See How 1993’s NBA Jam Was Made

See How 1993’s NBA Jam Was Made
We rarely get to see the process by which a video game is pitched to a publisher, even today in an age of developer diaries and all-access marketing. It’s even rarer we get to see how a game was pitched all the way back in the early 90s.

Yet that’s what we’re getting a look at today, in this fascinating video detailing not just how arcade classic NBA Jam was able to get its all-important NBA rights, but even cooler, how its iconic graphics were created.

In the above video, uploaded by video-game-ephemera, you’ll see all kinds of interesting stuff. Footage of Midway’s other notable arcade times of the era, for one, like Terminator 2. Footage of people playing a prototype version of NBA Jam and, with cameras in their face for a pitch video, loving it.

But you’ll also see some of the game’s unsung heroes: the actors used to capture the animation you see every time a player dribbles and dunks their way across the court. Midway employed the services of amatuers Tony Scott, William “Air Morris”, Todd McClearn and Stephen Howard (who would actually later sign with the Utah Jazz) to act out all the moves you see in the game, and this video captures them at work, performing cross-overs and passes in front of a blue screen.

This footage was then broken down by the game’s animators and used for each of the game’s characters, the only changes made being to add a custom face to each.

As a nice touch, these “actors” are available as bonus characters in some versions of the game.

Anyone who’s played the game will also see a few differences between the version of NBA Jam in the video and that eventually released in 1993. There are different camera angles, for one, while there’s also added game features like replays and input from the coaches, which were either cut or never seriously intended to be there in the first place.

One more thing NBA fans (or NBA Jam fans) might notice from the early gameplay footage in the video is the presence of two of the sport’s biggest names who sadly never (or rarely) featured in NBA Jam. One being Michael Jordan, who due to licensing issues was rarely in any basketball video games, the other being Charles Barkley, who while making the cut in the arcade edition of the game was later removed from most of the home versions.

Article 44-NBA JAM NBA licence pitch video (1992) [video-game-ephemera, via GameSetWatch]

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  • Haha, a fumble in the football game is represented on the screen with FML.
    Also – the two demo players in NBA Jam are Jordan and Barkley

  • Coach input was in the game…. though it was just some messages on the screen at quarter time from a pool of possible messages. I don’t think it ever said anything constructive….
    The first person view would have been simply amazing too! Though I don’t know if it would have been possible on home console hardware such as the mega drive or snes…

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