Thanks for all the questions! I had a great time. See you down the road!


I’ve had an amazing and crazy career in gaming! Sneakers on the Apple 2 was my first game, then I went to work for Activision making Atari VCS games, moved on to Hasbro/Isix to make interactive movie games, shifted to Midway Games for 20 years leading hits like Smash TV, NBA JAM, WWF Wrestlemania, NFL Blitz, NBA Ballers, then joined EA as Sr Creative Dir for EA Sports, and finally as Sr Creative Director at Zynga brought fun and the “On Fire” mode to Bubble Safari. Today I’m still applying the old coin-op lessons to our mobile Wizard of Oz: Magic Match game - learning more and working just as hard every single day to bring fun and smiles to game players. Boomshakalaka! Best. Job. Ever.


Comments: 648 • Responses: 84  • Date: 

jhust159759 karma

Was there any inspiration behind the legendary announcer calls from NBA JAM? These phrases are still used today haha

"He's on fire"

"From downtown..."


Mark_Turmell510 karma

We worked with the super talented VO guy Tim Kitzrow. I provided him categories and some suggestions along with John Hey our sound designer, and then Tim ad-libbed a bunch. He's magic in the sound booth.

No doubt the SFX and timings of all the VO was key to the games vibe and success. We worked hard on noodling the rules, timings, and frequency/rarity.

dip5ta184 karma

How difficult was it change the NBA's view of the game so that they would give you the license?

Mark_Turmell311 karma

Very hard! Their understanding of arcades was solely based on Times Square in NY, which was very seedy and dangerous at the time. We made videos of normal arcades to win them over.

unsane_sandwiches197 karma

Can you please speak on the rumored NBA Jam made for specific NBA players with Michael Jordan included?

Mark_Turmell330 karma

I have it!

NBA Jam was made and tested in Chicago. Jordan was in all those early games, and weeks before we were to ship nationwide he pulled out of all NBA licensed products due to his Nike deal.

But then... After the game became a hit, Gary Payton & Ken Griffey reached out through their agents to get a custom game with themselves included, and said MJ wanted to be included as well. So we made special eproms and gave them to the 3.

destronger233 karma

any chance you could dump those EPROMs to the Internet...

asking for a friend. 😅

Mark_Turmell664 karma

I could! Will try to dig up .

Namrepus221181 karma

Since you worked on several of the most legendary arcade games ever, and are now working in mobile games. Do you feel that mobile games have become the new "arcade games" in a manner of speaking?

Second question if you feel like answering it; what is your funniest story while doing development for the games at midway.

Mark_Turmell324 karma

Mobile games are definitely the new arcade games. The current crop of arcade games are just timed explosive action for your $.

Tons of fun stories at Midway - but Undertaker looking at us and saying he wouldn't work until we went and bought some Whiskey resonates for me.

Cheese_Williams351 karma

Was that before or after 1998, when he threw mankind off Hell in a cell, who then fell 16 feet through the announcer's table?

Mark_Turmell194 karma

He came in around 1994. All of those guys were a bit of a mess to be honest.

Mr_Schtiffles263 karma

So it was before 1998, when he threw mankind off Hell in a cell, who then fell 16 feet through the announcer's table. Cool.

Mark_Turmell164 karma

Yes, correct.

LiberContrarion212 karma

Did you think it might have turned out differently if you were working around... I don't know... maybe 1999 or 2000... sometime after 1998, when The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell in a Cell, who then fell 16 feet through the announcer's table?

Mark_Turmell177 karma


BrokenSporkOfDoom48 karma

Hi, Mark! It was an absolute pleasure briefly visiting and working with you guys in San Diego - you were all insanely nice to me, and I won't forget it. I'm also always immensely glad to see people who obviously love their jobs, and stay in the industry. I know how rough it can be, and I'm happy when folks persevere. It also helps that you're a genuinely nice dude. :P -Howie

Mark_Turmell52 karma

Howie! You're an amazing talent and wish we could have worked together longer! And you're right - if someone persists in this business for many many years, it's pretty rare and they're probably doing something right. I'll take your "Genuinely nice dude" comment as the best comment of the day! Thanks!

dip5ta33 karma

What's his whiskey of choice?

...leaves work to go buy said whiskey.

Mark_Turmell88 karma

He demanded Jack Daniels. But at least he eventually worked hard! Doink the Clown... Mr Perfect... Not so much.

SmarkyMcFly58 karma

I'm a die hard wrestling fan and I can tell you, in the 90s, wrestling was a traveling circus. EVERYONE was drunk, coked up and on a TON of pain killers.

Mark_Turmell63 karma

Yes. There was a late night bar in Rosemont where they'd all go after shows in Chicago, and we'd get sucked into the mix now and again. Always a mess. Even My Fuji.

CraigSkitz151 karma

Can you describe some of the "never seen before" NFL Blitz footage? Is it lost forever or is there a chance we see it in the upcoming "Insert Coin" doc?

Mark_Turmell206 karma

We removed >20 animations from the game to eek into NFL approval status, but I still have a hard drive with the incorporating all of them. Haven't spoken to Josh much re the Insert Coin doc, but maybe I'll dig that up and send to him.

The moves were indeed violent. Grabbing the face mask and flinging around, kicking the player while he's down, stomping, and wrestling moves. Suplex, etc.


Should have just called it XFL Blitz

Mark_Turmell146 karma

Midway eventually did do Blitz: The League. Way over the top using the same engine.

Marzz30 karma

Jeff Gerstmann would get a kick out of that. You should totally ring him up.

Mark_Turmell58 karma

Jeff is great. I'll never forget his insightful and positive review of NFL Blitz. Was most proud of his line "This game will forever change the way I perceive and review other games in the future". He really enjoyed the UX, communication to player, and fun factor.

Marzz21 karma

Absolutely. It's Jeff that turned me onto Blitz in the first place- I actually very much disliked football games in general, but hearing how crazy he was about Blitz made me give it a shot. That's a game I wish could make a comeback in a big way.

That said, despite not getting onto the Blitz train early, I played way, way too much of NBA Jam- I should have figured with your name on it, Blitz was going to be great.

Mark_Turmell32 karma

Thanks! Yeah, I loved noodling with the code, animations, and results on those games! Thanks for playing both! Each appealed to an audience that wasn't a fan of the real sport, and often turned them into real fans of the sport.

LiberContrarion19 karma

Fell in love with NFL Blitz in '99 (on the Nintendo 64 -- other controllers and later releases didn't work as perfectly as that did). Couldn't have convinced me to watch an actual NFL game if you tried.

...and now I've got the jersey, beer belly, and lost hours of productivity on Sundays.

Mark_Turmell26 karma

Love it!

Blitz 99 in the arcade was the best version!

coryrenton79 karma

how would you design a next generation game system to fix the growing latency/lag between button press and screen response?

Mark_Turmell138 karma

Love this question. I HATE latency in any form. Unfortunately I think wired control is only safe option.

coryrenton28 karma

would an integrated system like Switch be able to reduce latency at least while in portable mode, or are there still disadvantages to using LCD vs CRT?

Mark_Turmell56 karma

Portable mode on twitch is fine. Screens refresh fast enough so that's not the issue. It's controller latency that is bad, and any slow down/bog in the engine that is bad. Which make the controller less responsive.

syboxez21 karma

There is also the fact that modern TVs do an insane amount of processing, even in Game Mode, adding sometimes a ton of input lag (depending on the TV).

Mark_Turmell42 karma

Yeah right - you have to be careful on TV selection indeed, but less and less of an issue with latest crop.

suaveitguy71 karma

Do you think Ken and Roberta Williams get their due? Where do you see Sierra's place in the history of games?

Mark_Turmell87 karma

They were innovators and risk takers. Passionate about their craft! They have a solid and deserved place in history I believe.

Mark_Turmell56 karma

Thanks for all the questions! I had a great time, See you down the road!


EggplantCider52 karma

Was there any way that Midway could've survived the 2000s, when arcades were vanishing and phones weren't yet strong enough to play arcade-style games? I feel like Midway could've been a powerhouse in the mobile market of the early 2010s, but it seems like in the years prior there wasn't really a market for the types of smaller pick up and play arcadey games that Midway was known for.

Bonus question: Is Dave Lang the coolest dude of all time?

Mark_Turmell66 karma

Love Dave Lang! Super fun and talented.

Midway totally could have survived if they'd focused efforts on console sooner and not wasted tons of money on some early console efforts. For sure coin-op would have gone away as key rev driver.

And you're right about mobile. The arcade lessons and approach perfectly match the mobile business of today. Micro-transactions, quick pick up and east to play, but with some depth for experienced users.

EggplantCider17 karma

Thanks a ton for answering. I really respect Lang and Johnny Vignocci and Adam Boyes and have heard them speak extremely highly of you on the Giant Bombcast, so in my mind you're like some super next level John Romero-style industry veteran. It's really cool to see you doing an AMA.

Mark_Turmell36 karma

Romero was one step behind me back in the early days trying to figure out the Apple 2. He's a great guy. I actually found a fan letter he'd sent to me before he got his first job in the industry. Funny.

I hired JV and gave him lots of rope to do stuff. He's still a great friend today.

EggplantCider17 karma

Johnny V is a god damn treasure.

I actually found a fan letter he'd sent to me before he got his first job in the industry.

That is awesome.

Mark_Turmell26 karma

Yeah, I had JV working the soundtrack for NBA Ballers, and he was pulling out all sorts of talent. He walked in with Akon once, but the NBA rejected him.

JV connected with a pimp or two to get the right contacts!

EggplantCider15 karma

I remember he once told a story where he gave one of the cover athletes of Ballers a PSP memory card filled with porn because the dude asked for one.

Mark_Turmell24 karma

Yeah - i think Aerosmith requested porn mags when they came into Midway for a shoot too!

coryrenton43 karma

what is the most fun game out there that would be a good project to replicate in one day?

Mark_Turmell64 karma

Replicate in a day. Depends on platform and controls. But I'd say Frostbite on the VCS. One of the best games ever in my book.

UninvitedGhost18 karma

Frostbite is criminally under-accoladed.

Mark_Turmell28 karma

Agree - Steve Cartwright masterpiece.

dip5ta38 karma

Is there one game you keep coming back to all these years? Even if it's one you created?

Mark_Turmell87 karma

Easy question! My favorite game of all time is Robotron 2084. I joined Williams Electronics Midway specifically to revive the dual joysticks of that game. That game still holds up today.

Philo_T_Farnsworth22 karma

I'm so happy that most barcades popping up nowadays almost always have a Robotron 2084 to play. That is one of my favorite fast paced classics.

Mark_Turmell26 karma

It holds up for sure! 255 levels of gameplay. Can set the difficulty up to 10, and best players can reach 255. Perfect tuning.

coryrenton32 karma

what is the weirdest copy protection scheme you've seen; also are there any easter eggs you know of in games that have not been discovered yet?

Mark_Turmell71 karma

Not sure about copy protection - and it's tough on Easter Eggs now a days! When Jam came out, people would post usenet pages onto sides of cabinets, because rarely did anyone have access. Not today.

mbilds27 karma

NFL Blitz 2000 Gold coin-op $50 bets, shutouts paid double. Pretty sure I won that year long competition. That's what you recall too?

Mark_Turmell30 karma

Doh! Actually, I do admit to losing that! Disaster.

A shame we never got the Hot Spot NBA Showtime gambling mini game out into the marketplace! That worked great!

kranged126 karma

Hi Mark, have you seen Mutant League Football remake? It looks so much like Blitz!

Mark_Turmell32 karma

I haven't seen yet, but aware. Anxious to look and play. I know the folks were super passionate, even when I was at EA 6-7 eyars ago in seeing the game revived. Definitely a fan base out there.

suaveitguy25 karma

What is the Citizen Kane of video games?

Mark_Turmell108 karma

Zelda: Link to the Past

Super Mario Brothers on N64 and GTA really changed the game.

suaveitguy24 karma

What do you think of Monkey Island's tone, and interface?

Mark_Turmell34 karma

Those early adventure games, from Lucas and others, definitely showed there's a market and yearning for narrative based interactive games. I didn't play a lot of them, as I definitely focused on quick reflex action style games, so can't comment on tone and interface.

palbuddy123423 karma

You made sneakers huh? Probably the first ever game I played on my Great Aunt's Apple II! I still play it on

Anyway, I'm wondering if you have any secrets with Activistion games for Atari 2600? Any Easter Eggs, special hints? My second system! Hope you had a good Birthday on March 22nd, a few days back. I know that thanks to a Game Pro for NBA Jam!

Mark_Turmell28 karma

Yes, Sneakers was my first game. And it was a pretty big hit and as other games were doing back in the day, it broke new ground in terms of what the Apple 2 could deliver visually, etc.

Not sure of any Atari 2600 Easter Eggs still floating around, but that was a great system to make games for. Super fun even with 128 bytes of RAM!

Thanks for the birthday greetings! I should have done the AMA on 0322 to match my MJT code perhaps!

downneck7 karma

i always assumed the little shooting guy in Sneakers looked like a penis with arms by accident. what were you really going for?

Mark_Turmell19 karma

Funny. No, just programmer art! Was trying to make a creature with tennis shoes on and stomping up and down.

Warlizard22 karma

Buddy! How fun has it been to watch the growth of video games over the years from text adventures to VR?

Oh, and how much money did you spend in the arcades as a kid? I'm guessing a ton.

Mark_Turmell33 karma

I spent a ton of quarters on Breakout, Gorf, Scramble, and Asteroids!

It's been amazing to watch the industry change. I love the process of making games, but the principles are still the same as they were almost 30 years ago.

Warlizard12 karma

Defender, Space Invaders, Crystal Castles, Zaxxon, and too many more to even remember.

Mark_Turmell23 karma

Yes, in the early days, every single game was innovative and fresh! Each time you'd walk into an arcade you'd see something new. Was amazing.

reedacted21 karma

Hey Mark - Long time fan here. I'm wondering why you never did a "got robbed" quest in Cafe World? Really feel like that is the one thing the franchise lacked. Does that keep you up at night?

Mark_Turmell29 karma

Doh! Hey - that idea would have totally worked and exactly what the product needed. Seriously. And you know it too.

PublicAccount123420 karma

Stupid question from someone that spent way too many quarters back in the day:

What happened to your hair?

Mark_Turmell52 karma

My hair! I was crazy. Had the big Robert Plant thing going on. One day someone said I'd look younger if I cut my hair - I looked around at other guys with long hair and said "ugh - you're right". And whacked it off!

Garfield-1-23-2317 karma

What was your favorite platform/language to develop in? What is your development philosophy (TDD, MVC etc.)?

Mark_Turmell46 karma

I actually preferred programming and debugging in assembly language because I knew the performance would be optimal, to slam as many things onto the playfield as possible, and was simpler knowing there weren't other threads occurring with black box code chipping away and causing problems. Those days are over of course, by I still love/prefer those days. I also liked fact that most other developers weren't taking advantage of the hardware as well as Assembly programmers could/were.

As for dev philosophy - I'm working with one of the best Producers in the business at Zynga San Diego - Carlos Barbosa - and his philosophy was largely hones at EA - so we have 1 pagers for new features, collaborative discussion with all disciplines, estimate overall effort required, and then try to Engineer mock up the feature (gameplay or otherwise) without much art, and have artists create real art as mock is materializing. Designer, Artist, Engineers working closely. TDD's aren't needed on majority of features we do.

The key is Production allows for iteration, as that is where the best games and features derive from.

br0000d17 karma

Oh man, I spent countless hours playing NFL Blitz and NBA JAM!

Could you ever have predicted how far games have come in the past 20+ years? How do you feel about the roadmap for the future of gaming?

Mark_Turmell31 karma

Yeah, a game like NBA Jam was made by a handful of people and made a Billion dollars, and now it takes 100's, across many disciplines, to make a top selling console title. Team sizes have expanded way beyond my dreams. We're destined to mirror film business - big budget blockbusters, and independent smaller projects that can also breakthrough. The future of social and connected play is huge. Still in infancy!

CraigSkitz16 karma

Are there any secrets that were left on the cutting room floor in Blitz and Jam that you wish were left in?

Also, what are your thoughts on the NFL Blitz reboot from a few years ago. Do you feel like the game captured the magic the original did?

Mark_Turmell23 karma

Re the EA remake - I was working on that project with the talented EA Tiburon team, where the Madden engine was adjusted to accommodate the lickety-split 60FPS action of Blitz. I departed for Zynga prior to the title completing. In the end, it didn't pan out or live up to the expectations I'd had or potential. We had toyed with it being a free to play title that was only head to head - which could have worked IMO.

As for other secrets in the Blitz and Jam series - back in the day we didn't have the "ship it" pressure that Studios have today - so we were actually able to get everything into the game that we wanted.

For NBA Showtime, we did develop a connected mini game Pop a Shot mode, ala Golden Tee Golf, which never gt released. It was fun challenging, and could have been a game changer at the arcade level.

Mr_Schtiffles16 karma

back in the day we didn't have the "ship it" pressure that Studios have today - so we were actually able to get everything into the game that we wanted.

Boy I'd kill to see that in an AAA studio these days. There's been way too many games ship unfinished lately.

Mark_Turmell12 karma

Yes, that is one of the key problems in the business. Not knowing how to bite off the right chunk that can actually launch as polished product. Live-ops is key!

ExoticMandibles15 karma

Remember this interview? I read that as a lad back in 1982, thinking how cool it was to design your sprites on graph paper.

p.s. Congratulations on rolling Turmoil! I hear you're the industry's hottest designer! :D

p.p.s. no kiddin', Turmoil is an essential 2600 cart. A magnificent adaptation of Tempest given the limitations of the 2600.

Mark_Turmell15 karma

OMG! Wow. Thanks for finding - hadn't seen that. Funny.

Fenen12 karma

In your arcade games and mobile games do you as developers acknowledge the incentive you have to make the game difficult / cumbersome in parts to push the player to spend money?

I feel like the free to play monetary platform puts the money and fun aspects completely at odds with each other in most implementations and it has completely soured me to most games that use it. What's to stop you from adding obstacles or monotony to make more money?

Lately I feel like most mobile games are just trying to rip me off. Make the game fun enough to get you hooked and then go full Skinner box and milk them for all you can. Even if it is 100% ad driven I just know that in some conference room somewhere they are deciding how many / how often they can display an ad that the user will either willingly suffer them or pay to remove the annoyance.

At this point I'm more likely to just buy a game outright because I don't trust game developers not to do this to me.

Mark_Turmell13 karma

Totally understand your mindset. We all have to walk a fine line - a game for the masses can be free, can be fun, and can support players who want to spend for additional experiences. Many games are doing it properly. It is a business, but when you look at Wizard of Oz Magic Match, there are hours and hours of fun, beautiful music, graphics, and innovations, all experienced for free. And yet some players will happily spend a but here and there to advance more quickly. But it's never required and players can also be at end of content without any spend.

Sumidiotdude10 karma

What do you think of The Cure? A lot of people write them off as a phase in the 80s but to me they're extremely influential across multiple genres like synthpop, gothic rock, post-punk, etc.

Mark_Turmell22 karma

The Cure was awesome. Definitely influential and ahead of their time. Huge fan base still.

FriscoBorn9 karma

Pertinent Question: Why the Wizard of Oz theme? Why now of all times?

Less Pertinent Question: What's your ultimate video game idea you've always dreamed of working on?

Mark_Turmell21 karma

Wizard of Oz has an incredibly strong and loyal fan base that loves the match-3 genre. And when you look at Las Vegas, the Wizard of Oz slots title is one of the strongest. Perfect demographic. The playes simply love the game.

Someone referenced it above, but I have an idea for a social fishing game I think would go crazy. One day...

I have a few projects I'm gearing towards - and all include lots of action and connected play by many.

suaveitguy8 karma

Do you think a video game could be more character/narrative driven, instead of mission driven? e.g. Could there ever be a Glengarry Glen Ross video game?

Mark_Turmell7 karma

Oh yes for sure narrative is of growing importance and already the blockbuster titles I feel are driven from that side on consoles. Mobile, not so much. It doesn't feel like as proper to have that as focus IMO.

2CousinsDrinking7 karma

What is the best alcoholic beverage to drink while playing a video game?

Mark_Turmell24 karma

Easy - Bombay Sapphire & Tonic. Easy to quickly grab and get quick sips.

Fredasa7 karma

Greetings. Ever since I played "Beer Run" in my early childhood, I have been fascinated with that unusual little game. For some reason, whenever I get the itch to pull out an AppleII emulator, it's one of the first games I turn to. While I won't say the game is unique among early 80s AppleII games in how it causes me to wonder at its design philosophy, it's still one of the most curious.

This is the only chance I'll have to ask these questions so here goes.

  • What's up with the single-footed walk of the protagonist?
  • What's up with the odd, sliding gait of the bouncers?
  • Does the game change at some point? For example, if one continues to use elevators to go up?
  • Was this game inspired by Space Panic aka Apple Panic?
  • Any anecdotes you have about the creation of this game? (Bet you weren't expecting anyone to talk about it.)

Thank you in advance!

Mark_Turmell13 karma

Beer Run! It was the 2nd game I ever made, after Sneakers, and I'm not a good artist - so all the art is programmer art! Including the walking animations. I tried! The game just loops after the Blimp picks you up and you get to 2nd building. I was learning new things and pushing the limits of the Apple 2 as far as they had gone at that stage, so scrolling and blending characters into the background were key efforts - and the huge Blimp and rope dangling!

Thanks for playing and remembering that game!

Philip_Marlowe6 karma

Hey Mark!

Love your work, even if I can never forgive you for purposely making the Bulls suck in the clutch in NBA Jam. But alas, bygones are bygones.

Question: How did you get Neil Funk to do all of the announcing on NBA Hangtime? What was he like to work with in the studio?


Mark_Turmell16 karma

NBA Hangtime still holds up today too! The team fire mode was very strategic, and the variety of action was super high. And the create-a-player characters were a blast.

Neil was a pro and easy to work with, but didn't quite have the same flair as Tim Kitzrow!

And, as for the Bulls - yeah they sucked then and still do. I couldn't help myself there in Chicago surrounded by Bulls fans, and being from Michigan. So I had to do something to level the playing field. The Pistons had the Jordan Rules, Midway had the Turmell NBA Jam rules!

Amg1375 karma

If you were to make a board game what would it be?

Mark_Turmell10 karma

CityVille board game - let each player develop their own hub or structures, players cruise through and interact.

kranged15 karma

So I have this fishing game idea, Mark. It involves finding one fish worth a lot of money. Whatcha think? :)

Mark_Turmell10 karma

Hey! I'm telling you - there is a $1,000,000 fishing idea that will happen! And you know it!

citricacidx5 karma

Any chance we can get the old games with updated rosters? I love the way Blitz used to play. The remake within the past few years was... so so. Not bad, not great. Felt more like Madden arcade than Blitz.

Mark_Turmell9 karma

EA owns the rights - I hope they do!

TBearRyder4 karma

Hi Mark,

How close do Game Designers work with Gaming Writers ? I'm curious to understand the work relationship more. I'm a Writer but I don't hear much talk at the conventions (E3 etc) on the Writers and/or teams that actually write the storylines for the games. Any insight?

Mark_Turmell8 karma

Depends on the game. We had a writer all the way back on NBA Ballers, and of course some games have full time writers. There are opportunities for sure. Even a game like Gardenscapes, has a full time writer crafting not only the quests, but helping with overall narrative/fiction of game.

Amg1374 karma

Why do you think Zynga never really succeeded on mobile after killing it on facebook?

Mark_Turmell13 karma

Zynga did kill it on FB, and we got a slow start on mobile because we lingered on web too long. But with WWF, Poker, CSR 2, FV, our Wizard of Oz slots and match-3 titles, we are doing very well on mobile. Growing, succeeding, and more on the way. Live-ops is key to mobile success, and Zynga is stellar at that due to FB app history.

DRM_Removal_Bot4 karma

I've heard of private builds of NBA jam with different announcers and players. the NBA has one, for instance? in a boardroom somewhere where the players are their employees?

did you have a hand in the making of these modifications?

Mark_Turmell6 karma

Yes, made a few custom versions for people. But the NBA one might be a consumer title in a cabinet.

eloski4 karma

Any tips for someone trying to get into the industry?

Mark_Turmell12 karma

Depends on your discipline (art, engineering, production, audio, PM, etc.) but the best place to start IMO is

It covers the industry challenges, products, openings, and trends. So much to learn on there.

DrSpacemanPants3 karma

Holy shit! You have no idea how much I love NBA JAM! I LOVE IT!!! Thank you!

What's your favorite version and why? And also, what's your favorite type of pizza?

Mark_Turmell8 karma

Pepperoni with Extra Sauce! Round Table!

NBA Showtime is the cleanest best playing version. But as for Jam, Tournament Edition was much better than original!

Thanks Spaceman!

Cornerb0y2 karma

Whats your favorite Commodore 64 game?

Mark_Turmell7 karma

Repton was great - and I liked my own Toy Bizarrre game - fast and fun.

snorlz2 karma

Sr Creative Dir for EA Sports, and finally as Sr Creative Director at Zynga

so you are the king of microtransactions?

Mark_Turmell16 karma

Well... NBA Jam did earn 1 Billion in it's first year, 1 Quarter at a time. So I guess that qualifies as a microtransaction, and my sole focus has been on free to play games over the last 6 years as well. I think it's a great format and approach to making games. :)

I know many dislike it though and understand why.

k4ng2 karma

Hello, thank you for the AMA!

How do you feel about the role of consumer testing/consumer insights in game development? Anything you'd like to see more of/less of/done differently?

Thank you!

Mark_Turmell6 karma

Consumer insights can be critical, can be problematic. At the end of the day, good game developers are gathering all the data points they can and whittling things down to the minimum viable product. And early consumer testing can be a key data point - if the questions and info provided is proper. It takes a smart and experienced insights team to get truly relevant data.

I'd like to see teams do simpler tests. 3 images each of a different game/theme, ~3 sentences describing game, all side by side on a web page you scroll through. And then have 3 questions where they rate overall concept, uniqueness, and perceived fun factor.

Keep it simple. Get a good and clear data point.

Tornado_Frog2 karma

Are we ever gonna get a new NBA Jam game?

Mark_Turmell4 karma

I'm sure EA will re-discover it again one day! They own the rights.

Madden_072 karma

What was your inspiration behind making NBA JAM and NFL Blitz?

Mark_Turmell4 karma

I'm a huge sports fan. Love arcade style games. Dislike simulation games. And with NBA Jam we were on cutting edge of using digitizing to bring better realism to games, so sports was a perfect fit.

xdig20001 karma

Hi Mr. Turmell!

Some Questions:

Which games did you work on at Hasbro/Isix? Did you make those interactive movie games for consoles like the CD-I/Sega CD? How did they work? For example did you use an overlay layer containing (moving) hotspots for users to click on?

Did you put in the easter egg with the tank game in the NBA JAM machine?

I grew up with the Atari 2600, any memories of your time working on VCS games you would like to share? Which Atari game you worked on are you the most proud of?

Are you interested in working on games for current gen consoles like the Switch or PS4. Or do you leave that to the 'younger' generation?

Mark_Turmell3 karma

I worked on Sewer Shark, an interactive Police Academy movie, and Citizen X. Such an exciting time. The Hasbro box just used encoding on each field/frame of video to display, and there was an overlay UI system that allowed showing scores and graphics. The controller had buttons to trigger which field, and do whatever the designers assigned to buttons.

As for the tank game in NBA Jam - one of our programmers, Shawn Liptak, made that little demo in his spare time as he was learning how to do 3D stuff. And we decided to put it in as a secret code - but didn't intend for it to occur in the attract mode.

My Atari VCS games were so much fun to make. And play! I think Turmoil is in a new book on 50 greatest all time games. 128 bytes of RAM! 4k eprom! But those single button controllers were easy to use and play. Fast Eddie was game #1, then I did Turmoil. Fast Eddie was introduced at the Playboy Club - at CES time. Fun memories for a little kid.

I'd love to do a Switch game. But am really in love with the ongoing growth and potential of mobile games on phone and tablet.

Angry_Apollo1 karma

At first I thought you designed the card game Grizzled. Great game if anybody is curious. Since I guess I don't have a question, what did you have for breakfast today?

Mark_Turmell3 karma

Omelette and fruit!

HorsemanJD1 karma

With Kickstarters running rampant and many veteran game developers getting back to making spiritual successors to their old games (like the upcoming mutant football league) is there any possibility that you would make a 2v2 basketball game for PS4/XB1/PC?

Mark_Turmell5 karma

I'd love that. I spent some time with the EA NBA JAM team when I was working at EA, and developed Blitz there as well.

I'd love to make Smash TV 2.

But there is so much fun and variety in the sports games like Jam. The basic rules of the sport provide perfect opportunities for fun and drama.

amindatlarge3 karma

Me and my brother's played so many hours of Smash TV and have mentioned how amazing a sequel would be for so long. This would be so awesome.

Mark_Turmell5 karma

Agree! Smash HDTV!

I love the dual joystick mechanic. We pondered it seriously before Midway melted down. WB has the rights now.

Blackthorne5191 karma

I think Smash TV is even more relevant now, with "Reality TV" permeating television programming! A sequel would be really amazing.

Mark_Turmell2 karma

I think you're right! You can totally imagine it. I'd love to play it!

Dovbenko1 karma

Mark, I am your biggest fan! Please never stop making video games! Your Wizard of Oz game is so fun and addicting that I can't wait for your next creation. What would be your dream game to make in the future?

Mark_Turmell1 karma

Thanks! The Wizard of Oz game is tons of fun, beautiful, and player are loving it. I love the arcade space and head to head battling - so easy to pick up and play, social, and competitive games are what I love. I've got a couple things in the works along those lines!

xlebronjames1 karma

Hi Mark,

Is there anything about the arcade version of NBA Hangtime (and subsequently Maximum Hangtime) that the internet hasn't found yet?

Bonus odd question: What was the font used for the Headings (when it flashes Maximum) before the game starts, for example.

Mark_Turmell2 karma

I don't remember the font name!

There were a ton of hidden characters in that game, but am confident all of the codes have appeared online.

The game really holds up though. So much variety.

asdfmatt1 karma

Mr Turmell, you are a big part of my childhood and responsible for perhaps my favorite games I've spent the most of my childhood playing/begging mom and dad for quarters/spending all of my allowance on. Now that I'm older and there are beercades and all that nice stuff, I still ditch my friends to play NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. Just wanted to let you know that while I don't game a lot these days there's always a special place in my heart for the time spent enjoying your creations and I do play them still whenever I get the opportunity.

My question for you is what is your favorite easter egg of any game you ever worked on?

Mark_Turmell2 karma

Thank you so much! It's possible I invented the Big Head mode in video games! I added that feature as a secret powerup to help me identify who I was on the screen during fast paced gameplay, but it really caught on and made the game look so funny. So Big Head mode is my favorite Easter Egg.

Jek_Porkinz1 karma

Did you ever hear the tragedy of darth plagueis the wise?

Mark_Turmell2 karma


Murdvac-2 karma

You're stuck with Zynga now?

Do you think you've hit rock bottom, or is there still a ways to go?

Mark_Turmell9 karma

Ha! While Zynga has absorbed some black eyes along the way, my 5.5 years at Zynga has been an amazing learning experience unlike any other. The mobile space is moving so fast, and live-ops is so important - and Zynga excels at much of that. I've never worked around a smarter group of people!

But... You're right - I personally think NFL Blitz was the funnest game I've developed, so I'm all down hill from that one!

But! I shouldn't be shy about informing that Wizard of Oz: Magic Match is a game players love, has been climbing the charts, and am very proud of it. Check out the reviews and ranking.

eugenejarvis20842 karma

Hey Mark! whatup? I really dug SmashTV and I still play it everyday. I've been looking for the pleasure domes for a couple decades!!!! Any clues???? I think I got all the keys but I think I'm missing the exit startegy. Somebody said something about artesians?? Throw me a bone here!

Mark_Turmell3 karma

Yeah, easy. On the room just prior to Mutoid Man, slow down so that you can milk the key collection for that room. Might take you a few lives. And then trigger a lockup to find secret warp #3.

Bam - Pleasure Domes.

eugenejarvis20841 karma

Sweet I'm Roamin' the Domes! What do you think of the whole VR craze? Hype or Reality? What about VR NBA jam where you have a wireless helmet hand scanner and you are playing, shooting, defending against LeBron, Curry, etc.???

Mark_Turmell4 karma

Still not sold on VR. Enoy the experiences in short bits. Not mass market. Playing VR 1st person basketball feels like a nightmare to me.