Thursday, October 2, 2008

Live 365 and Player DNA - The real competition

EA Sports had a brief interview with Synergy Sports founder Garrick Barr (who I could have sworn was a LoTR character) talking about how his technology-based scouting service is the "brain" behind Live 365 and Player DNA, which is the only NBA Live feature that I've heard of worth talking about.

What is Synergy? Well, our Orcish friend Garrick can tell you better than I.

EA: In your own words, what does Synergy Sports do for the NBA teams that subscribe to your service?

GB: Synergy lets NBA coaches and scouts “follow their nose” with the most focused work-flow process imaginable. Synergy logs all NBA games (and tons of college and international games) and generates an enormous amount of offensive and defensive data to produce a growing number of pro-level analytics. These statistical displays allow staff to focus on any aspect of a game, team or player and when they identify something of interest, they drill down on matching video which is delivered in just seconds over the Internet. This has never before been possible and it allows coaches to immediately see what happened out on the court in very specific situation so that they can quickly come to conclusions as they evaluate players for the draft, formulate game plans or work on their own player’s skills development. Of course, Synergy is more than simply “Google” for basketball. We have end-to-end solutions that are constantly evolving to address the many functions performed in NBA basketball operations. Perhaps most important to mention is how we enable collaboration from staff all over the world via our online services.

Excellent promotion of your company and why NBA teams should throw thousands of dollars at your feet. But what does that really mean to gamers?

EA: For those unconvinced, why is Synergy Sports the most authentic statistics and tendencies driver for the AI in NBA LIVE 09?

GB: The answer is simple: we log every event of every NBA game to produce incredibly accurate data on what players actually do both on offense and on defense. This data is comprehensive and has become indispensable to almost every NBA team as they use our services for everything from evaluating players to winning games.

Okay, we get it. Synergy is a great service. But how is that going to convert to basketball ratings effectively? Mr. Barr continues...

EA: What's the difference between say a couple of NBA LIVE producers coming up with ratings, statistics for NBA LIVE 09 versus Synergy Sports?

GB: Your producers are at a hopeless disadvantage. In the end, they have always had to guess how players will act out on the court –- just like we used to do as coaches before Synergy came along. We might have known many of the tendencies of key players, but in-depth knowledge of all players was simply out of our reach. There is too much information to keep track of to accurately predict a player’s performance out on the floor or to reproduce player performance in a video game. This is where the human brain fails and computers excel -- when provided a full data set.

I'm torn here. On the one hand, I'd like to consider myself living proof that it is possible for one man to know the tendencies and abilities of nearly every player in the NBA (and quite a few out of it). And even if you hate me and think I'm a clueles buffoon, you have to admit it's not a far cry to say three people could accomplish it.

On the other hand, Synergy is offering what I do at the click of a computer button. For someone whose spent thousands of hours editing rosters over the years, this is music to my ears. Synergy, like most systems ultimately reliant on statistics, are not infallible. But they're pretty damn close, for the comprehensive data they'd be bringing to the table.

Does that mean NBA LOLive is the game to get this year? Absolutely not!

Synergy is ahead of it's time as far as video games are concerned. Synergy is VERY specific and video game ratings are not. Sports games have made baby steps in this department, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It will be years before Synergy can be utilized in video games the same way NBA coaches and GMs use it.

But mark my words, one day games will catch up, and sports fans will have the ultimate gaming experience. Sports gaming's future has never been brighter.

I'll be the first to say it - Synergy Sports is the key to something grander than any of this - virtual reality video games. 100 years from now, NBA games will be a series of holograms programmed to real player tendencies.

Just make sure your grand children live at least 20 feet above sea level so they'll have someplace to play it when that day comes.

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