Creativity and pride are central themes of the NBA LIVE franchise. The way you play, the way you look, even the way you win—all ways players can express themselves. The team behind NBA LIVE 19 has taken these themes and raised them to new heights with the brand-new Court Battles mode.
We sat down with Producer Christian McLeod to talk about Court Battles, the inspiration behind the mode, and what brought him to EA.
EA: Before we get into your work on NBA LIVE, let’s get some background info. How long have you been at EA and what do you do here?
Christian McLeod: I’ve been with the company for about seven years now. I actually initially studied and planned to be a doctor, but I always had a passion and a love for EA SPORTS games; NCAA Football, Madden NFL, the NHL games, and NBA LIVE. So kind of as a joke I just threw my hat in the ring for a contract writer position at Operation Sports, a sports gaming news outlet, as a way to chase my passion as I continued my day to day job in the chemical engineering industry.
Fast forward a couple of years and after talking to the right people, I eventually came over to EA as a designer on commentary for NCAA Football, before transitioning to the Madden NFL team for 4 years. This past year I moved over to NBA LIVE as a producer handling all things mode-related, like Female Create-A-Player, The ONE, ONE Court, and Court Battles.
Perfect Transition! For those that don’t know, what are Court Battles?
*Laughs* Court Battles is a new mode this year in NBA LIVE 19. It’s an asynchronous online mode. What that means is you’re taking on another user’s AI-controlled team, attacking other courts trying to take them over and win rewards, while also defending your own court.
You go into that mode, you create your court; your court name, your court location, you can choose all different kinds of court graphics that you’re putting onto your court. From there, you choose a defensive rule. For the first log in each day there will be a random choice of three rules players can choose from.
What kind of rules can players choose from?
Anything from just a simple game to 11, there are rules where only dunks count. There’s a rule for a game called “Outside In” where three pointers are worth 4, jumpers worth 3, layups are worth 2, and dunks are worth 1.
So you’re gonna choose a rule, and then you’ll choose your defensive lineup. You’re gonna be earning players through Court Battles mode, but also through ProAm. As part of our World Tour mode, you go through and you battle across the globe, earning different players. Those players join you on the World Tour but can also join you in Court Battles as well. So you’re gonna want to pick a defensive lineup that pairs with your rule as well.
Do you have any examples of good synergy you’ve seen with a rule and a lineup?
In that example I gave earlier with the Outside In ruleset, you’re probably gonna want to go ahead and put some shooters in there.
We also have these things called Attacker Handicaps. With these, you’re gonna give anyone who tries to step on your court a restriction they have to apply to their lineup. So with that Outside In rule, you could also apply an Attacker Handicap where they’ll have to start a minimum of two centers.
Finally, you’ll have a Gameplan, that’s setting the AI’s mindset for your team.
That’s a lot.
Well, players are going to go out and actually try and attack other courts and take over these courts throughout the world. The more courts you successfully attack during a set time limit we call a Campaign, the greater the rewards.
All the players around the world are going to be doing the same thing against you, so every player’s gonna have to set their defensive lineup and court rules. It’s kind of an attack-and-defend, almost tower defense type of mode.
We’re really encouraging users to go out there and compete without having some of the more daunting challenges you get when you’re playing head-to-head in a more competitive environment.
While you’ve been balancing and testing Court Battles internally, what’s been your favorite ruleset so far?
I grew up in the age of the Bad Boy Pistons so I’m a big fan of “hammer the ball down low” style of play. I’m a big fan of the mode “Inside Out” which kind of serves as the antithesis to the Outside In ruleset I mentioned earlier.
With Inside Out, forcing the ball down low gives you more points than shooting the ball from beyond the arc. Gives you that throwback to 80s style basketball feel. Also from a lineup perspective, it kinda forces you to put in a lot of Bigs. Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, those were my guys. I love the NBA now, but let’s get back to the fundamentals.
That’s both very different from what we’ve seen in past NBA LIVE games. What was the impetus to bring this new mode into NBA LIVE 19?
We’re always determined to flex our creative muscle and do something different. A lot of our design team and the producers on our team are big fans of mobile products out there, so we brought a lot of inspiration from those as well.
Last year The One had a whole lot of customization in it and that seems to be a theme here as well.
We really just wanted to have a fast, fun experience where it’s all about you building your squad and expressing yourself. A core pillar of our franchise is the freedom to create. We want others to come to your court to attack it, and see that you’ve done something with your court that nobody else has done, with the aesthetic of your court, the rules you choose, the Attacker Handicaps you pick, your lineups. Everything oozes with your personality, and then your opponent has to take on the team that you built, on the court you dreamt up.
We’ve seen such dramatic growth of the NBA LIVE community in the last year. We wanna keep the pedal to the metal and keep that momentum going forward. We’ve always tried to do things differently on LIVE, so we’re just excited to see what players make when they get their hands on the game.
Stay in the conversation of all things EA: Read our blog, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and Like us on Facebook.