Video Game NBA Baller Beats Teaches Us to Ball Without Courtshame

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If the Xbox 360's Kinect peripheral is the first step towards holodecks, Curtis Smith's NBA Baller Beats is its first spectator sport. We all have a soft spot in our hearts for Guitar Hero and ironically 100 percenting Freebird, but it's rare that a rhythm game teaches players a real skill.

NBA Baller Beats is a rhythm game that utilizes the Kinect to instruct players on how to dribble like the pros. Dribbling to 30 licensed tracks, the game challenges the player to improve how they handle a basketball rather than waving their arms wildly at a ping pong ball.

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That is not to say that there isn't a place for arm flailing, it's just nice to see the Kinect's powerful hardware used for something that a gamer could not experience without a long trek off the couch and onto the court. Also, you don't have to learn to dribble by getting brutally dunked on anymore.

The development of NBA Baller Beats was spearheaded by a guy who ended up getting tired of Guitar Hero and decided to conceptualize a new twist in rhythm gaming. We caught up with Executive Producer Curtis Smith and he let Jackalope Ranch in on the ups and downs of game development.

We've never seen a (non-guitar related) video game that develops real-world skills like Baller Beats, much less one that we can actually look cool while playing. What inspired a rhythm game centered around the dribble? I used to play Guitar Hero for hours and hours every day a few years ago until I got to the point where I could beat the game with my eyes closed. My friend just happened to give me a real guitar and I realized that I couldn't play a lick of it. Not one single note! Then it came to me that maybe I could somehow apply the same principles found in Guitar Hero and apply it to my favorite sport of basketball. I made a prototype in my mom's garage of how it would work, shopped it around, and by the grace of God it is now at every major retail location across the country!

Could you break NBA Baller Beats down for us? Players bounce the ball to the beat of 30 licensed tracks such as Kanye West, Queen, The Gorrilaz, and Run DMC. The game challenges players to master ball-handling skills by dribbling and performing moves like the crossover, between-the-legs, pump fakes, and behind-the-back. Learn how to "Break a Sweat and Break Ankles!" Basically, the skills you learn from Baller Beats translate directly to the hardwood!

Could you fill us in on the development process for your game? The actual gameplay was created by HB Studios in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Canada. It was a great team of extremely talented artists, programmers, producers, execs, and dreamers that truly brought this game to life! My role as Executive Producer was to facilitate the different moves, combinations, and full insight from basketball players's perspective.

Was it a struggle to find a publisher? It took me almost two years to get my first meeting. I contacted EVERY single videogame publisher and developer that you can think of. I documented over 300 different emails and over 80 phone calls during my long journey. Finally, Majesco Entertainment gave me a shot!

How did you manage to bring your concept into the mainstream? The publisher for the game, Majesco Entertainment has an expense background in the videogame industry and has created numerous hit found in the market today. The extensive partnership and sheer global might truly brought the game to a mainstream audience.

Where do you see the Kinect technology taking gamers in the future? Kinect technology is without a doubt the next generation of gaming for the future. Kinect, one day, might even be able to get you ice out of the refrigerator or turn your oven on! Think of the movie "Minority Report".

What's the next step for NBA Baller Beats? I'm already on NBA Baller Beats 4 in my head right now! The opportunity to expand is absolutely mind-blowing. The next venture on the horizon is a sportswear line to go with Baller Beats (custom t-shirts, jerseys, shorts, and etc.) as you play. A group fitness class is also in the works based at local gyms across the valley.

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