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EA's BluePrint: The Art of a 3 Year Plan 
Posted on September 7, 2010 at 12:32 PM.
A 3 year plan. This is a term that most of my basketball gaming brethren have grown accustomed to hearing from EA. From the moment they decided to “reboot” on the next gen consoles with NBA Live 06 for the 360 instead of a direct port ala NBA 2k6, they have continually thrown out a blueprint for a 3 year plan.

Throughout the past 6 years, we have watched Live add in new features, new technology, and new buzzwords that were supposedly an integral part of Live’s 3 year plan, only to watch them do what? Scrap them the following year.

Let’s take a quick look at some of those things:

Live 06- Part 1 of the 3 year plan, new graphics and gameplay engine. Solid foundation for next gen titles to build on for the future. Myself, along with other Hoop heads were hopeful. Graphically, the title could compete with the 2010 titles easily. Very nice looking game. Needed some camera angles, some tweaks to the gameplay and AI, and animations, and you’d have a very nice title.

Live 07- Part 2 of the 3 year plan? Nope, complete reboot. An absolutely anomaly of a basketball game. But they rebooted with the new technology, procedural awareness. This was huge at EA. Showing the likes of coverboy Tracy McGrady following a ball on the screen, while chewing gum. EA was proud of themselves with this game. Foot planting technology. This is the wave of the future EA touted. Showed T-Mac in the practice gym planting his feet, shooting shots. This was the extent of the gameplay that was shown before release, because the product was abysmal.

Live 08- Part 3 of the 1st 3 yr plan, or part 2 of the current plan? Nope, reboot. The foot planting tech was there to an extent. This year, we introduce DNA and go to moves, hot spots. We were able to set up plays to run from all parts of the floor. A very solid foundation for a next gen title finally. No real gimmicks, just a good base for the future of NBA Live.

Live 09-Part 2 of the 3 yr plan that was talked about from inception of Live 08. NBA Live 365 daily, updates the DNA according the real life stats and play. New pick & roll offensive controls, building on a pretty solid NBA Live 08 game. Where did hot spots go? What? Scrapped? Signature play calling, calling plays from anywhere on the floor, still in, so we’re still doing alright. Built upon Live 08? Not according to Devs, this was game 1 of a 3 yr plan again. Wait? What?

Live 10 comes along- Massive strides were made. Gameplay was getting there, and was solid. Animations, although some were quirky, were the best that Live has shown in quite some time. Did they need to be tweaked? Of course they did, but the game was solid. Technically, according to the posts on the board, this was game 2 of that 3 yr plan, and was on the right track. Graphics were updated, gameplay and AI were looking better, control scheme was the best that we had seen in a Live title. Needed some things added in, in game injuries among other big basketball things were needed. They weren’t in 09 because of time… it was the foundation game, I can handle this it missing some features.
Live 10, should have been there. The animations were there, they just didn’t have “time” to implement them properly, so they didn’t put them in. They’ll be in next year.

Live 11… Wait… What? No Live 11? Reboot? From a game that was 1 yr away from being a very solid basketball title. The best basketball offering from EA in a LONG time, rebooted, renamed, rebranded.

Elite 11- Year 1 of a 3 yr plan. Sacrificing graphics for “more control” which is what users and players requested right? Who did? I read almost every thread on OS in the basketball sections, and bar none, the concensus was that Live 10 had the best control scheme of probably any basketball game to date. There were no outcries for a new control scheme, just wanting EA to take what they had, and add to it, and make it the game that we’ve been promised since “next gen” consoles hit. Instead, what do we get? A year 1 title of a 3 year process, again.
Quote:
Originally Posted by rEAnimator
Why would you have a problem paying full price for a game that has a plan for the future?
That seems like a positive to me.
If we had no plan for the future wouldn't that be concerning? Wouldn't you be less likely to invest your time into something that didn't have a clear direction set?
Just wanted to throw this quote in there from rEAnimator. And this is my problem. The problem in paying full price for a game that has a plan for the future, is because that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 5 years, and we still haven’t gotten the game which has all parts of the plan implemented. We’re constantly thrown back to the 1st of a 3 year plan, wondering if we’re ever going to be getting the game that we’ve been promised.

Instead, we get games that get really close to be “there”, and get rebooted. So this year, graphically, supposedly the graphics have taken a hit due to a tradeoff for the controls and “real time physics”. How long is real time physics going to be here? A 1 and done? How about this new miracle control scheme? Gonna be here like those superstar controls of 07. What? Control scheme using the right stick to perform superstar moves? That’s been done before? And scrapped.

I’m tired of paying EA full price for the first 2 years of a 3 year plan, when it’s missing things. The animations are laughable at best this year. No in game injuries, and you don’t seem to see why that’s important. And that’s laughable. When I read that you didn’t know why this was important, I shook my head in disbelief. I gave EA the benefit of the doubt that they knew what was going on, and would implement things that should be in, but I put too much faith forward I guess.
Quote:
Originally Posted by stepsix
@convince - there has been user cpu footage posted - detroit oklahoma, oklahoma is cpu controlled...

Re: sales driven direction, live 10 was the culmination of building on the engine since 07, the result of which if we're going off sales driven design, was not driving sales in the Live series' direction. 07 was built to utilise next gen hardware, but lacked the next gen experience & perspective that EA now has (not to mention a massive undertaking in one year, larger than 10 -> Elite). Elite definitely has the gamer in mind (control etc etc), but is definitely not attempting to alienate its fan base in the process.

I've been part of the series since 06, and trust me, none of you have put in as much time in Live as I have, but I plugged live 10 on thursday, and I couldn't get through a half. I enjoyed Live 10 quite a bit and played online for quite a while after it was released, but the 'visual' quality does not come close to the satisfaction of the gameplay in Elite. That being said, visuals WILL become a focus as this game progresses.

I'm not in marketing by any means, and I'm as tired of saying it as you are of hearing it, but if you give the demo enough time to unlearn previous control schemes, personally I think you can see past some of the things you guys are accustomed to in a bball series.
And this is the problem. This is most definitely the problem. You were “building on the same engine since 07. But what’s happening is implementing these game changing features, all of these buzzwords (thanks Jesus) that are designed to sell a game, and then scrapping them, never letting the title fully develop. So what good is building on an engine, when you take a step forward each year, but then remove features the following? It makes no sense.

And now Elite is targeting “the gamer” and not the basketball fans. That’s all good and well. But you’re losing all of the hardcore basketball guys that have been by your product, through rebuilding year after year, never getting to the 3rd year of the 3 yr plan.

And visuals WILL become a focus as this game progresses… at what cost? What are you all going to scrap, to pay more attention to visuals. Why does it always come at the cost of something else, and the everchanging promise of “Oh, it WILL be in there next year, or as the series progresses…”

I’m glad you all are proud of your product. I hope you all achieve your 90+ score on metacritic, since that’s the overall goal. Maybe in 2 more years, Elite will be a title that has ran it’s course of the 3 yr plan finally. Hoops gamers will rejoice, and have a complete game. Maybe…

Sorry OS for my long post. If you've made it this far... I commend you.
Comments
# 1 nolan273 @ Sep 7
Very nice post. I understand your frustration. I'm in agreement that this 'three-year plan' thing has become redundant. While I do commend EA for trying to step forward in innovation, I can't see the need to totally scrap a good game (Live 10) and start completely from scratch. Why not just perfect what you have at hand and then gradually introduce the new controls, physics, etc over time. Maybe extend the three-year plan to five and make a true 'game-changer' at the end.

Again, really good post
 
# 2 TheBrothers24 @ Sep 7
I feel the exact same way. They decided to fix something that wasn't broke. The one thing they did better then the competition and that was the control Live 10 had. They spent a whole development cycle "fixing controls" and adding "RTP" at the expense of seriously needed additions. How in the world did they not think in game injuries was needed in a basketball game. Hell any sports game for that matter. My players will never get hurt but the cpu players will because their games are simmed?

No in-game injuries killed this game for me and I for one am tired of buying the 1st of a 3-year plan. Why pay for a game now that is only the foundation knowing they are going to add everything later in 2 years. I'll save my $120(elite 11 & elite 12) and just wait for Elite 13. If that game ever gets made because if they thought changing the name of the franchise and rebuilding the game would get them more purchases this year, then they will be in for a shock when the numbers come in.
 
# 3 Blak_Baki_Hanma @ Sep 7
Amen...
And if the plan is 3 years, why an annual release of unfinished product for full price?
Soooo criminal.

Great blog WTF.
100% agree
 
# 4 nolan273 @ Sep 7
I agree with TheBrothers. I was willing to give this game a chance. I wanted to check out this new control scheme and really learn it, but without in-game injuries, the whole thing sort of collapses for me. How can this be sim when no one gets hurt? It's cool for head-to-head, pick-up games with your buddies, but I play a lot on my own in franchise mode. This sort of kills that aspect of the game.

While I really wanted to give Elite 11 and shot, I guess I'll be back to 2K this season. If it's in the game, it may or may not be in the game.
 
# 5 megamante360 @ Sep 7
NBA 2k11 it is.
 
# 6 jugganott @ Sep 7
The Majority of the Gamers will vote with their dollars and they are telling EA in sales "Your game is not good enough". Sure they have a following, or fans....but the bottom line is a dollar amount. That dollar amount is not what EA wants obviously, so quite naturally they will switch it up and change is all together. That's what gamers who don't like LIVE/ELITE are asking for. I don't think you can stone them for trying to please the majority of gamers that collectively yell....break it down and build it up again and MAYBE.....
 
# 7 DGMikeBarker @ Sep 7
@Blak_Baki_Hanma I guess to show their progress lol. For real tho, it's all about the money and the company's orders of producing a game yearly.
 
# 8 michapop9 @ Sep 8
Im sick of EA's modus operandi, both EA's basketball title and Football title are stale, watered down, shallow, they try to please the majority and simplify, knowing the majority have lower expectations and wants in a video game than the hardcore, true fan, Im sick of this company, the only thing we can be thankful for is competition via 2k with a basketball title, football is out of luck.
 
# 9 rudyjuly2 @ Sep 8
Excellent post. I find it funny that the entire change in direction of this series, which probably hastened Mike Wang's return to 2K, is driven by sales numbers. "Sales aren't good enough! Let's make a change!" But a change can go both ways. EA seemed to assume that a change will boost sales numbers. It could have the opposite effect - the destruction of the game. Maybe EA doesn't make a basketball next year if Elite sales are garbage.

This is similar to the NFL 2K series. They made a good game but people still bought Madden. Why? Because Madden was still fun and dominated the mindset of people. The only way to topple that champion is to chip away at it, keep making a better product and market it hard. Of course 2K5 grabbed their market share with a $20 price point in an effort to truly compete the next year but the NFL license was bought by EA and destroyed those efforts. Maybe EA should have taken a page out of 2K's playbook and kept Live going but offered the game at a massive discount for one year to get the market share. They are certainly doing something similar by throwing in NBA Jam for free. Don't they think that would have boosted Live 11's numbers?

2K baseball is experiencing the same thing. The Show is a great game. It will be hard to beat it on the PS3. The answer isn't to trash the game, reboot and go through more growing pains. The answer is to improve your product and chip away at the leader.

When EA made the change from Triple Play to MVP baseball it was because Triple Play was garbage. It NEEDED a reboot. I had a lot of fun with Live '09 (truth is I don't play basketball games much anymore) and I didn't see the need for a reboot. It needed refining, not destroying.
 
# 10 Goldmember2 @ Sep 8
As many have noted, it's really all about the $$$$ here. They take things out and put them back in 4 years later because it allows them to create product news which drives marketing strategy. They're able to say new and improved visuals, or better animation and physics because they're strategy is centered on capturing the new gamers entering the category not retaining the ones they already have. EA is playing a game where they lower our expectations then give us the same stuff in a different color and say "see, we listened!". NBA is probably positioned as a franchise that will generate quick sales and prop up a more long term title like Madden or NCAA. Because those games are more popular EA spends more resources to keep the ball rolling with feature continuity and improvements (to a certain extent at least). They'll build and build on the features because they're investing in real "innovation" for these titles and not relying on the same parlor tricks (NBA) to capture users. In their mind, it's not really worth it to try and out innovate 2K in hoops because they don't really view the market as worth their time when they've got football on lock.
 
# 11 bbolo84 @ Sep 9
It is becoming clear that 2k is the superior sports game creator. Look what they have done to 2k11 in one year. The features included are mind boggling. Elite has taken a step back, when last year it actually looked as if they were gaining ground on NBA2k!
 
# 12 RUFFNREADY @ Sep 9
ELITE, will be good enough to burn and copy, and play on a xbox360 j-tagged system! good enough for me. I will not be picking up ELITE this year, i have changed my order to NBA2K11, at least that's a full polished game!
 
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