NBA Flex interview: Merging board games with AR hoops

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NBA Flex feels like a formative step in the marriage of augmented reality and board games.

From Sequoia Games, NBA Flex pits two squads of players in a turn-based spin on basketball. It makes use of tiles with varying designs of striking artwork to represent the player. These are like Pokémon cards.

What tends to make NBA Flex particular is that it is also has an a smartphone app, and not only does this bring an AR element to game (watching your players pull of moves and such), it levels up your cards. Your measures, for instance, can energy up your copy of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. And this would make your copy various than your friend’s.

It’s an intriguing notion, one with possible for a wide variety of gameplay mechanics and brand tie-ins and promotions. Sequoia took the notion to Kickstarter, exactly where slam-dunked its target of $15,000 in much less than a half-hour.


Three prime investment pros open up about what it requires to get your video game funded.

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Recently, I interviewed Daniel Choi of Sequoia Games about the project and the possibilities that come from mixing conventional board games with AR. Because of the pandemic setting back shipping schedules, Sequoia will not be sending out Kickstarter and preorder boxes of the game till September.

This is an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: Tell me about Sequoia Games? Is this your initial project? Is this a thing you are creating the enterprise about?

Daniel Choi: Initially, we’re going to develop our enterprise about Flex. Our initial iteration is pro basketball. We’re focused on producing a platform that crosses the physical and digital worlds. I assume the game world is as well split. Either you have 1960 Monopoly or you have iOS and PS5. There’s a world that exists in among. The genesis of all this was getting a father and a world ranked CCG player. You fuse these two issues. I’ve also played a ton of games because I was 10 years old. For me it was like, get my kids off the devices, but I nevertheless want to love and consume some of my preferred issues, like basketball. I didn’t have time to play a 48-minute NBA2K game. It was frustrating obtaining Steph Curry wide open for a 3 and missing mainly because I couldn’t time the joystick appropriately. I began pondering there was an chance right here.

A couple of years ago, we also saw some neat stuff coming out with AR becoming more readily readily available. In 2017 we began hunting at that, as effectively as technologies exactly where we can bind ownership to person, unrepeatable physical products and assets. We began that engineering in 2018. That’s how we got to right here today. I have a lot of other games I’d like to develop in the future, but ideal now we’re focused on launching Flex NBA.

GamesBeat: Where does the name “Flex” come from?

Choi: I didn’t assume of it as a gaming terminology, but it is turn out to be fairly popular in battle games. I’m flexing on you. Nice flex. When I named the game a couple of years ago, I didn’t know it would turn out to be so suitable. But at the time I believed, this is a thing that is not a basketball simulator. It’s producing a fantasy metaverse exactly where we superhero-ize the athlete. These guys are icons to men and women with iconic moves. I have childhood heroes that, in my thoughts, are nevertheless my guys. I imply, no matter who comes along today, they’re my guys. I’m extremely loyal, just like most sports fans are. To me it was, OK, let’s generate a game exactly where you are capable to flex these guys’ moves. They’ve been working on these moves their entire life. You know what they are. We all know what they are. Lebron James has his tomahawk dunk. Steph Curry has his 3-pointer. Damian Lillard has his Dame Time. These are flexes. I wanted to simplify the gaming encounter. I wanted to address some of the issues in the gaming neighborhood as a gamer myself. I assume we’ve constructed a thing exactly where we addressed a lot of these issues, placing a fresh new spin on some attempted and accurate genres, which are extremely well-liked, extremely profitable, but bringing them into 2021 with technologies and producing some wow element to it. We want to make some noise.

GamesBeat: Is it fair to say this is an AR evolution of NBA Jam?

Choi: I didn’t want to make it as well cartoony. But it is NBA Jam also — a small bit? The distinction is, NBA Jam, I could dunk with John Stockton in NBA Jam. This is seriously made to be extremely certain to person players. We have 207 players we’re launching with, every of which have — virtually 90 % have 3 flexes. Very couple of have two. There’s a strategic cause for that. We’re speaking about 700, 800 moves. They’re all individually named and all certain to that player. I have NBA trainers and an NBA writer who helped me create every signature move for every player in the game. For us it was creating sure that the flexes had been correct. In NBA Jam, absolutely everyone sort of has related moves, to various degrees. But in our game we wanted to make it somewhat genuine as far as their signature moves.

GamesBeat: In a way, then, it is more like a method game?

Choi: Absolutely. Turn-based method. We’d like to brand ourselves as the world’s initial TTG, trading tile game. You’re going to be capable to assemble and collect your preferred players. You can consider, with 207 players and 52 FX tiles just for Season One, the permutations and combinations are endless. It’s in the millions of various combinations. We assume the neighborhood is going to embrace that, attempt new issues out, each in game and in AR, which is going to be neat. Certain players and particular combinations will trigger various issues. We really feel like the engagement with the app is going to generate a crossover encounter that will hold men and women coming back for more. But getting familiar with this gaming space, the combinations are what make it entertaining. Trying various players with various FX tiles. We assume that is going to generate a depth that will hold men and women interested.

Flexin’ with the NBA

GamesBeat: The players are these on existing rosters, ideal?

Choi: The NBA has been an astounding companion. There’s a cause they’re one of the premier leagues in the world. One of the issues they stated was, launch with the base group initial. If you want to develop retired players later, certainly, go ahead. We had some inventive concepts to place particular players in armor or in various gear, like streetball gear, but they just stated, hey, let’s cross these bridges down the line. Let’s make sure the solution is out there. I believed that was a very good path.

But retired players, WNBA, other sports, we’ve engaged some other leagues and we strategy on expanding this into a thing we assume will be seriously neat. If you can consider Tiger Woods and Joe Montana and Derek Jeter taking on Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, it could be fairly entertaining.

GamesBeat: Why did you start off with the NBA?

Choi: We got a license for MLB as effectively about the exact same time. It was one of the toughest calls of my life, mainly because I really like each. I enjoyed watching baseball expanding up more than watching basketball. I played basketball, even though. It was a hard get in touch with. I just went with basketball. My kids each play, so that was sort of a figuring out element. Quite frankly we had — at the time, a couple years ago, if we had a larger war chest financially, we almost certainly would have completed each. But it was mostly for individual preference. Either league would have been amazing to work with.

Look and really feel

GamesBeat: From my point of view, as a person who’s been involved with sports all my life, it feels like if you are creating a strategic game, basketball would be a lot easier than baseball, just mainly because you have fewer players and fewer other components. Did that element in?

Choi: No, I envision one day getting capable to place 5 baseball catchers playing against 5 [NFL] linemen. I wanted this to be sports-agnostic. If you notice the 11 player classes, they can match any sport. If you have a marksman in basketball, it is a shooter. A marksman in golf would be a person with a lot of greens in regulation. A marksman in baseball could be a place pitcher. I wanted to make this so that it can embrace a lot of various IP. Now, that is way down the line. I’m dreaming with you a bit right here. But that is the way I made it. It wasn’t in terms of complexity at all. In reality, I believed baseball could be a small a lot easier in terms of identifying flexes, mainly because Clayton Kershaw has that significant curve ball. Power hitters like Vlad Guerrero Jr. are snatching the ball out of the ballpark. It didn’t element in, seriously.

GamesBeat: Did you have to deal with the players’ association as effectively as the league, or just the league?

Choi: Absolutely. The NBPA [National Basketball Players Association] is an astounding companion as effectively. They’re extremely certain that they may well be altering eye colors. All the art is hand-drawn. We went with an anime style, manga style. I do not want it to be photorealistic. I do not want this to be like NBA2K. I wanted this to be various. We had to adjust eye colour, and the PA was a good companion in saying, hey, their eyes are a small as well brown right here. Fix the hairstyle, it is updated now. They’ve been good. We have seven artists. The art set that you received was a small restricted, just mainly because sending 207 would have not — we do not have all the solution but. There’s a wide variety of designs. We have seven artists that we commissioned. In reality, I can even recognize them now, mainly because I’ve seen them so significantly. But some of them have a genuine — I do not know if you are familiar with Goon, the comic book. Some of them look like that. Others have a various flair, a more Western style. It’s fascinating. These artists are all more than the world. They’re not all U.S.-based.

GamesBeat: When I look at the token for, say, Bradley Beale right here, it appears like a person who’s worked on Image comics.

Choi: Yeah, we have various designs. It’s fascinating. We have a group, and I ask them who’s their preferred. Everyone has a various take on it. We want the consumer to assist us guide that. By the way, 14 new artists, because we’ve gone to the public and gotten some coverage, have asked to be portion of Flex.

GamesBeat: Who was the writer you worked with?

Choi: Jim Park, who used to create for Sheridan Hoops. I assume he’s performing more YouTube stuff now. But he used to do a lot of coverage for the Warriors.

Next dimension

GamesBeat: How does the AR work?

Choi: A couple issues. We wanted to, quantity one, look cool. A game I seriously loved was Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. I nevertheless play that today. I wanted it to look like the 3D chess that Chewbacca and Threepio had been playing. But then I necessary functionality behind it. What we’re capable to do with the AR is do video game stuff in the physical world. Meaning, mainly because we know you are the registered owner of, say, Steph Curry, and you choose to acquire a jersey and add it on, acquire footwear, and stroll 10,000 measures with your iPhone to energy up that Steph Curry — then you can go look at the secondary marketplace and say, wow, I’m the initial owner. There’s a chain of custody. Anyone can see that. The tile is in good situation. I’ve powered it up six occasions. The worth of that would theoretically be tremendously greater than just the fourth owner of a Steph Curry that hasn’t been upgraded. Normally you’d only be capable to do that on a video game console, but now you are capable to do that with a physical tile without having us obtaining to reproduce it and send it out to you, which financially does not make sense. We’re capable to show stats, videos, highlights, every little thing on AR, so that you can come back, verify and see, okay, verify it out, my tile is superior mainly because you can see that ideal there on the mobile device.

GamesBeat: But this is not making use of a blockchain, appropriate?

Choi: We have some patents pending. I cannot divulge as well significantly of our secret sauce. What I can say is that when you acquire our player tiles, it is completely transparent. The ownership is registered to the user. You see a trackable log of ownership. That makes it possible for us to do this upgrading. It also could disrupt the secondary marketplace as effectively, mainly because now there’s a history. You can see that with every one. We’re coming to some conclusions on our IP coming up right here in the next couple of months. Hopefully, I’ll be capable to completely clarify how we do this.

GamesBeat: So I acquire a pack and get a Steph Curry tile. You also have a Steph Curry tile. Their bases are the exact same, but you have level-up yours. What would you have to do to do that?

Choi: Here’s the AR viewer. You’ve seen some of the videos. We’ll see Steph Curry come ideal out. We have a video capability. I do not know if you don’t forget the old MTV VJs, but we’re bringing that back. Congratulations, you have unlocked so and so. Promotions, that sort of factor. They’re drawn to scale, so Jimmy Butler is 6-foot-7, a small larger. Of course our reigning MVP Nikola Jokić is a lot larger. Not only do they have their personal standalone animations, but they interact with each other. You’re a Warriors fan, so am I, lifelong. Here’s Klay Thompson with his signature move, that stick to-via. Now they see every other, the Splash Brothers, what’s up, let’s do our small pre-game routine. There are small teasers. Eight combos in the game that we want you to learn as the consumer. And then you can do cool stuff like add footwear. Might place some Jordans on Steph, the Under Armour leg wrap. His animation adjustments. You finish up with really a couple of various cool issues you can do with this. Again, we can show ideal on right here upgraded stats, all sorts of stuff. This is exactly where the magic takes place on the roster screen. If I hit register your tile and take this Steph Curry tile, yours and mine could look specifically the same–let’s say I make 1000 of these. As quickly as you flip that more than, there’s a special code on right here that makes it possible for me to register these and securely, in an encrypted database, enable me to be the only owner of this unrepeatable tile in the world. There will be only one of every, even even though you and I may well have the exact same one. Then you can go ahead and continue to develop your roster as it continues to study the various ones.

Smartphone as energy-up

Image Credit: Sequoia Games

GamesBeat: One factor that caught my interest earlier, and appropriate me if I’m incorrect, but you stated if I got my 10,000 measures today, it’ll energy up this tile. Are you capable to do issues in life with your phone like that and energy up the characters?

Choi: Yes. Which will be seriously entertaining. The mobile game, we’ll be launching in the next various months as effectively. That’ll enable you to play a digital version of the game. But we wanted to cross more than the two worlds. You’re performing issues in genuine life. I know there are apps exactly where you can do basketball drills. Maybe we could do a partnership with them. You do basketball drills and your energy-ups are there.

GamesBeat: Do you use something else from, say, Healthkit on iOS?

Choi: We haven’t completely explored this entire location. We’ve been so focused on just advertising and obtaining the base solution out into people’s hands.

One factor we’re excited about is our social sharing feature, which will enable you to share these animations as you unlock them with your social media. Saying, hey guys, I just got MVP Steph Curry, verify it out. You can share it to TikTok and all this stuff. We want this groundswell to kind. And the iterations, as you are mentioning, are seriously endless. We can do so several issues with it. I want the neighborhood to assist me choose. I want the gamers to assist. As a gamer myself, a lot of occasions we really feel ignored. Some of the larger studios just develop their personal path. I want the neighborhood to get involved just like with any other related game.

GamesBeat: I see some advertising possible right here. You can do a deal with Under Armour for gear and outfits and so on. But you could also do one that includes MyFitnessPal, which Under Armour owns. You can tie achievements you do there to issues you do to energy up your character.

Choi: Absolutely. Or in Home Court, the basketball app. There are so several issues that track motion like Fitbit. A lot of issues you can do. When I go to the health club with my Fitbit, it knows how several reps I do with a dumbbell press. It’s crazy. That’s exactly where technologies is going. We assume just like you do. The concepts start off coming into play. Theragun, the vibrating muscle relaxer. There are so several issues we can do.

GamesBeat: Have you believed about tying it to attending games?

Choi: One factor that, per our license — place-based kind stuff, there’s some, I wouldn’t get in touch with them restrictions, but suggestions we have to stick to. We’ve believed about performing tailgate parties, which would be fairly entertaining. Having particular releases that are only readily available there. We’ve talked to various basketball teams, pro-level teams, about their youth camps. Come to the youth camp and get an FX tile for attending, or energy up your players by X percentage. Or getting in a area, like in the bay location. We talked to the Warriors about some advertising possibilities. Dub Nation has an FX tile. We assume it would be fairly cool. We did a mockup of a Run-TMC, Chris Mullen/Mitch Ritchmond/Tim Hardaway tile. It’s wonderful. Once we get retired players — for me, as a young kid, that would make me giddy. But I would certainly envision performing some cool stuff in regions or in particular areas to unlock various issues.

NBA players as Pokémon

GamesBeat: Why go to Kickstarter?

Choi: We just wanted a compact test to see if we targeted advertising, could we drive sales? In 27 minutes we hit our target. In one day it was 400 %. OK, let’s not invest any more on advertisements now. Let’s just develop a significant advertising campaign, which we’re performing ideal now. We’re engaged with analysis and advertising agencies. We’re going to time this, hopefully, just just after the NBA Finals finish. But seriously, as soon as we got that proof of notion — 9 % of our purchasers spent more than $1000, which is crazy. The typical invest was $249.

GamesBeat: Have you talked at all with Dapper Labs about performing a thing with Top Shot?

Choi: I assume they’re in a various lane. They’re digital. I’m not seriously interested in that side of it. I wanted to generate a kick-ass game and a kick-ass memorabilia encounter. I want men and women to love this. What occurred with — it is extremely attractive to speak about NFTs and all that sort of stuff, but to me, blockchain is going to be utilised by absolutely everyone in the next couple of months. It’s like back when the net initial came out. Oh my god, there’s this factor named the world wide net, it is so cool. In a couple years, absolutely everyone, like the flower shop down the street, had a web site. NFTs and blockchain are going to be a portion of our each day lives. It’s a way to have — I assume perhaps even voting one day could be via blockchains, so that no one can hack these outcomes. It’s a phase. It’s good. It’s technologies that is coming to the forefront. But I also want to keep with our core, which is, let’s have more entertaining. We as a human race are as well significant at times. I left a extremely profitable profession various years ago to be in this part, to have more entertaining and stick to what I was passionate about. For me, that stuff is secondary. Partnering with them is seriously not of interest, mainly because at this point — I cannot say under no circumstances, but for me it is all about performing what I really like, and that is assisting this game studio to blow up.

GamesBeat: When I look at the board, the play location, it reminds me of the playmats for Pokémon. Is it fair to sort of look at this as a melding of AR and Pokémon for the NBA?

Choi: It’s in the exact same genre, certainly. It’s a turn-based method kind of game. I like the notion of Voltron. Five teammates coming with each other. That sort of anime, hand-drawn look meeting pro sports. I assume that would be an correct description.

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz