NBA Live 08 Community Day: Update 3 - The New FeaturesShawn Drotar

Posted on July 6th, 2007 in Gaming, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, News, Opinion by Shawn Drotar

Now that the embargo’s been lifted for last week’s Community Day participants, I can tell you more about NBA Live 08’s three new features: QuickStrike Ball Handling, Hot Spots and the “Own the Paint” low-post game.

Now, as you can see from the picture, IGN’s already released some info about these parts of the game. That’s because their budget for exclusives is… well, let’s just say it’s a lot higher than mine. But I can tell you not only what the features do, but how they work in a game; what they feel like in action when the competition’s fast and furious.

Hot Spots

Shown in the picture above, Hot Spots graphically represent the shooting abilities of a player from 14 different areas on the floor. These colors are relative to one another, using the averages of both the player and the league as a whole. They don’t involve bonuses or penalties, either - they’re merely a visual representation of the player’s ability, using meticulously tracked detail from the NBA itself. This also means that players aren’t rated using the standard “close, medium, long” range attributes you’re used to. Though we didn’t have the opportunity to view specific player ratings on Community Day, we were told by the game’s producers that each player has 14 different shooting attributes - one for each of the areas of the court. Triggered by the left bumper on the Xbox 360 controller, the court can be viewed as shown above, displaying the abilities of the current ball-handler.

It’s important to note that just like in producer Brent Nielsen’s previous effort, MVP Baseball, that while the colors are indicative of relative skill, they are not decisive factors for success of failure. In MVP Baseball, every batter had hot and cold zones, and though it might have been preferable to get a pitch in a player’s “hot zone”, it would be foolish to pass up a hanging curve ball down the middle just because that part of the strike zone was “cold” - you’d probably still crush the ball. This mimics the real-life thinking of players on a basketball court: getting off a shot from your favorite spot on the court is great, but getting a wide-open one from anywhere is even better. In the Community Day tournament while playing as Denver, I took a shot with Allen Iverson that stuck a three-point dagger into the Knicks (played by Vetzballin’s DJ Rhude) near the end of the game. Iverson’s zone rating wasn’t nearly as important as the fact that I had him open for the trey; in fact, as the two of us played in Practice mode later, we discovered that “The Answer’s” worst place on the floor to shoot from was right where he hit the clutch three-pointer.

While it certainly wouldn’t hurt for EA to tone down the colors on-screen, the advantage of using Hot Spots is clear: in Practice mode, you can get a feel for your players as individuals, and perhaps even more importantly, AI-controlled players will act more like their real-life counterparts, as the more detailed data creates more lifelike activity.

Own the Paint

NBA Live 08’s new low-post game seeks to add the creativity of the gamer to the ability of NBA players, and on the whole, it seems to work well. Thanks to the feeble defense at this point in development, it was all-but-impossible to stop offensive players in the paint, but I spent a lot of time monkeying with the Own the Paint moves in Practice mode, and the variation that it conveys (”Over 100 options out of the post,” said Nielsen) is impressive.

Using a three-part button scheme in conjunction with the left analog stick, there’s no trick to pulling off Olajuwon-type moves, but who you’re using will make all the difference. A quick tap of the layup/dunk button will trigger a head fake. Pressing it for longer will call for a shot - the type of which will be determined by the player and by where the defenders are. Quickly tapping and then pressing the button will string the two together, often resulting in an easier shot and maybe even the “and one”. Of course, using the left analog stick at the same time will allow the player to take leaners, fall-away jumpers, hooks and even dunks if there’s enough room.

It’s a surprisingly intuitive system that doesn’t take much time to learn. Players like Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut will play with finesse, while bangers like Phoenix’s Amare Stoudamire will try to throw it down with reckless abandon - and all using the exact same set of controls. Like the Hot Spots, players tend to play in a more true-to-life fashion thanks to the Own the Paint control scheme. Of course, the key to Own the Paint’s success will have little to do with the nifty control scheme, and more to do with finding out what tools are at the disposal of the defense in order to stop it, or NBA Live 08 will quickly degenerate into a dunk-fest that would render all the game’s innovations moot.

QuickStrike Ball Handling

The bastard son of the late, unlamented Freestyle dribbling mode, QuickStrike Ball Handling is gleefully acquired from the enormously fun NBA Street: Homecourt. I had plenty of reservations when this was explained, because Street’s wildly over-the-top dribbling would never be seen in an real-life NBA game - or at least, the offending player would be picking himself out of the third row rather quickly - and I was concerned that this control scheme would add an unnecessary layer of arcade play to what was shaping up to be a rather realistic portrayal of the sport. As it turns out, only the familiar behind-the back dribbling betrays QuickStrike’s ancestry, and while I found that to be somewhat off-putting, it’s a minor quibble.

The control is mapped to the right analog stick, and while there are too many animations to describe, the crossover dribble, spin and half-spin are the staples. The moves available to any given player will be highly dependent on that player’s skill with the ball, and the development team derived a three-tiered system of players to generalize which players will have the most advanced moves. Tier 1 is comprised of the superstars; the ankle-breakers that you’ll see on SportsCenter with regularity. However, most of these players are naturally smaller; even though Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett’s an unquestioned superstar, don’t expect him to be able to dribble-drive you into submission like San Antonio’s Tony Parker will. Tier 2 is where most NBA players will reside; talented enough to surprise you, but most of them won’t be by you in a blur. Tier 3 is for the big men - as talented as Houston’s Yao Ming is, if he tries to get fancy with the rock, he’s likely to lose it.

While there are a few defensive counters - namely the “jostle” system and the ability to steal or put your hands up - right now, the game is far too easy for the Steve Nashes of the world. Again, sound defense and tools for the defensive player to stop what the offense is doing will be essential to keeping what will be a fun control scheme from becoming an abusive one.

***

In its final months of development, NBA Live 08 faces the same challenge that all real NBA teams do during crunch time: you can score 110 points every night, making highlight-reel dunks and fancy passes all game long, but if you can’t stop anyone, none of it amounts to anything.

Here’s hoping that NBA Live 08 dramatically tones down its Phoenix Suns tendencies for a good measure of championship, San Antonio Spurs-styled basketball. After all, everyone knows that wins are even sweeter when you’ve earned them.

13 Responses to 'NBA Live 08 Community Day: Update 3 - The New Features'

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  1. artoficial said,

    on July 6th, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Nice write up. I really hope they get a handle one the “D”. One major concern is the Hot Spots being to saturated with color, I would think thats just a matter of adjusting the opacity sliders though. Were you able to voice that as a concern and if so what was the response?

  2. Shawn Drotar said,

    on July 6th, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I didn’t voice it then, because I really didn’t use it. But after thinking about it, I agreed with fellow Community Day member PastaPadre that it would be better if it were toned down.

    So I’m suggesting it now - we’ll see if there’s a response. ;)

  3. artoficial said,

    on July 6th, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    i’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  4. NoleFan said,

    on July 6th, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Excellent write-up. It looks like Live is shaping up to be a pretty good game. I haven’t purchased or even played an NBA Live game in years but over time, as more info is made public, atleast the playing part may change this year.

  5. 100X said,

    on July 7th, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    While there are a few defensive counters - namely the “jostle” system and the ability to steal or put your hands up - right now, the game is far too easy for the Steve Nashes of the world. Again, sound defense and tools for the defensive player to stop what the offense is doing will be essential to keeping what will be a fun control scheme from becoming an abusive one.
    Shawn

    After last year I still have my doubts.

    The above statement bothers me.

    When was the last time you could play D on Live with out some gimmick.

    This year the game may be playable but being defensively inept and Arcade like are Live’s staples.

    Thinking back I liked the Xbox version of Live 05 but it was nothing like real basketball.

    Until live balances the sim like capabilities and their arcade experience seems to me most have decided they would rather play a sim like bball game.

    Shawn: Does the game have special effect sounds.

    Example: Like Madden and Tiger Woods.
    Say if you made a 3/4 court pass would you hear a big Woosh.

  6. Shawn Drotar said,

    on July 7th, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    100x,
    I noticed no peculiar sound effects, thankfully.

    The lack of defense is Concern Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for me, as well, but the development team knew that it was a problem coming in, and that’s reason for optimism at this point, I think.

    Remember, it’s still rather early - the game won’t go on sale for months, so I wouldn’t write it off yet. What I’ve seen is quite impressive, and I’ve been down on Live for years.

  7. Will said,

    on July 8th, 2007 at 10:55 am

    After reading your impressions on it, I’m really looking forward to it if they can add in some defense. I agree though, defense has always been one of the Live series downfalls, so hopefully, they can get it right for once.

    If the dev team knew about it, there is still PLENTY of time left to work at it, and make the necessary adjustments before release.

    Overall, it sounds pretty promising. Hopefully this year it’ll pan out.

  8. artoficial said,

    on July 8th, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Shawn,

    How was the game speed? One thing noticeable between live and 2K is the speed in which the game moves. I feel live was a bit to fast giving it an arcade feel not to mention making it tough to play “D”. On the other hand in my opinion 2K is a tad slow enough to almost put you to sleep (i guess thats what the player speed slider is for, huh). I guess i’m just wondering how the flow of the game felt.

    Please EA don’t give up on the “D” saving it for 09, that would be the death of Live.

  9. Shawn Drotar said,

    on July 8th, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Artoficial,
    The game didn’t feel arcade-like to me. It may have been faster than NBA 2K7, but if so, it wasn’t by much.

    All I can say is that the speed felt real-life enough to me that I didn’t take particular notice of it either way, which is probably a good sign.

  10. artoficial said,

    on July 9th, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    excellent, Shawn.

    Thanks for the reply and keep us up to date. I really want EA to get this one right.

  11. Iverson2Melo said,

    on July 11th, 2007 at 12:29 am

    hey, ummmm…. i have a suggestion to make… Why don’t they just disallow the “Hotspot” thing when it’s a 5v5 game and allow it to be turned on only in practice mode,so atleast there will be enough challenge and have the edge of knowing your players abilities. It kind of looked corny to me specially when your playing with another Guy and not the AI… and have you any information to give about NBA Live ‘08 for PC… hehehe, Im a PC Gamer!

    hmmm…. i can’t wait for it to be released, im hoping that it will really satisfy all of us NBA Live supporters!


  12. on July 19th, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    […] NBA Live 08 Community Day: Update 3 - The New Features […]


  13. on October 5th, 2007 at 9:01 am

    […] The first thing gamers will notice is the fluid motion (at 60 frames per second), the beautiful lighting, the vastly improved player models and excellent player-specific animations. It’s worth spending the time in the practice gym to get used to the game’s controls, namely the new right-stick “quick-strike” dribble moves and post moves, which I’ve detailed here. […]

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