Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is the new face of NBA Live. The EA Sports franchise is looking to make a splash in the next generation of consoles, and they'll being doing it with Lillard as their star athlete. Though the once-popular video game series has suffered hits to its image in recent years due to the cancellation of NBA Live 13, and the lackluster NBA Live 14, EA's Sean O'Brien, who serves as the executive producer of NBA Live 15, promises this year's edition is sure to turn heads in the sports gaming community.
As NBA Live's executive producer, O'Brien is a part of every aspect and angle of NBA Live from marketing to publishing to development. He acknowledges that his team is currently in a position where they're working to "rebuild the NBA Live brand", but he also believes that the capabilities of next-gen consoles will allow EA to create a better NBA Live title than ever.
In a conversation with Complex, O'Brien explained how the primary focus on this year's title has been "on-boarding", an element of game design which targets the audience NBA Live is most focused on winning: new players. The EA team aims to make NBA Live a painless and intuitive process for any first-time players of an NBA Live title. According to O'Brien, the newest game's on-boarding strategy will use better visuals to "create a great first impression" and improved control systems to make for a more easily accessible experience from the jump.
Next, O'Brien emphasized NBA Live's graphical capabilities and its gameplay. Though he hesitated at calling NBA Live 15 a complete overhaul from past games in the series, he did say that they've made changes both big and small in every single aspect of the newest title. The game will be more realistic and responsive than ever, allowing for greater control in passing, catching, movement, and shooting, among other categories. And thanks to the improved hardware of next-gen consoles, as well as completely new lighting and scanning techniques in visual rendering, the transition from real-life to virtual reality will be more seamless than ever.
"There's quite a bit we've done to gameplay and visuals this year that are, I think, an enormous improvement over last year's game," O'Brien says. "You can see hair, pores in skin, the different materials in a uniform and the thread and stitching. It's really quite amazing what the combination of the new lighting technique along the scanning approach has given us in this year's game."
Hopefully, those changes will extend to more than just graphics. EA is aware of the current dent in NBA Live's image. They know that there is ground to be made up after NBA Live's past shortcomings. But O'Brien ensured us that the company has taken every step to address the needs of their audience, and to correct the failures of previous years. He admits that he wasn't completely proud of NBA Live 14, and he knows the game could've been improved in a variety of ways, from graphics to gameplay to control. However, he believes that EA is on the right path toward changing these problems.
"We engaged with players and listened to what they were saying," he says. "I think the best thing we did to prove that were listening was updating [NBA Live 14], making progress, and illustrating the trajectory we're on and where we're trying to get to as we rebuild NBA Live."
"This is not a half-hearted investment," O'Brien says. EA has dedicated "a lot of people and a lot of money" to the latest Live. As the company looks to reclaim the turf won by 2K Games in recent years, we'll now see whether they've earned the right to have it back.