SUPER HIGH IMPACT
Publisher Acclaim Entertainment (as Arena) Developer Iguana Entertainment Format Mega Drive Release 1992
“I’d wanted to make games all my life. I’d come out of college, got my degree in computer science, and worked at a company for a very short time. It went out of business, so I started working at Iguana Entertainment. Iguana eventually went on to make NBA Jam for consoles, but before that I worked on a Sega Genesis port of Super High Impact football, an arcade game and kind of a precursor to NBA Jam but for American football. It wasn’t 11 on 11, and you could hit [the players] and their pads would explode… It was ridiculous. I don’t think many people know about it, and I don’t think it sold super well!
There was a tool that reduced the sprites down and an artist cleaned them up or whatever, but really they were done in a couple of weeks, and so basically I was the only person on the project. It involved converting the assembly language of the arcade machine to the assembly language of the 68000 [processor]. Back then when you made a game for the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo, they just handed you the manual for the hardware and said, ‘Good luck!’ There were no development kits, nothing! You had to write your own assembler, you had to make your own devkits, you needed a computer engineer to create things. But there were a few expensive devkits made by a third party for Genesis, and we ended up buying one.
[Iguana] wanted this done in three months. So I started working on it and about a month in, Jeff Spangenberg, who was the company president, said something to me that I’ll never forget: ‘This project’s supposed to be done in three months. This is your opportunity to make games.’ Before that – in high school, in college – I barely applied myself. People always said I was under-performing and it was true, because I just didn’t care. But he was like, ‘This is your chance. It’s time to be serious about what you’re doing.’ And I was like, ‘He’s right.’ So I worked really hard and finished on time and on budget, and it worked great. The publisher, Acclaim, was really excited, because it was one of the first projects they had on time and on budget ever, and so it was a turning point in my career and my life.
After that, Acclaim awarded us another project. But around the same time, in the early ’90s, there was an arcade in Sunnyvale called Golfland where Acclaim tested many of the arcade machines. They said, ‘OK, we’ve got this new arcade machine at Sunnyvale you should check out.’ So Jeff and I went over and played this machine. I was like, ‘Jeff, this game kicks ass. We’ve got to do this.’ But he was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, this game is really dumb. It’s too goofy, too weird.’ I told him that I thought he was going to regret it, but he still decided to turn it down. And so we turned down Mortal Kombat.
After we turned that down and it was a big hit, a few months later they had another machine. We went there and again I said, ‘We’ve got to do this one. This one’s awesome!’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to make that mistake again…’ [Laughs] That was NBA Jam.”