NBA Live 08 OTP impressions

Posted January 20th, 2008 at 4:04 pm


After playing through several games of Online Team Play in NBA Live 08 I’ve been able to form some initial thoughts on the mode. This is really a unique way to play the game and seems to be the natural evolution of online play. It had been a big success in NHL 08 and FIFA 08 and that is definitely the case with Live as well. Controlling a single player in a basketball game is probably the most natural and engaging of all the sports.

Any configuration of up to five on five is allowed. It is nice that the teams don’t have to be balanced or filled up completely. If there is a full five then each user chooses a position to lock into and controls only the player at that position. If there is less than five the choice opens to allow either locking into a position or leaving it open to switch between players. Any not user controlled are taken over by the CPU. So there is a lot of opportunity for variety as the games can be put together in any number of ways.

Communication is isolated to the specific teams. So if headsets are being used it’ll only be with your teammates. This makes it possible to discuss some strategy and make adjustments as the game progresses.

Of course one of the main concerns would be the performance when having numerous people connected into a single game. Up until the recent releases out of EA Canada (NHL, FIFA, Live) there had been struggles to get normal one vs one games to run smooth or avoid disconnect issues. Thus far the experience has been impressive. The games have felt smooth and fluid even with a full 10 users in. There was one game that felt a little sluggish but it was possible to adjust to since it was consistent.

The games are unranked and the standard five minute quarters with fatigue on. In a game where you’re playing with people you know I’d recommend making the quarter length longer otherwise the final scores are probably going to end up in the 50s or 60s. Seven or eight minute quarters would probably be ideal but that does make for a greater time commitment.

I’ve played a couple games that were really fast paced and another that had some more half court play. This really depends on the individuals involved in each game. If you are in a game with people you know or who are trying to play realistically it is going to be a better experience. That’s the case with every online game though.

If playing with randoms there is always the chance you’ll get stuck with a ball hog or someone playing like a jackass but I really haven’t experienced this yet. To me there is a certain pressure that comes with OTP in that you don’t want to let your teammates down. It is a feeling that isn’t really there when you’re only playing for yourself.

I’ve also read comments that the mode wouldn’t work because everyone would want to be a specific player. Again so far I haven’t seen this. There are a lot of people out there who don’t desire to take on that superstar role. I’m one of them. I prefer taking on a secondary role and attempting to help the team in various ways. I’ve played as a SF in most games where scoring points wasn’t my main goal. I was more interested in quality shots if I took them and putting up numbers in other stat columns. There is a certain appeal to taking on the role of a specific player.

A few examples of my stat lines:

Bruce Bowen: 10 pts, 4 rbs, 3 ast, blk, stl, took 2 charges
Steven Jackson: 11pts, 7 rbs, 4 blks, stl, ast
Paul Pierce: 14pts, 4 rbs, 4 asts, blk, stl

Here are some suggestions that came to mind which would make the mode better:

1) Ability to boot out teammates. If you get into a game with random people occasionally you’ll come across someone not playing within the spirit of the game. There should be a way to get rid of them. Maybe a system where if more than one person on your team votes to boot them they are removed.

2) Call for the ball. In playing I’ve found times where I got open but had no way to let it be known. Maybe there could be a button used to “flash” the circle under your player so that the ball handler could recognize it. Some way to visually represent the player calling for the ball would be a nice touch.

3) Setting picks. This is something that has been stated wasn’t implemented only due to time considerations in wanting to get the mode released this year. Hopefully we’ll be seeing it in 09.

4) A way to know approximately where your player is when off screen. When falling back on defense or running ahead on offense there is really no way to have an idea of where your player is because the camera follows the ball. Either a window, arrow, or a “radar” would be nice to have.

5) Direct passing. This isn’t an issue isolated to OTP but needs to be addressed for the game in general and it stands out in this mode. Having to hold the RB to get the icons to come up isn’t responsive enough and leads to opportunities passing by or accidental alley-oop attempts.

6) Track stats for individuals. There should be a section in each person’s profile that shows their OTP stats. It could be isolated to specific positions. It would also be nice to have OTP records included.

7) EA Sports World. Stats could be viewed on the site and also the screenshot/video feature. Being able to recap some OTP games with screenshots and video highlights would be great. There should be game results along with full stats of each game posted on the website.

8 ) Quitters. Have a disconnect % dedicated to OTP and if there are too many instances of quitting be able to prevent them from joining games.

If you have any ideas to add on ways to improve OTP feel free to post them in the comments.

Overall the mode offers a totally unique experience that changes the whole focus of the game and is a lot of fun. It is more suited towards playing with people you know to prevent the possibility of being saddled with someone who tries to ruin the experience for everyone or quits the game early. Online play for sports titles is going to move more towards the cooperative experience (as it has with other games) and it fits really well in a basketball game. This is an impressive start for OTP in both performance and options and it is only going get better.