Basketball Meets RPG: NBA Live 18 Preview and Interview

NBA Live takes a new approach to the traditional basketball video game with its new game mode, The One. In playing the NBA Live 18 demo, I mainly focused on trying out The One, in which you create your own basketball player and earn a name for him by playing in games at famous courts across the country—from Venice Beach in Los Angeles to Barry Farms in Washington DC.

The One sets itself apart with interesting new game dynamics, inspired by RPGs more than traditional basketball games. You’ll start by picking from one of three positions—guard, wing, or big—with even more specific playstyles to choose from there. Along the way, you’ll unlock new skills and traits as you get more experience from playing games. While you can customize how your character looks from the very beginning, unlocking traits and levelling skills are how you can customize the way your character actually plays. In addition, you earn new gear—from shooting sleeves to tattoos—by spending your earned experience points on loot boxes. You can earn these boxes from certain in game decisions as well.


While you can play both in the streets and in the league with your character, you can also bring him into multiplayer games—so whether you prefer to play co-op, multiplayer, single player, or all three modes, your customized player is along for the ride.

You start off the game as a player coming back after a serious knee injury. Mike Mahar, producer of NBA Live 18, explained to me, “We wanted to throw a curveball. We wanted you to have to play your way back, and a natural realistic way is to play your way back from an injury.”
One of the most interesting parts of The One is the inclusion of famous basketball courts and leagues from around the country. Mahar explained the reasoning for selecting these specific leagues to me: “These Pro-Am summer circuits, maybe to some of our users aren’t super obvious… Chris Paul and James Harden played on the same team in the Drew League. They’re a big deal. NBA players play in these on the regular. And for real, in real life, players who show up really well in these leagues get invited to the G-league, which used to be the D-league—that’s all real stuff.”

One of the more exciting pieces of news regarding NBA 18 was the announcement that the game will feature the WNBA as well as the NBA. Mahar expanded this for me. “Our implementation in 18, given all the other things we were doing this year, was to focus on making sure we get the WNBA stuff right, make sure we do them justice.” However, he did expand on this, saying that this implementation is the first step in what will hopefully turn into fully adding female characters to the game. “It’s not a matter of if we should do this. Of course we should, it’s a great idea. It’s a question more as to when than if.”

And of course, in talking to Mahar, I needed to know: What was James Harden like as the team worked with him on this project?

“He was legitimate really funny and super easy to work with. More important is that he’s encompasses exactly the thing we’re trying to get across to our players: [the reason] why NBA Live is different this year around The One. He grew up playing in the Drew League, in the streetball league. And almost made it, not him alone, but he’s one of the people who helped make it famous. This high caliber NBA, almost MVP playing in these leagues. And also he’s just this amazing NBA player.”

NBA Live 18 will be available on Xbox One and PS4 on September 15th.

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