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.”

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