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 replay editing and uploading functionality in NBA Live 09.
Instant replay is nothing new in sports video games. Bulls vs Lakers, the sequel to Lakers vs Celtics, introduced the feature to EA’s original basketball series. Since then it’s become a staple of the genre, one that we’ve used to re-watch our finest (or most frustrating) moments on the virtual hardwood. Although subsequent games have introduced welcome features such as multiple camera angles, the ability to manually trigger cinematic replays, and even video exporting functionality, not many games have had extensive replay editing tools. EA’s Michael Jordan in Flight was an early title that did, but since then, it’s generally been a rarity.
When the ability to save replays returned in NBA Live 09, EA Sports took things a step further and included replay editing tools, as well as sharing functionality. With some of the other improvements in NBA Live 09, such as the implementation of Dynamic DNA, it’s a feature that is arguably somewhat overlooked. It’s well worth revisiting however, so let’s take a look back…way back…
Saving replays is actually quite an old concept when it comes to basketball games. The aforementioned Michael Jordan in Flight allowed users to save clips, watch them again from the main menu, and manipulate camera angles and replay speed. The PC versions of NBA Live 98 through NBA Live 2000 included a save replay function that was basically an offshoot of the in-game saves feature, and NBA Live 2001 added full video exporting functionality, though there were no post-production or other editing tools in any of those titles. When replay editing was finally introduced in NBA Live 09, it built upon those concepts that we’d seen in its predecessors.
Upon entering instant replay in NBA Live 09, you were immediately presented with the full suite of replay editing tools. In contrast to games like Michael Jordan in Flight, this meant that you didn’t save the replay and then edit it later. The approach of editing replays on the fly did have the potential to break the flow of gameplay, and it’s not something that you’d likely do during a local multiplayer game unless you had a very patient friend. Nevertheless, it was arguably more convenient, at least in terms of saving time later. The replays that you saved were sorted by game mode under the Career Highlights menu, which made them easier to find.
Replay editing began by setting markers on the timeline to indicate the beginning and end of the clip. Once this had been done, additional markers could be set between the start and end points, in order to split the clip into segments. Markers could also be cleared and added as needed. With the markers set, the Edit Clip function was used to edit the highlighted segment on the timeline. From here, you could select the target (ball, player, or court), choose a fixed camera angle (or set one up with Free Cam), and adjust the playback speed (such as slow or fast motion). This allowed for camera angle changes, cuts to other players, and even differing speeds through the clip.
These changes weren’t reflected on the timeline on the main instant replay screen, so there was a Preview button that allowed you to see how the edited clip was shaping up. Once you were satisfied with your edits, the clip could be encoded and saved to your Career Highlights library. After that was done, it was possible to make further changes, and either overwrite the original replay save, or create and save additional clips, before returning to the game. Although the replay editing tools were relatively basic, they were easy to use, and nevertheless effective in terms of producing some slick replays. There was even an option to save screenshots.
In addition to being able to view your videos and screenshots in the Career Highlights menu, saved replays could be seen playing on the big screen in the practice arena. Media could also be uploaded to EA Sports World, a now-defunct community hub, either during a game or from the Career Highlights library. There was an upload limit of five videos and five screenshots per user, per EA Sports title, but it was possible to download your files before deleting them to make room for new uploads. As such, this was an effective method of copying media from your console to PC, in order to upload it to other services such as YouTube and image hosting websites.
Overall, replay editing was a great feature. Not only could you save memorable moments for posterity, but you could share them quickly and easily without a capture card. Without the inbuilt functionality that we now have with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it was extremely handy. Of course, it did have its drawbacks. EA Sports World was eventually abandoned, and even before that happened, it was no longer accessible once online support had been discontinued for a title. Much like the file sharing capabilities of the EA Locker, it was very useful while a game was still being supported, but completely useless years later.
With that being said, NBA Live 09 gamers were able to make use of the EA Sports World upload facilities for some time after the game’s release. Replay editing functionality returned in NBA Live 10, and the extended support for that game also allowed uploads to continue for years afterwards. An example of that can be found in Kenny’s Dynasty story, “The Next Level“. Even without the online functionality, however, the replay editing and saving tools in NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10 are quite nifty. It was great to have an in-game library of your favourite moments, not to mention the ability to control the cinematography and edit clips to your liking.
To that end, it’s a shame that we haven’t seen replay editing return since the series was rebooted in 2013 with NBA Live 14. Some of the in-built functionality of today’s consoles – as well as the affordability of quality capture cards – arguably alleviates the need for it, but it would still be awesome to be able to save and edit clips in-game. Taking it a step further, I’m sure that a lot of gamers would like to be able to create mixes and highlight reels using saved clips, complete with post-production effects. Obviously there have been other priorities in recent NBA Live games, but hopefully it’s an idea that the team at EA Tiburon can revisit.
As it stands, it was one of a few excellent new features in NBA Live 09. I’ve mentioned it a few times in my 20th Anniversary of NBA Live articles, but it’s easy to forget that there was a time when EA Sports were being very innovative with the NBA Live series, and NBA Live 09’s replay editing is another prime example of that. It was arguably a little ahead of its time, and with that in mind, it’s probably fair to say that it’s a feature that could be done even better today. I hope that EA does revisit the concept for future NBA Live games, but until then, NBA Live 09’s replay editing stands as a feature from an older game that is definitely worth remembering.