It’s time to go Easter Egg hunting in the executable file of NBA Live 96 PC! While the editor that Tim and Brien made for NBA Live 96 was sufficient for most of our needs when creating roster updates, at other times, we needed to open the exe file with a Hex Editor. Doing so allowed us to change things like the year of the previous season’s statistics (for example, from the default 94/95 to 95/96), edit team names, or watermark a patch by adding a message to the credits and copyright screens.
This was all done quite easily, as all you had to do was search for the appropriate text strings in the Hex Editor of your choice. As long as you didn’t try to make any team names longer than they already were, or touch anything that you really shouldn’t, you couldn’t really go wrong.
While poking around in the NBA96.exe file, you can find a few interesting and amusing Easter Eggs. As part of our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live celebrations, I thought it’d be fun to fire up HxD, comb through the NBA Live 96 executable file once again, and share some of my discoveries. Let’s get started!
Early on in the file, there isn’t really anything of interest. The only legible text strings of note are the DOS/4G copyright and Protected Run-Time notice, and various error messages that are displayed if the game fails to load.
As I mentioned in my NBA Live 96 retrospective, I had to use a boot disk to run NBA Live 96 properly. If I didn’t, chances are I’d see that error about extended memory.
Continuing to scroll through the file, it’s a long time before we encounter any more legible text strings. In case you’re wondering, this is what it looks like, for lines, and lines, and lines.
Every so often, there’ll be a stray bit of recognisable text, usually an error message, or a reference to one of the game files. At last, we come across some more copyright notices and error messages:
This continues for a little while, and then it’s back to gibberish. It’s a long, long scroll until the next point of interest, past the halfway point in the file. At the 000F2BE0 offset, we encounter the text “Mouse Sensitivity”, then more gibberish, save for a couple more error messages and copyright notices. Exciting stuff, right?
Over three quarters of the way through the file, at the 00142E50 offset, we finally come across the text for various in-game pop-ups, including the names of plays, notifications about fouls and injuries, and the names of the different camera angles.
Immediately following that, we have a bunch of pointers to various art files, and other assets. You might notice that the reference to the files for the Raptors is “craptor”, which surely can’t be a coincidence. There are two “craptor” references in the NBA Live 96 executable, both located in this general area.
All other team names are abbreviated in a logical and fairly unremarkable manner, so I have to believe that this was a hidden dig on behalf of the Vancouver Grizzlies, since NBA Live 96 was developed at EA Canada in Burnaby, BC.
A little further on, and we find a bunch of messages referring to features that aren’t available in the demo version of NBA Live 96, which have obviously been left in the full version.
Incidentally, I’ve tried to track down the demo – there was apparently one for NBA Live 95 PC as well – but to no avail. My guess is that they would’ve been included on select demo discs for magazines and the like, which are probably long since lost, or are being sold for exorbitant prices as collectibles on eBay.
After some more error messages, we get to the copyright screen that appears before the intro video, along with the names of the various options in the menus. This includes the names of the modes, the difficulty level, rules, and other settings.
Fun fact about that copyright screen: in their roster updates, Tim and Lutz changed “in whole and in part” to “in holes and in parts”, which was a subtle way of watermarking the updates, and identifying stolen work.
This is followed by further references to features that were unavailable in the NBA Live 96 demo, more pointers to art files, a couple of error messages, and all the available Playoff formats.
There are various references to DAT files throughout the NBA Live 96 executable, which is the format that the game saved settings and custom roster data in. We weren’t actually able to save and load different rosters until NBA Live 97 PC, so Tim and Lutz came up with the idea of changing the references to rosters.dat to custom filenames, which combined with multiple patched exe files, allowed several different rosters to be playable on the one installation. For example, the patched exe file for the 1997 season would automatically save and load a roster file called rosters.s97.
A little further on, we find the labels for various player attributes, as well as the names of all the colleges in the game.
Following on from the names of the colleges, we have text strings that refer to how a player was acquired by their current team (signed as a free agent, drafted, traded from another team, or created). There are also references to the previous season – 94/95 – which is what we’d edit when we created rosters for the 1997 season onwards, and wanted the player stats for the previous year to be labelled 95/96, 96/97, and so on.
Scrolling on, in between notifications and error messages, we find a couple of references to Kansas City, and San Diego. These were left in the game because at the time, there were players in the league who had been drafted by teams in those cities: Otis Thorpe was taken by the Kings when they were in Kansas City, while Terry Cummings had been drafted by the Clippers when they were still in San Diego. Thorpe is in NBA Live 96, but Cummings isn’t. He was in NBA Live 95 however, so it’s clearly leftover data that was meant for him.
Moving on, we find some references to animation files:
And not too long after that, we find the credits:
Following the credits, we have the city and team names. Needless to say, when we were actually editing these back in the day, we’d be using the Find function.
After some text strings that reference days, months, and times, all for the calendar and schedule in Season mode, we come to some more strings for player bio data. Notice anything interesting?
Once again, there are references for the Kansas City Kings and San Diego Clippers. However, there are also references to the St. Louis Hawks, San Francisco Warriors, Minneapolis Lakers, Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. The presence of the Utah Stars makes sense, at that’s the team that drafted Moses Malone, and he was in NBA Live 95. But those references to the old cities of the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors? Very interesting.
You’ll also note that among the names of the player positions, there’s a reference to “Bench Warmer”. This never shows up in the game, so it was either put in there as a joke, or at one point was intended to designate player roles. I’m leaning towards it being a joke, as there aren’t any other such references to roles in the rotation.
After that, it’s mostly more frontend labels, notifications, and error messages. At the 0014E590 offset, the gibberish begins again, before we start seeing some more frontend labels. Once again, this includes the names of the camera angles, rules, and other gameplay settings, as well as the names of the plays (Sideline Triangle, High Post, and so on).
At the 00161C70 offset, the player data begins with Andrew Lang.
At the 001767A0 offset, you can see the data for the developers that make up the secret players in the game, unlockable in Create-a-Player.
Amusingly, the nickname data for one of the developers is “I tore my ACL”.
And that’s pretty much it, as far as points of interest are concerned! Editing some of these extra elements of the game became a lot easier when NBA Live switched to DBF files with NBA Live 98 PC, but back in the day, it was fun discovering how to change different elements through hex editing, as well as stumbling across some of the more interesting Easter Eggs. I hope you enjoyed this journey through the NBA Live 96 executable, and picked up a couple of fun trivia notes that you weren’t aware of before. “Craptors”…come on, that had to be intentional!
Stay tuned for more 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content!