NBA LIVE 14 - An Open Letter from Sean O'Brien

By EA SPORTS Jun 19, 2013

Sean O’Brien is the Executive Producer for NBA LIVE, and he has spent more than a decade working on basketball titles at EA SPORTS. O’Brien’s post on the NBA LIVE series is the first of many updates that will discuss the evolution of the franchise in advance of NBA LIVE 14’s release later this year.

As some of you may have seen at E3, I’m the executive producer for NBA LIVE. I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, give a little background and highlight what we showed at the EA SPORTS IGNITE Lab at this year’s E3, as well as highlight what you can expect from me and the team throughout the summer as we continue to develop the game.

I have quite a history with EA SPORTS basketball games over the last decade. I worked on a number of NBA and NCAA basketball games at EA SPORTS before leaving in 2010 to pursue another opportunity after being the senior producer on NBA LIVE 10, our highest rated gen-3 basketball game. When approached last fall about bringing back this great franchise, I had mixed emotions. Due to my passion and love for NBA LIVE and my desire to deliver a new legacy for the franchise, I decided to listen.

First off, the move from Vancouver, Canada to Orlando, Florida was a big one for me and my family. That's a long way to go and I needed to be sure that EA SPORTS was committed to the NBA business for the long haul. As I would have to give up a lot both personally and professionally to make this work, so I wanted to make sure that I was going to have a chance to be successful if I did take on this challenge. The great news for me is that EA SPORTS is 100% committed to rebuilding NBA LIVE and growing it's basketball business overall. There is an enormous financial commitment to the development of the product on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, including the size of the team and resources required to give us every opportunity to make a great basketball game that can compete with such a solid franchise like NBA 2K. After all of my due diligence and with that level of confidence and commitment secured by our senior management, I was on a plane to Orlando ready to take on the challenge and a new life adventure with my family.

The first thing that I wanted to do when I got to Orlando was set the direction for the team. After playing and evaluating the state of NBA LIVE and talking to as many people as I could, I realized that the overall vision was lacking. When you are creating any type of product, you need to understand what your end goal is and that needs to be based on what the consumer and the market is demanding. I want NBA LIVE to be an authentic NBA simulation rooted in the sport and lifestyle of basketball. My first priority was to focus on core gameplay. We needed to capture the essence of half-court basketball, providing 1-on-1 isolation both in the perimeter and the post, the 2-on-2 chess match that is the pick and roll, while still offering the gamer the opportunity to push the basketball in transition and have the control required to get the ball into the lane to either take the ball to the rim or find an open teammate if the defense collapses.

To help me do this, I went out and got some of the best talent internally and externally. One of the things I knew I wanted was the best locomotion and player movement engineers in the company. I was fortunate enough to recruit Gary Paterson (shown above) as my Senior Creative Director, who previously worked on FIFA and was the architect who delivered physics to that franchise. Gary felt that we needed to innovate with dribbling and that no game had truly captured the control required when the gamer was dribbling the basketball. I then had Gary work directly with Scott O'Gallagher, a former professional basketball player turned gameplay designer, and together they have designed an incredible ball handling system with NBA superstars and great ball handlers having their own set of dribble moves, animations and real world speed and skills that you'd expect.

The animation and engineering team working on that feature have done some amazing things and created a new technology called bounceTek, which was the focus for the NBA LIVE demo in the at the IGNITE Lab at E3 last week. Frankly, the response was incredible; words can’t do it justice as you need to feel the difference for yourself. For me personally, this validates our focus and direction within gameplay. As for fans, this will hopefully provide some confidence in our ability to deliver the complete 5-on-5 experience. My team is fired up on the response our E3 demo generated, including the Machinima and IGN nominations, as well as the POP win for E3 Best Sports Game award.

I'm also really proud of our partnership with Synergy Sports Technologies. They are a great partner and I feel privileged that we have exclusive access to the same data that all 30 NBA teams use for scouting teams and players. This is the data they use in order to prepare for upcoming games, finding the advantages or insights needed to try and gain the advantage on their opponent. I want NBA LIVE to be relevant to the NBA fan throughout the entire NBA season, providing data and content updates that keep your gaming experience fresh and in lockstep with everything that's going on in the real world NBA. I want to remove subjectivity from how we rate players and have that data provided by Synergy Sports to completely drive how the game plays. I'm really excited about being able to update our game within an hour of something happening in the NBA. We're going to be making an enormous investment into this connected experience.

There has been a lot of talk the last few years about how great NBA LIVE was going to be. The “talking” is over. The vision is a simple one: To create a great basketball game exclusively for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. My commitment to our fans is to be open, honest and transparent about what we're doing, how we're doing it as well as why we're doing it. Obviously, with NBA 2K in the picture, I can't reveal our entire feature set, show you just how good 5-on-5 gameplay is starting to play and just how amazing our visuals are coming together this early in the summer. But that will come.

All I can say is that I'm extremely proud of the NBA LIVE team and where this game is as we approach our internal alpha. What we're doing isn't easy and I'm really excited about the progress we've made. I believe that our direction is the right one. The ball is in our court and we need to execute. No more screw ups and definitely no more excuses.

Look for more of these from me and other members of the team throughout the summer and early fall as we finalize NBA LIVE 14. Post questions and comments and I'll do my best to answer each and every one of them. I understand the skepticism and if I were you, I'd be skeptical too…or maybe cautiously optimistic. I'm not asking you to pre-order the game based on the E3 dribbling demo and a blog post. I'm simply asking you to give us a chance and we'll let the game do the talking. Something that I'm sure is long overdue in your minds (and ours).

NBA LIVE is back and I can't wait to show you what else we have planned.

Sean O'Brien
Executive Producer - NBA LIVE