Driving the Baseline With a First Look at NBA Live 2015
Posted on Thursday, August 7 @ 10:30:00 PST by Daniel Bischoff
Last week I got a chance to visit Electronic Arts at Redwood Shores, and while the offices lined with sports concept art and the EA Sports Bar in-office made for a welcoming atmosphere, I left the meeting thinking about the possibilities for what the future of NBA as a culture meant both on and off the virtual bench.
Basketball has a very well-defined flow that keeps everyone in the game within a sort of rhythm, but more often than not the best moments in the sport come from the unexpected, the changes in player-vs.-player rhythm that open lanes, allow your favorite stars to slam dunk, or make room for a big three-point shot.
I've looked at the sport from a variety of different angles over the past few years, especially moving back and forth between southern California where basketball culture feels more like the Bay Area's baseball culture. People wear their favorite teams on their shoulders, but NBA 2K and NBA Live both hope to attract the season-long fan who wants to get in the game early and play alongside their team.
Speaking with executive producer Sean O'Brien, I asked about that and how the team remains conscious of basketball's ability to let players improvise their own rhythms.
"Everything from half-court transitions to whether players are doing the things I expect them to do..." O'Brien started. "You don't brag about that, it's just gotta be there. [When you're playing the game] you have to depend on people doing the right thing."
O'Brien commented on rhythm's ability to connect us with what's expected of real-world players despite the fact that we may be playing a virtual game.
"Many games are fictional, but fans might feel like their player should have made that shot. [And our improved next-gen console graphics] add to those expectations." While NBA Live has missed a few years on store shelves, O'Brien said the competition helps development and that "2K's game drives us. We see the rivalry as you would Nike vs. Adidas."
O'Brien started working on NBA Live in its earliest years as a motion-capture actor for the Vancouver studio who started development of the series. "My coach at school had a good relationship with the developers and we made $8 an hour shooting hoops and rebounds."
NBA Live's history seems to stretch beyond my own basketball fandom. I shared with Sean that most of my enjoyment involved actually playing the game and that picking up a controller to play the virtual experience left me about as bored I would be watching a broadcast.
Basketball lends itself far more to a participant than it does the spectator given how much more activity comes from moving back and forth across the court, dribbling the ball with precise control, and going up for a shot. Driving the baseline for a lay-up, making a spectacular hook shot, and calling a play at the top of the key seem like aberrations in video gaming, but they come easily in real life.
NBA Live hopes to maintain its current control schemes, feature sets, and overall presentation. With PS4 and Xbox One development, the team has focused more on keeping what works and fixing what doesn't while improving the engine. We're hoping to get hands-on with the title in the next few weeks, but until then, fans should know that the franchise's second year off the bench will provide plenty of replay opportunities, modes, and other expected features.
Hopefully, NBA Live continues to push itself into a more stable and competent simulation that encourages both 2K and EA development teams to better their games. Look for more in the coming weeks.
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