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Wayback Wednesday: Failing to Mod NBA Jam TE on PC

Welcome to Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! This is a feature where we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content.

I’ve mentioned NBA Jam Tournament Edition a few times in previous features, as it’s one of my all-time favourite basketball video games, and in my opinion, one of the best arcade hoops games ever made. Appropriately enough, it was the subject of my first video feature for Wayback Wednesday. In that video, I mentioned that I once tried my hand at modding the game, as I wanted to replace Ron Harper with Michael Jordan.

Although I wouldn’t actually discover and get into the patching scene until my family first connected to the Internet in 1997 and I subsequently found the NLSC, those attempts to modify NBA Jam TE were an early indication of my interest in tinkering with basketball video games. I wasn’t successful in my efforts, and having looked into the matter again now that I know a bit more about modding, it unfortunately doesn’t appear to be feasible…at least with the PC version.

So, for this week’s Wayback Wednesday, I’m taking a look back at my early attempts to mod NBA Jam Tournament Edition on PC, as well as my more recent investigations. Let’s take a look back…way back…

I’ve been messing around with computers since my father first brought home the demonstration model of an Acorn Archimedes computer from the bookshop where he worked at the time. Incidentally, I loved that computer, and wish that I’d been able to keep it when the store closed and it was being offered up to the employees. It’s the computer that introduced me to Lemmings and the original James Pond, two classics from the early 90s. It also provided me with an opportunity to learn how to tinker with, and troubleshoot computers…as did accidentally uninstalling the CD-ROM drive of my family’s first Windows PC while my parents were out. Ah, memories!

Selecting the Chicago Bulls in NBA Jam Tournament Edition PC

Anyway, it all led to me developing an interest in computers and technology that continues to this day, and I became fairly proficient at installing games, getting them to work, and using DOS. I felt comfortable browsing through the folders – or directories, as they were called at the time – and learned how to identify files, such as saved games. I therefore knew how to make backups, including the specific files I needed to copy over to a floppy disk. Of course, for games under 1.44 MB in size, I’d sometimes be lazy and just copy the entire directory.

When the idea of replacing Ron Harper with Michael Jordan in NBA Jam TE came to mind, I went looking through the game’s files. Within the “Resource” directory, I found another directory titled “Game”. It contained another directory titled “Geordies”, in which there were 195 files matching the names of all the players in the game. One of those files was named HARPER; naturally, I tried to renaming it to JORDAN. I fired up the game, and anxiously waited to see what would happen.

In short, nothing out of the ordinary did. Harper’s name didn’t change to Jordan, and strangely enough, renaming the file didn’t even cause a crash to occur at any point. From memory, Harper’s name was even announced by Tim Kitzrow as normal, so the change apparently didn’t break any links to the audio data, either. Disappointed, I renamed the file back to HARPER, and continued to search for anything else that I could change. Unfortunately, I came up empty.

Around two or three years ago, I revisited the idea of modifying the PC version of NBA Jam TE, just for fun, and to see if it was actually possible. This time, I had the use of a hex editor, but the only references I could find to player names in the executable file were in the text for one of the attract mode screens. I enlisted JaoSming’s help, but even with Leftos’ Hex on Steroids tool, it was impossible to track down any relevant data that could be modified. Once again, I was out of luck.

Ron Harper dunks in NBA Jam Tournament Edition PC

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous that the Super Nintendo version can be modified through ROM hacking. If you take a look on YouTube, you can find mods that add new players to the SNES version of Jam and Jam TE, including Michael Jordan. I do actually have both games on SNES, and can obviously download those hacks as well, but I do wish that the same thing could be done with the PC version. Speaking of those projects, one was actually being undertaken in our community, as user Millertime2325 was looking to make a current roster update for Jam TE, even posting some previews. Sadly, it seems as though that project has been abandoned.

At this point, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the PC version of NBA Jam TE isn’t moddable, which is ironic as that’s usually one of the advantages PC releases have over console games. NBA Jam TE is still one of my favourite basketball titles, and it’s fun to go back and play it every now and again, but man, it would’ve been great to get MJ into the game. To that end, if anyone ever discovers a way to mod the PC version, or stumbles across someone who has, by all means please point me in the right direction!

Mind you, it should be noted that MJ’s absence doesn’t stand in the way of success and clutch performances. In the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition, it’s quite possible for Yinka Dare to completely dominate the opposition, in defiance of some of the worst ratings a player has ever been given in a basketball video game. I guess I’m therefore left to ponder the question: who needs Air, when you have Dare?

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