Inside the Developers Studio: Erich Waas

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1. What game do you have at E3 this year?
NBA 08 on the PlayStation 3. It was the first franchise at 1080p and 60 frames per second when the PS3 launched and we’ve made great strides since and added a lot to NBA 08.

2. Describe it in five words or less.
Cooler than a pet monkey.

3. What did you do on this game that you couldn’t do on another platform?
Thanks to the PS3’s cell processor, NBA 08 runs in Full HD — 1080p and 60fps. Not up-scaled to 1080p. Not a choice to run at 1080p OR 60fps. True Full HD. At the same time, we have detailed sweat that you can see rolling down players’ faces, head and eye tracking and facial animation for all 10 players at once. Additionally, thanks to the cell processor, we simulate cloth not just for the 10 players on the court but the bench players for each team as well. We also have such a variety in our arena crowds that you’ll only see 2 in every 2048 crowd members with the same model, wearing the same clothes and doing the same animation. And we do this from our “Behind the Player” cam which is more demanding on performance (because more is being drawn) than the sideline or broadcast cam you will see in other basketball games. There is also a lot of new ball physics that has been added to NBA 08 as well as a total of 2,000 unique animations within the game and 4 times the amount of AI routines for greatly improved variety of gameplay. With art assets created with native 1080p in mind as well as audio, we also have more data than can be stored on a dual layer DVD.

4. Do you have any “firsts” in this game that have never been done before?
NBA 07 was the first BluRay title at 1080p and 60fps. It was also the first sports game to offer new content the Friday of each and every week during the NBA season (6 months) through our “Games of the Week” feature. Both of these are available in NBA 08 as well as a new level of play control fidelity in a basketball game through the use of the SIXAXIS controller. We’re tying animation to SIXAXIS functionality and going beyond jukes, cross-overs and spins. You’re able to rock the SIXAXIS controller back and forth to dribble the ball between the legs. You’re able to move the ball around while in a “triple threat” situation to help keep defenders from stealing the ball as well as improve your chances of a successful pass. Along with this, you can select between bounce passes, chest passes and lob passes. Conversely, on defense you’re able to get high or wide by tilting the SIXAXIS controller forward or backwards. By widening the defender’s stance and arms on defense, there is a greater chance in deflecting a bounce pass or closely defending the ball handler to keep them from successfully executing a juke move (although this will fatigue your player faster). By putting the defender’s hands straight up in the air, there’s a better chance of tipping a lob pass and the shot percentage of a shooter is reduced.

5. What do you think is the coolest aspect of this game?
I’m very excited about what NBA 08 offers and it’s hard to nail it down to one aspect. The game looks and plays even better than last year but our “Games of the Week” feature is what provides our fans with new playable content each week involving games that just took place in the NBA. For instance, the week after Kobe went on a 4-game streak of scoring over 50 points, we dedicated that week to fun segments of each of those games for gamers to play while sports shows were still talking about it. Our progression system would be a close second. Did I mention how good our game looks this year?

6. How does this game use the PS Network?
Other than some of the fastest, smoothest and most authentic game play you mean? We’ve got a lot going on this season. Aside from great head-to-head play online, we’re incorporating the comprehensive SportsConnect system from our MLB franchise. You’ll also be able to earn goals toward your progression system created player – have I told you about our Progression System – more to come on that later. We’ll also post complimentary weekly content every Friday along with leaderboards for you to post your accomplishments.

7. If you could sit one person in front of your game for an hour, who would it be?
Eva Longoria. I would play against the Spurs and abuse Tony Parker. As the hour progresses, Eva would lose respect for the real life Tony and become enamored with my game playing skills. It’s the kind of special story we’d later be able to tell our children. There’s no “off” on my genius switch. But seriously, I’d love to play with Maurice Lucas. He’s my all-time favorite NBA player and was instrumental in the Trail Blazers winning it all in ’77.

8. What game do you most want an hour to sit in front of yourself (besides your own)?
SingStar on the PS3. I absolutely love that franchise. I hope the booth is sound proof though because I hear neighborhood dogs howl whenever I bust out the microphone.

9. How many E3’s does E3 2007 mark for you?
I’ve been to every single E3 sans one. Even the two E3’s in Atlanta where I thought I lost my liver in Buckhead. I’m not sure how many that makes…eleventy?

10. Describe the pre-2007 E3 experience in five words or less.
Much better than last year.

11. Most over used phrase or expression during E3 season.
There are a couple of overused phrases heard during E3. A couple include, “Never before has a game….” or “this feature offers a whole new level of….” but the most often heard phrase at E3 has definitely been, “Hey, can you get me a party ticket?”

12. You are asked to make suggestions for an E3 survival kit- what three items HAVE to be included?
Dr. Scholl’s inserts, Chaser and talcum powder.

13. What advice would you have for someone who has never experienced E3?
I’m not sure how the new format will change things but for any video game fan, attending an E3 is a must. It’s sensory overload and there just isn’t enough gameplay time over the three days. I would also recommend that you stuff yourself before attending because there isn’t a food cart or restaurant in a 3 mile radius that doesn’t have a half hour line attached to it. Oh, and you should check out NBA 08 first.

14. Describe what you anticipate from 2007’s newly formatted E3 in five words or less.
Serenity by comparison.

15. What’s your favorite part about developing games for a living?
Developing games for a living is unbelievable. Other than a little male pattern baldness and a sun tan that mostly comes from the monitors in my office even though I live in San Diego, I’m very lucky. Not just because I get to make games for a living but that I get to combine my passion for games with my passion for sports. It’s like combining chocolate and peanut butter–the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Except for the last few weeks of a product cycle when we’re trying to ship the title and everyone has to respond to last minute issues that arise, most of the year is a blast. The NBA 08 team is filled with characters who are a lot of fun to work with. There’s one guy on the team who can be a little managerially intensive by the name of Igor. But he’s a good guy at heart and a talented programmer and as long as I buy him ice cream when he’s working late, he’s pretty happy. Now I realize that most of the public reading this has no idea what I’m talking about but the opportunity to zing a team member in a public forum is pretty priceless.

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104 Comments

11 Author Replies

  • Erich,

    Andy implies Andy Galvin? the legendary programmer?

  • You got that right. Eric thank for the love.

  • Thanks for the kudos. I actually do have a day job and I definitely should keep up appearances since my boss is reading this as well. And may I take a minute to say just how great of a boss I have? I really couldn’t have lucked out any more. He’s just the best..and also my review is due soon.

    During normal business hours, I’ll probably be fairly busy but I’ll definitely be checking in periodically to read comments. After E3, another producer and I will be moving over to the soon-to-be created NBA 08 forum here at playstation.com. We won’t always have a good answer to your questions but it’s always good to get feedback–especially when it’s glowing praise.

    The PS3 programming lead is not Mr. Galvin but a (soon-to-be legendary) different Andy. I’m keeping last names out to protect the cynical. (Remember, I have to work with these people every day.)

    And the commercial idea is a good one. I’ll make sure NBA 08’s marketing manager is reading this thread as well.

  • These interviews are great, keep it up

  • Screen shot look super great, hmm not sport fan so I wont be picking up this title. Sorry Erich :P

    I’m waiting for other Sly Copper game and maybe EA do something with there NFS title. Underground street racing getting lame.. Old school NFS still more fun.

    Fox

  • Mention the Cell Processor everytime it makes a difference, why? Because it IS different and it IS one of the reasons why the PS3 games will look better every year.

    Don´t fall into the interweb vibe of “nothing special” that some people would like to believe is the truth..

    What about the RSX, with 1080P/60 you seem to have plenty of bandwidth :-)

  • Im about to buy my first NBA game since NBA ’95 after readint this.

    Excellent interview and amazing show of coolness by the responses.

    Sony is doing everything right…just need some commercials and more great developer interviews and responses like this!

    This Blog and mostly this entry is by far some of the best stuff Ive seen in a while!

  • I have always enjoyed ‘The Life’ franchise, and can’t wait to see what you guys do with the massive blu-ray discs. i would like a free roaming world, think you guys can handle that? ;) but awesome interview and nice job keeping up with the replys Erich, i will probably buy ’08.

  • oh, and P.S….do you ever get the “Hey Erich! Waas-uuuuuuupp??!!!!” cuz that could probably get real old, real fast.

  • WARNING! IF YOU MEET Shifty906 ONLINE, BE AWARE THAT HE IS RACIST!

    I just want to warn anybody who might bump into this person online as to what behaviour this guy has.

    – since he could tell from my accent that i’m not english or american, he told me: “put your Koran up your a*s” and “put your burritos up your a*s”

    – he referred to terrorists as “[DELETED]”

    – he insulted me with the usual stupidity that you sometimes meet online.

    Of course i reported him on ps3reporting.com.

    I hope this message can be of help to other online R6: Vegas gamers so that they can avoid him like the plague.

    I ALSO WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT SONY IS GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS, AS THEY CANNOT CLAIM THEY DON’T KNOW BECAUSE I’M WRITING THIS ON THEIR BLOG. THANK YOU.

  • Okay.. slightly controversial question here: did you read/watch the Gamespot review? They completely trashed NBA 07 and gave it 4.9 out of 10. It was one of the harsher scores out there (IGN gave you 7.8 out of 10), but I tend to trust Gamespot’s reviews and therefore didn’t buy NBA 07. What I would like to know is your thoughts on the specific issues they raised (bugs, no transition animations, missing features from the PS2 version etc.) and how you intend to address them in NBA 08.

  • Wow, that sounds like a game i would digg =]
    You gotta love sports games! Keep up the good work Erich!

  • BTW Erich just a quick question:

    -Will NBA 08 feature Home trophies or such? It would be awesome to have a NBA trophy in your room to show off to anyone who logs into your room ^^

  • Great blog post, interesting answers without giving too much away.

  • self.confessed.cynic

    I agree with HappySpaceInvdr – the weird thing about games, and perhaps especially sports games and RPGs, is that the developers don’t really see the errors they make in the title.

    As a person who doesn’t really like sports games, the former genre is more of a pick-up-and-play thing for me, so its more about the graphics – but a lot of people who go more in depth with games trust reviewers. And reviewers barely ever share the developer in-house-hype.

    I would really be interested in your replies to what you guys think you did wrong last time around – ie, get in the 80s scores – and how you plan to fix this.

    We all know that the errors were made due to it being a launch title, but we’re not sure how much this has been rectified.

  • SWEET!!! I may have influenced a commercial! But wait marketing should def already be readin this blog. This blog should be there “think tank”. There needs to be more commercials that exploit everything the PS3 can do from 6axis to Blueray to being non-region coded for games. Also, will NBA08 be a (what i call) smart game. That is a game w/ multi region capabilities, meaning your PS3’s region is recognized and the game plays in that language setting. So i dnt have to order from 360 bias EB or Gamestop

  • Looks good. I like new ideas that are going to be in 08.
    For me when it comes to sport games, it’s all about gameplay.

  • Wow, sounds like everyone working on NBA 08 is reading this. Im not into sports games that much, but my friend is looney about basketball and loved NBA 07. All i have to say is keep makin em like that and tone down on the gimmicks and your sorted. (Thats me saying it not him).

    Good luck with your game! (And the marketing guy, good luck with selling it!)

  • Good job with the blog Sony

  • Blu-ray BabY YEahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

  • I just wish they didn’t run so Goofy. Mo cap man MO cap. Get the human movement down….play NBA2k* you’ll see what I am talking about, they come pretty close. Thats one thing thats kept me going with visual concept. They have more Human moving models. Get the movement better and fix the goofy movement and I am sold.

    I guess what I am saying is work on the animation s and not everyone on the court needs to be in a defensive stance all the time. You have players at half court shuffling their feet when the ball in under the basket.

  • Very nice post, Erich and thanks alot for all the replies, can’t wait for this game!

  • Thank you Erich, for the in depth comments! It’s great to feel like the developers care about their games as much as we do.

  • Awesome, I can’t wait till this game comes out!

  • looks great, keep up the good work~

  • why dont you start working on a soccer game??? forget basketball….

  • this is exactly what we all want from this blog, nice one erich for taking the time to post answers to alot of our questions on this blog.
    i hope that everyone who does one of these Q&A sessions takes as much time as you have… its very good to know that there is someone out there listening to us and also prepared to respond to us too.

    BIG UP YOURSELF ERICH, YOU HAVE SET A GOOD STANDARD TO WHICH WE ALL HOPE THE OTHER DEVELOPERS CAN RISE TO.

  • Hi Erich.

    For years, games such as DOA have had realistic boob physics. What are the chances of realistic lip physics coming to NBA games?

  • got to agree with hansolo though, we need a soccer game real bad!!!!!!

  • I just want to hop on the bandwagon and give you some of that praise you seem to love so much.

    This has been the best interview so far, based on the extra comments by Erich. It’s great when a normal gamer can ask questions, and actually be heard and answered by the game developers themselves… (Unless it really isn’t them and its just one webmaster posing as every single blog post, which would be hilarious)… You gave us so much info, even if it isn’t what we wanted to hear sometimes. I think we can all agree that we would rather hear bad news and information, rather than be sitting in the dark waiting. Thanks again!

  • Where to start…

    The animation in NBA 08 PS3 has been greatly improved over last year. We’ve added a ton of variety as well as smoothness to the animations. We have a phenomenal mo-cap facility on our San Diego campus and we mo-cap there all the time. (Even 11-man mo-cap session for cinematic scenes of The Life.) But it’s not just mo-cap that allows animation to be seen in-game, the game must call the appropriate animation through awareness of a situation which our improved AI greatly helps with. We have spent a lot of time on animation this year and now have 2,000 unique animations in NBA 08 PS3. (I know I already mentioned this but I’m kind of proud of this stat.)

    Every game developer is going to have a different philosophy on animation. What we all wrestle with though is the trade off of smooth animation vs. responsive play control. You don’t get immediate and responsive play control if you run a 1 second, cool looking animation. The controller becomes non-responsive while that 1 second animation is being played. To me, this is breaking one of the important rules of game design–never take control of the game away from the gamer. The way we try and get both smooth animation AND play control is to use an amalgamation of mo-cap data and physics driven animation but there is always a trade off that must be considered.

    Game developers can be very hypercritical about the games they create and I don’t think any developer releases a game thinking, “We accomplished everything we wanted to and not a thing needs to be improved.” But when developing sports games, it’s very important to release a game on time. There’s not always the necessary time to do everything.

    When NBA 07 was released, we felt it was a good game for the launch of the PS3. Not a perfect game, but a good launch title. There were a number of things that needed to be improved and we’ve done just that this year. (Animation, AI and lack of commentary are three things that needed improvement and we’ve covered all three in NBA 08 among others,) And as good as I think NBA 08 is, there are things I have on a list that need to be improved for the following year. If there was ever a time I didn’t think the NBA franchise could be improved, then that is the time for me to step away because I would no longer be doing my job well. Again, since sports games have to release each year and don’t have the luxury of taking all the time we would like, we have to find other ways to be more efficient with development. For instance, we have a 3-year plan in a number of areas so that we can release a title on time and offer features that gamers will appreciate. But some of these features are a stepping stone for an even more interesting feature the next year (and so on.)

    We also have to have some thick skin. Since game evaluation is somewhat subjective, everyone who comments or reviews a game may have a different take on what is or isn’t good about the game. When the same comment comes from multiple forums and reviews, then that comment has to be looked at more closely. When developing a sports game, it takes time to build a reputation and earn fans of your game. It doesn’t happen over night. Conversely, a game with a good reputation can slip in quality for a year or two before fans start to feel that maybe they need to switch to a different brand. The reality though is that gamers have very high expectations for the games they spend money on and developers need to work to meet these expectations every year and not get complacent.

    Every game reviewer is entitled to their opinion. The score of the review mentioned was disappointing but I don’t necessarily have to agree with everything in it. The only thing about that review that I’m disappointed in is that the reporter who showed up to Sony’s Gamer’s Day in October ’06 before the PS3 launch was not the same one who wrote the review. But the team has worked hard this year to make a game that all of you will want and as a result of this.

  • I meant to say …and as a result of this, I think review scores will definitely improve.

  • It sounds like NBA 08 is vastly improved from last year, but do you think you can be competitive with the likes of the Live and 2k series?

  • “we also have more data than can be stored on a dual layer DVD.”

    Are you serious, can NBA game take that much of store?! what about if its compressed to smaller size?
    If thats the case, i can now laugh to x0 players who claimed that DVD space is more than enough for years to come. When graphics and games evolve they will definately need more space than one DVD.

  • I have the nba 07 game but I think what you guys need to do is do what you did in the psp version it was awsome. Adding a campaign into the game as a feature would be awsome. Also how the TNT guys talk while you play in the moves you mack would really make this game more exiting.

  • Glad to see that the sport games are becoming more realistic. Keep up the good work!

  • True HD huh? I wonder what it will look like on SDTV? Not that I care ’cause I don’t have any SDTVs anymore… ;-D but 1080p rules!

  • Looks great! Love the job they did with the hair…the level of realism and HD-ness coudl bring it up to the level of watching NBA on ESPN HD. I mean that’s how good it’s looking.

  • Erich, 1 question, 1 comment.
    Q: Any way we could get Charles, Ernie, and Kenny for a few postgame comments. I know they would be generic but I would take it.
    C: I LOLed at the Eva response. But seriously she wouldn’t go for it… Alba on the other hand? who knows.

  • Mr. Waas,
    Kudos to you for the attention and responses you took the time to put in here.

  • So, when do we get a demo of this on the PSN? We europeans did’nt get any demo of the last game…

  • NBA 07 was good, NBA 08 sounds like its going to be great.

    The one thing that I would love to see is the support for FIVE PLAYERS! The PS3 can support the controlers and it would be wonderful to have my entire team controlled buy one of my friends.

    Running plays, Setting picks, Controlling alley oops with five people would make the game as REAL as it gets. Please think about it, Or even better just do it

  • Since I own 07 I thought I should comment. The game was the first NBA title since Live 95 that I have played. Liked it except for one thing, defense. The defense was terrible, a borderline joke. I hope you all have fixed it.

  • I’m going to be 100% honest and say that while I saw potential in ’07 last year, aside from running in 1080p 60fps there wasnt much else to be excited about. That being said, it was the first attempt to bring the game to a new platform, so I personally will be looking at ’08 with an open mind and no preconceived negative thoughts based on ;ast years effort.

    Keep up the hard work guys, I hope it turns out as great as it sounds!

  • It’s an interesting dynamic working for Sony and making a game that competes against other games on PlayStation consoles. On one hand, I want the NBA 08 franchise to lead in marketshare for basketball games on PlayStation consoles. On the other hand, other basketball games that push the PlayStation console technology are great for me as a Sony employee and great for gamers. As a first party developer, it’s not enough to make a great game. We have to make a great game that also pushes the PS3 in ways that only the PS3 can handle. Our focus on SIXAXIS functionality, BluRay and yes, even the cell processor helps show what the PS3 can do. I really hope other basketball games follow suit as this offers PS3 owners a higher quality bar to choose from.

    I absolutely think that NBA 08 can compete with the other basketball games and we stack up very well this year. Each product has its strengths and weaknesses but NBA 08 stacks up well. As this thread has pointed out, we’re a little light on a couple of traditional modes that sports games generally have but NBA 08 is very strong with some new innovations and modes that did not exist before. (SIXAXIS play control, NBA Replay and Games of the Week modes.)

    I love our TNT partnership and would love to see it grow. Are you reading this marketing and PR? =)

    I feel I need to address the Eva comments. I first have to thank the web master for putting up an Eva Longoria link. I have a feeling a number of readers probably never got past that point in the Q&A as the distraction of Eva pictures made some forget about video games…at least for awhile. I realize that Eva is getting married soon and my chances are somewhat slim. But I think my perseverance is something she’ll eventually appreciate and respect–along with my aforementioned game playing skills. But, if it doesn’t work out, I suppose (sigh…) I could settle for Jessica Alba. I am quite a catch after all. Does anyone haver her number?

  • And to comment on a new post…

    Defense was pretty non-existent last year. It felt like a moral victory when you got a stop on the defensive end of the court. I assure you that this has been addressed extremely well in NBA 08. There is a lot more strategy to playing offense this year and you have a lot more ability to defend your side of the court. We spent a lot of time on making the defense more intelligent. And a lot more time will be spent trying to get the ball to the open man because penetrating the lane and taking 3-point shots are much more challenging this year. (Of course the difficulty level you select will impact this.)

  • Erich,

    Any comment on 5 player support?

  • A quick question. Have any improvements been made in the area of presentation? I dont directly mean graphics, rather Commentating, Camera work (close ups after dunks, etc.) Personally I think the major thing about a video game that is going for a more realistic approach is getting as close as possible to a television boradcast. It REALLY draws me into the game like no other when I feel i am controlling somthing that is plausable, and dynamic.

  • I have a good answer and a not-so-good answer for posts 97 and 98.

    For presentation, NBA 08 PS3 received a lot of development attention this year. We have 3-4 times the variety of cut scenes, pre-game cinematics and celebrations as well as providing these with more dynamic camera angles. We are also integrating commentary this year and as I mentioned, Mark Jackson and Kevin Calabro are teaming up for both NBA 08 PS3 and PS2.

    As for 5-player support, this is something we’re looking at but won’t be available in NBA 08. We’re looking at a single solution for both the single PS3 experience as well as online. I mentioned earlier that this is a challenge to do well, in a way that most gamers will appreciate, and provide a responsive play experience. So it’s on our radar but it won’t be something we can offer for NBA 08.

    I wish I could bat a thousand with positive answers to your questions but it’s unfortunately a very difficult thing to do. Especially with the gaming elite. (So as you can see, I’ll suck up to anyone. Team members, my boss, all of you…and hopefully Eva or Jessica someday.)

  • I love this blog. Erich and the other developers that post here are a direct and open link to what we want to know about the games we want. And when we ask a little question like ‘Whats the presentation like’ And you tell us the stats you normally hear filtered through game sites, but directly to us. Its amazing. Good work on replying to alot of comments.

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