Q: You’ve chosen Wrestlemania as the singleplayer campaign this year. What was behind that decision?
The reason we really wanted to introduce the singleplayer campaign this year was because the big anniversary of Wrestlemania is coming up in March next year. We really wanted to pay tribute to the event itself. It’s the Super Bowl of wrestling, and we thought it’d be the perfect time to celebrate that event, and we have arguably the greatest matches for players to play.
And the roster for that kind of singleplayer campaign you know is going to be epic! It’s going to contain all the greats. Guys like Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan from back in the ‘80s, as well as guys like Bret Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Yokozuna, and Razor Ramon from the ‘90s, and then of course some of the more recent guys like CM Punk, JBL, and Edge. The roster is great.
We also wanted to pay homage to a particular that really kind of has a special place and heritage in Wrestlemania. That superstar is The Undertaker. He’s undefeated at Wrestlemania – 21 – 0 – so that mode within a mode, we call “The Streak”. It’s really a celebration of The Undertaker.
There are two different game types for players to play. You can either choose to try and defeat The Streak using any surperstar including created characters, and go up against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. You can set the difficulty level, but that match is extremely hard because it’s The Undertaker! We set that difficulty very, very high. There are also special moments that you always want to have in that match: things like the lights going out in the arena, you look around, you can’t find him, the lights come on and bang, he’s right behind you with a finisher ready to go. Things like that will make The Undertaker very difficult to beat in that match.
What’s also cool is that we give you a score for these matches that tell you high exciting that match was. We have a bunch of different parameters that we score you on, things like how much drama there was, whether you kicked out of any finishers, or whether you were able to win without using some abilities. We use these to generate a match score, and once you have a match score, we then let you post that online to a weekly leaderboard to see how you stack of the rest of the WWE universe in trying to take down The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
Q: Is this the largest roster you’ve ever had?
It’s not the largest. I think we compared the numbers, and it didn’t quite stack up with the largest, but it’s very, very close. And its easily the most star-studded, no question there. It’s the biggest-name roster we’ve ever constructed.
Q: How do you keep a game like WWE fresh?
That’s something that we talk about quite a bit on our team: making sure we have a fresh offering each year. Naturally, our singleplayer campaign that we choose to take on each year really decides a large portion of each game. It defines the singleplayer experience, where a lot of our users are going to be spending a lot of their time completing the objectives and getting all the unlockables. So we ensure that we’re introducing a singleplayer campaign that’s fresh, and different, and something we haven’t done before. It’s very important to us. It defines the roster, and it defines a lot of the match types that we’re going to have. It’s one of the first things we decide.
WWE also does a great job of keeping things fresh, which really helps us out. Each year there’s a large roster turnover. We have new superstars appear and make their debuts, and so that keeps our roster fresh and up-to-date.
And besides that we like to listen to our fans and our community to find out how they want their WWE experience to change, what kind of options or modes or experiences they’re looking for in their game. And we continue to try to build to make it stronger each year, really try to base it on fan demand.
For example, a lot of fans were asking us to bring back a mode called Create A Championship, which we hadn’t had in the game for several years. So we brought it back, and it’s stronger than the last time we had it in there.
Q: What are some of your personal highlights from the roster?
It’s such a stacked roster. It was really challenging to assign the overall scores for the guys, because everyone is great, everyone is an elite name in WWE history, and even Hall of Famers.
Some of my personal highlights are guys like Razor Ramon, Scot Hall. He hasn’t been in the game since about 2005 – eight years now. I’m excited about that and I knew his fans would be as well.
Goldberg probably hasn’t been in for seven or eight years as well, so that was a big name that fans have been asking for on social media. This year was the perfect moment to bring him back because he had a Wrestlemania match. Then there’s our pre-order exclusive wrestler Ultimate Warrior. Growing up as a kid I was such an Ultimate Warrior fan.
Q: Do you ever get feedback from the superstars themselves about how they’re portrayed in the game?
The feedback we get is really about their attributes! I guess that’s the nature of wanting to be the best in the business. We’ll get people joking around about how they should be stronger, how their attributes are too low – I get a lot of feedback like that, but it’s just joking around! Really the majority of the feedback we get is super positive. Seeing their moves and all their personality traits come alive leads is really exciting for them.
What’s also cool is that we get a lot of feedback from the commentators: Michael Cole, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler. They give us feedback on the scripts, add lines for us that they might want to say in a certain way, or they’ll have input on the better ways to phrase something. They give us a tremendous amount of feedback that really helps us out.
Q: How did the studio manage the transition from THQ to 2K?
There were a lot of unknowns. We were already part way into production on this game [when THQ announced its bankruptcy]. So we felt confident that we had our direction, our creative vision set. We were making good progress on that, and then all of a sudden the bankruptcy was announced and there was a lot of uncertainty as to what was going to happen, and where the new home of the WWE game was going to be.
I think we realised really soon that 2K, Take-Two were going to be one of the possible suitors, and we felt that was going to be a complimentary pairing because of their great sports products. They have a great 2K Sports line-up, and a passion for really high-quality games. So we felt that would be a match made in heaven.
The transition was surprisingly seamless. I think we were only down for about a week’s time. So we continued to work during the bankruptcy, continued to work during the transition. The 2K Sports team made it really easy for us to transition to their office and their culture.
I think it surprised us how big a fan 2K Sports was of the WWE games. They had guys that were really passionate about the brand, knew all about it, and had great ideas on how to improve the product.
Q: What kinds of ideas did they have?
One of the things that 2K really focuses on is how to bring that authenticity up to the next level, how to bring the signature skills, the signature personalities to life in the game. That’s something they’ve worked on a great deal in the NBA product, and something they really encouraged us to push on the WWE side.
So we’ve explored a bunch of ways to bring that out more, we’ve added things like superstar voice-overs to a lot of the entrances and in-game animations. These are the things that bring up the authenticity and are really a sign of the 2K catalogue. It’s a lot of those smaller details that we want to continue to push on in the future.
Q: Thinking about WWE ’13, what did you identify as the key areas for improvement, and how have you improved on them with this year’s release?
Some of the positives were a lot of the things we added to gameplay, for example the OMG moves, really over-the-top finisher sequences – a lot of them interactive with the environment, such as breaking the barricade or putting your opponent through the announcer table. The fans reacted so positively to those additions that we’ve really gone and added more, and pushed how they’re used in the game. So we’ve added a lot more of the OMG moments, as well as catch finishers. We like to focus on what fans are responding well to, and then continue to build on that success.
We get some criticisms here and there that we’re more than happy to look at and improve. A lot of fans were upset about some bugs we had in the game, such as the pin sequences only showing two-counts in certain situations. Not having a two-count in a lot of situations will take away the drama in a match. Those are some of the bugs we wanted to make sure we addressed, and we’ve really improved the pin system as a whole. We kind of took it upon ourselves to re-do that system a bit, to make sure that you’re getting a more accurate pin count, and that the window in which you need to kick-out of a pin was more representative of the prior move that your opponent did.