take a look back…way back…
The Pressbook was part of the post-game wrap-up and stats screens from NBA 2K10 through to NBA 2K12. Generally speaking, most of us don’t have high expectations for, or a great deal of interest in, the post-game menus. As long as we’re able to view statistics, shot charts, replays, and highlight reels, it’s usually all that we need. It’s not an area of the game that demands a lot of detail or attention, nor should it. However, it is nice to be able to review the game and access media that we may not have been able to capture at the time, whether it’s for content creation or just our own enjoyment. It makes a game feel more like an event; more like an actual televised production.
Among the options in NBA 2K10’s post-game wrap-up were the Game Reel (a reel of highlights from the game), Hot Zones (where players were making their shots from), Signature Highlights (individual reels of player highlights, for players that achieved them), G Moments (curated highlights, “sponsored” by Gatorade), and the ability to re-watch the Player of the Game reel. And then, there was the Pressbook. It was a slideshow of screenshots of significant moments, as taken by mounted cameras and courtside photographers. They represent the kind of photos that would be made available to the media, similar to the Hollywood promotional tool of the same name.
On the surface, that may not seem very exciting. After all, Instant Replay is available throughout the game, and can be used to capture screenshots. The Pressbook did have some useful features though, which set it apart from what could be accomplished with Instant Replay. It provided ready-made screenshots of game highlights, presented as a slideshow with pan effects, along with the ability to pause and navigate through the slides. The screenshots were also from angles that were difficult to achieve in Instant Replay, given the way the camera snaps into place. It was great to be able to re-live your highlights from the game with some still images in addition to the video replays.
Of course, we were able to do more than just watch the slideshow. We could also upload a Pressbook to the 2K Sports website, where it could be shared with others and also downloaded. In that respect, it was similar to what EA Sports was doing with EA Sports World for NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10, which allowed gamers to upload a limited number of saved replays and screenshots. Such services were very useful in a time when consoles didn’t have in-built video and screenshot capturing capabilities, and not everyone had a capture device. PC gamers didn’t always have any capture software, either. If you did, it was usually the free version of Fraps with a watermark.
Even if you did have capture software on PC, the Pressbook was handy for getting the angles that were difficult – or indeed impossible – to achieve in Instant Replay. The upload function is obviously useless now – much like it is in NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10 following the closure of EA Sports World – but when the games were current and actively supported, it was useful whether you needed the screenshots for content or simply posterity. Unfortunately, although the Pressbook was retained in NBA 2K11 and NBA 2K12, the ability to save screenshots locally was never added. The nav panel in the slideshow would now auto-hide though, for cleaner screenshots.
Come NBA 2K13, the Pressbook was no longer available as part of the post-game wrap-up screen. It didn’t return in NBA 2K14, and hasn’t been featured in any other titles since. I’m assuming that a lot of gamers don’t miss it; in fact, there may be a few of you who have never bothered to check it out, and are just now learning what it was all about. The games – and we gamers – have certainly been able to get by without it, especially with all the various solutions for capturing media and replaying highlights in recent titles. Mind you, when it comes to features like this, it isn’t just about their functionality, though that is certainly important. It’s also about what they represent.
What I mean by that is the attention to detail, and overall design philosophy. A little feature like the Pressbook was never going to sell games. It doesn’t appear as a bullet point on the back of the box, though it was mentioned in a developer blog for NBA 2K10 (yes, those things go way back!). It’s a feature for the hardcore NBA 2K gamer, a presentation detail that’s all about making the experience more fun, and giving us some useful functionality. I’m not saying that that no longer happens in any form in more recent NBA 2K titles, but the focus has shifted towards adding features that utilise recurrent revenue mechanics, or prioritise flash over function and substance.
It seems unlikely that we’ll see the Pressbook or a similar concept return in any form, and while it isn’t entirely necessary given the tools we now have at our disposal, it’s also a shame. Again, it’s not just what it is, it’s what it represents. It seems unlikely that we’ll see these little features added – stuff that isn’t necessary, but is nevertheless cool and “for the gamer” – unless there’s also a tangible benefit for 2K. I’m not saying that a game without a Pressbook-like feature is incomplete or terrible, because that would be ridiculous. It does represent the change in philosophy towards game design though, as well as shifting demographics. Online play has no use for it, after all.
Then again, maybe it does. Instant Replay isn’t available in online play, and even if you take screenshots, they’re from gameplay angles. Imagine being presented with a collection of screenshots of your best plays in a Park or Pro-Am game, as if taken by someone on the sidelines, or by a fixed camera that’s been set up. You’d have some great shots to share, and perhaps even video if they expanded the functionality. It wouldn’t just have to be about NBA gameplay, though it would obviously be most welcome there as well. Old ideas in old games may not be completely relevant or necessary now, but many of them can be updated and adapted for today’s games.
It’s an idea to put out there for Next Gen, though I have my doubts that we’ll see it again. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate it in the games that it did appear in though, and given that NBA 2K10, NBA 2K11, and NBA 2K12 do hold up quite well, the Pressbook was a small part of some great titles. On top of its appeal and practical usefulness, it represents innovation, and a willingness to focus on the small things that make great games even better. Indeed, the post-game menu in those titles is a throwback to a fun and exciting time in basketball gaming. The Pressbook helped capture that excitement, and share it with others. The little things make a difference.