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Where dodgeball happens?

9/14/2009

Why is Kobe Bryant throwing the ball at Shaq? Forget old rivalries, think NBA players taking out their frustrations in a round of dodgeball. That's right dodgeball (as seen on the Ocho), where you pick teams, then watch as the Cavs and Lakers trade dunks for a trip back in time where schoolyard hostility is taken out on the weakest kid on the court.

Don't feel like throwing the ball at the virtual Adam Morrison? "NBA 10 The Inside" for the PSP gives you plenty of other mini-game options as well, including pinball, NBA-themed bowling, puzzles, the three-point shootout, and even a game that plays almost like a basketball version of Risk where you try to conquer the league and its territory one team at a time.

And with the game no longer shipping on the PS3, Sony's studio was able to concentrate more of its efforts on offering fun, pick-up-and-play modes for the PSP rather than spending all of its time fighting the losing battle against stronger competition from 2K and EA Sports.

The results are a title tuned for wasting time between meetings or on a flight as you try to sink as many three pointers as possible, or maybe even take out a big man or two out on the dodgeball court.

ESPN caught up with the game's associate producer, Bob Staite, to get the latest news on the title.


ESPN: What's new in the series this year that would entice people who already own "NBA 09" to go out and buy the new game?

Bob Staite: We continued to enhance the on-the-go gaming experience we introduced last year with our popular Elimination and Conquest modes. To break these down really quick for people who didn't play last year's game, in Elimination, each player has a set amount of points they need to score in order to be eliminated from the game, so your goal is to eliminate all of your players from the court before your opponent does. So if I have Chris Paul on my team and he needs to score six points, as soon as I score those six points, he's off the court, but then I'm down a man and I'm playing four against five. But at the same time, when he's eliminated, I might be a man down, but I get a power-up like shrinking all of my opponents to two-feet tall so they're easier to dunk on or shoot over.

In Conquest, you basically try to take over the entire NBA almost as if you're playing a game of Risk, but your map is filled with NBA teams and cities. So if you're playing as the Warriors, your goal is to take over the West. So as soon as you take over a division, you unlock a new player for your team. So what we did this year is, you unlock younger versions of current NBA stars. You can unlock Shaq from 1999 or Ray Allen from 2002 or Steve Nash from 2003. You put one of these throwback versions of these players on your team and they really give your team the advantage as you move on.

Those two modes were so popular, that we've expanded on the idea with "NBA 10." This year, we've added three new quest modes, with the first being DodgeQuest. This is where you play dodgeball to fight for the city and the division instead of playing a traditional game of basketball. The second is Give-and-GoQuest which is a five-on-five basketball game that encourages passing the ball around on each possession as every time a new member of your team gets the ball, it gives you a multiplier that bumps up whatever your made basket will be worth. The third is MiniQuest, which is a combination of the four other quest modes in the game. So basically, if you're challenged, you can then choose from any of the quest modes (Dodgeball, Give-and-Go, Elimination, Conquest), to fight for the city.

Along with those modes, we've also added Open Lane, which is a traditional ten-frame bowling mini-game. We also have a game called Cherry Picking, which is a puzzle themed game where you have these different balls that are branded for each team and you need to line up all the balls with the same teams in order to make the balls disappear. The goal is to get rid of all of the balls on the screen. If you've ever played Puzzle Bobble or Bust A Move, you'll feel right at home. It's a similar game mechanic.

ESPN: So when I play dodgeball, can I throw the ball at Ron Artest's head? Are those the real players in there or did the NBA make you put fake players on the court?

Bob Staite: They are all the real NBA players. There are some restrictions on what we can do, like we can't put the number or name on the back of the dodgeball jerseys, but it's definitely the real rosters. And when you're playing through DodgeQuest and you win a match, you actually get to take the best player from your opponent's team, so you can steal Ron Artest if you think he'd be the best at dodgeball.

ESPN: So who in the game is the best NBA dodgeball player?

Bob Staite: It really goes hand in hand with the best players in the NBA game as the attributes carry over to dodgeball. So Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and LeBron are going to be just as good at dodgeball as they are in the core game.

ESPN: We already talked mini-games, so how about the actual game of basketball itself? How has the five-on-five gameplay been improved for this year?

Bob Staite: This year, it was really about polish. We've been making this game for a few years now on the PSP, and we've been able to build a pretty solid arcade, on-the-go playing experience in regards to the core game itself. So this year, it was really more about polishing that experience than trying to revolutionize it. I think we're in a pretty good spot in regards to the five-on-five and our franchise mode, which is actually really deep.

I love the ability to start my franchise with a team that I like, like the Hornets, then it's all about five to seven years down the road where all my current stars are gone and all of my drafted players are taking over and becoming stars and winning awards.

ESPN: How many years of franchise can you run in "NBA 10?"

Bob Staite: 20 years.

ESPN: Why isn't there going to be a PS3 version of the game this year?

Bob Staite: With the launch of the PSP Go coming out the same time as this title, we just wanted to focus all of our efforts into supporting the new console and making this game as good as we can. So the game will be available with the UMD for the current PSP, and then it will also be available to download through the PSN store for the PSP Go user. It's pretty much the same interface as your PS3 store. You just go on, buy it, download it, and you're good to go.

And what's great about this year's game, like I said, we've been building on this engine for years now, and we not only offer all of our mini-games, but we also have that full sim experience if you want to play through your franchise. We offer a lot more than your typical NBA game and I think fans are really going to enjoy it.