EA Sports has an uphill battle to fight in regaining the respect of its basketball fans after the hot mess that was NBA Live 14. Uninteresting gameplay modes and sloppy graphics revealed the game to be a slapdash rush job, seemingly shoved out the door before it was ready for the spotlight in a quixotic attempt at producing a next-gen launch title.
Executive producer Sean O’Brien wants to make amends, and he says as much in an open letter to the fans. He’s aware of the problems that plagued 2013’s game, and he expresses an earnest desire to do better this year. In practice the letter reads very similarly to a previous open letter that O’Brien published after the release of NBA Live 14 to apologize for all of its shortcomings. This time around, the developers are taking a cue from the rising culture of open development and sharing their process with the fans earlier.
“As I’ve said previously, we know we fell short in two major areas with NBA LIVE 14. 5-on-5 gameplay didn’t have the depth and polish of an EA Sports game and our visuals just weren’t up to expectations for a next-gen title,” O’Brien wrote. “We’ve been laser-focused on making sure that this isn’t the case with NBA LIVE 15 and I’m really excited with our progress in those two areas.”
For more realistic gameplay, the EA Tiburon went to the source, interviewing coaches in order to better distill their strategic considerations into sharper AI that better mirrors the specific tactical character of particular teams. Graphically, the previous game showed glimmers of the new console technology’s capabilities in inanimate areas like fabric and lighting, but stumbled on the near side of the Uncanny Valley when it came to anything human. To that end, the team has taken head scans of nearly the entire league, to stick on top of their newly-redesigned player models.
“We have very lofty goals for NBA LIVE 15, and we knew that the most important thing we could do to improve our chances for achieving these goals was to put our heads down and work as hard as possible with minimal distractions,” O’Brien wrote.
EA will start sharing gameplay from NBA Live 15 in July, followed by a steady drip of in-depth coverage leading up to its release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 7.