If you played as much NBA JAM as I did, both as a five-year-old with my babysitter and as a freshman in college, then you would know that the game is all about the unlockable teams and characters. Eventually, all those hours of two-dimensional razzle-dazzle dunks, on-fire streaks, and shoving actually pay off. So on the eve of the release of the newest game, NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, the geniuses at EA Sports have unleashed even more secret teams, including the phenomenon that has already swept the Internet: the honey badger. And yes, he’s pretty badass. We caught up with the game’s product manager, Jeff Appleby, to tell us a little bit more about how the honey badger found its way into the game, and what else NBA JAM fans have to look forward to.
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Dime: How did this idea to use the Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger as an unlockable team come about? Was there someone in the office who was like, “This honey badger video is hilarious, let’s put it in the game?”
Jeff Appleby: It came about from the rise that honey badgers have had online recently, their tenacity, and the fact they’re such a crazy, unique animal. National Geographic I think did a spot on them and then a guy who goes by the name of Randall did his own voiceover because he thought the original video was too boring and monotonous. Obviously it has 15 to 20 million views on YouTube, and it became â€” I don’t know if sensation is the right word â€” but its definitely gotten a lot of play.
We wanted to go above and beyond the NBA players and the mascots and add more unlockable secret teams. Everyone had seen this honey badger video, whether it was the marketing or the development side. There was some chatter and the JAM team decided they wanted to add it to the game. Everyone kind of thought we’d be able to play off the honey badger love that they were getting online. I guess a month or two ago, I saw them in action and just how hilarious they were. In the game, two of them are pretty big, one’s a little small and they really do bring a pretty cool dynamic action to the game, so I decided I would reach out and try to track down the guy who did the voiceover for that video.
Dime: How did you find Randall?
JA: I just kind of jumped on YouTube, found his page, and just sent a note to the guy who handles his YouTube page – which ended up being him – and talked with him briefly. I got put in touch with his agent and kind of negotiated the deal through him. We worked with Randall over the last couple weeks on a script that we created, and we just finished putting that into the game with Randall’s very unique voiceover.
Dime: So the question everyone is wondering: What do you have to do to unlock it?
JA: The progression in the game is how you unlock the new characters. JAM Bucks are both your XP and your “cash.” You can use it to level up and gain access to cool stuff in the JAM Store. Put in some time to get to level 20 and you will unlock The Honey Badgers. Once you’ve saved up 15,000 JAM Bucks, you can purchase the Honey Badger team and see what type of damage you can create with Feisty, Sleepy and Nasty, our three loveable yet menacing honey badgers. Take them online and wreak havoc across the world.
Dime: Are there any other animals that we might be able to play as besides just the badger?
JA: Well there’s the mascots, so there are some animals involved there. And there may or may not be able some unlockable animals throughout the season, so you’ll definitely have to stay tuned and work on the game to unlock those.
Dime: What other secret unlockable teams are there in the game?
JA: We’re actually still in the process of ruling out what some of those unlockables are, but our goal was to make this is attractive as a game as possible to those who are not necessarily involved in basketball as it is to those who are. We wanted to reach out to the core EA gamers, not just the ones who play basketball, but who play a range of games. Or maybe those just looking for something that’s funny, unique and fun, and not necessarily a top name like a Shaquille O’Neal or a LeBron James.
Dime: What else do people have to look forward to in this new NBA JAM edition?
JA: Well, really on top of all the favorite moves â€” the dunks, the spins, and everything â€” we’ve really brought in a whole host of gameplay improvements. There’s the “tag” mode, which is the opportunity for you to play as each player on the court, meaning you can actually swap between teammates, set each other up, switch back from the front court to back court. There’s “team fire,” so if your team makes three alley-oops in a row, your whole team goes on fire for a limited amount of time. We’ve introduced “razzle-dazzle,” which you can see in some of our previous videos and in the honey badger video. It’s basically creating really funny moves like throwing the basketball up in the air and making a funny gesture or putting it behind your back for no reason. It’s just a way to create new shots for more excitement.
There’s also a mode called “road trip,” which is our campaign mode. You play against all 30 NBA teams with multiple challenges against their roster, and you progress on the challenges from bronze, silver, up to gold, as well as “arena” mode which is our new online play mode. So yeah, between all that, all the original classic play, there’s updated rosters with 50 NBA legends and 27 mascots, plus a host of secret teams which we’re just now starting to roll out. In a few weeks you’ll see another video come out which is very cool and unique which will showcase three great additions to our roster.
You can download NBA JAM: On Fire Edition starting Oct. 4th for $14.99 or 1200 Microsoft points.
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