This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the EA Graphics Editor.
Although our modding community continues to produce excellent content for the most recent NBA 2K games, the process has become a little more difficult from NBA 2K15 onwards. While the decision to port the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version to the PC has allowed the platform to receive the best version of the current release, it has put a few limitations on what can be achieved through modding. At the very least, it’s made the process a little tougher. This has led to people in the community expressing their frustration with the current state of modding.
I can certainly sympathise with that point of view, and I’d love to see future versions of NBA 2K be more modder-friendly. However, I also remember the early days of modding NBA Live on PC. I’ve talked about how difficult it could be in a previous Wayback Wednesday feature, though it’s something that got better over time; not just because of changes to the games, but also thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of the people making the tools. Undoubtedly, one of the most impressive and important tools is the EA Graphics Editor. It’s a modding tool that’s served us well for a long time, so let’s take a look back…way back…
In the early days of NBA Live modding, people like Tim, Lutz, and Brien created some great mods despite the limitations at hand. With the tools that they made, we were able to add missing players with correct bio data, modify existing players well before in-game editing functions were available, and do some nifty things beyond simply keeping the rosters up to date. We were kind of stuck when it came to the art files, though. Through hex editing, we could change pointers to use the “No Portrait Available” portrait, or even use the custom team logos for one of the NBA teams, but we couldn’t create brand new artwork.
That changed with the release of the EA Graphics Editor. Created by Brien and first released in 1998, the EA Graphics Editor – also called EAGraph and EAGE for short – was a tool that allowed modders to open the art files for various EA games. Complete files or individual textures could be exported and imported, allowing them to be modified and manipulated by other image editing software. EAGraph itself included some basic image editing features, so in the early days at least, it could feasibly be used as an all-in-one graphics editing tool for NBA Live on PC. The tool was updated consistently for years, with Brien diligently fixing bugs and adding new features.
Needless to say, the creation of the EA Graphics Editor led to an explosion in the variety of mods that we saw for NBA Live. Once modders were able to access all of the default textures, it wasn’t long before they learned how to modify them and create custom faces, portraits, jerseys, courts, and more. This eventually led to the creation of some very comprehensive mods, though in the early days, larger downloads tended to be rare due to restrictive hosting facilities and slow connections. Nevertheless, a modding revolution had begun, and EAGraph was being put to good use for a variety of projects and standalone releases. Mods could change the game like never before.
One downside of the tool being constantly updated was that some compatibility with earlier games in the NBA Live series was lost in newer versions. If you open the files from NBA Live 95-97 in one of the most recent versions of the EA Graphics Editor, you’ll notice that the colours are often incorrect. If you were working with one of the older games, it was best to use a discontinued version of EAGE in order to avoid such errors. Unfortunately, as the years passed, it became more difficult to get a hold of those older versions. As it stands, we only have six versions of EAGraph available in our Downloads section, including the final release (1.0.4b).
When Brien retired from the community in 2003, updates to the EA Graphics Editor also concluded. Within a few years, the tool could no longer be used to open and modify the texture files within NBA Live’s .viv archives. That didn’t mark the end of the tool’s usefulness, however. It could still be used to import and export files, with its GUI interface making it easier to use than some of the other utilities that handled importing to and exporting from the .viv files. While tools like FshX and FshEd handled the textures in later years, EAGraph was still the most user-friendly means of extracting those files so that they could be opened with those aforementioned utilities.
EA’s efforts to make their PC releases more modder-friendly certainly helped in the creation of tools like the EA Graphics Editor, but credit also has to go to Brien for his hard work in continuing to develop and refine it over the course of five years. The tool came a long way since its initial release, and the fact that it was still useful as of NBA Live 08 – the final PC release in the series to date – makes it one of the most important tools that we’ve had in our modding community. If you still enjoy dusting off old NBA Live games to create the occasional mod, it remains an essential part of your modding toolkit.