How much impact did the Community Event have on NBA Live 08?

Posted October 8th, 2007 at 1:21 am

Wade Live 08

Back at the end of June when EA held the NBA Live 08 Community Event there were advantages and disadvantages to having it take place that early in the development process. On one hand it was at a point where not everything had been implemented and was still in the midst of intense tweaking. It was very much unfinished as compared to what is usually seen at community days which are generally representative of the final product. However having come in at that time allowed for producer interaction and feedback that could be directly acted upon for this year’s release.

At the Madden 08 Community Day it was evident to me right away that the high rate of fumbles, injuries, and overpowered kickoffs were big problems. But at that point there was nothing that could be done about it. That is the downside to attending them that close to the release of the game. It is more about collecting information and impressions and getting some input towards the next year’s version unlike the opportunity we were given for Live.

When I wrote up my Live impressions from the event I stated that it would be interesting to look back at it following release and see how much of an impact it had. EA would either get credit for taking this route or they would receive deserved criticism if it seemed that it had amounted to nothing. So lets look at some of the points I brought up and how they turned out.

The #1 issue was with the interior defense. Actually it was the near complete lack of it. Offensive players were able to use a wide array of moves for easy scores, in most cases via dunk. That led to shot percentages generally in the 55-75% range even on Superstar difficulty. It was really frustrating because there was basically nothing you could do to stop it except hope to draw an offensive foul.

This was a known issue when we arrived for the event and it was incredibly frustrating to deal with. However with the final versions things have improved greatly. Players still get pushed out of the way a little too easily, but as a defender if you put your body on them and use the right stick to get your hands up you have a decent chance of forcing a tough shot that could be missed.

Shot percentages have shown to be quite realistic now. I’m generally finding between 42-50% is where things end up. And that isn’t due to cheap misses, it feels pretty natural in terms of which shots go in vs which ones don’t. This has turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises in just how right it feels.

Playing defense on the perimeter wasn’t as much of a problem but it was difficult to stick on a player. A quick guard could get by you nearly every time…You were more likely to move away accidentally and end up out of position.

A comment I made at the event was that you were better playing off the ball and letting the CPU take over which shouldn’t be the case. While the defensive assist is an option, I’ve found that to be good for only aligning a defender, you don’t want to play man on man defense while holding down the assist. It is more effective to just try and stay in good position and use the right stick low to help. Also if you use the assist it switches who you’re controlling automatically to the on-ball defender which some people may not want.

Against the CPU it can still be difficult to contain the top PGs in the league from driving, however against other users it seems more properly balanced.

While the rebounding in general and going for loose balls was improved greatly, there were still some things that stood out to me. There were too many offensive rebounds, and even more apparent off missed free throws. There was a lack of agressiveness from some of the players. There would be a couple attempting to get the ball, while others might just stand around.

The rebounding still has its issues, as sometimes it seems that players will stand around and let the ball hit the ground before grabbing it. There also seems to only be one or two players that make a strong effort to go up and get the ball on most occasions. It just feels very inconsistent. Offensive rebounds are toned down and there isn’t the problem with rebounds off missed free throws.

Alley-oops were too easy to execute, even in situations where it shouldn’t have been attempted like to players in traffic. There were a couple times where the ball sailed out of bounds, but the success rate was too high.

There is more risk involved with the alley-oops but they still aren’t right. If you accidentally hit the RB and throw one up you’ll actually have a decent opportunity at a player going up for it and scoring in an unnatural fashion. So not only is the level of success a little high, but having it on the same button as the icon passing makes little sense. It also is somewhat unresponsive. I’ve had fast breaks and hit the button but the players just stop running before the ball is even be tossed up.

The spacing along the out of bounds line was too tight and also a little difficult to see at the bottom of the screen. You didn’t feel comfortable there because you’d get called for stepping out of bounds. It basically took away shooting threes from the corner, unless you went straight up after passing to a player who had been set there by the CPU.

Well this is something that has been taken care of. I’ve seen mention of players appearing to step out of bounds but not be called for it, I guess that may be a side effect of making it so you aren’t stepping out accidentally all the time.

The fouls were a little sketchy. Offensive vs defensive fouls seemed mixed up at times. There was also a high % of made shots off mid-air contact including when fouled. Meanwhile reach-in fouls on the perimeter as players attempted for steals were too rare.

This has been improved somewhat. Offensive fouls can be interpreted as the correct call but the animations don’t really show it. I usually don’t know who the foul is on until it is displayed on the screen via text or I see who has the ball. Haven’t seen as many made shots off of non-foul contact but there are still some. There are at least occasional reach-in fouls now and more risk to attempting steals.

Some more random thoughts from then till now:

The 60fps, off-ball movement, and floor spacing are the best aspects of the game as they were at the event. Those things shouldn’t be ignored because they have an influence on everything.

The Go-To Moves turned out really well and hopefully more players have their unique moves next year. They are well balanced (not automatic) and add a level of authenticity.

The icon passing seems a little less responsive now, I had more success with it back then. Not sure why that is since I believe it was set up the same way as it is now (with it necessary to hold the RB down for a second before they come up). There needs to be a dedicated button for it. A perfect way to do that is to get rid of the Hot Spots from the LB completely or to hold the LB in to pull them up and put the alley-oop button there in its place.

The Live team decided to remove the separate buttons for layups and dunks this year, citing how the game had to respond to those commands even if the situation didn’t call for them. So if someone hit the dunk button from 3pt land they would go into a ridiculous looking animation. Despite this they kept a separate button for dunks and layups and one for jump shots. So you still have the situation of someone accidentally using the wrong button on shots. I don’t really have a strong feeling either way on having just one universal shot button, but it would make sense for the same reasons they took away the one for only dunks and the one for only layups.

The lack of any impactful fatigue is something that the hardcore community is disappointed about but I don’t see as much of a problem. Most people, in five minute quarters, don’t want to worry about making many substitutions. This is especially the case with online games. It would be a good thing to have a little more fatigue shown next year though since it feels nonexistent. But with lengthier quarters and slider adjustments the fatigue can mean more.

I wrote a lot about the Hot Spots. How I liked the additional shooting ratings (14 as opposed to previously having only 3) but disliked the visual display of them. As it turns out no one really seems to pull them up anyway while playing. It is more important to get open shots than it is to shoot from red zones. I had suggested at the very least to tone down the colors which unfortunately wasn’t done, but I didn’t expect any changes to happen.

The FIBA addition, even though it isn’t fully fleshed out yet, was a very nice bonus that they got in. They signed the exclusive deal too late into the process to add in things like the trapezoidal lane, FIBA rules, and more than the eight teams. Those should all be taken care of next year.

Online play was discussed although there was not much insight into it other than being told about the leagues. The one thing which had been mentioned was the effort that was being put into making sure it runs well with as minimal lag as possible and consistent frame rate. It is safe to say that they succeeded in that regard as the online aspect has been the best of any EA Sports game to date. See my full online play thoughts and follow-up.

The game was just flat out fun playing head to head at the event and it remains that way. It seems to play better against other users, but that could be partially attributed to how I enjoy playing that way more than playing the CPU no matter the game. Despite that both myself and Shawn from 5w-g commented that it seems to play a lot better head to head.

For next year (outside of the obvious necessary improvements to gameplay) additions of a Superstar type mode and online co-op could make the game great. Those are perfectly suited for a basketball game.

Of course some if not most of the things I went over would’ve been addressed naturally through the course of the development cycle, but it does feel as if they truly listened and took into consideration the feedback that was given. That bodes well for Live 09 and beyond, and hopefully we will see more community events take place earlier in the process after the success of this one.