NBA Elite 11 – Why concerns about gameplay polish shouldn’t be taken lightly

With the constant delays and rumors surrounding Project CARS all including one word – polish – I thought I’d take a bit of time to expand on why polish concerns should not be taken lightly.

And there’s no better way to dive into this topic than a picture of Andrew Bynum nailed to a cross.

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For the past fifteen years or so, a war has waged in console gaming between EA Sports and 2K Sports, a war that has spawned everything from exclusivity deals to entire games being outright cancelled. While EA has had the upper hand on the ice and on the gridiron, despite 2K’s best efforts to make All-Pro Football 2K8 more fundamentally sound than Madden, one area that has been a toss-up for several years is on the hardwood court: NBA Live 10 and NBA 2K10 were seen as equal by longtime basketball fans.

EA desperately wanted to win this war, and for 2010 (in sports game land, the “2011” set of games), EA Sports wanted to blow the NBA 2K series out of the water. They planned to accomplish this by implementing their dual analog stick control scheme found both in the wildly popular NHL series, as well as simcade skateboarding game .skate (and its two sequels)

EA Sports went all-out when it came to online marketing for NBA Elite 11. The unanimous praise the dual analog controls received in NHL and .skate were heavily pushed as the game’s big new feature, and several videos both amateur and professional circulated that promised an entirely new gameplay experience that would revolutionize basketball games for the forseeable future.

The amount of hype for this game was incredible. NBA Live 10 was generally well received, and basketball fans believed they were entering a golden age. EA was firing all rockets when it came to competing against 2K. They owned exclusive licenses on the gridiron, their NHL series dominated 2K in sales, and fans still preferred a modded PC version of MVP Baseball 2005 compared to 2K’s yearly offerings.

All signs pointed to what was probably going to be the greatest basketball game ever made. And to make things even sweeter, a modern remake of arcade classic NBA Jam would be bundled in with the game. EA literally had it in the bag.

Even professional athletes were endorsing it! It must have been good!

A few weeks before release, a demo of the game was released to both Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. The resulting player reactions were promptly uploaded to YouTube, and indicated anything but the greatest basketball game ever made.

As Kotaku describes the above video:
Boston’s computer-controlled Jermaine O’Neal, standing all alone at the high post, takes one step and clangs a back-to-the-basket finger roll, a shot completely out of place for the situation. The Lakers’ Pau Gasol then fails to inbounds the ball, to the frustrated sounds of buttons clacking – possibly because the pass command was moved to the trigger this year. It’s never been used there before. The Celtics then quickly score on the Lakers – who have only four players in this end of the court. That’s because of The Glitch: L.A.’s Andrew Bynum at the jump circle in a T-pose, arms spread wide, standing there, says the narrator, “like Jesus in the middle of the court.”

A week before released, it was delayed indefinitely. Two months later, it was cancelled. Nine copies have made it into the public’s hands. And this isn’t something I pulled out of my ass or took out of context either – this is straight from the Wikipedia entry.

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So what does this have to do with Project CARS?

1. Delays. Lots of them.
2. A huge marketing push featuring videos boasting that this game will somehow revolutionize the genre. VirtualR posts these almost daily.
3. A stark contrast between how this game is shown in official videos, and YouTube videos shot by average users simply playing the game. For every video put out by SMS detailing the different modes and how this will put a serious dent in Forza and Gran Turismo’s popularity, there are an equal number of videos pointing out Jesus Bynum-tier glitches

This is the path NBA Elite 11 followed, and ended up marking the first time an officially licensed sports game was cancelled since sports games became a thing. While I’m not saying numerous delays for polish means instant death, the sheer number of delays mixed with contrasting footage where the game is pushed as some holy grail by the marketing team, only to see basic elements of gameplay like hitting a wall result in stupifying glitches so close to what’s now been a rescheduled release date is concerning.

Lengthy preview/feature videos? Check.

Professional athletes endorsing the game? Check.

Laughable glitch videos released a short time before one of the game’s expected launch dates, detailing an experience highly unlike what was advertised? Check.

Players making fun of the excuses WMD members will give upon viewing the video? Check.

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This is why, when polish is used to explain why a game was delayed multiple times, you should be worried.

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3 thoughts on “NBA Elite 11 – Why concerns about gameplay polish shouldn’t be taken lightly

  1. You’re a smart enough guy, what’s with the third grade-level lame racist jokes? Really undermines anything you’re trying to say.

    Like

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