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It seems like every year, the people at EA come to San Francisco to show me the new version of "Live," and before they even press power, they're talking about how this is finally the year the series is great again (cue yawn).
But this year, the focus really is on game play, and for once, they aren't just talking a big game, it looks like they are actually ready to deliver (especially if you trust what Mike Wang did for the "NBA 2K" series).
"Game play hasn't delivered the past few years, but it's finally back. It's fun to play and we're going to give you a lot of depth and a lot of control," explains O'Brien. "When our consumer says, 'Show me the game and how it feels,' because that's what is so important, we finally have the knockout blow to prove to people that 'Live' is back.
Game play hasn't delivered the past few years, but it's finally back. It's fun to play and we're going to give you a lot of depth and a lot of control.” -- "NBA Live 10" producer Sean O'Brien
"Without going into too much detail, I'll give you our four pillars of game play for this year. The first one is giving control back to the user. By that, I mean that from the time I have the basketball in my hand to when I'm trying to break down my defender to the moves I'm doing in the lane to finishing with my right or left hand to how I use the new passing controls that I can't talk about just yet, all of these things give control back to the user. We want to get away from the pretty picture thing where you press a button and watch a really nice animation play out, but at the end of the day you don't feel satisfied because you didn't have a whole lot to do with it. So breaking things down from the dribble to the move to the finish and having you control the player at every point throughout that thread so you do what you want to do is really important.
"The second aspect is player and team differentiation. We really want to ensure that every possession is different. When I play a game and it's Denver versus Memphis or it's Lakers versus Celtics, the game has to feel different. Having authentic team sets for what I think is the first time ever in a basketball video game is really important as it helps capture the various team styles of play. Teams that push the ball in transition will now push the ball in transition in 'Live.' Teams that walk the ball up the floor and use a lot of shot clock will perform like that in the game. And then obviously having Synergy Sports and all of that data to drive all of our shooting percentages and tendencies for the first time, and having it update online throughout the season, that will help make sure that every possession, every game played will feel unique, and that's pretty important as well.
"The third thing when it comes to game play is the one-on-one matchup, that game within the game. From size-up dribbles to quick-strike ballhandling to how you play in the low block both on offense and defense, all of those little games within the game, that's what the NBA is all about. It's about one-on-one and two-on-two matchups and trying to isolate good players in mismatched situations. We're focusing our efforts on that in order to really replicate the NBA game. And a lot of that comes from the size-up dribble, which is new this year. This is the ability to use the right trigger to power up your ballhandler. A good example is if you watch LeBron or if you watch Kobe, it's much different than when you watch a college game where the player will catch the ball and look to square-up and sweep and try to go by somebody that way without the dribble. In the NBA, everything is done off the bounce. It's almost like guys are getting into a rhythm, sizing up their defender, then looking to attack. The way the size-up mechanic works, you actually have a hidden meter where the longer you use the size-up, the more likely you are to blow by your defender. Conversely, the risk/reward is if you're guarding someone who is using that size-up mechanic, you're more likely to steal the ball from him. Again, it goes back to the authenticity of the game and how guys try to break down opponents.
"Lastly, it's about player movement. Whether you're running around user-controlled or it's the CPU players running up and down the floor, we want to make sure that what you see just feels and looks like hoops. That tight, responsive user control and how we do things to differentiate player movements and how we place them into different move groups to really give you that tight movement, whether it's that quick little Aaron Brooks point guard or the plodding big man. These athletes need to look and feel different whether you're controlling them or the CPU is controlling them on the court.
"We've completely refocused on what we're giving consumers in that five-on-five experience."