Q&A with Namo Gamo; Developers of Basketball Classics

It’s no secret that the four of us here at Nerd Jock Blog are huge fans of sports and retro games. Naturally, when we discovered a game titled “Basketball Classics” being developed by a small Indie developer, Namo Gamo we had to try it out. Adam recently reviewed the game and you can check out his thoughts here.
I recently got the chance to chat virtually with the two-man development team, Dave and Josh and asked them about their inspiration, process of making the game and some other insights as to what it is like to make a videogame in 2020 and what they have planned for the future of basketball classics. By the way, the game rocks! Dave and Josh would love to hear from you and your thoughts on the game.

NJB: Tell us a little about yourselves. How did you get your start and where did you guys meet?

Dave: Our wives are friends.  We first connected on science fiction and video games.  We actually came up with the idea for Basketball Classics at my annual Tecmo Super Bowl tournament.

NJB: Where did the name Namo Gamo come from? 

Dave: Its roots are based on an ancient brownie recipe passed down from generations.

Josh: And we needed a name for a game company. So why not Namo Gamo? Haha

NJB: What is Basketball Classics?

Dave: Basketball Classics is the sports game we always wanted. We were looking for a 20200503200520_1departure from the annual simulation titles. Something easy to pick up, but surprising in its depth. We wanted to create a light-hearted experience but allow for discovery and serious competition.

Josh: We realized that for a long time we had both wanted a basketball game that played like Tecmo Super Bowl. That game was never made. So we’re like “Let’s take a stab at it!”

NJB: Basketball Classics clearly was inspired by classic sports games.   What are some of your favorite basketball video games of all time that influenced the development of your game?

Dave: I couldn’t begin to list all the games that influenced us. Double Dribble was probably the first sports game to capture my imagination. NBA Jam is undeniable. Tecmo Super Bowl was like a guiding light though. I can’t say enough about the impact of that game.

Josh: I played a dangerous amount of NBA Live 95 on Genesis as a kid. NBA Jam, Double Dribble, Lakers vs Celtics. Tecmo NBA just never felt right, it was so detached from Tecmo Super Bowl, made by a totally different team on another continent, it never scratched that itch of the kind of basketball game I was looking for. But yeah more than any basketball game, Tecmo Super Bowl was the biggest inspiration for our game by far.

NJB: What was the most challenging part of developing the game?

Dave: The work is a thrill. Things you might guess would be challenging, like cooperating as a team or dealing with technical skills, really haven’t been that difficult. The two biggest challenges as I see it: 1) Deciding which ideas to pursue and 2) Knowing when something is finished.

Josh: Haha yeah feature creep is real. We had a basic idea for what we wanted to do with the game and we got there pretty quick. But then it was a series of conscious decisions about “you know what would be really cool…” and “hmm I have some ideas I want to try out with this or that” and the scope just kept growing and growing. But we weren’t beholden to any publisher. Nobody holding our feet to the fire to ship the game. We were just sort of working on it in our downtime away from work. So we kept going and going trying to make it the best it could be.

NJB: You recently released an update, 1.2 that included the addition of pump-fakes, quarter breaks, and made the story mode a bit easier. It seems that you listen to community feedback and actually encourage input from players on what they’d like to see added to the game. Do you have any features you’re actively working on? What is the most requested feature not yet in the game?

Dave: Great question! Games have a way of getting into our hearts. Sounds silly, but Tecmo and Double Dribble mean something deeper to me than the creators intended. The dream is to make something great that people feel a part of. You may have noticed the Doors half time? That is straight from one of the earliest adopters of the game leaving a comment in the Steam forum.

This also goes back to knowing when something is finished. Josh deserves a ton of credit 20200503195503_1for sticking with it deep into the “polish” phase.  We truly could have been done with development years ago, but we are trying to make something that lasts. Something that the gamers can be proud of.

Josh: We’ve listened a lot to the community, and we continue to encourage discourse around the future direction of the game. We originally launched in Early Access on Steam so that a community could help guide the game. And they did! We completely swapped out the entire dunk mechanic based on input from the community.

We also sent the game to Akihiko Shimoji, co-creator of Tecmo Super Bowl. He played it and loved it, said it took him way back to that time working on TSB and he shared a ton of knowledge with us about how they approached the design of that game. He was very touched that we reached out. What a great guy! That was an awesome experience.

As far as what’s in development, I’ve got a Tournament Mode I’m working on, an additional difficulty level for seasoned players, and some surprises!

The most requested feature we haven’t completed yet is probably player management. Create a player, edit stats, build a team, that type of thing. It’ll happen eventually.

NJB: Have you considered adding online tournaments or online season support?

Dave: That sounds like fun!

Josh: We’ll have to think about how to pull off something like that. It could really be killer.

NJB: What is the hardest part about making a retro-feeling game that’s approachable to today’s modern gamers?

Dave: Another great question! LOL, at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, we made a little sign to advertise our basketball game as the “Hot New Shooter”.

There are countless gamers of all kinds. I erroneously thought that Basketball Classics would only appeal to gamers who grew up in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras but that just isn’t the case. It’s like music to me. Sometimes a band will come out that seems so fresh, then I’ll realize later that they sound like someone from the 70s or 80s. Sure, some modern gamers only play Fortnite, but a ton are looking to explore new experiences. New experiences can look and sound like something from a bygone era.

That said, it seems a few mechanics are almost required in making a modern basketball title. The shot meter is an example of this.

Josh: Shot meter for sure. There are things like that that people have just been conditioned for after playing all the modern basketball titles. Things that were never in 20200503195408_1the old games. If we wanted to be purely accurate to the era and put out Basketball Classics without a shot meter gamers would be like, “Uhh wut? How do I know when to release my shot? The old games didn’t use shot meters?” Haha.

There are a lot of things like that. Speed is another. The classic games played much, much slower. But we didn’t realize it as kids. That’s just how they were. Early Basketball Classics builds played more like the classic games in that way. We probably ended up nearly doubling player speeds over lots and lots of rounds of playtesting and feedback.

Another interesting facet of this is the graphics. People remember old games looking much better than they actually looked in reality haha. They’ll go back and play retro games and be like, “….. I remember these characters looking REAL!” So you have to design retro-inspired games to look and play the way gamers remember those games, not the way those games objectively are. That’s a hard thing to do, because you’re making a style of game that technically never existed, but it needs to feel “right” to people.

NJB: The game offers the ability to select teams from various decades. How hard was the team selection process? Are there any plans for adding additional teams?

Dave: The rosters have been a blast to build and we definitely plan to add onto them.  We can’t get every team in from every year though, but we hate to leave fans feeling left out.  Let us know which years you would most like to see in the game.

Some people have created their own rosters I might point out.  One dude made an entire Canadian league!

NJB: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to develop a game themselves?

Dave: I would suggest anyone make a game. It can be so much fun. My favorite creators seem to really pour themselves into the craft though and work together on a singular, creative vision.

Josh: Try it! It’s fun, challenging, incredibly rewarding, impossibly infuriating… the list goes on. Some people try it and realize it’s not for them. Others get hooked for life.

NJB: The Nintendo Switch has quickly become a popular platform for indie titles. Do you have any plans on releasing the game on Switch or any other platforms?

Both, in unison: Absolutely!

NJB:  Where can people learn more about Basketball Classics or Namo Gamo? 

Dave: Thanks a lot for this chance to be featured! I feel like a nerd jock myself.

We’d love to hear from your readers. Twitter (@namo_gamo), Instagram (@namo_gamo), Discord (http://discord.gg/R5jmzwc), Steam (http://bit.ly/bball-steam), or email directly (info at namogamo dot com).

Tecmo Comp - RhythmTecmo Comp - ProportionsTecmo Comp - Speed

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