I recently got the chance to see NBA Live 13 in action and while the results weren't the greatest to be sure, there were some helpful tidbits of information you could gather from my initial viewing. The NBA Live 13 team showed us an early pre-alpha version of the game, which according to the Developers, was 60% complete -- so it was a quite early version of the game which probably won't represent the final product, at least that's the theory I'm working with for now.
The main focus behind NBA Live 13 are three key building blocks which the entire game is being built around for the future: gameplay, presentation, and online.
NBA Live 13 is trying to give the user as much control as possible, with the ability to break out of any animation at any time. The team showed off a triple threat animation and a pass out of a jumper, but it wasn't anything jaw dropping to be sure. Actually, the dunks didn't look bad, but the speed of the moves and the players seemed too fast to me (more on that later).
In the post game, offensive and defensive players are independent of each other, so you will see a variety of animations down low between both players. I wish they would have showed some better examples. Instead, they showed a couple of post game moves with Durant guarding LeBron in the paint. They both banged a little and Bron branched out of it and shot a turnaround jump shot.
The animations looked robotic and not very good at all in the demo. While the overall graphics package looks pretty solid sans-animations, if the animations aren't there then the whole package falls apart quickly. It's entirely possible that this is due to the early build of the game, but what we were shown wasn't up to snuff to be sure.
In the next example, 'Bron does a drop step and the users controller starts to rumble, depending on how hard Durant is trying to push Bron away from the bucket. The controller actually rumbles more if the contact becomes more physical. When timed right, the user will be able to get the drop step and get to the rim. This animation looked a little better and the fingers actually wrapped around the rim on the dunk. Still, nothing really mind blowing here but it is what it is.
While the team showed the offensive moves, they didn't show how the defense can actually defend it. It seemed more offensive friendly, but they did say the defense has a counter for every offensive move and vice versa. Just found it strange, they didn't show any examples of it. Perhaps that is coming later?
Another new feature in Live 13 is a new partnership between EA Sports and Synergy, the official data provider to the NBA. They track all player moves and shots in a database and gives EA access to that database. The AI plays to those strengths and weaknesses, but will also learn from experiences in the game.
They showed some real life footage between the Bulls and Hornets. The footage showed how a certain play the Bulls ran, had a second option if a team defended the first, and the team tended to indicate this dynamic and realistic play depth would make it's way into the game in some form. I found it odd that they showed real life footage, instead of showing it in the game which may indicate the feature isn't fully finished just yet. The Live 13 guys claim they have the tech to make it happen, but that is about as far as they talked about it at this juncture.
ESPN is integrated with the game, so the graphics and transitions are ESPN broadcast quality. When showing the players and teams warm up, it uses the same camera angles ESPN uses during an actual game, and it will be different, depending on arena. Mo-caps were used during pre-game, substitutions, halftime and postgame routines.
Player authenticity was important to the team, as they actually spent a lot of time on each player's likeness. All player accessories have been included, as well as signature emotions from some of the top athletes, however no names were given as to which players got the extra treatment.
Online gaming is another one of the building blocks mentioned by the team and is being treated as very important. NBA LIve 13 will rely on the EA servers to keep everything going smoothly with the plan to keep user experiences fresh with new updates all season long.
Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen lead the way with their commentary in the game. While it was difficult to hear, because of some audio issues with the build we were shown, from what I did hear, it seemed fine, at least during the intros. During gameplay, the volume was turned down and I couldn't really hear anything.
During the gameplay, I noticed no off the ball player movement. I mean none. But the Developers stated they simply wanted to show off the passing, so plays were not being run. Another head scratcher to me as this made the game look a little ridiculous. They showed a signature shot from LeBron James, but it didn't look very natural to me at all. In fact, many of the animations seemed to skip frames, it just wasn't fluid. While zooming into player heads, facial hair and tattoos looked great, the gameplay was simply just not worth showing at this time. It's possible/likely this will be cleaned up before launch, but it's worth noting we simply weren't shown much to impress us on the gameplay just yet.
The game seemed too fast. Actually, it looked more arcady to me than sim. Players moved too fast and the developers stated there were no plans at this time to add a speed slider. That is not a good sign for sure. They are implementing a collision system, but they didn't show it at all. It almost seemed like they were more interested in showing off the graphics than actual gameplay. I came away disappointed as Live 13 was actually my most anticipated game to see coming into E3. The team admitted there were some bugs within the build they displayed, but also claim the foundation has been set and the bugs we saw will be fixed.
Hopefully I get to see a more recent build in the coming months to get a more accurate preview. For now I just have to call it how I see it and the game simply wasn't ready for prime time in my initial viewing. We'll see how it shapes up in the coming months.