NBA Live is finally back, and bringing the heat like never before with NBA Live 14. The new game will be released tomorrow only on next-generation consoles and features intricate details never before seen on the sticks.
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The NBA Live franchise has a long history as a leader in basketball video games. If you grew up playing video games at any point over the past 20 years, Live was probably your basketball game of choice. Whether it was raining threes with Mitch Richmond in ’97 on your Sega Saturn or getting buckets with T-Mac in ’07 on PS3, all gamers share vivid memories of the NBA Live franchise.
After a four-year hiatus, NBA Live is finally set to make its return this November. Anxious for it’s comeback, I had the opportunity to visit the EA Sports Studios in Orlando, Fla., to catch a sneak peak at what the developers over at EA did to position themselves for a successful return.
The crew at EA knows they have work to do to get back on top. As a matter of fact, the producers of the game compared their main competitor at the NBA 2K franchise to the 1996 Chicago Bulls, who hold the best record in NBA history and are regarded as the greatest team of all time. But competition causes everyone to raise their game, and that’s where NBA Live 2014 comes in.
On my visit, EA gave me the full-on NBA treatment while being fitted for my own personalized motion capture suit. As if wearing a mo-cap suit wasn’t enough to make a former Division III point guard feel like he played in the Association, 2013 NBA Rookie of Year Damian Lillard joined me on the court. With my co-cap suit on, I helped Dame go through recording some of his signature moves and celebrations for the new game before playing him in a friendly one-on-one contest.
After ballin’ with Rip City’s star point guard, we kicked it with the team at EA. Not only did I sit down and talk to the developers of the game, but I also got the chance to check out some gameplay first hand. Having watched real life Damian Lillard ball out as video game Damian Lillard, it’s safe to say that NBA Live is back.
Following four years of uncertainty, Live has reemerged to take back the market they owned not too long ago.
“We know that there are Live players out there,” says Ryan Ferwerda, a producer for Live 14.
They put their faith in Kyrie Irving (this year’s cover athlete) and Damian Lillard who together are the back-to-back NBA Rookies of the Year. The pair, having already established their place among the NBA’s elite, is still on the rise, allowing their games to grow with the NBA Live franchise.
Senior designer Ryan Santos, a veteran EA member who has worked on numerous NBA Live creations in the past, thought it was the perfect match to have their franchise represented by two young, up-and-coming stars.
“I think we made that decision because sort of the ethos for the franchise this year is all about what’s next, being next and all about next,” says Santos. “We thought this year it would make a lot of sense to pick up a guy like Kyrie who’s — I mean the guy’s next up. When Kobe‘s gone and LeBron and Durant get older, he’s going to be one of those guys coming up I think as one of the legit superstars in the league and so all of the guys we’ve gotten, I think we’ve got a great cast to represent what the franchise really represents this year.”
Lillard is equally excited to be playing such a large role in the marketing of EA’s new game.
“I’m excited about it,” says Lillard. “I mean [Kyrie] â€” like I’ve said before, he’s been an All-Star, he’s been on the up-and-up since his first year in the league also. Just the fact that I’m able to be in that same line, joining him here, doing this thing with Live is cool and I’m excited about the opportunity and hopefully I can back up my first year the same way that he did with an All-Star appearance.”
Another unique segment of their marketing strategy is they lined up their game release with the releases of the next-generation video game consoles (PS4, Xbox One). EA decided to only release their game on these two next-gen systems, which kept their focus solely on catering to these systems.
“I think going to next-gen consoles, specifically for us, made the most sense,” says Ferwerda. “It’s very rare that you get these transitions and for us, a brand back on the rise, we want to plant our flag with the newest, latest and greatest and there’s a lot of advantages with that.”
Where this game is on a whole new level is through EA’s new partnership with Synergy Sports, bringing real-time basketball analytics to life in the game as well the game’s new BounceTek feature â€“ two advantages that have yet to be seen in a basketball video game.
“Synergy Sports is the No. 1 data driven and analytic tool that all 30 NBA teams are using,” says gameplay designer Scott O’Gallagher, a former pro basketball player himself. “For like Damian Lillard, we know how many isos he’s been in all year. We can watch videos on every single iso he’s had. We know for example, how many times he goes right, how many times does he like to finish right, how many times does he like to pull-up going right, guarded or unguarded. The amount of power that is in there is unbelievable… There’s so many things [that are in this game] that I don’t know if the consumer is going to pick up. It’s almost an overload of information.”
The basketball analytics in the game matchup in real time to a player’s tendencies in real life, including hot streaks such as Danny Green‘s parade of threes in the NBA Finals or a rookie playing at an elite level.
“You see guys that go on crazy streaks or you see a rookie that evolves his game and that will evolve in our game as well,” Ferwerda says. “A guy gets hurt and he doesn’t want to drive as much anymore. That stuff all gets updated into the game.”
As for the gameplay, BounceTek brings gamers something new and original when it comes to the physics of the game.
“BounceTek is releasing the ball to physics for the first time ever in a video game,” O’Gallagher says. “So basically in prior video games, the ball is always tied to animation. So if I try to turn in older basketball games, the ball would magically find its way there [to the next movement] where now, it’s sending it to physics and we’re going to find an anim that will find it for you. It’s going to help [player] balance and the true feel of momentum. It’s going to be different but it’s going to be something that the consumer really enjoys.”
These two new features have gamers excited. Count Damian Lillard as one of them.
“[Live] should have a game that should be competitive with 2K,” he says. “I’m excited to see the difference and why somebody would want to have Live instead of 2K.”
Through the use of basketball analytics and realistic gameplay physics, EA Sports has put life into Live, creating a gameplay experience that immerses the gamer into a genuine NBA atmosphere. It’s comeback season for EA’s NBA franchise.
What do you think?
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