How did NBA Jam overcome a rocky launch and become one of the arcade era’s all-time biggest hits? How did its developers move past a serious “digitization” screw-up? And where’s the legendary original version featuring Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey, Jr?
On the eve of NBA Jam‘s latest home release—this time as an Arcade1Up cabinet (Best Buy, Walmart) featuring the series’ first three arcade versions—we asked series lead programmer and designer Mark Turmell to join us from his home to answer these questions and more. The result is our most “on-fire” War Stories video yet, complete with original development footage provided by Turmell himself.
“Geeking out on digitized graphics”
As he explains in our interview, Turmell’s game development history began with early consoles and home computers before he “shifted to the coin-op business” in 1989 with Williams, a Chicago arcade game and pinball manufacturer. (Two years later, the company’s arcade division was re-branded “Midway,” since Williams had bought Bally/Midway in 1988.) Shortly after his hire, the company began focusing on a trend that would eventually define many of its hits: “We were geeking out on the digitized graphics concept, the new technology, if you will,” Turmell says.