THQ Creative Director for WWE games Corey Ledesma recently spoke to THQ about the new WWE ’12 video game. Here are some highlights:
Q: Take me through your thoughts on how SvR ’11 was received, and what you could/wish your team could have done better?
Cory: We have a lot of pride in the work we put out there, so the team felt very good about WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 being a solid product that fans were going to thoroughly enjoy. We were able to introduce a new mode, called WWE Universe, that we think was a very solid foundation for the future and got a lot of people excited to play the game. Adding dynamic object physics to gameplay was also another major addition that we felt changed the way the game looked and played for the better. All in all, we were generally pleased with how the game was received. With that being said, there were some game areas we were not completely satisfied with and feel need significant improvement. Our fans are intelligent, recognize a lot of those shortcomings as well and let us know about them.
Unfortunately, some of the game areas or improvements we want to make can’t happen overnight and take a lot of planning, research and development and other resources to see to fruition. In those cases, we often create multi-year plans where those improvements are rolled out in phases so we can realistically achieve the quality we want each year while also rolling out new features and updates, updating the roster and balancing our development costs. To give you a little insight to our future planning, these are some of the key areas we are going to continue focusing on from a technical standpoint:
2.) Online Lag and Cheating
3.) Animation Quality
6.) Graphical Quality
These are the game areas where we can continue pushing the envelope and step our game up to the next level from a technical standpoint. You’ll start to see a significant amount of those improvements listed above in this year’s game. We are investing heavily in the future of this franchise.
On the design side, we weren’t happy with the execution of Road to WrestleMania. We liked the concept, but we just didn’t do a good job making that backstage area fun, keeping it populated, entertaining and engaging. We went back to the drawing board a bit on that one. We also had some disappointing bugs in gameplay that our creative team was a little disheartened by, but we’ll get a lot of those things cleaned up. Online also had several issues we are working hard to address. I want the fans to know that we are very aware of their criticisms and we are working as hard as we can to address them. Just know that in some cases the reason you might not see changes happen as quickly as you like because there are some difficult development challenges or hurdles we are trying to overcome just like any other developer, but we’re committed and we’ll get there!
Q: As the creative director of the team, what’s your opinion on the name change?
Cory: I absolutely love it, and I’ve been a key proponent of the change.
I’ve just felt for a couple of years now that the franchise has been getting stale and in need of a reboot. Not just with the name but also with the game experience. The name of the franchise evolved a couple of times over the years, and it has gotten to the point where the name doesn’t really mean anything. WWE currently doesn’t have brand wars, and the shows themselves are rarely competing against each other, so SmackDown vs. Raw as a name doesn’t really have a meaning. We started out as just being called SmackDown when that show made its debut for WWE back in 1999. Back then, we were releasing WWE products exclusively for specific platforms – SmackDown for Sony, Raw for Microsoft and Day of Reckoning for Nintendo. We then made the decision in 2004 to pool all of our resources together and make one great game, which is how SmackDown vs. Raw came together. Now, we are just WWE ’12, which is great because we just want to be known as the official, authentic WWE simulation product … period. All that encompasses what’s great about WWE live events and television is encapsulated and recreated in WWE ’12. It’s simple and to the point. I’m pumped about it because I’ve always wanted to re-launch this franchise the right way, and we are finally getting the opportunity to do it this year.
Q: Without giving any information, what area of the game are you most excited about in WWE ’12?
Cory: Gameplay, gameplay and more gameplay. Now, we aren’t changing the game entirely or completely ripping everything out to start over. That wasn’t the goal. What we are doing is taking the basic essence of what is good in the past games and making a new experience that feels fresh, fun, responsive, faster, smoother and is of higher quality. If you’re played the SmackDown vs. Raw games in the past, I have zero doubt you will notice the difference as soon as you pick up this year’s game. We are adding new gameplay systems, completely overhauling gameplay systems and improving current gameplay systems. The new animation system is giving us new capabilities as well. One quick is example is that you now have the ability to interrupt animations. For example, if John Cena is doing a five-knuckle shuffle in the game, you can knock him right on his butt in the middle of the move (something you’ve never been able to do in our game because the animation had to completely play out – and that goes for every single move in the game). We have several new capabilities like the one just mentioned that will change the dynamic of how the game is played. We didn’t want to completely throw everything out and build something from scratch. That would force us to take a major step back, probably cut out 80 percent of our moves/match types and also put us at risk to disappoint fans who love the current game. We wanted to find the balance between fixing what is broken and also delivering a brand new, high quality experience. I believe we are accomplishing that now, and fans are going to love this new WWE ’12 gameplay experience. We will be unveiling more about the changes to gameplay as time moves on.
Q: There has been a ton of game franchises that have taken on a new name. Is WWE ’12 just a name change? How will we know? What is your favorite (other) franchise re-invention?
Cory: WWE ’12 is far from just a name change. Our goal has been to create a brand new experience with a new, high quality animation system, a new renderer and a new strategic gameplay experience that will look, feel and play substantially better than its predecessors. When you play the game, you’ll notice right away that you’re spending less time on the mat mashing buttons and more time enjoying the action with a faster paced gameplay flow, simpler game controls and the most fluid and realistic animations the game has ever seen. This is a true franchise reboot and not just a name change. It’s also an investment toward the future of the franchise, giving us the opportunity to use our new technology to push the game to new heights never seen before.
Q: How far along in development are you on WWE ’12?
Cory: We started around the end of May 2010, so we are currently at the one year mark. We still have more months ahead for gameplay tuning and bug fixing, and then we are done. It feels like we never stop. One year bleeds into the next. With the multi-year plans, we are already planning for projects in the distant future.