NBA Live 14 is the latest entry in the NBA Live series which has not seen a new entry since NBA Live 10. We recently got in touch with Gary Paterson who is the Senior Creative Director of NBA Live 14 to ask him a number of questions based on the new Ignite Engine, difference between PS4 and Xbox One versions, bounceTek and more.
Ravi Sinha: NBA Live 14 will be the first game in the series since 2009′s NBA Live 10. Firstly, what prompted the desire to bring back the series?
Gary Paterson: Clearly everyone knows that we have made a few missteps with the franchise in the past years, but we still feel like EA SPORTS has the technology, passion and experience to create a great basketball game. With the advent of the new console generation it was the perfect time for us to reset and rebuild. Using the technology of EA SPORTS IGNITEand with a new leadership team taking the game in a new direction, we’re excited to be bringing back NBA LIVE.
Rashid Sayed: NBA Live will feature bounceTek which offers realistic dribbling. Can you please share details on how this will affect gameplay?
Gary Paterson: Basketball video gamers spend around 50% of a game dribbling a ball, yetthe mechanic of the dribble has basically gone unchanged since Gen1. This is more than a decade of old tech showing up in today’s games. The limitations of this tech are evident in visual and gameplay artifacts such as ball warping, half-dribbles and feet sliding; all of which contribute to unrealistic movement.
Sports games are all about player movement and momentum, controlling it and exploiting it is how we balance the game, create depth but also create the amazing moments that make NBA basketball the spectacle that it is. With bounceTek, we are releasing the ball to physics for the first time ever in a basketball video game and in doing so creating the most authentic looking basketball dribble, with close to 1000 new animations, but more than that we are creating a system that mimics the nuanced movement,and thus depth, of real basketball, a system that we call ‘authentically responsive’.
Rashid Sayed: During E3 2006, EA showed us how better platforms resulted in to better animation, awareness and movement of the player. Since NBA Live 14 is coming out on more powerful platforms, what kind of improvements can players expect to see in those three categories?
Gary Paterson: With NBA LIVE 14 being return of the franchise we have reworked or replaced many of the games systems, of which most are enabled or at least made more possible by the power of the new systems. From an animation and movement POV, we have used the additional memory and performance to create new Dribble and Locomotion systems that have 1000’s of new animations. Our animation model has additional skeleton detail allowing improved finger and face animation as well as more realistic model deformation, not to mention a new cloth simulation system. All of these systems are built for the long term and will only get better as the platform and the franchise matures.
Ravi Sinha: When most people think of basketball games, the focus usually goes to 2K Games’ NBA 2K series. Is there some pressure going in, on trying to not only match up to your own standards but to surpass the competition?
Gary Paterson: I’d be lying if I said there was not pressure; pressure to meet our own standards, internal EA pressure and of course consumer pressure. Personally, having come from FIFA where, back in 07 when I joined the franchise we were lagging behind our competitor, this pressure is nothing new. At the same time, if you ask anyone in games development I’m sure they will say that they feel the pressure – even the folks I left at FIFA feel pressure, just a different kind. What is different for me from FIFA is that lots of gamers have fond memories of NBA LIVE, they want it back. So in that sense the pressure is more about delivering a game that will make them happy, that is our focus, and I think we are making strong progress towards this goal.
Ravi Sinha: NBA Live 14 is one of the few games which will be using the Ignite engine. What benefits does it bring to the game?
Gary Paterson: We have had to do extensive surgery to lots of the core fundamentals of the game. Dribbling, Locomotion. Passing, Shooting, Rebounding, Blocking… all of these systems and more have been rewritten or substantially reworked. We could not have done this without EA SPORTS IGNITE. There are so many inbuilt technologies, with the animation tech being especially relevant to gameplay. I don’t want to go too deep into it as much of it is proprietary, but suffice to say that it has allowed us to progress at a rate that could not have been possible without it.
The core pillars of EA SPORTS IGNITE; Human Intelligence, True Player Motion and Living Worlds, are key to NBA LIVE.
Human Intelligence: We are powering our AIwith the real world statics through our exclusive partnership with Synergy Sports Technology. CourtQ (Court Quotient) uses real world statistics that reflect player tendencies, percentages and abilities and will be updated throughout the season to reflect the real world performances. Through our partnership with Synergy, we are using the same data and stats all 30 NBA teams use in scouting, analysis and preparation. With NBA LIVE 14, gone are the days were AI was subjectively designed or limited to a few select categories around shooting percentages.
True Player Motion: In addition to bounceTek that replicates the fluidity, creativity and authentic control in the art of the dribble, we will feature more than 40 NBA star player signature moves and thousands of new animations that will make NBA LIVE 14 look, feel and play like the next-generation of basketball.
Living Worlds: A LIVE World is all about creating both a social and competitive experience for the connected consumer routed in the authenticity of the NBA. The NBA season delivers consistent excitement and we are looking to do the same with NBA LIVE 14, on daily basis. We’ll give gamers near-daily challenges and content, including alignment with the real-world NBA events throughout the course of the season.
Rashid Sayed: Given the fact that current gen has more than 150 million install base, why is NBA Live 14 only releasing on next-gen and not on current gen platforms?
Gary Paterson: Building for Gen4 only was not a decision that I was personally involved in, but is definitely one I support. Doing so has allowed the team to concentrate on building an engine for the future. It has allowed us to make decisions on features and technology that will put us in a very strong position going forward on Gen4. Finally it allows us to focus all our resources on Gen4 and thus create as strong a product as we possibly can this year.
Ravi Sinha: What new gameplay mechanics does NBA Live 14 bring to the table? In terms of any new additions to the Career mode, multiplayer and other features, that is. I will also like to ask whether Dynamic Season, Dynamic DNA and Rewind feature are returning.
Gary Paterson: We recently unveiled Rising Star, our new career mode. Gamers will be able to create a player and build his career from draft prospect to potential NBA All-Star.
As for other modes, we’ll be revealing those closer to launch.
We’ve also discussed a LIVE World feature that will be available for any connected platform. We will be updating in-game player statistics and tendencies throughout the real NBA season, an hour after a NBA game ends. Through our partnership with Synergy, we will push more than 70 updated stats directly to NBA gamers over the course of the season. This provides an even deeper connection the real world of professional basketball ever presented in a video game. If a player goes on a hot or cold streak begins favoring a pull-up rather than a drive through the lane, it will all be reflected within NBA LIVE 14.
Ravi Sinha: Which teams (roster) can we look forward to appearing in the game? Will there be any international teams included as well?
Gary Paterson: All 30 NBA teams with current, and future rosters, will be in NBA LIVE 14. We will not have international teams this year.
Ravi Sinha: Also, which artistes can we look forward to seeing on the game’s original soundtrack?
Gary Paterson: We haven’t announced our soundtrack lineup yet – but do have something special in store for our fans. Stay tuned!
Rashid Sayed: Is there any difference between the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game?
Gary Paterson: All the game features will be the same for PS4 and Xbox One. It’s up to the gamer to decide which platform they’ll play NBA LIVE 14 on.
Rashid Sayed: Are you guys planning to use the touchpad capabilities of the PS4’s DualShock 4 or Xbox One’s cloud in some unique ways?
Gary Paterson: We will support some basic functionality on the PS4 touchpad around team management. More details will be provided later. Regarding Xbox One’s cloud services, we do not currently support them. However, we will support the platform standard cloud syncing of your data.
Rashid Sayed: There seems to be a gap between the Xbox One and PS4 with regards to RAM and the amount developers can use them for games. The new Xbox will have 5GB allocated for games and the PS4 will reportedly have 7GB allocated to games. Plus, the PS4 is using GGDR5 which is faster than DDR3. What is your take on this situation? Are you using that extra PS4 memory in NBA Live 14?
Gary Paterson: At EA SPORTS, we have always strived to have the best experience on any platform you play on. That tradition will continue with NBA LIVE 14.
Ravi Sinha: A lot of emphasis is placed on the graphics of a sports game, but the sound is equally, if not more, important. What is the team at EA Tiburon doing to ensure that NBA LIVE 14 has the most authentic sounding basketball experience?
Gary Paterson: Sound has been an exception focus for the NBA LIVE 14 team this year. Without getting into specifics, we’ve absolutely doubled down on the aural experience. From the best in class commentating team, a brand new host from ESPN and an absolutely innovative soundtrack technology, I can promise you, you’ve never heard a game like LIVE.
Rashid Sayed: Talking about the Wii U, EA has stated that they are currently not developing any games for the system which also includes NBA Live 14. It’s no secret that sales is one of the factors behind that decision. Was there anything else that led EA to take that call? Did you guys though that it was simply too weak specs wise to compete with the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One?
Gary Paterson: Without sounding too corporate, EA has a strong relationship and a partnership with Nintendo to develop games for the Wii U. However, when we looked at what we wanted to do with NBA LIVE, we focused solely on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to say to our readers/fans about NBA Live 14?
Gary Paterson: All of us on the NBA LIVE team want gamers to know we are completely focused on the future and delivering a game that is authentic, new and fun. We know all too well, the frustration our fans have felt over the past couple years and thank them for their patience. NBA LIVE is coming back and this is just the first step.
A big thank you to Michael Yaeger from Electronic Arts for setting this interview up.