NBA LIVE 15 features a ton of basketball sneakers, including retro colorways of classic Jordans, new Kobes and signature kicks from Adidas athletes like cover star Damian Lillard.
To get all those kicks in the game, the team at Tiburon traveled around the country, going on campus with sneaker companies and working directly with NBA teams.
There's a process to get all the sneakers into NBA LIVE 15, and we sat down with Ryan Santos at Tiburon to learn more about how the team made sure all the real world details were replicated properly in game.
Take us through a typical day in the office – give us all the small details!
Each day is so different, and that’s part of the challenge when creating video games. We’re constantly working on various facets of the game throughout the development cycle so each day is always new. I travel for things like NBA player head scanning, meetings with our partners like Jordan and talking to media to promote the game. I will say it’s never boring because I get to work on the sport I love while incorporating the culture around it. Can you tell I love what I do?
How long does it take to replicate a basketball sneaker in NBA LIVE? Tell us about the full process, from start to finish, concept to completion.
The process starts with us working closely with the footwear brands like Nike, Jordan and adidas to gain access to the shoes before they release. Sometimes we’ll do the scans at their campus or we’ll have shoes sent to us for scanning in-house. We scan the shoes with cameras and run the images through our pipeline to generate highly-detailed 3D models and textures. From there, a number of people work together to make the shoe appear in game, look as real as possible and put them on the correct players. It takes an artist a few days to complete a shoe from scratch.
How did you get started working in video games?
I started as a game tester way back in 1997. The first game I ever tested was NBA LIVE 98 on Sega Saturn. Yes, Sega Saturn. After 2yrs of testing I was given a chance as a 2D texture artist on NBA LIVE 2000 PC. I worked on the NBA LIVE and NBA Street franchises for many years as an Artist. Then eventually transitioned into a Game Designer role several years ago.
What’s are your earliest memories of basketball sneakers?
One of my earliest memories of basketball kicks would be getting a pair of hi-top, white and royal blue Converse CONS ERX-250s in the late 80’s. I remember them pretty vividly because Magic Johnson endorsed Converse and they had this cushioning tech called Energy Wave. The tech looked like foam with a marbled pattern in the material.
As a young kid, I was fascinated by the idea these shoes could possibly make me jump higher. I mean, what kid into hoops didn’t dream of dunking one day right? These shoes didn’t end up helping me dunk but they sure looked and felt great for playing ball.
Do you have an all-time favorite sneaker?
This one is easy. The Air Jordan IV black, cement, red - it was the first J I ever owned. It’s special for many reasons, most of them pretty obvious to any sneaker head, but for me it was how I got them that made them my favorite. You see J’s weren’t cheap, even back then, and so my Dad hit up one of his friends who worked at Footlocker for deal. At $100+ for Jordans, the only way I was gonna get a pair was if we could get a discount. The day the black AJ IVs dropped, my Dad took me to Footlocker at the mall to see his hook up. We asked for a pair to try on…man they looked so fresh.
The exposed air bubble, buttery smooth nubuck leather, graphic mesh sides, bold Jumpman and FLIGHT logo on the tongue – I mean every detail was beautiful. Then in an unexpected move my Dad put them on after me. I was like “huh?” Because we were the same size he said one of the conditions in order for us to buy them was that he could also wear them in his weekend basketball league. What was I going to say? All I was thinking was I want these Air Jordans so bad. So I had to agree.
I also wasn’t allowed to wear them outdoors in order to keep them clean. They were purely meant for indoor hoops. My Dad always took care of his sneakers because he wanted them to look brand new. I guess you could say I learned about sneaker care before I was a sneaker head. I got to enjoy those shoes for one season before outgrowing them. Shortly after my Dad sent them to relatives back in the Philippines. Maybe that was his intention all along, keep them fresh so someone less fortunate could enjoy them after us. Anyhow, that was that last I saw of them until they were re-released in 1999. At that point, I was able to get these back in retro form and my love for sneakers really took off….so did the collecting.
On a 1-10 scale, how big of a sneaker head are you?
What are some of your favorite sneakers in the game this year?
I love Jordans so a lot of the retro colorways are a frequent part of my Rising Star sneaker rotation, but the Kobe 9’s are pretty dope too. They just look so unique from a design perspective. They’re one of my favorite basketball shoe designs to come out in a long time.
What makes basketball sneakers look cool?
For me, there are a ton of things. From the players who wear them, ever-evolving performance technology, the on-court feel, industrial design aesthetics, use of materials/color/graphics to the stories that each element tells – all of these things combined make basketball kicks stand out.
What kind of advice would you give to anyone who wanted to get started designing for video games?
Work on something you’re passionate about. The results will always be better and you’ll enjoy doing it. And when you do get your start, it may not be the dream gig at first but you’d be surprised how far passion takes you. It worked for me.
Does anything keep you up at night?
West coast basketball games and, on occasion, big sneaker releases have been known to keep me up.
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