NBA Live 10: Changing the Game

"We're moving away from spreadsheet ratings… that's 'videogame speak.' All the stuff we've done [with NBA Live 10], that's what I want to see driving player ratings."- NBA Live producer Sean O'BrienThere's a little revolution brewing up in the NBA Live...


"We're moving away from spreadsheet ratings… that's 'videogame speak.' All the stuff we've done [with NBA Live 10], that's what I want to see driving player ratings."

- NBA Live producer Sean O'Brien

There's a little revolution brewing up in the NBA Live franchise, one that I think is going to change the way sports videogames are made… once the rest of the world catches up, that is. There's plenty that's new happening with this year's NBA Live 10--as I saw earlier this week when EA Sports producers came by to show off the game. I'll get to the big changes in Live, but I'd like to start with an aspect of the game that I think might turn out to be the most significant change to how sports games are going to be made in the coming years, and it has to do with player ratings.

The Ratings Game

Player ratings are always a hot topic in sports games. Whether it's arguing about the relative ratings of Michael Vick and Brett Favre as they return to Madden NFL 10, or discussing where you think Florida quarterback Tim Tebow should be rated in this year's NCAA Football 10, it's a constant back-and-forth, one that is reflected in sports games via frequent roster updates. But, like so much else in sports, there's an element of bias in player ratings that is sometimes difficult to reconcile with the facts. In some cases the bias is overt--as might be the case in the Vick or Favre debates, where fan controversy stokes the fires. But even in situations where player performance and statistics drives the ratings decisions--as is the case with the sports game developers at companies like EA Sports and 2K Sports who assign the ratings to players--the simple fact of the matter is that, at its core, an attribute rating is often a judgment call.

That is set to change, and NBA Live is leading the way. That's because more and more of the player data in NBA Live is being driven directly by the so-called Dynamic DNA system, which was introduced in 2008's NBA Live 09. Dynamic DNA takes the metric ton of data recorded by the Synergy scouting service (who partners with EA Sports in this feature) and feeds it directly into Live. As a result, if you're playing Live, you have a direct feed as to what is happening with every player and every team in the NBA, thanks to the daily downloads available in the game.

According to producers, the NBA Live team barely scratched the surface of what Dynamic DNA could do with NBA Live 09. This time around, the data being pulled into the game has been expanded--with more categories of stats being used--and that data will surface in the game in a slightly different way. Most importantly to me, though, is the process of how the Live team is handling their player ratings.

This year, the Synergy data has an extreme focus on shooting tendencies for players. Bring up a player's DNA data and you'll see a level of shooting detail that breaks down his entire offensive game--not based on an arbitrary rating assigned to him, but from actual on-court percentages.

Here's some of the information on the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, pulled from the DNA Scouting Report in the NBA Live 10 demo:

Scoring Tendencies
25% At the Basket
56% Jump Shots
19% Post-Ups

Perimeter Tendencies
33% Drive Left
46% Pulls Up
53% Finish at the Basket
33% Drives Right
46% Pulls Up
54% Finish at the Basket
34% No-Dribble Jumper

Post Tendencies
43% Turn Left
43% Turn Right
14% Faceup
Jump Shots Overall
42% Jump Shots

[Jump Shot] Range Breakdown
46% Short
43% Mid-Range
37% 3 Point Shots

[Jump Shot] Situation Breakdown
50% No Dribble Unguarded
37% No Dribble Guarded
43% Off-Dribble

From these percentages, you can derive a fairly sophisticated picture of Kobe's offensive game--and, when compared to DNA data in the past, a detailed account of how Bryant's game has changed over the years. It's this kind of data that is driving a good chunk of Bryant's actual player ratings in NBA Live 10. Producers told me that approximately 70 percent of NBA Live 10's player ratings are determined by Synergy data, and t hat number is expected to only increase in coming years.

"The goal is to have all player ratings driven by actual Synergy data," game producer Sean O'Brien told me. "We're moving away from spreadsheet ratings… that's 'videogame speak.' All the stuff we've done [with NBA Live 10], that's what I want to see driving player ratings."

While the focus for DNA is on offense this year, already the team is planning for next year: they're working with Synergy to develop and import a host of new defensive stats into next year's game, making the ratings of players in next year's NBA Live 11 that much more complete.

While the idea of having player ratings driven by hard numbers is an enticing one, it's obvious that this kind of extensive data has a value all its own. EA has already trumpeted the Dynamic DNA service as a scouting service for NBA teams--and if the feature expands as it looks like it will, it's practically inevitable that EA will find a way to monetize it as a premium service. They've already done something very similar, in fact, with last year's FIFA 09; the Adidas Live Season featured on-the-fly roster updates that were free for one league of the player's choice, if you wanted data from additional leagues, you had to pay for it.

It seems just a matter of time before players are paying for the privilege of keeping up with the NBA via Dynamic DNA.

NBA… Courtside

While Dynamic DNA is driving so much under NBA Live 10's hood, it isn't the whole story. The team behind the Live's gameplay are quick to own up to the mistakes of previous Live games, yet quick to focus on what's been improved for NBA Live 10. Controls are first and foremost--in addition to tweaks made to well-received features like last year's pick and roll controls, there's some new additions to gameplay specifically designed to let advanced Live players get more out of their team. The goal, producers told me, is to get the player thinking about playing all over the court--not just looking for the dunk or the three-pointer.

First up are "solution layups", which gives you more control when driving towards the basket to drop one in. When you get close to the hoop, you can go either to the left or the right of the basket by pressing the left stick in the correct direction and pressing the shoot button. These solution layups are great for advanced Live players who are looking to beat defenders on either side of the basket. For certain skilled players in the game--such as nimble guards like Steve Nash or Manu Ginobli--you'll have access to specific moves designed to help you get around that first defender--by holding down the right trigger and moving the left stick you'll be able to beat your defender with specialized moves like the pro step layup, Euro step layup, and the spin layup.

You've got several options for passing in NBA Live 10--in addition to icon passing, which is pulled off by holding the left trigger and then choosing the corresponding icon of the player you wish to pass to, you've also got options like freestyle passing. Freestyle passes are controlled by holding down the left stick and moving the right stick in any direction. The direction you move the right stick will determine which direction you pass the ball.

The new direct pass receiver control is a big help for players looking to get their CPU teammates into position on the floor, without having to always call a set play. To do so, you hold the left trigger and the button of the player you wish to pass to. With that button held down, you now have complete control over where that player moves on the court--and releasing the player button will cause your original player to pass the ball. In theory it sounds tough but, in practice based on my time with the game, it's a pretty easy way to create some space, or get a player driving to the basket where they otherwise might not. A similar control feature allows you to control an off-ball player without throwing a pass, in essence creating a temporary player lock. To do so, you once again hold down the left trigger and press the button of the player you wish to control. Once you've switched player, you let go of the left trigger while still holding your teammate's button. Once you let go of the button, you'll be locked into an offball player and can do things like call off ball screens to help get that player free in order to set up an easy play.

The one-on-one battles between NBA stars is why so many of the leagues fans love it and, knowing this, the developers are looking to make those battles more prevalent in the game as well. To that end, size-up moves (a series of fancy dribbles that is executed with the right trigger/R2 during a stationary dribble) can help you break down an opposing defender. The longer you hold it, the better chance you have of breaking his ankles once you decide to move--and there are also attacking size up moves you can do by mixing in the right stick with the right trigger held. In an attempt at balance, using size-up dribbles for too long and your defender will have window in which he can snatch the ball out of your hands.

NBA Live 10 is also utilizing some of the ideas from last year's NCAA Basketball 09, including the post moves down low as well as that game's "team tempo" feature. While the team tempo variables aren't brought to the surface via the HUD as they were in NCAA 09, it sounds like they will work in a similar way, in that you'll need to play your team the correct way or else your team's abilities will suffer. Coupling team tendencies with the advanced player statistics available to players via the Dynamic DNA, as well as a ton of team-specific sets available in the game, and it seems like knowing your team and its players will pay off bigger dividends than ever before NBA Live 10.

Most of my demo focused on the full version NBA Live 10, including details a big feature that I can't talk about just yet, but EA also left code of the Live 10 demo that will be released in the coming weeks. The demo features a two-quarter match-up (four minutes apiece) between last year's NBA Finalists, the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers. Things that are immediately noticeable in the demo, beyond some of the new gameplay mechanics described above include better body-to-body contact between players, ball physics that make sense more often than not (something I could rarely claim in previous versions of Live) and busier CPU teammates on the floor. Of course, it all remains to be seen for the full version of NBA Live 10 but, at least from the demo, things seem to be looking up.

Baseline

In the short-term, I think NBA Live 10 holds a good deal of promise--the game looks better and the developers seem dead-set on making the gameplay is improved as well. However, it's the long-term impact of NBA Live's approach to game development and player progression that intrigues me the most. Player ratings based on a constant stream of hard data rather than subjective judgment have been a long time coming and it's clear that--should the Live team figure out a way to integrate Synergy's exhaustive NBA data into the game's ever-improving AI--the future of sports gaming will take another leap forward.
Look for much more on NBA Live 10 in the coming weeks ahead of the game's October 6 release.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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81 comments
DonaldRaymond
DonaldRaymond

This guy " Krol_23 " is VERY confused....He does NOT know basketball...The NBA Live 10 preview sounds like a bunch of confusion...Nothing compares to the NBA 2K series....Live is way behind in the realism department

Krol_23
Krol_23

2k is too arcadey. Live is more realistic. I just want to see more broadcast style stuff in the game, just like ea did with madden 10. It would be great to see what marv albert looks like video game style, let alone a real halftime show and report in dynasty would be top notch

Gerk123
Gerk123

2k>Live Its been obvious that live isnt up to par compared to the 2k games

buggin_out1985
buggin_out1985

Had to adress the haters real quick. Anyways Live is looking awesome this year and so is 2k. I espescially love th Synergy Sports determined player ratings. This should make for some ultra realistic ratings that are based on actual numbers and and a computer, rather than a potentially bias developer deciding how good the players are, and also put an end to arguments over ratings. All I can say is that it's great to be a basketball fan this year. 2 companies going neck & neck to bring fans the best NBA sim. This is what competition is all about. Madden and the baseball & hockey games should take notes.

buggin_out1985
buggin_out1985

I love how everytime gamespot posts something about Live, the haters/2k fanboys flock over to bash it and whenever someone has something positive to say about Live or something remotely critical or negative about 2k, they get insulted and thumbed down until nobody can see thier comment anymore. Are you guys on 2k's payroll or something?? The "forget about DNA and work on the gameplay!!!" comments are really getting old. Have you been in a coma for the past 3 months?? EA's been talking in-depth about massive gameplay improvements for months now. Are you really so far up 2k's ass that you'll disregard all the hard work that the EA team has been doing this year? All I ask is that you please get off 2k's nutsack for 1 second and give credit where credit is due.

Jib_jib2003
Jib_jib2003

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Jib_jib2003
Jib_jib2003

NBA live 99 , 2000 2001 2003 were pretty good,,, this one still look more like cartoon,,,it shoud have better presentation, NBA2K10 is much better graphic, realistic and well broadcasting.

jonzilla_basic
jonzilla_basic

Honestly their best version was Live 95. 96 was good but its been all down hill from there.

drzSpartan809
drzSpartan809

still not a game that's expected to out sell 2K10.

master_49
master_49

What is EA doing? I've been playing Live since 96 and own many versions from then till now, on different platforms. Then came 2K and blew them away. Yet, I still purchased 07, 08, 09 in the hopes things would get better. 09 fixed the sloppy framerate from 08 and strange 'superstar' controls from 07, but...man...more DNA? Really?

ALLSTAR_RICAN
ALLSTAR_RICAN

nba live sucks and always will suck, 2k is the greates basketball game out there 2k is king ;)

POP-TTT
POP-TTT

the players in the picturess doesnt look good. I hope they will put more camera modes in live this year because in 09 there was only like 4 or something and i couldnt play with any of them normaly..

rianbrito
rianbrito

live always seems to be a few steps behind 2k (or a lot of steps behind)

kidsmoov
kidsmoov

Geek moment: I have big fears with applying stats to player tendencies and using that to drive in-game behavior. If not done with extreme caution and specificity, all of the context is lost. For instance, Kobe's an assassin (even though I can't stand the guy) and attacks weaknesses in the defense. His tendencies will be dominated on any given night based on the matchup. When he plays LeBron, he takes it to him with finesse and fundamentals, so you'll see a lot of turnarounds, step back-hesitation, and head fakes to alleviate or use LeBron's athleticism against him. Put him against Kevin Martin and he's a completely different player. It's all blow-bys, power-drives, and post-up backdowns. Over the course of the season, these average out. But if you apply his last game against KM to the LeBron matchup, it's broken. We haven't even scratched the surface on team defenses, how well they rotate, etc..

Dakota_West
Dakota_West

Taylorh725, the reason why people are wearing so much blue is because it's the playoffs and the Magic are at home. You can actually tell that because of the Insignia of the NBA Trophy on the player's jersey. Don't bash before you see all of the small details. side note: I have been to a playoff games and the shirts are pretty much free at the door in support of your Home Playoff team. Peace. Live is making an effort...and there is still 2 modes that are not mentioned. I'm going to wait for October 6th and not pass judgment now. Also, please don't speak of the demo. Everything is not in a demo. That's why they are demos. GO BOTH GAMES.....i want them to both improve so I can make my choice on October 6th. HF

moses341
moses341

ATTENTION: PEOPLE AT LIVE 2010 - You can come up with as many stupid ideas to make the package look or sound enhanced or updated, but the bottom line is that GAMEPLAY is what matters most. And in that department, your game sucks right now, and has for a couple of years. I don't care WHATSOEVER about the numbers behind the atributes - I don't car about the zero's and one's... 2K series plays better, and that's why I buy it.

ShastyMacNasty
ShastyMacNasty

so what happens to Yao Ming's synergy now? Or if your using a player in season mode and he goes down for the season how does it affect his player likeness in the game ??? plus daily downloads seems like a hassle ...

360freak5
360freak5

the nba live games are dissapointing they always have been much worse then the 2k series

xXBon3ZXx
xXBon3ZXx

wow nba live adds size up moves, nd hustle animations now? 2k already had these for a while, nd i guess u still can't do put back dunks in nba live10

hiphopballer
hiphopballer

wow this is nothing compared to 2K10. this is the reason i rent live and buy 2k.

datniccah187
datniccah187

NBA live can't even come close to 2k. If you want a real basketball sim go with 2k. If you want an arcade game with shotty stiff graphics go live. Live just doesn't look natural they need a complete overhaul. They can have all the dna and tendencies they want but if they dont fix there gameplay, and physics, and just overall look it wont matter. I'll play the demo i'll always give a game a chance, but i'm sure it will be the same ol' live. 2k all the way just honest talking.

twashington9737
twashington9737

Many of you sound like idiots like gotflow talking about how 2K already had something like DNA or whatever dumb point you were trying to make. AFTER DNA/365 was announced, 2K TRIED to come up with something to counter it. Guess what it was - Living Rosters. With Living Rosters there was ONE person trying to update the ratings. Doesn't quite work the same way. Get your facts straight. I love how biased people say the lamest garbage to try to defend whatever. I like BOTH games for different reasons. Last year, I rocked with 2K9 only but liked what Live 09 had going for it based on the demo. The year before that, I stayed with Live 08 for the most part but did buy 2K8 a little later yet couldn't deal with the ugly, "I REALLY don't look like my real life NBA counterpart" player models. Anyway, this game sounds and looks good. Just need a demo to judge. 2K10 sounds and looks good ,too, based on a hands-on preview on operationsports.com and the pics I've seen. Need a vid to further go on as well as a demo. I may have to get both, again, like the 08 versions. I'll see...

ray_dog_253
ray_dog_253

Damn!!! SMH at all these comments. You guys seriously need to grow up, and quit with some of this BS you post. Come on, your not only making 2k look bad but gamers in general. LOL, peace.

taylorh725
taylorh725

omg look at lamar odoms face graphics suck look at the crowd everyone is wearing blue unrealistic go look at 2k please dnt waste money on this game its not competing with 2k this yr nxt yr or 3 yrs from now

gotflow
gotflow

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

HBM_7
HBM_7

It looks Fantastique

Nuk1euz
Nuk1euz

This is excellent news. the DNA technology will take away the need to create ratings after EVERY single season. Saves them some work, and maybe they will put this time they save into other aspects of the game. As far as Franchise Mode is concerned, they should take a lot of notes from EA's own Fifa Manager, which is one of the deepest Soccer GM games in the world.

bf210
bf210

Its gonna take more than roster updates to win me over from 2K sorry EA

Truf89
Truf89

Live 1989 was fun..got to run around and push people haha...then then next one I had got was 2004...so ima wait again

YungFreshLive
YungFreshLive

NBA Live is not a-live, its dead. 2K is where its at

Riisu
Riisu

Noizy ball..

mattastic8
mattastic8

2k9 already had everyones tattoos and now Live 10 is just introducing it, 2k is just always one step ahead of Live.

hungry_andrew
hungry_andrew

You guys wont find my "DNA" anywhere on or near this piece of trash. How about focusing on GAMEPLAY and ANIMATIONS> DNA this DNA that, gimmie a break.

Shotz1284
Shotz1284

Looks like EA Sports is definitely going after some of the glaring issues but im skeptical. I want this game just as badly as i wanted Madden but i have to pass on both of them. I love sports games but the slight annual improvements frustrate me to no end. These games cost way too much for me to justify the purchase. It always feels like a patch for the previous years game with fancy new menus and revised rosters.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

I don't know if Live can take down the awesome NBA 2K.... but this is the first 'Live' game in a while I'm actually looking forward to checking out... at least with the demo.

buggin_out1985
buggin_out1985

"Pro is a little tougher but if you've played a basketball game in the last few years you'll want to hop right into all-star. Here you'll need to strategize and play fairly authentic basketball to be successful. It's my preferred mode of play. Superstar essentially forces you to play perfect basketball. I haven't braved this one yet" "but for the first time in a long while I'm not quite sure who will take the NBA videogame crown this season." -IGN

Mike4842003
Mike4842003

A perfect example of why Live is in the toilet when it comes against 2k. They're working on improving all this offense stuff, then say they're doing the same for defense....NEXT YEAR. Why didn't they just improve both right now for this game instead of holding off for next year for defense? Now I know why I hate Live so much, it's stupid things like that. Everything they have improved on in Live 10 , 2K9 already did last year. It's just pathetic. Like some people have said they need to start over from scratch and take notes from 2k, although they should have started doing that years ago.

ludacrisx04
ludacrisx04

Damn, no love for live here lol.. GO 2k. cant even remember the last nbalive game i played.

JpSega1
JpSega1

you guys forget about the brand new soundtrack for live 10, every year its a new soundtrack. 2k all the way for every sport game!!!!!!!

johnnycautious
johnnycautious

The DNA system is a good idea. They'll need that to try to catch up with 2K A-GAIN! Live is more of a name, like Madden, except it sucks... The players just run up and down the court at the speed of light. There is no strategy, they move like they're on ice skates, and the player models suck. Just re-do the whole d*mn game EA! And try not to screw it up like you did Fight Night Round 4!

supadave841
supadave841

All i know is that the 2k series surpasses the EA franchise in NBA sims. Live has been utter trash ever since the 2k series came out. Live reminds me of NBA showtime or NBA Jam, has stiff gameplay mechanics and looks terrible, where the 2k games feel authentic, genuine fun and realistic.

sleepyj327
sleepyj327

As bad as this game could potentially be. I can honestly say that at least EA is making a conscious effort to improve this game.

KoolzKatz
KoolzKatz

this is where EA gets under my skin. Looking at the success of this DNA mode and possibly going forward and having people pay for it, is downright an annoying move. Wat good is it to expect the public to buy a game for $60 only to charge them more if they want a big feature of the game in Dynamic DNA. So u r having to pay more $$$ because u want a more realistic experience. That is something I hope doesnt happen but i dont see it not happening.

MrTehbigcheese
MrTehbigcheese

the onli this i dont like about 2k is that the assosiation simulation is bad.. u can give kobe/lebron a 99 rating with maxed tendencies and they end up scoring 20 ppg... insted of 30 or something.. and all the teams have a record of 40-42 or something like that... the top team is like 49-33.. i kno this is a bad point but its quite important imo.

MrTehbigcheese
MrTehbigcheese

this game is looking good, but ea says this stuff year after year lol..2k will be better and thats a fact.. and to the guy that said nba like will get 7 n 2k will get 8, ur completly right.. that happens evry year lol.. but this year 2k might get a lil more cuz thr adding lots of more features... newaiz... whats 2k does is, they add more features that make the game better , what ea does is, they remove the things ppl didnt like in the previous games.. the top team is like 49-33.. i kno this is a stupid point but its quite important imo.