The Friday Five: 5 Ideas for the Future of NBA Live

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.

Information and preview media for NBA Live 15 is starting to flow more freely, as we’re coming up on a month left until the game’s release. I definitely liked what I saw in the Visuals Trailer, as I feel that the game is looking like a big improvement over NBA Live 14. As I mentioned in Episode #93 of the NLSC Podcast, I’ve pre-ordered my copy of NBA Live 15 and am really looking forward to October 9th, which is when the game will be available here in Australia. If you’re in North America, you can of course get your hands on the game come October 7th.

However, as we see more of and learn more about NBA Live 15, I’m not only eager to get my hands on this year’s game and see how it plays, I’m also thinking about what can be done in future games. After all, as we get a clearer picture of NBA Live 15, we’re also finding out which things have had to go on the backburner during this production cycle, with an eye towards implementing them in NBA Live 16 and beyond. So, for this week’s Friday Five, I’m taking a look at some ideas for the future of the NBA Live series.

1. Borrow some ideas from MyLEAGUE and MyGM

Damian Lillard in NBA Live 15

When we interviewed NBA Live 15 Executive Producer Sean O’Brien, he indicated that the NBA Live Development Team doesn’t want to take a “me too” approach in developing their depth modes. I was very glad to hear that, as I do agree with that philosophy; I like the idea of having a clear alternative, and in particular, I’d definitely prefer that Rising Star avoid adopting some of the more scripted moments of MyCAREER. However, there are some concepts that I’d like to see Dynasty Mode borrow from MyLEAGUE and MyGM.

With NBA Live 15 focusing on visuals and gameplay, a focus on depth modes and customisation is currently planned for NBA Live 16. Hopefully, that means local roster saves, Create-a-Player, and perhaps some other creation utilities as well. Without a doubt, I’d certainly like to see that stuff back in the game sooner rather than later. Being the Dynasty geek that I am though, I’m really looking forward to seeing the mode get a big upgrade in the not too distant future.

The depth of MyGM and MyLEAGUE, as well as the level of customisation in the latter, is something that I’d love to have in Dynasty Mode. In-depth scouting during the season, an assortment of managerial tasks, the ability to tweak all manner of settings and tendency sliders, advanced player injury and progression systems, sim control and sim intervention…all that fun stuff. I do believe that NBA Live should take its own approach when implementing those features, but as demonstrated by NBA Live 14’s rotation menu – which is very similar to the one used in NBA 2K (and yes, I’m mentioning it again!) – a good idea is worth borrowing, and revamping as needed.

2. Bring back Freestyle Air Controls

Nerlens Noel in NBA Live 15

Sean has confirmed that tip-ins and putback dunks do exist in NBA Live 15, and will happen contextually. While that’s good to hear, and unquestionably preferable to not having them in the game at all, it would be nice to have control over them in future Lives. As I’ve mentioned before, the Freestyle Air controls that were introduced in NBA Live 2005 were an effective and intuitive way of giving us deeper control on the offensive glass, so I’d definitely like to see the concept return.

It would obviously have to fit in with the current control scheme, which no longer makes use of separate buttons for jumpshots and dunks/layups. My suggestion would be to allow tip-ins to be performed by pressing the shoot button, while putback dunks could be triggered by holding turbo and shoot, thus aping the current shooting controls. Ideally, putback dunks could occur under the rim from a standing start, or be performed by players who are sprinting into the lane to crash the boards. Naturally, a player’s dunking and athletic ratings would factor into what they can do, and how readily. Long tip-ins could also feasibly occur, if the timing is right.

I’d rather not see NBA Live’s controls overhauled unnecessarily, and this method wouldn’t require any drastic changes. Basically, it would just be making use of buttons that aren’t currently being utilised in rebounding scenarios. As NBA Live continues to deepen its controls, I’d like to see further changes along these lines; small tweaks and additions for extra layers of control, rather than sweeping changes to the familiar configuration. Otherwise, there’s a chance that the existing functionality could be compromised.

3. Allow manual control of both hands on defense

Russell Westbrook in NBA Live 15

When the official Features List was revealed for NBA Live 15, I was pleased to see that defensive improvements are one of the key points of emphasis this year. Real-time physics in the paint and the new shot blocking system will hopefully improve post play on both sides of the ball, while improvements to animations and locomotion should reduce the stiffness that we experienced in NBA Live 14. Needless to say, smoother controls will go a long way in making NBA Live 15 enjoyable to play.

Still, while it’s great that shot blocking has been improved – I really liked that swat off the glass that we saw in the Visuals Trailer – there’s another enhancement that I’d like to see made to Live’s defensive controls, namely the ability to control both hands on steal attempts. While the “dig steal” in NBA Live 14 has its uses, I’ve always liked the ability to manually swipe at the ball with the player’s left or right hand, ever since it was introduced with the adoption of right stick controls in NBA Live 2003. It’d be great to see that return, as I imagine the concept could be put to good use with bounceTEK.

Implementing similar controls for shot blocking might be a bit tougher, which is something that Arcane and I were actually discussing in the latest episode of the Podcast. Perhaps we could control whether or not players attempt to block a shot with their dominant hand, or go for the block with whichever hand is closest to the ball, thus minimising body contact to avoid committing a shooting foul. Simply pressing the block button would select the most contextually accurate option. In any event, I’d at least like to have that level of control over steals again.

4. Implement off-ball controls outside player-locked modes

Nate Robinson in NBA Live 15

This is yet another feature from previous NBA Lives that I’d like to see return in the future. While we naturally want to see CPU-controlled players demonstrating appropriate awareness of the play, or “moving with a purpose” as it’s been described – and according to the official Features List, we should indeed be seeing more of that in NBA Live 15 – it’s impossible for the AI to always accurately predict what we’re trying to do, especially when we’re not running a set play.

To that end, it would be handy if NBA Live featured simple controls to execute give-and-go plays, retain control of the passer when desired, or switch control to a player without the ball. That way, we can get creative in making cuts, position players outside of a set play, or just let the AI handle the ballhandling duties every now and again. Ideally, we’d also be able to execute different spins, fakes, and other elusive moves using the right stick. With simple give-and-go controls, such as holding down the pass button to retain control of the passer, we could also easily and effectively run the two-man game.

The added bonus of expanding these off-ball controls, as well as any improvements that may be made to teammate AI, is that they would obviously be put to good use in Rising Star and player-locked BIG Moments challenges as well. Admittedly, an off-ball trigger might be a little more complicated to implement than the Freestyle Air controls, as the right stick button is currently being utilised to enter and exit the “back to the basket” stance. Nevertheless, there should be a way to get it back into the game without causing too much chaos with the current controller configuration.

 5. Return to the PC platform

Dwyane Wade in NBA Live 15

It probably won’t surprise anyone that I’m mentioning this in another Wishlist-type edition of The Friday Five. However, it’s something that’s definitely worth mentioning again and again, because if we want EA Sports to consider a return to the platform – not to mention continued PC releases from 2K Sports – then we must actively demonstrate our support and enthusiasm for basketball gaming on the PC. So yes, it’s something that I’ll be sure to mention from time to time in the Five.

Now, a return to the PC platform unfortunately doesn’t seem imminent. When we asked Sean about the possibility of a PC return, he gave us a frank answer that put the situation into perspective: NBA Live needs to rebuild as a brand and be successful on its current platforms before it can expand into others, including PC. Therefore, it’s not only important that we demonstrate our interest in having NBA Live on PC, but also support the series on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well. After all, it’s difficult to argue that the fanbase is eager for a PC release, if they’re showing very little interest in the series to begin with.

I probably don’t need to outline the reasons why we want to see NBA Live (and of course, NBA 2K) on PC. I’ve thought about writing a Friday Five on that subject, but it really just comes down to a couple of main reasons: patching and convenience. With NBA 2K15 PC being a port of the PS4/X1 version, and with NBA Live continuing to make strides, it’s my hope that we’ll eventually see Live back on PC. Once again, it seems highly unlikely to happen next year, but hopefully as NBA Live improves and regains popularity, the likelihood of a PC version will increase.

That’s all for now. Are you looking forward to NBA Live 15? What ideas and wishes do you have for the future of the series? Have your say in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in this week, please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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September 6, 2014 11:46 am

I think not only NBA Live should comeback on PC, but also NHL and Madden. For right now the only game from EA Sports on PC is FIFA. Of course there are many mods for Madden 08 and NHL 2004 or 09, but it would nice to see new version of this games on PC.