Radical Hoop Tricks

Radical gets closer to showing off that it will jump (and shoot) through hoops to make a realistic looking NBA game.

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NBA Tonight is Radical Entainment's answer to basketball, and the game is travelling home to the PlayStation and PC on October 20, 1998. Videogames.com caught up with the Radical developers for a little one-on-one with Aron Drayer, the game's producer, and Robson Grieve, the product manager.

Videogames.com: How are you taking full advantage of the ESPN name with this game?

Radical: We've worked with ESPN's researchers to deliver Did You Know game facts. PC gamers will get up-to-the minute scores and news through SportsTicker, just like on ESPN. Our development team has lived ESPN.

Videogames.com: What about the announcers?

Radical: A big part of the ESPN experience is the color commentary provided by SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott and Hall-of-Fame NBA Coach Dr. Jack Ramsay. Stu Scott is one of the most popular ESPN personalities, and his trademark highlight calls are incredibly popular. And Dr. Jack gives us the most knowledgeable basketball mind involved in any video game.

While other games have tried to replicate play-by-play calls, we've used color commentary to add to the entertainment value of the game by providing interesting facts about the NBA and its players, in-depth game analysis, as well as trademark catch phrases and funny reactions to all different types of in-game events. The input of Stuart and Dr. Jack makes NBA Tonight totally unique among sports video games.

Videogames.com: What was your goal with NBA Tonight?

Radical: We started out with two goals: First, we wanted to create a playable ESPN NBA broadcast, bringing in all the ESPN elements that people are familiar with seeing in their homes every day. Second, we wanted to create a realistic NBA simulation that is both fun to play and offers a true feeling of what it is like to be in control of an NBA player and team. We felt that if we could successfully accomplish these two things, we could deliver a game that's fun for hardcore gamers as well as sports fans who aren't yet big gamers.

Videogames.com: Have you learned from other basketball games' mistakes?

Radical: The first thing is AI. We want the game to play like the real NBA, and the only way to do that is to make the game smarter than any game on the market. We think that Read and React AI is the most accurate simulation of a NBA game, and the strategy-based play calling is more like the decisions that NBA players make in every game.

Second, the look of the players and the environments is key to making the experience complete. Our players are extremely realistic representations of their real-life counterparts. The NBA is a sport based on personality, and we've tried to convey that personality through the look and feel of the players.

Also, the arena environment is complete with working Jumbotron scoreboard, courtside seats, detailed backboards and nets, rotating dorna boards, announcers and score-keepers sitting courtside, lens flare from the stadium lights, and extremely accurate courts, including center and baseline logos and wood types and designs.

Videogames.com: How do you expect players who play basketball games for the athletes receive NBA Tonight?

Radical: It's got all of the details of the NBA, with a huge number of motion-captured NBA moves, including windmill, 360, 180, and kiss-the-rim dunks; double pump and reverse layups; leaners and fall aways; and special moves like spins, through the legs dribbles, post backdowns, pump and ball fakes, and behind the back and no-look passes. First and foremost, it's going to be a really fun game.

Videogames.com: What have you done with the sound in the game?

Radical: The game has full Dolby surround-sound encoding; two ESPN color commentators plus an arena announcer; a variety of crowd noises and chants, including an intelligent crowd that will rise and ebb depending on game situation; and studio sendoffs, featuring Dan Patrick and Kenny Mayne.

Videogames.com: How is the single-player mode vs. the multiplayer mode?

Radical: The seasons and playoffs all support multiple users and multiple teams. The game supports up to eight players with two PlayStation multitaps, and the single-player version will feature three skill levels.

Videogames.com: How much customizability does the game have?

Radical: The game includes four season and playoff lengths; the ability to create players, make multiplayer trades, and edit players; and the ability to change starters for all teams. The SportsTicker (PC only) can be customized to receive as many or as few sports as the user wants. Rosters can be updated online (PC only), including teams, rookies, free agents, attributes, pictures, faces/heads/bodies, and PowerRankings. The game has multiple quarter lengths, simulation and arcade modes, all violations can be turned on or off, and it has adjustable auto-replay frequency and fouls.

Videogames.com: You showed us how the athletes turn to follow the ball. Why did you do this?

Radical: In real NBA games, players' heads almost always follow the ball. The real reason we did this was for realism. Not only do the shooter and defender accurately follow the ball with procedural head movement, but all the players on the floor turn to follow the shot as it goes up. On reverse lay-ups, players actually look up and over their shoulders as they release, and they look up toward the rim on the dunks. Overall, this gives a much greater impression of the players having a knowledge of what is going on around them and results in a much more realistic looking game.

Videogames.com: So what's left to do?

Radical: Gameplay tuning is our number one priority. The problem areas of all basketball games are defense and passing. We hope to have the best defense, most responsive passing, and generally the best gameplay experience on the market. Also, we're finalizing all the ESPN elements, like making sure all the overlays are correct, that the color commentary occurs correctly and sounds intelligent, and locking down all the front end screens.

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