Interview: WWE Wrestlemania XIX
29th Jul 2003 | 14:41
We clothes-line the creative director of WWE Wrestlemania XIX, Nick Wlodyka. We pin him to the ring and ask him personal questions about the game, add a few about men in spandex, enquire "Why the excessive grunts?", and generally, what's going to be special about WWE Wrestlemania XIX - the latest game to features scary men mountains...
How is Wrestlemania XIX different to other wrestling games, for instance WWE Raw 2?
Wlodyka: The games are very different from each other in terms of what features they offer and the overall gameplay experience, so although they share a lot of characters, it's a wrestling game and is different. We put a lot of effort in this year, putting in and enhancing the grappling system, and this was entirely based on considerable consumer feedback.
In the past there was a game called No Mercy which fans absolutely loved because it was well balanced, a very strategic game.
What we've done is built onto that system; and wrestling is one of two things. One, going into a grapple and executing the move. And two, it's executing a move without actually locking up in a physical grapple.
So this game gives added opportunities, so you can have a punch and kick, or you can go into a weak grapple - that's where you don't actually lock-on and can break off a move. Or you can go into a strong grapple where you actually lock on.
What are the reasons for that?
Wlodyka: Well one, it's entirely realism-based. And two, it opens up a lot more moves. So you've got five moves out of your weak grabble and ten moves out of your strong grapple - because you've got five from the front and then five from behind the superstar.
This is not counting if you throw them off the ropes, climb the ropes, or if you throw them into the corner. All sorts of moves are opened up from that.
What about getting away from attacks?
Wlodyka: From a defensive standpoint it's really, really cool because we have a countering system in place that's really obvious. First is a straight grapple counter, so if someone is punching or kicking you, press one button and it will counter that. Then there's the grapple counter, so if someone was to grapple you, you can reverse that.
It's interesting, because it all happens so quickly, it's difficult at first to tell. A strong move though is more pronounced.
As a user, you have to be careful with what types of moves you pick straight off. At the beginning of a match, you're better off with weak grapples, so it's easy to get in but it doesn't do much damage.
With a strong grapple, it's more pronouced and easier to counter, but if you don't counter them then they do a lot more damage. You want to want to wear your opponent down in order to lock them up in a strong grapple and really do additional damage.
What else in new in Wrestlemania XIX?
Wlodyka: We've included location-specific damage. What that is is very much a real-life application where you can wear down one part of your opponent, be it his arm, his back, his legs, his head... then put a submission hold on that to cause them to submit.
We put a lot of time and effort putting that system into place, and if you do the damage, they'll be hobbling around holding their leg, or holding their head. It's very cool.
So can you break something?
Wlodyka: There's no breaking, because in WWE you don't really see them break body limbs, so we stayed away from that. We've got them to show significant and extreme pain [laughs], but we kinda draw the line there.
In addition to that we've really separated the characters. If I'm playing Big Show, who's really slow but does a lot of damage, he can play against a smaller, faster character who's all about executing his moves off the ropes and using speed to his advantage - so we've focused a lot on that.
The single-player mode, that's another key difference. In RAW it's all about the programming, matching and that sort of week-in, week-out living the life of a superstar.
The single-player in Wrestlemania is much more of a story mode. What I mean is that, with fans here in the UK, they asked for lots of the action to be taken out of the ring and do different things.
This story starts with Vince stripping everything away from you, and kicking you out of the WWE. Stephanie comes to your aid, and offers you a chance to get back at Vince. Yes, it has all the twists and turns of a WWE story...
So we created a lot of unique environments. There's a warehouse, shipping yard, parking lot, a shopping mall... And there's about six missions in each environment and you need to fulfill these missions for Stephanie - and each one is completely different to complete the storyline.
These are all based on WWE-style gameplay mechanics, so lets take the shipping port - the object there when standing on the side of a ship is to throw people into the water. That's similar to WWE with a Royal Rumble-style event where you have to throw people off the top of the ropes.
Here you throw people over fences, and similar to cage matches where you have to get out of containers in the shipping yard to progress to the next level.
Although it matches the gameplay mechanics of WWE, it's very different. You're outside in a real-world environment with real-world objects that are fully interactive.
So it's going down the beat'em-up route then?
Wlodyka: Yeah. There's definitely an element of that, and we're interested to see what the consumer response to that is.
But there are traditional ring matches as well?
Wlodyka: Oh yeah, absolutely. All the ring matches, tag matches, throwing chairs, cage matches, royal rumble, all the ones you know about and expect to see in real life TV programming plus some additional big stuff brought to the game that you rarely see.
Having the official licence, have you managed to keep all the big names in the game and what exactly is their contribution to the game?
Wlodyka: It all depends on the superstar! They all love playing the game - everytime they're doing photoshoots, they're playing back-stage. We get into a lot of trouble for distracting them before their matches, and interupting their routines.
So from a contribution standpoint, they're the first ones to comment if a move is not quite right, "you need to do this, move a little to the right". Or "I'm changing my costume, I'll let you know exactly what it is, and when it changes..."
They're not the sort of guys you can say no to either, are they?
Wlodyka: Exactly. There's always some funny banter between the superstars that know each other, and between the superstars and us, because at the end of the day we control when they're updated, moves and costumes, and how they look.
Wrestling games have always been more about fun than realism. Are there any particular crazy happenings in this one?
Wlodyka: Well, we've introduced blood. People have been asking for that. And one of the great things about this wrestling game is that it removes a whole element of fakeness from real-life - you're controlling, so there's nothing scripted about it. You punch, you punch.
That's one of the great things, it features a mix of the different moves and engages you in all of that, with all the unique characteristics and multiple dynamics.
There're even boss-like characters in there. So it's going to appeal to a lot of people.. You may not know the WWE but you can still have a lot of fun with the game.