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'NBA Rush' pits real NBA players against an alien invasion. Where on earth (or beyond) did this game come from?

by Paul Semel

January 21 2014

Tablet Games 101: We speak with Renren Games VP Martin Ma about their basketball-themed, alien-battling endless runner, NBA Rush.

When the aliens come—and they are coming—it won’t be the army that fights them off. It won’t be a well-armed militia or even fans of first-person shooters. It’ll be the brave men of the National Basketball Association. Don’t believe us? Then maybe you should talk to Renren Games VP Martin Ma about NBA Rush, an endless runner in which pro basketball players take on an alien invasion. Because according to Ma, they’ll fight—and they’ll win.

TabTimes Games: What is NBA Rush?

Martin Ma: NBA Rush is a mobile game in which NBA stars defend Earth from an alien invasion with their amazing athletic skills. The game is similar to Temple Run and Subway Surfers, but it advances the genre by including 90 real NBA players who dribble, juke, and slam dunk their way through the alien attackers.

So am I right in thinking that, when you come across an alien, you have to dunk in his face to take him out?

Gives a new meaning to the word “facial” in basketball. And if you play the game long enough, you’ll hear “In your face!” after slamming a bunch of alien in a row. We have over fifteen types of dunks in the game, and a number of the players have their own signature dunks, such as Derrick Rose’s windmill jam.

Who is the mad genius in your office who came up with the idea for this game?

Part genius, part madness is a good formula for success! The idea came from one of our U.S. team members, Hans Kim, who is an avid sports fan. His dream was to do casual, big brand sports games on mobile, and to create franchises as big as Madden. After securing rights from the NBA, he asked the incredibly creative people at Other Ocean to conceptualize some themes for an endless runner game. Other Ocean gave us three choices for a foe: aliens, zombies, or North Koreans. Forget North Korea, Dennis Rodman is having too much fun over there. Forget zombies, too overdone and frankly, I don’t get the fascination with them. That left us with aliens.

 

When Other Ocean first suggested it, did you give them a raise or a drug test?

Our first reaction to the alien idea was “no way.” But after a bunch of meetings, we were convinced that this was the right theme. Believe me, we all realized the risk we were taking as we knew that an alien theme could also go horribly wrong.

What was the initial reaction of the NBA when you told them you wanted to make a game in which players fight aliens by running a lot? Did they drug test you?

Actually they were incredibly supportive. The NBA has been a great partner on this game and really allowed our creativity to flow. They let us run with this.

Given the name, is Brandon Rush from the Utah Jazz in the game?

He’s not in the game now, but we’ll be adding plenty of content, including new players and awesome environments, in the near future, so we’ll see what we can do.

What about Brandon Routh? Cuz he was Superman, and I think I’d rather have a superhero fighting aliens than a small forward.

But can Brandon Routh dunk like Dwight Howard? Check out Dwight Howard’s Superman dunk at the NBA Dunk Contest and I’ll show you a real life superhero.

The NBA players in the game have a very cartoony look about them, while the aliens are the typical big-eyed kind we’ve seen before. Did you ever experiment with a more realistic look?

No, we wanted a cartoony and colorful game because we wanted to appeal to a very broad audience. 

 

NBA Rush is currently only available for iOS devices. Are there any plans for an Android version?

We are focusing 100% on iOS right now, and will consider the Android version when the opportunity arises.

What about for consoles? Because I think this would be really fun to play with a controller and on a big screen.

Perhaps. We’re planning to at all platforms that we think are viable and could support the game. Hopefully our audience will enjoy the game as much as we do and support NBA Rush so we can keep the game fresh.

The game is free. Will there be microtransactions?

The game is free, and players can have a complete game experience without spending a dime. If you want to play as your favorite player, and pick up skills, you can do it for free by continuing to play the game, in addition to collecting coins and diamonds in the game.

But you can also make in-app purchases to obtain premium content, such as getting the top NBA players immediately. We’ll also have some interesting new environments, more skills…we want to continually improve the game. We are just getting started. 

NBA Rush is available now on iOS. Check out more of TabTimes Games' Tablet Games 101 interviews right here.

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