NBA Live 13
It's been a rough few years for EA's basketball division. After a disastrous attempt to rebuild the series from the ground up with a new analog based control scheme, EA made the tough call to cancel NBA Elite 11, transfer the series from EA Canada to Tiburon, and skip NBA 12 altogether. Now after incubating the project and fully staffing up a new team, NBA Live 13 finally stepped out from behind the curtain at E3.
Given the meteoric rise in mindshare and sales of the rival NBA 2K series since EA benched NBA Live, Tiburon has its work cut out for it. To make a good first impression on wary fans, the studio plans to focus on three core pillars: fluid gameplay, broadcast quality presentation, and connected experiences.
NBA Live is built from the same ANT Technology foundation that powers both the FIFA and NHL series. Tiburon's goal is to create quick-reacting players and responsive movement. In the demo we saw behind closed doors, Dwayne Wade moved fluidly from the triple threat position. Like the NBA 2K series has striven to achieve over the last few years, the Live team is also taking measures to make sure that players aren't slaves to canned animations. At the press of a button your player can break out of any animation at any time, and EA has spent a lot of time making transitional animations so chaining moves together looks natural.
The team also spent time fine-tuning the low post control for both attackers and defenders. You are not locked into an specific animation sequence when your back is to the basket; you can use a drop step to bump into the defender to gain some separation, fade away, or turn an face the defender. If you're guarding the low block, you have the controls to counter any move an offensive player tries to make.
EA is also paying attention to how the AI-controlled players move and react around the court. They want to instill every player with situational awareness so they can spot that perfect time to make a back door cut. The AI is also adaptive. If you burn the team on a set play coming off a timeout, they will be smart enough to try and deny the same thing from happening the next time you are inbounding in a similar situation. The Synergy tendency system returns as well to make sure all-stars like Kobe Bryant are taking the game-winning shot and post threats like Dwight Howard try to move toward the basket instead of hanging around the perimeter and uncharacteristically chucking up three point attempts. With all of these systems running concurrently, EA hopes that each player plays just as he would on the real hardwood.
To boost its presentation (an area where NBA 2K has dominated all sports games for years), the new development team spent a lot of time behind the scenes with ESPN to understand where the worldwide sports leader places cameras and put together shots. The result is an entirely new broadcast style presentation that mimics the ESPN experience with authentic ESPN graphics packages and stat boxes. NBA Live 13 will also have unique presentation for the playoffs and the NBA finals. Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen return to perform the commentary. The studio also spent a lot of time sculpting skulls for every player to make sure they look just like their real-life counterparts.
Lastly, EA plans to leverage the extensive networking infrastructure from other EA Sports games to deliver an comprehensive connected experience for basketball fans. This is a smart area to focus on, because as fans know from the last few years, online is the lone glaring weakness of NBA 2K.
NBA Live 13 is scheduled to ship in October for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Keep an eye on the website over the summer as we learn more about the gameplay, franchise mode, and online features.