Behind the Scenes with Tecmo Super Bowl 2013

September 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Posted in | 3 Comments
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Tecmo Super Bowl.  I would like to channel John Facenda’s stoic voiceover of “The Autumn Wind” while I wax nostalgic about one of the greatest sports games ever.  There was the joy at finding a copy at the video store to rent with a buddy for the weekend, followed by hours of play, eyes bleeding from a lack of sleep when my parents would pick me up for church the next day.  There were the stories a friend would tell over lunch after staying home sick from school the day prior to play through another season.  The game had every NFL team with real players and a complete regular season mode.  These were dreams coming true for sports gamers in 1991.  And if you didn’t witness Bo Jackson with your own NES controller, you’ve probably seen him in racing around defenders or on someone’s list of the greatest video game characters of all-time.  How do you recapture this video game magic of decades past?  With hard work, passion, and a dedicated community, the team from keeps Tecmo Super Bowl alive with an updated game each year.  Here is the story of Tecmo Super Bowl 2013.

What is Tecmo Super Bowl 2013 exactly?  A valid question as some readers may not be familiar with how emulation works.  In simple terms (I hope), over twelve years ago the original rom (source material) of the game was hacked and savvy coders created editors where the data could be manipulated.  Fast forward a decade and we not only have updated rosters with accurate player attributes, but new team logos, editable playbooks with new formations, and tweaks to gameplay issues that go back to the original 1991 game.  This finished product can be played through a number of NES emulators on your computer or mapped to a cartridge for use in your original Nintendo Entertainment System.  You are not limited to just playing against the computer either.  Many emulators have an online option, which has spawned a number of online Tecmo leagues.

Here’s the for Tecmo Super Bowl 2013:

Tecmo Super Bowl 2013 enhances the original 90s cult-classic with a fully up-to-date roster, giving players the same great gameplay experience they’ve loved for years and years, with the added bonus of players who haven’t actually been retired for years.

Other key features include:
· 32 Teams
· Adjustable quarter length
· In-game playbook editing
· Half-time stats
· Enhanced passing accuracy and control
· Other various bug fixes from the 2012 version

Tecmo Super Bowl 2013 is available for free; you won’t even need a Kickstarter account to get THIS reward.

I sat down with three key members of the TSB 2013 team to talk about the history of modifying Tecmo Super Bowl and the process around releasing a yearly rom.  What I was also able to learn about and now share is the passion this community shows for Tecmo Super Bowl.  Before we get to the questions, here is an introduction to Knobbe, Devon, and Dave.

Name:  Knobbe aka The Tecmo Godfather ()

Years working on modifying Tecmo Super Bowl:  12.  I founded specifically for the purpose of providing a collaborative environment for modifying Tecmo Super Bowl and other excellent Tecmo releases.

Motivation for joining the TSB 2013 project:  That would be promotion of , including the various that are made, and simply because this is something that should exist.

Role in the yearly rom creation:  Varies by where I’m needed, though I’m always about finding guys to fill roles and then making sure the project completes as close to our deadline as possible.

Name:  Devon ()

Years working on modifying Tecmo Super Bowl:  6

Motivation for joining the TSB 2013 project:  My motivation to participate on Tecmo Super Bowl 2013 was because of the community of TSB players who actively have an interest in keeping the classic football experience alive; either by learning how to edit the digital game file themselves, or because of those future fans who will someday find out that these modifications exist.  Jumping on board the project team for graphic updates on this year’s release, which produces an extremely faithful experience to the original 8-bit Tecmo Super Bowl, was a no-brainer for me.

Role in the yearly rom creation:  With a background in all-things general tech, and having taken a shot at coding my own modification of a PC-based RPG game in 2002, I decided to pursue editing TSB.  With the immense help of many  forum members, I released a heavily modified TSB modification called, , which incorporated some of the first usage of player-controlled custom defensive packages like dime, nickel, and goal-line, plus an abundant list of other gameplay and graphic updates like you see in Tecmo Super Bowl 2013.

Name:  Dave Murray () [Yes, that Dave Murray. The creator of !]

Years working on modifying Tecmo Super Bowl:  10 (Knobbe and I found my Tecmo birthday. July 22, 2002. Wow, I am getting old.)

Motivation for joining the TSB 2013 project:  I have always done this for the love of Tecmo Super Bowl.  When I started playing in online leagues back in 2002, hacking was fun and I enjoyed tinkering.  My friendship with Knobbe has grown over these 10 years and helping both him and the community he has created continue to grow is my biggest motivation.  It’s still crazy to me thinking about how he created this community out of thin air.  Props!

Role in the yearly rom creation:  The past two years the heavy lifting has been done by Devon. I am the pawn to promotion and I help fill the cracks where I can in the rom creation process.

What does the creative process look like when you first sit down to discuss a new Tecmo Super Bowl release?

Knobbe: Back in 2007 I decided that, while other people had been releasing current year roms, there wasn’t really one I could point at as definitive.  Thus I found a handful of people who were interested in helping and the yearly rom was born.  Today the process is about breaking down the creation of the rom into one or two-person tasks and then putting it all together at the end.  Given all the hacks and modifications out there, it’s a matter of determining which ones are right for this rom.

Devon: It’s usually a few weeks before week one of the NFL regular season that Knobbe and I start chatting that we might want to get off our lazy asses and get something produced.  It’s a process that I liken to Matt Stone and Trey Parker having seven days to create an episode of South Park, just a lot less funny and without pay.  I ask Knobbe to be funnier, but he doesn’t bite.

Dave: Devon and Matt “say” they plan this stuff out, but let’s be real.  With the NFL season looming a month or two away, Devon and Matt discuss the real deal of what needs to happen this coming year.  I send emails yelling at them to get it done.  They get it done and surpass the year prior in terms of awesomeness.

What kind of graphical changes have gone into the game over the years?

Dave: Ask Devon.  He is the Michelangelo to our Tecmo Super Bowl.

Devon: There have been so many amazing graphic changes to the game over the years, and for nearly all iterations of the series; 8-bit, 16-bit, you name it.  Only recently have we begun putting graphic modifications into the 8-bit yearly release.  The current graphics were designed by myself over the past couple years thanks to self-education on Nintendo’s visual palette and tile editing, but with the goal to also echo the aesthetic of the original TSB we remember and love.  I’ve added a chalkboard motif to augment an old school ‘football feel’ to the game, in addition to team changes on the intro cinema scenes, menu page colors, and tons of other on-field edits, such as referees, yellow field goal posts, and more.

Knobbe: You name it and it’s been modded.  This includes opening video, start screen, entire playing field, playbooks, background colors, halftime video, special super bowl halftime video, end credits, cursor above the active player.  I’m quite sure I’ve forgotten more than I know.

What changes to the original game are commonly built into new Tecmo Super Bowl roms?

Dave: The official release tries to stay true to the original game as much as possible.  Changing a classic’s gameplay will cause massive angst amongst fans.  This year the following “hacks” are in use: 32-team rom, rosters as of 9/3/2012, adjustable quarter length, playbook editing in-game, player two attributes now display correctly, and halftime stats.  Also, the passing accuracy rating now works.  Passing accuracy determines if a pass will be completed.  The pass control rating determines if the ball will be on target.  Quickness now works too.  This is the max speed of a defender if they pick up a fumble or make an interception.

Devon:  For the release, not many gameplay hacks are being used.  We try to keep it as symmetrical with the original Tecmo Super Bowl experience as we can.  Often times, a more heavily modified version is packaged alongside the yearly release, utilizing hacks that have come to be known as standard for modification inclusion, such as the 32-team roster hack, maybe an artificial intelligence upgrade, or even making it so that the dumb computer kicker doesn’t keep booting 25-yard kickoffs.  There are so many awesome game edits that have been slowly figured out by forum members over the years, that you truly have to see them to believe them.

Who does the heavy lifting with roster and ratings updates? Is this a community-driven project or is it a couple of guys locked in a virtual room for a couple of days?

Knobbe: Initially when the releases started up I tried to crowd source this…which was a complete disaster.  What you have happen is that a bunch of people spend four weeks debating QB and RB ratings and then give up once it comes to offensive linemen.  Otherwise it’s someone trying to rate just one team which gives no context to the rest of the rom and typically this is their favorite team so they’re quite biased.  Thus, I usually try to find someone who is already putting together a roster, ensure their style is “traditional” and that they understand how Tecmo attributes work.  By traditional, I mean that it’s sort of the range of the original rom and not rosters that are either too even or juiced.  Understanding Tecmo attributes means, for instance, that you know max speed is the most powerful attribute on offense.  Therefore, while a player might actually be the fastest in the NFL, they’re going to be ranked slower than some other players they might beat in a foot race in real life.  The community is used to finding all the whiffs by us though.  It’s a lot of data to go over in such little time.  This is where the guys with team-specific knowledge are so very valuable.

Devon: We get a lot of helpful information from the entire community about what’s going on with NFL rosters, which does add to our finished product.  Usually we ask for input or review of a BETA version of the game (this year there were two betas).  Most of the bulk roster data work is done behind closed doors.

Dave: This year I know Kierre (another member) submitted a big chunk of the info.  From there Matt took the ratings and ran with them.  Knobbe also received lots of feedback from the community when fine-tuning and it created an overall team effort community-wide.  I am sure Devon secretly did a ton of this too, but as of this writing I cannot confirm or deny this.

What are the biggest challenges when putting out a rom like this?

Knobbe: It’s always pulling together those rosters.  The rosters and starters for the NFL are so dynamic that no matter how much you try to get ahead of putting the rosters together you still need to go back through all 840 players.  That’s why this year we released a little earlier so we could get more crowd power on our QA process.

Devon: I generally come back to the most challenging aspect of making these modified roms: just trying to remember how to perform sometimes even simple edits to the goddamn thing.  For me, it’s definitely not like riding a bike.  Or maybe it is, if I was like the guy from Memento and just learned how to ride a bike.

Dave: The biggest challenge for me is directing the masses to the game.  I run the  page, and it is the core of the “average hardcore fan.”  This guy can be described as in his late 20s or early 30s and loved TSB in his (or her?) day, however, he does not know what the heck emulation is, nor does he know where to start.  When this guy hears about a new rom with current rosters, he flips out from excitement, posts on the page and then refuses to learn a new “technology.”  Man, I just shuddered thinking about all the support inquiries I am going to get over the next few weeks.

Do you create a reproduction cart for local play and/or to have as part of your collection to commemorate your work on the project?

Dave: Last year, we had about 334,987,654 people rip off the rom and claim it as their own to sell on carts.  WEAK! It comes with the territory I guess.

Knobbe: I have over the years though I’m about two behind.  They’re a great addition to any sort of Tecmo collection one might own.

Devon: You know what’s stupid? In all of my Tecmo Super Bowl game edits over the years, I have never had a cart reproduced for a game that I helped develop.  Stupid, I know.

What are some of your favorite non-traditional Tecmo Super Bowl rosters or mods?  I’ve seen NCAA releases as well as an homage to Mutant League Football.

Knobbe: For people who have been around the scene, one of the first great rom releases was Tecmo Rose Bowl.  This was a graphics masterpiece in the early 2000s when they weren’t that common.  There have been some great Arena, USFL, and of course compilation rosters.  They still don’t beat that original roster though.

Devon: I try to play as much TSB as I can.  No, that’s not true.  I try to re-code as much TSB as I can.  I haven’t often gotten to play the many creations that the community have turned out over the years.  Buck’s “High-speed” version of Tecmo Super Bowl is my favorite member project.  It’s a blast.  I think what Buck and Bruddog have done to the game individually, along with other top editors of the community like Jstout, CX_ROM, and Xplozv, is truly unique.  They should be commended, if people are ever commended for creating nostalgic stuff like this.  As far as non-traditional rosters go, whenever I get an interest for something different, I usually settle for participating in the Steve Grogan challenge with the original 1991 roster.  Can you go undefeated and win the Super Bowl? All Steve Grogan, all the time!

Dave: Every year will also spawn many, many new hacks.  With community members like Jstout, Bruddog and Buck, we are sure to have some awesome stuff this year.  Buck is releasing a 7-on-7 NFL Street-like hack called, you guessed it, .  Buck’s was great too.  I’m sure we will have a few more new hacks that the community has never seen.  I am looking forward to it immensely.

To date there have been over 15,000 downloads of Tecmo Super Bowl 2013.  Coverage of the game isn’t relegated to retro gaming sites either.  There were release announcements on popular sites like Kotaku, Joystiq, Penny Arcade, CBS Sports and Operation Sports.  Dave certainly does his job well!  After two initial versions, the official finalized rom (dubbed ‘Preseason’) is out.  You can find everything you need to get started  including links to the coverage on many websites.

I want to thank the guys from , not just for granting me access into learning more about their community and project, but for championing what retro sports gaming is all about.  Their passion around playing and editing classic sports games is not driven by commercial success.  To borrow a sports cliché, they do it for the love of the game, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.

Related articles at Retro Sports Gamer World:

The Collector’s Guide to Tecmo Bowl

Retro Replay Diary: Tecmo Bowl


  1. Reblogged this on .

  2. [...] lesson on the evolution of Tecmo Super Bowl.  The story of Tecmo Super Bowl 2013 can be found here. Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponRedditMoreDiggLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  3. [...] deconstruct Mike Tyson in just one round, then please refrain from playing the video.  Thanks to Dave Murray for pointing out that this is a tools-assisted run (using cheats) designed to show the fastest way [...]

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