E3: EA’s Dynamic DNA

By Mathew Kumar, Special to CBCnews.ca

LOS ANGELES - As purely a software publisher (and the largest in the world, even with the recent merger of Activision with Vivendi to create the behemoth Activision Blizzard), Electronic Arts don’t face the same kind of pressure the hardware manufacturers do when it holds a press conference. Journalists aren’t going to pick apart its strategy and debate market share – they’re only going to care about the games. And while EA delivered on that front – showing a succession of games from Sim Animals to Mirror’s Edge that portray a company comfortable with allowing its studios to innovate – the surprise was that there were so few surprises.

One of EA’s yearly sports updates was one of the most exciting games it showed. We’re too used to EA offering up a version of Madden or FIFA each year with minimal changes and a new number on the cover, but NBA Live ’09 changes all of that by taking its title to heart and being the first sports game to feature live daily updates of its player database. The updates are taken directly from the same statistic tracking software used by NBA coaches and managers, called Dynamic DNA, so if a player on your favourite team known for faking left and moving right starts to mix up their fakes during the ’09 season, it’ll be represented in the game the very day it starts to make a difference.

This is fantastic news for stat geeks and basketball addicts, though probably not the best news in the world if your favourite team is on a downward slide of proficiency across the season! If NBA Live ‘09’s artificial intelligence lives up to its statistical background, it’s likely to offer the most realistic basketball yet.

We have one caveat to note, however, before we all get too excited.

The whole reason that EA have sold yearly updates of its titles has been, at least ostensibly, to update the roster for each new season. But if the game is already being updated from a live database daily, why would we need to buy a new version every year? I’m willing to bet good money the database stops being updated at the end of the ’09 season to force us all to buy the next iteration of NBA Live. After all, if they’re already used to us buying a new copy every year, why would they try to make us stop?

(The author is a Canadian freelance writer blogging for CBCnews.ca from the Electronics and Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.)