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NBA Live 2003 Developer Interview

Tim Tschirner founded the NBA Live Series Center way back in 1996, and together with Brien and Lutz provided the online NBA Live community with patches, editors and the latest news on NBA Live. These days, Tim works for EA as the associate producer of the NBA Live series and was kind enough to stop by his old site for an interview.

Tim, thanks for agreeing to an interview with the NLSC.

My pleasure Beggs. It’s very important to keep in touch with the fans of the series and obviously I’d like give back to the community from which I came from.

You’ve been with EA and involved in the last three NBA Live games. Are you still enjoying yourself?

Yes, absolutely. I’m having a great time working on the NBA LIVE series and trying to continually improve it. We have a terrific team and EA is just a great place to work at.

In past NBA LIVE games, a common complaint was always that moves such as crossovers, spins and fakes did little to effectively elude defenders. This year, we have the Freestyle Control. Just how much control does this give the gamer? Are fakes and other dribbling moves more effective in shaking defenders?

The Freestyle Control gives you total control over the player you are controlling. If you execute the spins, crossovers and fakes correctly and with the right player, it will give you a huge advantage in shaking your defender or breaking his ankles. We have implemented tons of cool new animations for these defensive reactions. However, make sure you use the right player or you will be unsuccessful.

Is there an option to use a classic control style, i.e. direction keys/buttons and assigned keys/buttons for shoot, pass etc?

In the console versions of NBA LIVE you can pick from a variety of Controller Configuration presets. In the PC version you can use either a supported controller or the keyboard and configure the controls to your liking. We have included a lot of configurations for popular Gamepads and these can be further customized. You can also create new configurations from scratch.

How limited will the Freestyle feature be for PC users who do not own a gamepad with a right analog stick?

When using a keyboard or a controller without analog sticks you can still pull off some Freestyle Control moves. We have changed the Spin Move/Jab-Step button to work as a trigger. When you hold it down, you can use the movement controls for Freestyle controls. This does only work from a stand-still position and not while in motion, so it gives you only a limited amount of Freestyle moves. It is definitely recommend to use a Gamepad with two analog sticks.

What kind of improvements have been made to Franchise Mode? Is it greatly different from previous years?

We have improved the Offseason by adding a new Offseason Central hub screen from which you can access all the different Offseason tasks. Two other new features are the MVP Watch which shows you which players are leading candidates for winning the MVP Award and the Upcoming Free Agents feature lets you see all players that are becoming Free Agents after the current season. It gives you a quick glance at who you might want to try and pick up in the Offseason. We have also tuned the Rookie generation process so new Rookies enter the League with Ratings that are completely in sync with the rest of the players.

Can users select the length of their Franchise (egg in 5 year increments), or will this be possible in the future?

The Franchise Mode runs over a fixed period of 25 years in the PC version and 10 years in the other versions. Selecting the length of the Franchise might be implemented in a future version of NBA LIVE.

What has been the focus in developing the game this year? Have bugs such as players being recorded as playing every game of the season unless they are on the IR (even if you do not play them in every game), Sixth Man Award winner started every game he played, etc been fixed?

Our main focus was on the Gameplay this year. Our goal was to make NBA LIVE 2003 the most fun to play Basketball game out there and I think we have completed succeeded with that. Another thing that we wanted to achieve was to make playing defense as fun as playing offense. We spent a lot of time redesigning and tuning the way blocks and steals are being executed. We wanted them to feel satisfying to the user and I am confident we have achieved that.

The problems that you mention have been fixed, for example players don’t get a Games Played stat when they didn’t play and there are new ways to choose who the Season award winners are.

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that NBA LIVE 2003 will be patcher-friendly. Can you elaborate on this at all?

We wanted to make sure that patching is easier to do, so you no longer have to toy around with the BIG files but can place your custom art into special folders. A lot of the textures in the game can be easily customized, for example the jerseys. For individual players, you can customize the face, skins, accessories and other textures like eyes, mouth, headband, shades, and shoes. You can also add uniform-specific accessories.

Will features such as in-game saves, saving Replays and screenshots, trading draft picks, three point/dunk contest, custom teams, 10 day contracts (and other possible Franchise Mode features) etc find their way back into the series/be introduced as new features?

It’s hard to speculate about what features will be in future versions of the game, especially when we just finished a title. Needless to say that we have a big wish list for the NBA LIVE series, but it has not been decided what exactly we will implement.

Is there any difference in gameplay between the PC and console versions? Consoles have often been synonymous for a more “arcade-ish” kind of basketball game, while the PC has been more of a simulation. Is this true for NBA LIVE 2003?

The gameplay in the console and PC versions is exactly the same.

Do different teams have different playing styles (eg Jazz do not play an up-tempo game like the Mavericks)?

Yes, different teams have different playing styles. This is mostly based on the players on a given team. One of the player ratings controls who takes most of the shots on a team. For example, on the Mavs this is quite high for Dirk, Nash and Finley, but quite low for Eduardo Najera. Each player will shoot or score in a manner which best suits his ability so based on this the Mavericks will run their offense through these quick, fast players and shoot from the outside or set up Isolations for them. On the Jazz, the offense goes mostly through Malone and Stockton, so they will naturally be slower. However, with any given team, they will react to the user’s playing style and if you don’t get back on defense, they will be quick to run the break on you.

Has realism been improved? Are shooting percentages and scoring closer to the real NBA?

The stats and scores you get heavily depend on your style of play. If you play a more realistic style and use the clock efficiently you will get pretty realistic scores. However, your typical scores will be higher if you like to run and gun and take a lot of easy shots. The CPU will change its style of play depending on certain game situations, the score, etc. You will have to learn how to play defense and force the CPU to take bad shots.

Have rotations been fixed? Do bench players get decent minutes and numbers?

The minutes and numbers that bench players get depend on a number of factors like the stamina of the starters and foul trouble. Teams with a deeper have a very flexible rotation while teams with weaker benches will have a less solid rotation.

Does the CPU offer multi-player blockbuster trades? Have you brought back the trade dialog box “CPU Accepts Deal – Confirm/Cancel”?

The CPU will offer you two players for two players in exchange from time to time. One of our plans going forward is to completely revamp the trading engine and logic.

How frequent are injuries outside simulating?

In-game players can only get injured after hard fouls. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to improve the in-game injury engine, but we will definitely for future versions of NBA LIVE.

Can players alternate their hairstyles (eg Ben Wallace, between afro and cornrows)?

No, this is not a feature in NBA LIVE 2003. However, I’m sure that some patchers will come up with the appropriate patches if players change their hairstyles during the season.

Will there be any more Legends added to the game this year, or in the future?

This year we have added Clyde Drexler to the 80’s All-Star team. Again, I can’t speculate what we will do in the future, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we’ll add more legendary players.

Does EA ever plan to hold an online event or tournament for NBA LIVE 2003?

Currently we have no concrete plans for holding online tournaments. However, we recently had some online events showcasing our new PS2 Online feature. Just last week we had Jason Kidd in New York playing Mike Bibby in Sacramento.

What kind of signature moves have been included in NBA LIVE 2003?

There are quite a few signature moves in NBA LIVE 2003. Although we initially designed a number of Freestyle moves based on various players signature moves, for example the Paul Pierce “Swing-the-ball-low-between-the-legs” in Triple Threat or MJ’s “Post-up-lean” or C-Webb palming the ball out from his chest, we found that these signature moves were just way too cool to limit to specific players, so we decided to allow other players to use them as well. There are also some signature celebrations in the game. Watch out for them after big plays such as huge dunks, big blocks and clutch 3s.

Will the crowd react better to gameplay?

The crowd audio has been completely revamped and sounds good like never before. There are a variety of different chants and the crowd reacts very well to how the game unfolds.

What kind of PC will you need to run NBA LIVE 2003?

The minimum requirements for the PC version are as follows:

  • Intel Pentium II 450 MHz or equivalent AMD processor
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 16 MB DirectX 8.1 compatible video card
  • Direct 8.1 compatible sound card
  • 12x CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive with 32-bit driver
  • 300 MB of free Hard Drive space
When you started the NLSC back in 1996, did you ever think you would be one day working for EA Sports?

When I started The NLSC I would never have thought that one day I’ll be actually working on the NBA LIVE series. Over the years I got in contact with EA and we communicated quite regularly, but still I didn’t think this would lead anywhere, especially with NBA LIVE being made in Canada and me living in Germany back then. However, once I got in touch with the right people at EA it didn’t seem totally impossible, but I was still in disbelief when I got the actual job offer. That was definitely a dream come true for me and I enjoy my job tremendously. I’m very grateful that I got the chance to be able to work on and actually make my favorite video game.

On behalf of the NLSC and the online NBA Live community, thank you for taking the time to provide us with an interview. We all appreciate your dedication and work on the NBA Live series.