EA’s back in NBA Live ’08 to show us why they own the court!
September 6, 2007 – For the past several years NBA Live has had a rough time in its attempt to capture the intensity of real life players in a virtual world. These struggles have led to games that range from uneven to just downright no fun to play. This year EA has decided to focus on the fundamentals of basketball to try to improve the basic gameplay of the series. Here, we’ll take a look at the four new features in this season: quick-strike ballhandling, own the paint, signature moves and hot spots.
Quick-strike ballhandling is in essence simply an improved way for players to move the ball and move with the ball. Your player’s dribbling is handled with the right analog stick, moving the stick left or right to switch hands like an NBA pro. With EA’s improved branching animations combined with the new ballhandling mechanic you now have the opportunity to explode from anywhere on the court. This results in players that are more organic and fluid than ever before and more options than ever for taking it to the rim.
The development team at EA Canada, working with former Nuggets player Kiki Vandeweghe, has made post play one of the most exciting parts of the game thanks to the new own the paint system. As producers put it, every match up in the paint in NBA Live 08 should be like a chess match, where one-on-one matches are won and lost on every possession, all determined by the creativity and drive of the players. Using the analog sticks (which also drive the ballhandling moves), players fall into a game of moves and countermoves with hundreds of different moves much akin to a game of cat-and-mouse. Fake shots and spins will make all the difference between a win and a loss when it comes to the paint system-you can fake a spin with the B button during a one-on-one match up. All of NBA Live’s new moves are contextually driven so there are no longer the awkward lay-ups from twenty feet from the hoop. Now NBA has all the right moves at the right times.
Everyone is sure to find their favorite post moves in the 2008 edition however, the days of pulling your favorite tricks again and again are over. Now the game’s AI will stuff you if you try to dunk every time you try to take it to the basket. The collision detection has been improved, making the game seem more like the real world than a virtual one. There’s also a defensive help button that can be used to keep your player locked on his opponent or switch to the next player that takes the ball. This takes away some of the challenge of trying to beat your opponent with pure skill. This should open the game to a wider audience, those of us like me who’ve never gained mastery over their virtual hoop shooting abilities.
Thanks to a host of new signature moves the various players will act and react more like their real world counterparts. However the days of taking it to the rim with your favorite move again and again are in the past with the defensive AI now able adapt to such maneuvers. Kobe’s signature fadeaway shot will be in the game, as will Tony Parker’s teardrop shot, along with a host of other shots and moves modeled directly after their NBA counterparts.
When certain players like Parker and Bryant get hot you’ll definitely want to use them as much as possible from their favorite spots on the floor. This is where the new hot spot feature comes in. Pressing the left shoulder button will pull up a color-coded overlay of the court showing where your currently controlled player is doing the best (and worst). Red zones indicate hot spots, while yellow and blue areas indicate areas to stay away from when you’re looking to put the ball up. Producers say that for individual exhibition games that hot spot data will be based on real-life player tendencies. In NBA Live 08’s franchise mode, that hot spot information will be tracked dynamically and will adjust over the course of a season.
With EA’s exclusive license to the NBA games it’s unlikely to see a true competitor arise to challenge the Live series, however, if a competitor were to emerge it’s a sure bet NBA Live 08 would give it a run for it’s money. All in all the game is stacking up to be another maverick of the series, keeping dribbling hoop-shooters waiting in anticipation for it’s October 07 release date.
EA and Agent Zero are proud to unveil the new NBA Live, coming this fall
May 9, 2007 – While EA has usually dominated the basketball gaming market, a poor response to its Live 07 installment and stiff competition from the 2K series turned a lot of fans off from the franchise. Admittedly, EA screwed up their last effort and are now working hard to reclaim their crown.
Recently announced, Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas will grace the cover of Live 08 and newly released screenshots featuring an incredible likeness of Arenas make the graphics look promising. But graphics haven’t been the concern of fans of the NBA Live franchise, which has always had stellar graphics. EA has acknowledged they need to focus on its gameplay fundamentals and seem to be doing so with 08.
Simply, the EA team says they are focusing on what makes basketball great: the five-on-five. More specifically, they are working to perfect ten focus points in particular: passing, shooting, rebounding, dunks and lay-ups, offense, defense, ball physics, locomotion, post whistle, collisions, and scenarios.
EA has made a few notable differences to the gameplay. One thing they have concentrated on is making each character’s style of play reflect the way he actually plays. The dunk and lay-up buttons are now the same, and if you play as someone who simply cannot or doesn’t dunk in real life, they won’t even attempt it. For example, you may be able to lay a ball in the net surrounded in traffic with Steve Nash, but if you play with a dunker like Lebron, he may posterize the defenders in the same situation. With jump shots, EA has worked on about 60-65 signature shots to reflect famous jumpers by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shawn Marrion and mimic how they actually shoot to a “T.” EA also concentrated on the physics of how the players’ legs bend at the knees and spring up as they take a jump shot, rather than the cartoon-like upward floating animation we’re used to. They also worked on the ball’s arc to the basket after a shot, making sure the trajectory is as realistic as possible.
By fixing the arc of the ball, EA has also made the rebounding better. Because the trajectory of the ball-shot is more accurate, the net no longer acts as a magnet to the ball, allowing for longer and more realistic rebounds. In previous NBA Live installments, the player who jumped for the rebound first was the one who would get the ball, which looked as though it would simply fly directly into the player’s hands. In 08, the player in the closest area of where the ball rebounds to will get it, as it would happen in a real game. Players on the court now angle their bodies and arms towards the loose ball, or put themselves in position to make a play and look as though they are really making an attempt to catch it.
EA has also perfected hundreds of new animations and on-floor action. One thing they have concentrated on in 08 is the player-to-player collisions which promise to make for some humorous gaming moments. If two players collide on the floor or in mid-air, there are some detailed animations of players falling to the floor. If you take your player to the basket and charge a defenseman, the offensive player may noticeably stick his forearm up to knock the other player out of the way and foul him hard. Or in another situation, if the ref determines the same kind of play to be a blocking foul, the offensive player may fall backwards and attempt to jack up an awkward looking shot to get the “and 1.” The type of collisions will also look different depending on which players are involved, as the physics of his height and weight will become a factor in the scenario.
With all the gameplay improvements EA has made, don’t think they skimped on the graphics, however. They made sure the players’ faces are as realistic as possible, always a concern in sports games. EA have done their best to represent the true likeness of the NBA stars and recent screenshots of the game look pretty astounding. EA says they not only concentrated on making the players’ faces realistic, but also their body types to reflect the exact stature of each athlete.
EA also upped the framerate to 60 frames per second regardless of the action happening on the court, whereas Live 07 featured a lot of slowdown. Another change that’s been made is the overall appearance of the game’s arenas and ball courts, which were a concern with recent Live titles. Where the past couple installments had the same atmosphere in every arena, no matter which home team you played with, EA says they have worked on mimicking each team’s actual arena. It also shows players warming up on the court before a game, taking a few warm-up shots beforehand.
While NBA Live 08 is still in the works, EA has released some exciting announcements thus far that should make for some interesting improvements. Look for it this fall.