After a lengthy hiatus, EA Sports' NBA Live series is finally coming back. While the game wasn't playable at E3, the publisher did showcase the game in a behind-closed-doors presentation that intended to show off how EA Tiburon plans on making their NBA franchise competitive. Key to NBA Live 13 is the game's new Playmaker engine.
Playmaker borrows various aspects of EA Sports' other franchises, such as the NHL and FIFA series. "With the Playmaker engine, the NBA Live development team leveraged the EA proprietary ANT Technology, which has been successfully used across EA Sports titles, notably FIFA and NHL, and combined that with our new Basketball IQ – AI system," executive producer Nick Wlodyka told us. FIFA and NHL players (and even Battlefield 3 players) will recognize ANT as the animation technology that powers the backbone to those games.
Past basketball titles have been plagued by wooden, unbreakable animation; anyone that hit a button to shoot or drive into the lane would remain stuck in that animation. With the "instantaneous responsiveness" of the Playmaker engine's ANT technology, the player can take control of the player at any time. The demo showcased Miami Heat's LeBron James go up for a contested jumper, only to pass to an open teammate in mid-shot.
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Playmaker engine is the AI's ability to adapt as the game and season progresses. "With Basketball IQ, our AI is developed to be situational aware on the court and adaptive," Wlodyka explained. "It will recognize tendencies and adjust to counter them. The Basketball IQ system also leverages an exclusive NBA data set that allows us to feed the movements and actions of all NBA players into our game all season long."
With Synergy and ESPN partnerships at their disposal, EA Tiburon hopes to restore a sense of prominence to their long-absent NBA Live franchise. NBA Live 13 is set to arrive on Xbox 360 and PS3 in October, just in time for next season's tip-off.