Acclaim talks about crafting the visuals in the newest installment of the NBA Jam series.
NBA JAM Producer
Acclaim Studios Austin
Looker. Jar of eye candy. Jaw-dropping, mouthwatering, stunning knockout. There are many ways to describe a game with good graphics. What defines those graphics has changed over time. The things that amazed us two years ago wouldn't even get a second look today. It's difficult to keep up when the graphics bar is always being raised, but as a developer you have to plan ahead for it. The way a game looks is the first thing that will grab the player, whether it's with a screenshot, the packaging, or watching someone else play. If it doesn't look good, nobody is going to give it a chance. In this third entry in the NBA Jam Designer Diary, we will give you a sneak peek at some of our early concepts, show you some of our special effects, and tell you how we get it all working together at a crisp 60 frames per second.
The Jam Art Style
It's difficult to decide upon an art style, and even more difficult to put it into words. The focus of the game is on the players on the court, so the way they look can dictate the way the rest of the artwork comes together. Our first step in developing our style was to sketch out what our players would look like. In many ways, NBA Jam is a caricature of the NBA game in real life. We made a conscious effort to remain true to the style and feel of the original game. We examined three approaches to the player models: realistically proportioned, completely exaggerated, and somewhere in between. There were some concerns that the completely exaggerated style might not translate well to an onscreen model. We ended up deciding on using somewhat exaggerated proportions but using realistic textures.
Player Details and Player Models Using those initial concepts, we built our first player models. We knew that we were going to have a fast engine, so the artists were given a large 3,500-polygon count to work with. When you combine that with the shadows and reflections, that's nearly 5,000 polys to render each player! A lot of other sports games simply slap a slightly modified texture onto a generic head model to create the vast number of player likenesses. One of the best parts about the NBA is the individuality of each of the players, and we wanted to preserve that in NBA Jam. We chose to take approximately 1,000 of the allotted polygons and apply them to the player heads. Each and every one has been individually modeled and textured so it is completely unique. When these unique heads are combined with our four different body types, individual tattoos, and player equipment, it's very easy to recognize your favorite player on the court. The players have been tweaked and modified during the entire project. For example, we had to tweak the size of some of the skinnier players, because they would almost disappear when the camera was farther away from the action. The final results of all the fine-tuning look great, though. Each character retains the flavor of his real-life counterpart but is just stylized enough to fit the NBA Jam motif.
Player Animation Of course, it's all well and good to have great-looking models, but if they don't move, they aren't going to impress anybody. With the 700-plus moves we were planning on using, we knew that we were going to have to use motion capture to generate almost all our animation. We even enlisted the help of some guys from Slam Ball to do a lot of the trampoline work on some of the superhuman moves.
- Release Date: Oct 31, 2003 (EU)
- Release Date: Canceled (US)
- Release Date: Apr 29, 1994 (JP)
- Release Date: November 1994 (US)
- Release Date: 1994 (AU)
- Release Date: 1994 (US)