NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Post-Launch Q&A

We recently had the opportunity to chat to NBA Jam: On Fire Edition producer Cody Sawatsky about this year’s game. We asked him about the reaction to On Fire Edition so far and his favourite addition, as well as a few questions about Road Trip, the Online Arena and Real AI. Cody also provided us with a few tips for success in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition and we’ve been provided with a few exclusive screens for the occasion. Read on to get the full scoop!

Please note that this Q&A was conducted closer to the release of the game last month but it’s been held up slightly due to a couple of questions we asked requiring clarification and approval before we could post it. Thanks again Cody for chatting with us and for community manager John C for setting everything up!

Well, first of all, thanks Cody for taking the time to chat with us today.

My pleasure.

NBA JAM: On Fire Edition has been out for a few days now, how pleased are you guys with the reaction so far?

Extremely! Reactions we’ve been seeing online have been very encouraging. People are loving the depth and variation in Road Trip, the amount of unlockables on offer, the new career system, and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen at the end of the first Arena session! I’m also excited to see who the most popular teams online will be.

A while back you tweeted that you guys had included a special player fans would be very excited about. Out of interest, which player was it? Is it someone that’s been revealed already? 

Absolutely! I was talking about Faith from Mirror’s Edge! We’re very pleased with how she turned out, and she’s a beast on the court!

What’s your favorite thing that you guys added in NBA JAM: On Fire Edition? 

Honestly? It’s hard to pick! I LOVE JamNet. I spend probably a good couple minutes looking at it every time I start the game. I also LOVE our new career system. Completing Jam Challenges to get enough XP and Points to get the unlocks is VERY addictive!

That and I really love the stat-tracking that both those features offer. My personal favorite is tracking total backboards smashed.

One of the things I really like about Road Trip is that we can select a new team every game, making it a mix of the old school ladder mode, last year’s Classic Campaign and Remix Mode. Was that the goal, and how did it come about?

Absolutely it was! I’m glad you noticed. Veterans of last year’s Remix Mode may recognize the divisional layout. However, something we wanted to highlight with Road Trip was team differentiation. Key to that was to let you choose whatever team you wanted to play against whatever team you were facing.

Taking the progression off of one team and placing it on the player was a decision we made early. We knew how frustrating it was to be thrown into a matchup against a team that your chosen team was a very poor choice against. Also, you had very little if any choice in who you were facing next. By making the challenge ladder totally open, but blocking off the really hard challenges behind easier ones, we can encourage people to explore different teams, switch up their play-styles, and hopefully up their game!

We also weren’t necessarily fans of the Classic Campaign screen from last year. You look at it and it’s like “Man, that’s a lot of matches”, which it is. We have even more matches this year, but we give you way more choice. That’s very important in keeping the game feeling fresh, and the players engaged.

For those who still aren’t sure what it’s about, could you please talk a little about the Online Arena? 

Online Arena is a weekly ladder tournament. Every time you get a win, you make progress toward an “Arena Rank”. Your rank at the end of the week will go onto your Jam Card. The highest rank you’ve ever attained will show up on your Jam Card, but if you reach Platinum twice, you’ll get Platinum X 2, 3, and so on.

Don’t have time to play? Don’t sweat it. Every Wednesday the Arena clock rolls over and everything starts again, so you are never more than six days away from being able to be the best in the world. We didn’t want you to feel that the ride was going and you couldn’t find a place to get on. With Online Arena, we have a clock that will tell you exactly when your next chance to get in on the ground floor will be.

Also, completing the specific Arena Challenges and completing Arena games is absolutely the fastest way in the game to make JAM Bucks, so if you wanna level up quick and get those unlocks, play online!

Are there any tips or secrets you can share for OFE?

Sure do! There are a couple JAM secrets we can share to help you play like a pro.

1. Pump Fake. Getting someone to bite on a pump fake will give you a HUGE boost to your shot percentage.

2. BLOCK ALLEY-OOPS! Any player, even someone with a block rating of 1, can block an alley-ooper.

3. Play to your ratings! Look at your team’s ratings before you go in, and play to those strengths.

4. GET OPEN! The leading cause of missed shots is defender proximity. Having a defender near you cuts down on your shot percentage. Get clear, or get them stumbling to get your best shot off.

5. Release at the top of the arc! Your best jump shots come when you release the button at the top of your jump. Blocks are the same. Get sloppy with shots and blocks at your own peril!

6. Press that button down a little bit longer! Most newer players, when they get the ball under the basket try to tap the shoot button for a little shot, and end up pump-faking a ton. This just tells your opponent to come push you. Instead stay cool and shoot like normal. It’ll go in.

Awesome. Any recommendations for the best team/combo to use? Any personal favorites?

Depends what you’re looking for! My two favorite teams at the moment are the Celtics with Larry Bird and Ray Allen. They put up threes like nobody’s business, but really lack blocking or power of any kind. Conversely, I run show with Howard and Griffin on the Dunk Champs team. I put up a 77 point victory on the Nuggets Bronze Challenge with that team the other night. #1 in the world!

Is Real AI still in full effect outside the Real AI difficulty setting? How does the setting differ from the rest of the game?

Real AI is ALWAYS in effect! The only difference is that we are making it play nice on the lower difficulties, and let it run wild on REAL AI difficulty. REAL AI Difficulty is constantly evolving, and will be different from console to console. It reads your inputs, and uses them against you. It will however read your friend’s best moves when you play with them online, and bring it into your game.

REAL AI, or Platinum difficulty, is really for the most masochistic people out there. If you want pure punishment, or the feeling of overcoming a huge challenge, that is the level for you!

Obviously there’s a lot of stuff that’s best left to players to discover for themselves, but is there anything else that hasn’t been talked about that you’d like to reveal to gamers?

Complete all the gold challenges in a division in Road Trip. You’ll be in for a surprise! Also, look through the icons in the Jam Store. If you sink 75 Razzle Dazzle shots, you get an icon of my cat wearing a tuxedo! It’s pretty awesome.

We managed to get a bunch of silly stuff in there. Make sure you read the challenge descriptions in Road Trip in there as well. I wrote those in a fever dream between midnight and 4 AM, so I think they’re hilarious but nobody else might. We really wanted the game to have personality, and I think we accomplished that in spades.

Nice. Finally, who’s got the best record in the office? Any funny stories (or care to brag)? 

We have some of the best JAM players in the world working on the game, and things have gotten fairly competitive over the cycle. We would rib each other by calling one another up and reading to them from the How To Play section in the main menu. “Chapter 1: Passing the ball” that kinda thing.

We also have had a battle raging between stick and button users. Finally it looks like button users are winning, but stick users were dominant for the longest time!

Cool. Well, thanks again for taking some time out to chat with us, we appreciate the insight!

Thank you for having me!

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November 1, 2011 1:03 pm

Awesome! Going to load it up right now actually (trying to get the skeleton team)

November 2, 2011 8:14 pm

“We also have had a battle raging between stick and button users. Finally it looks like button users are winning, but stick users were dominant for the longest time!” – EA and 2K should take note of this, not to abandon the face button users and go all out with the sticks for their sports games.