Last week, I had the chance to visit the EA Sports Studios in Orlando, Florida and experience the making of NBA Live 2014 — literally. Much like the up-and-coming NBA Live Franchise, I felt as if I were an NBA player on the rise as I prepared to put on my motion capture suit that would catch my signature moves and tendencies on camera.
Now, as the former captain of my college basketball team, of course I had dreams of playing in the NBA, however, the chances are slim to none for a 5-8 Division III point guard. But there I was putting up shots with the reigning Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. He recorded his signature moves and then I helped him out with his in-game celebration. The next thing I know, Damian Lillard and I are going one-on-one.
Surprisingly, the mo-cap suits that we were wearing weren’t that uncomfortable. Imagine playing basketball in scuba diving gear with a head cap on and all of your gear has balls on it that are attached by velcro. You even have those same motion detecting balls stuck to your shoes with duct tape. Eventually, I started to sweat; as Lillard noted to me during an insane ballhanding workout that would make Ganon Baker look like an amateur, the headgear was pretty hot. Still, I wasn’t paying attention to that. I was like a kid in a candy store.
Before we went to check out a sneak peak of what Damian actually looks like in real gameplay, I sat down with the Portland point guard for a while to talk NBA Live, this upcoming season and his skills on the mic. I also got the chance to be involved in an EA roundtable interview with three of the masterminds that are behind this game.
Scott O’Gallagher is a gameplay designer on NBA Live 14 and has been loyal to the franchise for years. As a former pro baller in Europe, Scott says he remembers paying close to $300 in shipping before he could finally land NBA Live 2010 while he was playing across the pond. Scott was the go-to guy on set when explaining to Lillard what specific moves they wanted to see out of him.
Ryan Santos is a Senior Designer on NBA Live 14 and has previously worked on NBA Live between 2000 and 2005. In addition, he worked on NBA Street Volume 3, NBA Street Homecourt and NBA Live 2010 while most recently working on digital Jordan Campaigns before rejoining the team at EA for this project.
Ryan Ferwerda is another EA veteran who is on the NBA Live 14 project as a producer after working on Madden football since 2000.
While they realize their competition has owned the market share for the past three years in basketball video games — likening them to the 96′ Bulls — the guys behind this game know that there are Live players out there and players that prefer games by EA Sports.
I caught up with the crew over at EA to talk about what goes into making the game, how it’s changed, their new game technology, and about their unique marketing strategy.
On The Different Disciplines That Went Into Making Live 14
Ryan Ferwerda: I think one of the things you see with today specifically and really what’s kind of been a driving mantra for the entirety of the game is authenticity. First thing we get out of here is having Damian here and other guys we’ve had in to do mo-cap and work on all of the signature dribble stuff. Everything you see about our game is all about being the most authentic, real basketball video game brand and game that there is out there. Every single thing we do kind of backs that up from animation, music, shoes- everything in our game. The goal is to make it exactly like the real NBA everyday and keep that updated and refreshed throughout the season. So everyday you turn the game on, you’re going to get the most authentic, up-to-date experience.
Taking The Game To The Next Level and How It Has Changed Over The Years
Ryan Santos: I think we’re at a really unique position here with the launch of the next-gen consoles. The sort of advantage we have is that we’ve been able to just focus on NBA Live for next-gen. What that gives us is the ability to take advantage of next-gen hardware. So with that hardware, with each cycle, each transition year that we move up in hardware we’re able to really harness the things that we’ve always wanted to recreate in a basketball game. So it gets more authentic. The AI (artificial intelligence) behaves a little bit more smartly. The players look just that much more realistic. We’re able to get performance from these guys that really show off the emotion of the sport and give you that next-gen detail that you’re looking for. I think we’re able to use technology like the ignite engine to really push our sports games forward.
Looking back at previous-gen titles, I’ve worked on a lot of the basketball games then and we were always bound by certain things in the hardware. We had all of these great ideas but we were being held back by the technology and I think moving forward, we’re going to be able to see a greater sense of authenticity in the game with the next-gen consoles.
RF: To add to that, a key element that you’re going to see that’s unique to Live, especially being on next-generation platforms is that every single day you play, you’re always going to have a heartbeat connection back to NBA Live. Every time that you turn it on, if there’s new shoes that drop, there’s new player updates that drop or AI with Synergy Sports, you’re going to get that stuff within the hour in some cases. That’s really unique moving forward and something that’s never been done as far as we’ve handled stuff. You’re always connected to the service.
Scott O’Gallagher: Obviously these new consoles have so much more space. So like today- you saw that we captured six of Damian Lillard’s signature moves and we can do that for damn near every player in the league if we want to. It’s just the time of getting in and now we have the [memory] space to do it where before, you didn’t have enough room to do so.
RS: You buy the game at launch- it’s going to be a different game every single day. We’re giving you that enhanced experience throughout the season. You can keep up with your teams, what’s going on in the league from tattoos and sneakers to actual stats and how that effects the AI and how the game plays.