In 2010, EA Sports brought NBA Elite 11 to E3 as a shootaround demo only. I remember this vividly. You played as one player in a practice setting, learning the timing of the new stick-shooting controls. If you still have the ill-fated NBA Elite 11 demo, go to its practice mode, that's what we saw three years ago.
NBA Live 14 was back at E3 again with—wait for it—a practice session only. According to Samit Sarkar at Polygon, it was mostly a dribbling showcase, highlighting the new "BounceTek" system touted in Electronic Arts's keynote event on Monday.
"It's also worth noting that Tiburon [the development studio] had nothing more complete to show than a single player dribbling on an empty court," Sarkar wrote, correctly pointing out that a dribble system—and we're told under this one, the ball acts and reacts independently of the player animation—can only be judged for how it plays against an active defender.
It's interesting that the dribbling system involves the left stick controlling a player's feet (or direction) and the right his hands (or special moves). This, again, is something NBA Elite 11 attempted (drawing on the controls from NHL) and it was implemented just last year in NBA 2K13. The attempt to reinvent basketball at the last minute is what's blamed for NBA Elite 11's failure to launch in 2010.
Why EA keeps bringing incomplete basketball games to L.A., I'll never know. It doesn't really need to. NBA 2K hasn't brought a hands-on demo in any year I've attended—like me, it didn't show up at all this year—and it's done just fine. The NBA simulation games release in early October, so in June, they're on the cusp of being done enough to show something, but incomplete enough that showing them could be a total disaster—as happened with last year's closed-doors, eyes-only demonstration of NBA Live 13. One-on-one, with a guided explanation, one could see the potential of that game. Sitting in a darkened theater, watching Dwyane Wade run back and forth from the perimeter to the high post, only glitches and bugs were on display.
Sarkar noted that NBA Live's release date is no more specific than "within the next 12 months" but there is an NBA Live 14 PlayStation 4 bundle currently for sale at GameStop. If this game is ready for November, I have to wonder why EA Sports didn't show more. And if this really was all they were confident in showing, they better get to work.