Nothin' but Net: NBA Escape

When Urthworx asked us to help the NBA bring the puzzle back to this internationally recognized organization, how could we say no?

 NBA Escape Title Menu

NBA Escape Title Menu

Urthworx's NBA Escape is a mobile puzzle game in it’s purest form, brought to life in the fictional universe of The Dribbler and crossing over into the real world with is inclusion (and participation) of 90 current NBA stars. Casual in play and presentation, there’s a rich and challenging puzzle element that requires accuracy and timing.

Targeted for Android and iOS, NBA Escape uses pseudo-realistic 2D physics engine combined with cartoon styling and simple gameplay that casual gamers have come to expect. 

NBA Escape is our first participation in a AAA mobile title and was very much a collaboration of talented people and organizations. Our involvement began when we were approached by Urthworx to help them create a game design that would appeal to both a causal mobile gamer and the core NBA fan.

Urthworx had built a rich universe both visually and in back-story with a clear vision of how the NBA players (and gamers) would play a central roll.

NBA Escape Level Select Map

Various prototypes, level editing tools, in-game systems and physics models were built to provide an experience that feels familiar but has uniqueness all its own. Experimental versions of the game were built with minimal graphics as the team worked to find the gameplay “hook” and bring it to life.
 
Part of our game design process is rapidly creating something fun with minimal graphics. We play it to death, possibly scrapping it to start over—until we find a mechanic that works.

We were able to leverage open source tools and implement basic physics properties layered on top of the illustrations to provide level designers the tools to visually and rapidly construct levels from any desktop. Level geometry was abstracted from the visuals allowing for visually appealing designs that keep collision calculations to a minimum.

nba-escape-ninja-bot-ponywolf

Using 2D skeletal based animation we brought a host of creatures to life on various levels of hardware. Digitized illustrations of the “ballbots” were cut apart and trimmed then assigned to an animated bone structure. This kept processing overhead low but added a spark of life to residents of Dribbler’s evil fortress.

Many parts of the game world are complex physics simulations, like the hoop and net, made of multiple physics joints. They bounce and react to collisions in an exaggerated, but visually realistic way. Ponywolf also constructed a custom physics-based particle engine that adds another layer of cartoonish realism to the game. 

Disco Dungeon Hoop from NBA Escape in the Physics Editor

The final product is very polished and is a good balance of casual gameplay, top shelf visuals and licensed content. We couldn’t be more excited to see how gamers react to the uniqueness of Urthworx's NBA Escape.