Former employees of Midway Games, the developer and publisher of games like Mortal Kombat, Rampage, Spy Hunter, and NBA Jam, recently spoke to Game History about an MLB arcade game that the company started developing with Incredible Technologies but eventually canceled.
Midway, which developed the original NBA Jam basketball game in 1993, hoped to match its success with an MLB game. Electronic Arts eventually acquired the rights the NBA Jam franchise and released NBA Jam for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010.
“It was kind of a stealth project because I think almost nobody knew that we’re even working on it,” said Midway Game Designer John Newcomer. The project immediately attracted interest from Incredible Technologies, who admired the “quality in presentation, in graphics, in gameplay” that NBA Jam had delivered.
“The goal was to be the next great sports game from Midway. It was supposed to be extreme, fun, crazy, and super competitive,” said Incredible Technologies Programmer Brian Smolik. The game soon encountered development issues since the team didn’t have much to work with.”
“Major League Baseball didn’t digitize them and send us files, it was pictures for [us] to scan in. And none of the noses came out right. So the artists had to spend all this time adding one pixel, so their faces weren’t just flat, it was crazy. They cleaned up every face from every angle, and it was a lot of work,” Smolik added.
“It was supposed to be over-the-top and extreme and all those good things from the ’90s. So, the initial art style that I went with was what was pretty trendy at the time with like, shattered fonts and lots of paint splashes and things like that. That kind of look and feel ran pretty much throughout the game,” Incredible Technologies Art Director Alan Noon, said.
The game integrated trackball technology, which Incredible Technologies specialized in, that allowed players to hit and pitch. “To pitch, the faster you roll that ball, the faster you pitched, and the same with batting. So you had people slamming it as hard as they could. It was super intense. And nobody in the office could concentrate, because down the hall there are two morons screaming and yelling and beating the heck out of this game,” Smolik said.
The development game was eventually canceled after the team realized that the game had become overly complicated. “[Newcomer] wanted it to be great, he knew it was a good game. I think we just missed a couple of things. It was too long – we shortened it down to maybe three innings or something like that. And at some point, you could buy one inning at a time. And who’s gonna play one inning, right?” Smolik said.
Midway, which was founded in 1958 as an amusement game manufacturer, began developing and publishing arcade video games in 1973. The company moved into the home video game market in 1996, eventually becoming the fourth largest-selling video game publisher in 2000.
Nine years later, Midway filed for bankruptcy, with Warner Bros. purchasing most of the company’s assets, including Mortal Kombat. In 2010, the company shut down its operations. Meanwhile, Incredible Technologies, best known for the Golden Tee Golf series, continues to develop video and casino games.
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